The libertarian legal movement lost one of its early, important scholars last month with the passing of David N. Mayer on November 23 at the age of 63, after a lengthy illness. Long a friend of the Cato Institute and a member of the editorial board of the Cato Supreme Court Review from its founding in 2001, David was professor emeritus of law and history at the Capital Law School in Columbus, Ohio, where he taught since joining that faculty in 1990. David’s love was legal history, earning an A.B. in history with distinction and highest honors from the University of Michigan in 1977, a law degree from Michigan in 1980, then an M.A. in 1982 and a Ph.D. in 1988 from the University of Virginia, both again in history. Given that intellectual odyssey, it’s no accident that his first book, published in 1994 by the University of Virginia Press, bore the title The Constitutional Thought of Thomas Jefferson, an oft‐cited seminal work on its subject.
We were fortunate that David came to us with his proposal for his 2011 book, Liberty of Contract: Rediscovering a Lost Constitutional Right, which I had the pleasure of editing. It took little: David was an excellent writer. And he had mastered both the philosophical and the historical foundations of contractual freedom. As Northwestern Law’s Stephen B. Presser wrote on the book’s back cover, “David Mayer has emerged as one of the most insightful constitutional scholars on the scene today. In this superb new book, he rescues the constitutional value of liberty of contract, which was so important to the Framers but has been systematically and wrongly slighted by three generations of biased and seriously deficient scholarship.”
David’s contributions to libertarian thought and undertakings were numerous. In The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, for example, he wrote the essays on “Declaration of Independence,” “Constitution of the United States,” and “Thomas Jefferson.” Among other appointments, he served on the editorial board of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, as a member of the Academic Review Committee for fellowships awarded by the Institute for Humane Studies, and as the faculty advisor to the Capital University Law School’s Federalist Society chapter and the Capital University’s College Libertarians. David’s writings are of the kind that will endure and continue to instruct future generations. May he rest in peace.