Libertarians You’ve Never Heard Of: Stephen Johnson Field

SFL Staff

It’s important to learn from intellectual giants like Ayn Rand and Murray Rothbard, but there are many unsung heroes that are also worth exploring. In thiseducational series, we hope to introduce students to such individuals. While not all of the figures profiled here explicitly identified as libertarian, they made great contributions to the cause of liberty that are worth acknowledging.

“The present assault oncapital is butthe beginning. It will be but the stepping-stone to others, larger and more sweeping, till our political contests will become a war of the poor against the rich—a war constantly growing in intensity and bitterness”. – Stephen Johnson Field

Who: Stephen Johnson Field (1816-1899) was an American jurist who held positions such as the 5th Chief Justice of California and Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court.

Why he matters: He was a major advocate of the theory of substantive due process, which defends private property rights and rejects government intervention in the economy. The logic of this theory was based on the Fourteenth Amendment. Field was a fervent proponent of free enterprise, laissez faire and individual freedom, which caused his views to dominate the Court for 100 years following 1870. He wrote over 500 opinions and never gave up on liberty.

If you only read one thing: Read Personal Reminiscences.

Available Online:Treason and Rebellion:Being in Part the Legislation of Congress and of the State of California