Today is Lysander Spooner’s birthday. Born in 1808, Spooner was a lawyer, abolitionist, entrepreneur, prolific writer and eventually an individualist anarchist. Political science professor and Spooner scholar Helen Knowles offers her birthday tribute on her new blog, Irresistible Clearness, which is named after a passage from United States v. Fisher by Chief Justice John Marshall that Spooner promoted as a vital principle of constitutional construction and that became a staple in the arsenal of abolitionist constitutionalism:
Where rights are infringed, where fundamental principles are overthrown, where the general system of the laws is departed from, the legislative intention must be expressed with irresistible clearness, to induce a court of justice to suppose a design to effect such objects.
As my own tribute to Spooner, later today, I will be uploading to SSRN my new paper, Whence Comes Section One? The Abolitionist Origins of the Fourteenth Amendment, which I have been writing for over a year. In this paper I situate Spooner among 12 other abolitionists who made constitutional challenges to various legal aspects of slavery.