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Leggett, William (1801–1839)

William Leggett was a New York newspaperman and the intellectual leader of the laissez-faire wing of the northern Democratic Party in the late 1830s. In his editorials, collected and republished in book form shortly after his death, he embraced libertarian principles to a greater and more consistent degree than did any previous American writer. Starting from a Jeffersonian belief in equal natural rights to liberty and property, and combining it with the Jacksonian view that expansion of government characteristically favors a few privilege seekers over the many, he railed against any expansion of government beyond minimal “night watchman” functions. He was an influential proponent of free banking and of replacing the system of special legislative charters with a general law of incorporation open to all ...

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