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Lysander Spooner: To the Non-Slaveholders of the South

In this episode, Caleb O. Brown reads Lysander Spooner’s 1858 essay “To the Non-Slaveholders of the South.”

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In this episode, Caleb O. Brown reads Lysander Spooner’s 1858 essay “To the Non-Slaveholders of the South.”

In response to the 1857 Dred Scott decision, Spooner penned this essay advocating for a total overthrow of the slave trade dominating the South at the time. He advises all slaves and non-slaveholders to engage in covert and open conflict against those who perpetuate injustice, turning the slave masters’ whips against themselves.

He argues for any and all actions that make slavery unprofitable, from refusing to plant and harvest crops, stealing or destroying farming equipment, to open and justified warfare. Perhaps most significantly for the history of liberal thought, Spooner accepts the time-honored Lockean premise that slavery indeed represented a state of war between slave and slave-master.