Lysander Spooner, a Reformer and Abolitionist who Fought against the USPO’s Monopoly in Postal Services

Lysander Spooner

Born: On January 19, 1808 in Athol, Massachusetts
Died: On May 14, 1887 in Boston, Massachusetts

Lysander Spooner was an American legal theorist, entrepreneur, Unitarian abolitionist, political philosopher, advocate of the labor movement and individualist anarchist who was widely known for starting his own postal service company the ‘American Letter Mail Company’ to compete, challenge and abolish the monopoly of the US government. Spooner was born on January 19, 1808 in Athol, Massachusetts. He spent his childhood days on his father’s farm and began his career as a school teacher. Later, he worked as a bank teller and finally became interested in law while working in lawyers’ offices. Spooner never attended college but took training from the prominent and powerful lawyers and politicians John Davis and Charles Allen. He was a strictly outspoken abolitionist of slavery and wrote pamphlets attacking slavery for which he received huge appreciation from the influential American orator and journalist Frederick Douglass.

Spooner made significant contribution to the law of the United States. He wrote on the constitutionality of slavery, natural law, intellectual property, paper currency, and banking. He wrote anti-religious tracts attacking impostors and the Christian faith, and supported jury nullification, wherein a jury not only judges defendant’s innocence or guilt but also the fundamental justice of the law itself.

On May 14, 1887, one Saturday afternoon he died in his little room at 109 Myrtle Street. He was surrounded by trunks and chests of manuscripts, books, and pamphlets that he collected in course of half-a-century during his active pamphleteer’s warfare. On his death, The New York Times wrote an article calling him as “the father of cheap postage in America”.

American Letter Mail Company

Between the period of 1840 and 1844, postal charges rose to a record high across the United States which compelled Spooner to start his own business the American Letter Mail Company and compete with the U.S. Post Office. Soon, The American Letter Mail Company had offices in Philadelphia, Baltimore, and New York. His agents would carry the letters in hand bags and then transfer them to the messengers across the cities to deliver them to their addressees. Spooner ran his business by challenging the rules of the Massachusetts bar. He also published a pamphlet “The Unconstitutionality of the Laws of Congress Prohibiting Private Mails” describing the rules in details. In less than 2 years Spooner’s company was being used by thousands of customers but he never made profits. As a result, in less than 7 years, he ran out of financial resources and had no options other than closing the company.

Books written by Lysander Spooner

Spooner wrote several books including The Unconstitutionality of Slavery (1845), Poverty: Its Illegal Causes and Legal Cure (1846), No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority (1867), The Law of Prices: A Demonstration of the Necessity for An Indefinite Increase of Money (1877), A Letter to Grover Cleveland on His False Inaugural Address and Other Essays (2004, posthumous) and many more.

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