BY LYSANDER SPOONER
PUBLISHED BY THE AUTHOR,
No. 14 Bromfield Street.
Entered according to Act of congress, in the year 1867,
By LYSANDER SPOONER,
in the Clerk's office of the District Court of the United States, for the District
The question of treason is distinct from that of slavery; and is the same that
it would have been, if free States, instead of slave States, had seceded.
On the part of the North, the war was carried on, not to liberate slaves, but
by a government that had always perverted and violated the Constitution, to keep
the slaves in bondage; and was still willing to do so, if the slaveholders could
be thereby induced to stay in the Union.
The principle, on which the war was waged by the North, was simply this: That
men may rightfully be compelled to submit to, and support, a government that
they do not want; and that resistance, on their part, makes them traitors and
No principle, that is possible to be named, can be more self-evidently false
than this; or more self-evidently fatal to all political freedom. Yet it triumphed
in the field, and is now assumed to be established. If it really be established,
the number of slaves, instead of having been diminished by the war, has been
greatly increased; for a man, thus subjected to a government that he does not
want, is a slave. And there is no difference, in principle --- but only in degree
--- between political and chattel slavery. The former, no less than the latter,
denies a man's ownership of himself and the products of his labor; and [*iv]
asserts that other men may own him, and dispose of him and his property, for
their uses, and at their pleasure.
Previous to the war, there were some grounds for saying that --- in theory,
at least, if not in practice --- our government was a free one; that it rested
on consent. But nothing of that kind can be said now, if the principle on which
the war was carried on by the North, is irrevocably established.
If that principle be not the principle of the Constitution, the fact should
be known. If it be the principle of the Constitution, the Constitution itself
should be at once overthrown.
Notwithstanding all the proclamations we have made to mankind, within the last
ninety years, that our government rests on consent, and that that was the rightful
basis on which any government could rest, the late war has practically demonstrated
that our government rests upon force --- as much so as any government that ever
The North has thus virtually said to the world: It was all very well to prate
of consent, so long as the objects to be accomplished were to liberate ourselves
from our connexion with England, and also to coax a scattered and jealous people
into a great national union; but now that those purposes have been accomplished,
and the power of the North has become consolidated, it is sufficient for us ---
as for all governments --- simply to say: Our power is our right.
In proportion to her wealth and population, the North has probably expended
more money and blood to maintain her power over an unwilling people, than any
other government ever did. And in her estimation, it is apparently the chief
glory of her success, and an adequate compensation for all her own losses, and
an ample justification for all her devastation and carnage of the South, that
all pretence of any necessity for consent to the perpetuity or power of government,
is (as she thinks) forever expunged from the minds of the people. In short, the
North [*6] exults beyond measure in the proof she has given, that a government,
professedly resting on consent, will expend more life and treasure in crushing
dissent, than any government, openly founded on force, has ever done.
And she claims that she has done all this in behalf of liberty! In behalf of
free government! In behalf of the principle that government should rest on consent!
If the successors of Roger Williams, within a hundred years after their State
had been founded upon the principle of free religious toleration, and when the
Baptists had become strong on the credit of that principle, had taken to burning
heretics with a fury never seen before among men; and had they finally gloried
in having thus suppressed all question of the truth of the State religion; and
had they further claimed to have done all this in behalf of freedom of conscience,
the inconsistency between profession and conduct would scarcely have been greater
than that of the North, in carrying on such a war as she has done, to compel
men to live under and support a government that they did not want; and in then
claiming that she did it in behalf of the of the principle that government should
rest on consent.
This astonishing absurdity and self-contradiction are to be accounted for only
by supposing, either that the lusts of fame, and power, and money, have made
her utterly blind to, or utterly reckless of, he inconsistency and enormity of
her conduct; or that she has never even understood what was implied in a government's
resting on consent. Perhaps this last explanation is the true one. In charity
to human nature, it is to be hoped that it is.
What, then, is implied in a government's resting on consent?
If it be said that the consent of the strongest party, in a nation, is all
that is necessary to justify the establishment of a government that shall have
authority over the weaker party, it [*7] may be answered that the most despotic
governments in the world rest upon that very principle, viz: the consent of the
strongest party. These governments are formed simply by the consent or agreement
of the strongest party, that they will act in concert in subjecting the weaker
party to their dominion. And the despotism, and tyranny, and injustice of these
governments consist in that very fact. Or at least that is the first step in
their tyranny; a necessary preliminary to all the oppressions that are to follow.
If it be said that the consent of the most numerous party, in a nation, is
sufficient to justify the establishment of their power over the less numerous
party, it may be answered:
First. That two men have no more natural right to exercise any kind of authority
over one, than one has to exercise the same authority over two. A man's natural
rights are his own, against the whole world; and any infringement of them is
equally a crime, whether committed by one man, or by millions; whether committed
by one man, calling himself a robber, (or by any other name indicating his true
character,) or by millions, calling themselves a government.
Second. It would be absurd for the most numerous party to talk of establishing
a government over the less numerous party, unless the former were also the strongest,
as well as the most numerous; for it is not to be supposed that the strongest
party would ever submit to the rule of the weaker party, merely because the latter
were the most numerous. And as a matter of fact, it is perhaps never that governments
are established by the most numerous party. They are usually, if not always,
established by the less numerous party; their superior strength consisting of
their superior wealth, intelligence, and ability to act in concert.
Third. Our Constitution does not profess to have been established simply by
the majority; but by "the people;" the minority, as much as the majority.
Fourth. If our fathers, in 1776, had acknowledged the principle that a majority
had the right to rule the minority, we should never have become a nation; for
they were in a small minority, as compared with those who claimed the right to
rule over them.
Fifth. Majorities, as such, afford no guarantees for justice. They are men
of the same nature as minorities. They have the same passions for fame, power,
and money, as minorities; and are liable and likely to be equally --- perhaps
more than equally, because more boldly --- rapacious, tyrannical and unprincipled,
if intrusted with power. There is no more reason, then, why a man should either
sustain, or submit to, the rule of the majority, than of a minority. Majorities
and minorities cannot rightfully be taken at all into account in deciding questions
of justice. And all talk about them, in matters of government, is mere absurdity.
Men are dunces for uniting to sustain any government, or any laws, except those
in which they are all agreed. And nothing but force and fraud compel men to sustain
any other. To say that majorities, as such, have a right to rule minorities,
is equivalent to saying that minorities have, and ought to have, no rights, except
such as majorities please to allow them.
Sixth. It is not improbable that many or most of the worst of governments ---
although established by force, and by a few, in the first place --- come, in
time, to be supported by a majority. But if they do, this majority is composed,
in large part, of the most ignorant, superstitious, timid, dependent, servile,
and corrupt portions of the people; of those who have been over-awed by the power,
intelligence, wealth, and arrogance; of those who have been deceived by the frauds;
and of those who have been corrupted by the inducements, of the few who really
constitute the government. Such majorities, very likely, could be found in half,
perhaps nine-tenths, of all the countries on the globe. What do they prove? Nothing
but the tyranny and corruption of the very governments that have reduced so large
portions of [*9] the people to their present ignorance, servility, degradation,
and corruption; an ignorance, servility, degradation, and corruption that are
best illustrated in the simple fact that they do sustain governments that have
so oppressed, degraded, and corrupted them. They do nothing towards proving that
the governments themselves are legitimate; or that they ought to be sustained,
or even endured, by those who understand their true character. The mere fact,
therefore, that a government chances to be sustained by a majority, of itself
proves nothing that is necessary to be proved, in order to know whether such
government should be sustained, or not.
Seventh. The principle that the majority have a right to rule the minority,
practically resolves all government into a mere contest between two bodies of
men, as to which of them shall be masters, and which of them slaves; a contest,
that --- however bloody --- can, in the nature of things, never be finally closed,
so long as man refuses to be a slave.
But to say that the consent of either the strongest party, or the most numerous
party, in a nation, is sufficient justification for the establishment or maintenance
of a government that shall control the whole nation, does not obviate the difficulty.
The question still remains, how comes such a thing as "a nation" to
exist? How do millions of men, scattered over an extensive territory --- each
gifted by nature with individual freedom; required by the law of nature to call
no man, or body of men, his masters; authorized by that law to seek his own happiness
in his own way, to do what he will with himself and his property, so long as
he does not trespass upon the equal liberty of others; authorized also, by that
law, to defend his own rights, and redress his own wrongs; and to go to the assistance
and defence of any [*10] of his fellow men who may be suffering any kind of injustice
--- how do millions of such men come to be a nation, in the first place? How
is it that each of them comes to be stripped of his natural, God-given rights,
and to be incorporated, compressed, compacted, and consolidated into a mass with
other men, whom he never saw; with whom he has no contract; and towards many
of whom he has no sentiments but fear, hatred, or contempt? How does he become
subjected to the control of men like himself, who, by nature, had no authority
over him; but who command him to do this, and forbid him to do that, as if they
were his sovereigns, and he their subject; and as if their wills and their interests
were the only standards of his duties and his rights; and who compel him to submission
under peril of confiscation, imprisonment, and death?
Clearly all this is the work of force, or fraud, or both.
By what right, then, did we become "a nation?" By what right do we
continue to be "a nation?" And by what right do either the strongest,
or the most numerous, party, now existing within the territorial limits, called
"The United States," claim that there really is such "a nation"
as the United States? Certainly they are bound to show the rightful existence
of "a nation," before they can claim, on that ground, that they themselves
have a right to control it; to seize, for their purposes, so much of every man's
property within it, as they may choose; and, at their discretion, to compel any
man to risk his own life, or take the lives of other men, for the maintenance
of their power.
To speak of either their numbers, or their strength, is not to the purpose.
The question is by what right does the nation exist? And by what right are so
many atrocities committed by its authority? or for its preservation?
The answer to this question must certainly be, that at least such a nation
exists by no right whatever.
We are, therefore, driven to the acknowledgment that nations and governments,
if they can rightfully exist at all, can exist only by consent. [*11]
The question, then, returns, what is implied in a government's resting on consent?
Manifestly this one thing (to say nothing of the others) is necessarily implied
in the idea of a government's resting on consent, viz: the separate, individual
consent of every man who is required to contribute, either by taxation or personal
service, to the support of the government. All this, or nothing, is necessarily
implied, because one man's consent is just as necessary as any other man's. If,
for example, A claims that his consent is necessary to the establishment or maintenance
of government, he thereby necessarily admits that B's and every other man's are
equally necessary; because B's and every other man's right are just as good as
his own. On the other hand, if he denies that B's or any other particular man's
consent is necessary, he thereby necessarily admits that neither his own, nor
any other man's is necessary; and that government need to be founded on consent
There is, therefore, no alternative but to say, either that the separate, individual
consent of every man, who is required to aid, in any way, in supporting the government,
is necessary, or that the consent of no one is necessary.
Clearly this individual consent is indispensable to the idea of treason; for
if a man has never consented or agreed to support a government, he breaks no
faith in refusing to support it. And if he makes war upon it, he does so as an
open enemy, and not as a traitor that is, as a betrayer, or treacherous friend.
All this, or nothing, was necessarily implied in the Declaration made in 1776.
If the necessity for consent, then announced, was a sound principle in favor
of three millions of men, it was an equally sound one in favor of three men,
or of one man. If the principle was a sound one in behalf of men living on a
separate continent, it was an equally sound one in behalf of a man living on
a separate farm, or in a separate house. [*12]
Moreover, it was only as separate individuals, each acting for himself, and
not as members of organized governments, that the three millions declared their
consent to be necessary to their support of a government; and, at the same time,
declared their dissent to the support of the British Crown. The governments,
then existing in the Colonies, had no constitutional power, as governments, to
declare the separation between England and America. On the contrary, those governments,
as governments, were organized under charters from, and acknowledged allegiance
to, the British Crown. Of course the British king never made it one of the chartered
or constitutional powers of those governments, as governments, to absolve the
people from their allegiance to himself. So far, therefore, as the Colonial Legislatures
acted as revolutionists, they acted only as so many individual revolutionists,
and not as constitutional legislatures. And their representatives at Philadelphia,
who first declared Independence, were, in the eye of the constitutional law of
that day, simply a committee of Revolutionists, and in no sense constitutional
authorities, or the representatives of constitutional authorities.
It was also, in the eye of the law, only as separate individuals, each acting
for himself, and exercising simply his natural rights as an individual, that
the people at large assented to, and ratified the Declaration.
It was also only as so many individuals, each acting for himself, and exercising
simply his natural rights, that they revolutionized the constitutional character
of their local governments, (so as to exclude the idea of allegiance to Great
Britain); changing their forms only as and when their convenience dictated.
The whole Revolution, therefore, as a Revolution, was declared and accomplished
by the people, acting separately as individuals, and exercising each his natural
rights, and not by their governments in the exercise of their constitutional
It was, therefore, as individuals, and only as individuals, each acting for
himself alone, that they declared that their consent that is, their individual
consent for each one could consent only [*13] for himself --- was necessary to
the creation or perpetuity of any government that they could rightfully be called
on to support.
In the same way each declared, for himself, that his own will, pleasure, and
discretion were the only authorities he had any occasion to consult, In determining
whether he would any longer support the government under which be had always
lived. And if this action of each individual were valid and rightful when he
had so many other individuals to keep him company, it would have been, in the
view of natural justice and right, equally valid and rightful, if he had taken
the same step alone. He had the same natural right to take up arms alone to defend
his own property against a single tax-gatherer, that he had to take up arms in
company with three millions of others, to defend the property of all against
an army of tax-gatherers.
Thus the whole Revolution turned upon, asserted, and, in theory, established,
the right of each and every man, at his discretion, to release himself from the
support of the government under which he had lived. And this principle was asserted,
not as a right peculiar to themselves, or to that time, or as applicable only
to the government then existing; but as a universal right of all men, at all
times, and under all circumstances.
George the Third called our ancestors traitors for what they did at that time.
But they were not traitors in fact, whatever he or his laws may have called them.
They were not traitors in fact, because they betrayed nobody, and broke faith
with nobody. They were his equals, owing him no allegiance, obedience, nor any
other duty, except such as they owed to mankind at large. Their political relations
with him had been purely voluntary. They had never pledged their faith to him
that they would continue these relations any longer than it should please them
to do so; and therefore they broke no faith in parting with him. They simply
exercised their natural right of saying to him, and to the English people, that
they were under no obligation to continue their political connexion with them,
and that, for reasons of their own, they chose to dissolve it. [*14]
What was true of our ancestors, is true of revolutionists in general. The monarchs
and governments, from whom they choose to separate, attempt to stigmatize them
as traitors. But they are not traitors in fact; in-much they betray, and break
faith with, no one. Having pledged no faith, they break none. They are simply
men, who, for reasons of their own --- whether good or bad, wise or unwise, is
immaterial --- choose to exercise their natural right of dissolving their connexion
with the governments under which they have lived. In doing this, they no more
commit the crime of treason --- which necessarily implies treachery, deceit,
breach of faith --- than a man commits treason when he chooses to leave a church,
or any other voluntary association, with which he has been connected.
This principle was a true one in 1776. It is a true one now. It is the only
one on which any rightful government can rest. It is the one on which the Constitution
itself professes to rest. If it does not really rest on that basis, it has no
right to exist; and it is the duty of every man to raise his hand against it.
If the men of the Revolution designed to incorporate in the Constitution the
absurd ideas of allegiance and treason, which they had once repudiated, against
which they had fought, and by which the world had been enslaved, they thereby
established for themselves an indisputable claim to the disgust and detestation
of all mankind.
In subsequent numbers, the author hopes to show that, under the principle of
individual consent, the little government that mankind need, is not only practicable,
but natural and easy; and that the Constitution of the United States authorizes
no government, except one depending wholly on voluntary support.
BY LYSANDER SPOONER
PUBLISHED BY THE AUTHOR,
No. 14 Bromfield Street.
Entered according to Act of congress, in the year 1867,
By LYSANDER SPOONER,
in the Clerk's office of the District Court of the United States, for the District
The Constitution says:
"We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect
union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common
defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to
ourselves and our posterity do ordain and establish this Constitution for the
United States of America."
The meaning of this is simply We, the people of the United States, acting freely
and voluntarily as individuals, consent and agree that we will cooperate with
each other in sustaining such a government as is provided for in this Constitution.
The necessity for the consent of "the people" is implied in this
declaration. The whole authority of the Constitution rests upon it. If they did
not consent, it was of no validity. Of course it had no validity, except as between
those who actually consented. No one's consent could be presumed against him,
without his actual consent being given, any more than in the case of any other
contract to pay money, or render service. And to make it binding upon any one,
his signature, or other positive evidence of consent, was as necessary as in
the case of any other-contract. If the instrument meant to say that any of "the
people of the United States" would be bound by it, who [*4] did not consent,
it was a usurpation and a lie. The most that can be inferred from the form, "We,
the people," is, that the instrument offered membership to all "the
people of the United States;" leaving it for them to accept or refuse it,
at their pleasure.
The agreement is a simple one, like any other agreement. It is the same as
one that should say: We, the people of the town of A-----, agree to sustain a
church, a school, a hospital, or a theatre, for ourselves and our children.
Such an agreement clearly could have no validity, except as between those who
actually consented to it. If a portion only of "the people of the town of
A-----," should assent to this contract, and should then proceed to compel
contributions of money or service from those who had not consented, they would
be mere robbers; and would deserve to be treated as such.
Neither the conduct nor the rights of these signers would be improved at all
by their saying to the dissenters: We offer you equal rights with ourselves,
in the benefits of the church, school, hospital, or theatre, which we propose
to establish, and equal voice in the control of it. It would be a sufficient
answer for the others to say: We want no share in the benefits, and no voice
in the control, of your institution; and will do nothing to support it.
The number who actually consented to the Constitution of the United States,
at the first, was very small. Considered as the act of the whole people, the
adoption of the Constitution was the merest farce and imposture, binding upon
The women, children, and blacks, of course, were not asked to give their consent.
In addition to this, there were, in nearly or quite all the States, property
qualifications that excluded probable one half, two thirds, or perhaps even three
fourths, of the white male adults from the right of suffrage. And of those who
were allowed that right, we know not how many exercised it.
Furthermore, those who originally agreed to the Constitution, could thereby
bind nobody that should come after them. They could contract for nobody but themselves.
They had no more [*5] natural right or power to make political contracts, binding
upon succeeding generations, than they had to make marriage or business contracts
binding upon them.
Still further. Even those who actually voted for the adoption of the Constitution,
did not pledge their faith for any specific time; since no specific time was
named, in the Constitution, during which the association should continue. It
was, therefore, merely an association during pleasure; even as between the original
parties to it. Still less, if possible, has it been any thing more than a merely
voluntary association, during pleasure, between the succeeding generations, who
have never gone through, as their fathers did, with so much even as any outward
formality of adopting it, or of pledging their faith to support it. Such portions
of them as pleased, and as the States permitted to vote, have only done enough,
by voting and paying taxes, (and unlawfully and tyrannically extorting taxes
from others,) to keep the government in operation for the time being. And this,
in the view of the Constitution, they have done voluntarily, and because it was
for their interest, or pleasure, and not because they were under any pledge or
obligation to do it. Any one man, or any number of men, have had a perfect right,
at any time, to refuse his or their further support; and nobody could rightfully
object to his or their withdrawal.
There is no escape from these conclusions, if we say that the adoption of the
Constitution was the act of the people, as individuals, and not of the States,
as States. On the other hand, if we say that the adoption was the act of the
States, as States, it necessarily follows that they had the right to secede at
pleasure, inasmuch as they engaged for no specific time.
The consent, therefore, that has been given, whether by individuals, or by
the States, has been, at most, only a consent for the time being; not an engagement
for the future. In truth, in the case of individuals, their actual voting is
not to be taken as proof of consent, even for the time being. On the contrary,
it is to be considered that, without his consent having ever been asked, a [*6]
man finds himself environed by a government that he cannot resist; a government
that forces him to pay money, render service, and forego the exercise of many
of his natural rights, under peril of weighty punishments. He sees, too, that
other men practise this tyranny over him by the use of the ballot. He sees further
that, if he will but use the ballot himself, he has some chance of relieving
himself from this tyranny of others, by subjecting them to his own. In short,
be finds himself, without his consent, so situated that, if he use the ballot,
he may become a master; if he does not use it, he must become a slave. And he
has no other alternative than these two. In self-defence, he attempts the former.
His case is analogous to that of a man who has been forced into battle, where
he must either kill others, or be killed himself. Because, to save his own life
in battle, a man attempts to take the lives of his opponents, it is not to be
inferred that the battle is one of his own choosing. Neither in contests with
the ballot --- which is a mere substitute for a bullet --- because, as his only
chance of self-preservation, a man uses a ballot, is it to be inferred that the
contest is one into which he voluntarily entered; that he voluntarily set up
all his own natural rights, as a stake against those of others, to be lost or
won by the mere power of numbers. On the contrary, it is to be considered that,
in an exigency, into which he had been forced by others, and in which no other
means of self-defence offered, he, as a matter of necessity, used the only one
that was left to him.
Doubtless the most miserable of men, under the most oppressive government in
the world, if allowed the ballot, would use it, if they could see any chance
of thereby ameliorating their condition. But it would not therefore be a legitimate
inference that the government itself, that crushes them, was one which they had
voluntarily set up, or ever consented to.
Therefore a man's voting under the Constitution of the United States, is not
to be taken as evidence that he ever freely assented to the Constitution, even
for the time being. Consequently we have no proof that any very large portion,
even of the actual [*7] voters of the United States, ever really and voluntarily
consented to the Constitution, even for the time being. Nor can we ever have
such proof, until every man is left perfectly free to consent, or not, without
thereby subjecting himself or his property to injury or trespass from others.
The Constitution says:
"Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying war against
them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort."
This is the only definition of treason given by the Constitution, and it is
to be interpreted, like all other criminal laws, in the sense most favorable
to liberty and justice. Consequently the treason here spoken of, must be held
to be treason in fact, and not merely something that may have been falsely called
by that name.
To determine, then, what is treason in fact, we are not to look to the codes
of Kings, and Czars, and Kaisers, who maintain their power by force and fraud;
who contemptuously call mankind their "subjects;" who claim to have
a special license from heaven to rule on earth; who teach that it is a religious
duty of mankind to obey them; who bribe a servile and corrupt priest-hood to
impress these ideas upon the ignorant and superstitious; who spurn the idea that
their authority is derived from, or dependent at all upon, the consent of their
people; and who attempt to defame, by the false epithet of traitors, all who
assert their own rights, and the rights of their fellow men, against such usurpations.
Instead of regarding this false and calumnious meaning of the word treason,
we are to look at its true and legitimate meaning in our mother tongue; at its
use in common life; and at what would necessarily be its true meaning in any
other contracts, or articles [*8] of association, which men might voluntarily
enter into with each other.
The true and legitimate meaning of the word treason, then, necessarily implies
treachery, deceit, breach of faith. Without these, there can be no treason. A
traitor is a betrayer --- one who practices injury, while professing friendship.
Benedict Arnold was a traitor, solely because, while professing friendship for
the American cause, he attempted to injure it. An open enemy, however criminal
in other respects, is no traitor.
Neither does a man, who has once been my friend, become a traitor by becoming
an enemy, if before doing me an injury, he gives me fair warning that he has
become an enemy; and if he makes no unfair use of any advantage which my confidence,
in the time of our friendship, had placed in his power.
For example, our fathers --- even if we were to admit them to have been wrong
in other respects --- certainly were not traitors in fact, after the fourth of
July, 1776; since on that day they gave notice to the King of Great Britain that
they repudiated his authority, and should wage war against him. And they made
no unfair use of any advantages which his confidence had previously placed in
It cannot be denied that, in the late war, the Southern people proved themselves
to be open and avowed enemies, and not treacherous friends. It cannot be denied
that they gave us fair warning that they would no longer be our political associates,
but would, if need were, fight for a separation. It cannot be alleged that they
made any unfair use of advantages which our confidence, in the time of our friendship,
had placed in their power. Therefore they were not traitors in fact: and consequently
not traitors within the meaning of the Constitution.
Furthermore, men are not traitors in fact, who take up arms against the government,
without having disavowed allegiance to it, provided they do it, either to resist
the usurpations of the government, or to resist what they sincerely believe to
be such usurpations. [*9]
It is a maxim of law that there can be no crime without a criminal intent.
And this maxim is as applicable to treason as to any other crime. For example,
our fathers were not traitors in fact, for resisting the British Crown, before
the fourth of July, 1776 --- that is, before they had thrown off allegiance to
him --- provided they honestly believed that they were simply defending their
rights against his usurpations. Even if they were mistaken in their law, that
mistake, if an innocent one, could not make them traitors in fact.
For the same reason, the Southern people, if they sincerely believed --- as
it has been extensively, if not generally, conceded, at the North, that they
did --- in the so-called constitutional theory of "State Rights," did
not become traitors in fact, by acting upon it; and consequently not traitors
within the meaning of the Constitution.
The Constitution does not say who will become traitors, by "levying war
against the United States, or adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and
It is, therefore, only by inference, or reasoning, that we can know who will
become traitors by these acts.
Certainly if Englishmen, Frenchmen, Austrians, or Italians, making no professions
of support or friendship to the United States, levy war against them, or adhere
to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort, they do not thereby make themselves
traitors, within the meaning of the Constitution; and why? Solely because they
would not be traitors in fact. Making no professions of support or friendship,
they would practice no treachery, deceit, or breach of faith. But if they should
voluntarily enter either the civil or military service of the United States,
and pledge fidelity to them, (without being naturalized,) and should then betray
the trusts reposed in them, either by turning their guns against the United States,
or by giving aid [*10] and comfort to their enemies, they would be traitors in
fact; and therefore traitors within the meaning of the Constitution; and could
be lawfully punished as such.
There is not, in the Constitution, a syllable that implies that persons, born
within the territorial limits of the United States, have allegiance imposed upon
them on account of their birth in the country, or that they will be judged by
any different rule, on the subject of treason, than persons of foreign birth.
And there is no power, in Congress, to add to, or alter, the language of the
Constitution, on this point, so as to make it more comprehensive than it now
is. Therefore treason in fact --- that is, actual treachery, deceit, or breach
of faith --- must be shown in the case of a native of the United States, equally
as in the case of a foreigner, before he can be said to be a traitor.
Congress have seen that the language of the Constitution was insufficient,
of itself to make a man a traitor --- on the ground of birth in this country
--- who levies war against the United States, but practices no treachery, deceit,
or breach of faith. They have, therefore --- although they had no constitutional
power to do so --- apparently attempted to enlarge the language of the Constitution
on this point. And they have enacted:
"That if any person or persons, owing allegiance to the United States
of America, shall levy war against them, or shall adhere to their enemies, giving
them aid and comfort, * * * such person or persons shall be adjudged guilty of
treason against the United States, and shall suffer death." --- Statute,
April 30, 1790, Section 1.
It would be a sufficient answer to this enactment to say that it is utterly
unconstitutional, if its effect would be to make any man a traitor, who would
not have been one under the language of the Constitution alone.
The whole pith of the act lies in the words, "persons owing allegiance
to the United States." But this language really leaves the question where
it was before, for it does not attempt to [*11] show or declare who does "owe
allegiance to the United States;" although those who passed the act, no
doubt thought, or wished others to think, that allegiance was to be presumed
(as is done under other governments) against all born in this country, (unless
The Constitution itself, uses no such word as "allegiance," "sovereignty,"
"loyalty," "subject," or any other term, such as is used
by other governments, to signify the services, fidelity, obedience, or other
duty, which the people are assumed to owe to their government, regardless of
their own will in the matter. As the Constitution professes to rest wholly on
consent, no one can owe allegiance, service, obedience, or any other duty to
it, or to the government created by it, except with his own consent.
The word allegiance comes from the Latin words ad and ligo, signifying to bind
to. Thus a man under allegiance to a government, is a man bound to it; or bound
to yield it support and fidelity. And governments, founded otherwise than on
consent, hold that all persons born under them, are under allegiance to them;
that is, are bound to render them support, fidelity, and obedience; and are traitors
if they resist them.
But it is obvious that, in truth and in fact, no one but himself can bind any
one to support any government. And our Constitution admits this fact when it
concedes that it derives its authority wholly from the consent of the people.
And the word treason is to be understood in accordance with that idea.
It is conceded that a person of foreign birth comes under allegiance to our
government only by special voluntary contract. If a native has allegiance imposed
upon him, against his will, he is in a worse condition than the foreigner; for
the latter can do as he pleases about assuming that obligation. The accepted
interpretation of the Constitution, therefore, makes the foreigner a free person,
on this point, while it makes the native a slave.
The only difference --- if there be any --- between natives and foreigners,
in respect of allegiance, is, that a native has a right --- offered to him by
the Constitution --- to come under allegiance to [*12] the government, if be
so please; and thus. entitle himself to membership in the body politic. His allegiance
cannot be refused. Whereas a foreigner's allegiance can be refused, if the government
The Constitution certainly supposes that the crime of treason can be committed
only by man, as an individual. It would be very curious to see a man indicted,
convicted, or hanged, otherwise than as an individual; or accused of having committed
his treason otherwise than as an individual. And yet it is clearly impossible
that any one can be personally guilty of treason, can be a traitor in fact, unless
he, as an individual, has in some way voluntarily pledged his faith and fidelity
to the government. Certainly no man, or body of men, could pledge it for him,
without his consent; and no man, or body of men, have any right to presume it
against him, when he has not pledged it, himself.
It is plain, therefore, that if, when the Constitution says treason, it means
treason --- treason in fact, and nothing else --- there is no ground at all for
pretending that the Southern people have committed that crime. But if, on the
other hand, when the Constitution says treason, it means what the Czar and the
Kaiser mean by treason, then our government is, in principle, no better than
theirs; and has no claim whatever to be considered a free government.
One essential of a free government is that it rest wholly on voluntary support.
And one certain proof that a government is not free, is that it coerces more
or less persons to support it, against their will. All governments, the worst
on earth, and the [*13] most tyrannical on earth, are free governments to that
portion of the people who voluntarily support them. And all governments though
the best on earth in other respects --- are nevertheless tyrannies to that portion
of the people --- whether few or many --- who are compelled to support them against
their will. A government is like a church, or any other institution, in these
respects. There is no other criterion whatever, by which to determine whether
a government is a free one, or not, than the single one of its depending, or
not depending, solely on voluntary support.
No middle ground is possible on this subject. Either "taxation without
consent is robbery," or it is not. If it is not, then any number of men,
who choose, may at any time associate; call themselves a government; assume absolute
authority over all weaker than themselves; plunder them at will; and kill them
if they resist. If, on the other hand, taxation without consent is robbery, it
necessarily follows that every man who has not consented to be taxed, has the
same natural right to defend his property against a taxgatherer, that he has
to defend it against a highwayman.
It is perhaps unnecessary to say that the principles of this argument are as
applicable to the State governments, as to the national one.
The opinions of the South, on the subjects of allegiance and treason, have
been equally erroneous with those of the North. The only difference between them,
has been, that the South has had that a man was (primarily) under involuntary
allegiance to the State government; while the North held that he was (primarily)
under a similar allegiance to the United States government; whereas, in truth,
he was under no involuntary allegiance to either. [*14]
Obviously there can be no law of treason more stringent than has now been stated,
consistently with political liberty. In the very nature of things there can never
be any liberty for the weaker party, on any other principle; and political liberty
always means liberty for the weaker party. It is only the weaker party that is
ever oppressed. The strong are always free by virtue of their superior strength.
So long as government is a mere contest as to which of two parties shall rule
the other, the weaker must always succumb. And whether the contest be carried
on with ballots or bullets, the principle is the same; for under the theory of
government now prevailing, the ballot either signifies a bullet, or it signifies
nothing. And no one can consistently use a ballot, unless he intends to use a
bullet, if the latter should be needed to insure submission to the former.
The practical difficulty with our government has been, that most of those who
have administered it, have taken it for granted that the Constitution, as it
is written, was a thing of no importance; that it neither said what it meant,
nor meant what it said; that it was gotten up by swindlers, (as many of its authors
doubtless were,) who said a great many good things, which they did not mean,
and meant a great many bad things, which they dared not say; that these men,
under the false pretence of a government resting on the consent of the whole
people, designed to entrap them into a government of a part; who should be powerful
and fraudulent enough to cheat the weaker portion out of all the good things
that were said, but not meant, and subject them to all the bad things that were
meant, but not said. And most of those who have administered the government,
have assumed that all these swindling intentions were to be carried into effect,
in the place of the written Constitution. Of all these swindles, the [*15] treason
swindle is the most flagitious. It is the most flagitious, because it is equally
flagitious, in principle, with any; and it includes all the others. It is the
instrumentality by which all the others are mode effective. A government that
can at pleasure accuse, shoot, and hang men, as traitors, for the one general
offence of refusing to surrender themselves and their property unreservedly to
its arbitrary will, can practice any and all special and particular oppressions
The result --- and a natural one --- has been that we have had governments,
State and national, devoted to nearly every grade and species of crime that governments
have ever practised upon their victims; and these crimes have culminated in a
war that has cost a million of lives; a war carried on, upon one side, for chattel
slavery, and on the other for political slavery; upon neither for liberty, justice,
or truth. And these crimes have been committed, and this war waged, y men, and
the descendants of men, who, less than a hundred years ago, said that all men
were equal, and could owe neither service to individuals, nor allegiance to governments,
except with their own consent.
No attempt or pretence, that was ever carried into practical operation amongst
civilized men --- unless possibly the pretence of a "Divine Right,"
on the part of some, to govern and enslave others embodied so much of shameless
absurdity, falsehood, impudence, robbery, usurpation, tyranny, and villany of
every kind, as the attempt or pretence of establishing a government by consent,
and getting the actual consent of only so many as may be necessary to keep the
rest in subjection by force. Such a government is a mere conspiracy of the strong
against the weak. It no more rests on consent than does the worst government
What substitute for their consent is offered to the weaker party, whose rights
are thus annihilated, struck out of existence, [*16] by the stronger? Only this:
Their consent is presumed! That is, these usurpers condescendingly and graciously
presume that those whom they enslave, consent to surrender their all of life,
liberty, and property into the hands of those who thus usurp dominion over them!
And it is pretended that this presumption of their consent --- when no actual
consent has been given --- is sufficient to save the rights of the victims, and
to justify the usurpers! As well might the highwayman pretend to justify himself
by presuming that the traveller consents to part with his money. As well might
the assassin justify himself by simply presuming that his victim consents to
part with his life. As well the holder of chattel slaves to himself by presuming
that they consent to his authority, and to the whips and the robbery which he
practises upon them. The presumption is simply a presumption that the weaker
party consent to be slaves.
Such is the presumption on which alone our government relies to justify the
power it maintains over its unwilling subjects. And it was to establish that
presumption as the inexorable and perpetual law of this country, that so much
money and blood have been expended.
The Constitution of no Authority.
BY LYSANDER SPOONER
PUBLISHED BY THE AUTHOR,
Entered according to Act of congress, in the year 1870,
By LYSANDER SPOONER,
in the Clerk's office of the District Court of the United States, for the District
The first and second numbers of this series were published in 1867. For reasons
not necessary to be explained, the sixth is now published in advance of the third,
fourth, and fifth.
THE CONSTITUTION OF NO AUTHORITY
The Constitution has no inherent authority or obligation. It has no authority
or obligation at all, unless as a contract between man and man. And it does not
so much as even purport to be a contract between persons now existing. It purports,
at most, to be only a contract between persons living eighty years ago. And it
can be supposed to have been a contract then only between persons who had already
come to years of discretion, so as to be competent to make reasonable and obligatory
contracts. Furthermore, we know, historically, that only a small portion even
of the people then existing were consulted on the subject, or asked, or permitted
to express either their consent or dissent in any formal manner. Those persons,
if any, who did give their consent formally, are all dead now. Most of them have
been dead forty, fifty, sixty, or seventy years. And the constitution, so far
as it was their contract, died with them. They had no natural power or right
to make it obligatory upon their children. It is not only plainly impossible,
in the nature of things, that they could bind their posterity, but they did not
even attempt to bind them. That is to say, the instrument does not purport to
be an agreement between any body but "the people" then existing; nor
does it, either ex- [*4] pressly or impliedly, assert any right, power, or disposition,
on their part, to bind anybody but themselves. Let us see. Its language is:
"We, the people of the United States (that is, the people then existing
in the United States), in order to form a more perfect union, insure domestic
tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and
secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and
establish this Constitution for the United States of America."
It is plain, in the first place, that this language, as an agreement, purports
to be only what it at most really was, viz., a contract between the people then
existing; and, of necessity, binding, as a contract, only upon those then existing.
In the second place, the language neither expresses nor implies that they had
any right or power, to bind their "posterity" to live under it. It
does not say that their "posterity" will, shall, or must live under
it. It only says, in effect, that their hopes and motives in adopting it were
that it might prove useful to their posterity, as well as to themselves, by promoting
their union, safety, tranquility, liberty, etc.
Suppose an agreement were entered into, in this form:
We, the people of Boston, agree to maintain a fort on Governor's Island, to
protect ourselves and our posterity against invasion.
This agreement, as an agreement, would clearly bind nobody but the people then
existing. Secondly, it would assert no right, power, or disposition, on their
part, to compel, their "posterity" to maintain such a fort. It would
only indicate that the supposed welfare of their posterity was one of the motives
that induced the original parties to enter into the agreement.
When a man says he is building a house for himself and his posterity, he does
not mean to be understood as saying that he has any thought of binding them,
nor is it to be inferred that he [*5] is so foolish as to imagine that he has
any right or power to bind them, to live in it. So far as they are concerned,
he only means to be understood as saying that his hopes and motives, in building
it, are that they, or at least some of them, may find it for their happiness
to live in it.
So when a man says he is planting a tree for himself and his posterity, he
does not mean to be understood as saying that he has any thought of compelling
them, nor is it to be inferred that he is such a simpleton as to imagine that
he has any right or power to compel them, to eat the fruit. So far as they are
concerned, he only means to say that his hopes and motives, in planting the tree,
are that its fruit may be agreeable to them.
So it was with those who originally adopted the Constitution. Whatever may
have been their personal intentions, the legal meaning of their language, so
far as their "posterity" was concerned, simply was, that their hopes
and motives, in entering into the agreement, were that it might prove useful
and acceptable to their posterity; that it might promote their union, safety,
tranquility, and welfare; and that it might tend "to secure to them the
blessings of liberty." The language does not assert nor at all imply, any
right, power, or disposition, on the part of the original parties to the agreement,
to compel their "posterity" to live under it. If they had intended
to bind their posterity to live under it, they should have said that their objective
was, not "to secure to them the blessings of liberty," but to make
slaves of them; for if their "posterity" are bound to live under it,
they are nothing less than the slaves of their foolish, tyrannical, and dead
It cannot be said that the Constitution formed "the people of the United
States," for all time, into a corporation. It does not speak of "the
people" as a corporation, but as individuals. A corporation does not describe
itself as "we," nor as "people," nor as "ourselves."
Nor does a corporation, in legal language, [*6] have any "posterity."
It supposes itself to have, and speaks of itself as having, perpetual existence,
as a single individuality.
Moreover, no body of men, existing at any one time, have the power to create
a perpetual corporation. A corporation can become practically perpetual only
by the voluntary accession of new members, as the old ones die off. But for this
voluntary accession of new members, the corporation necessarily dies with the
death of those who originally composed it.
Legally speaking, therefore, there is, in the Constitution, nothing that professes
or attempts to bind the "posterity" of those who establish[ed] it.
If, then, those who established the Constitution, had no power to bind, and
did not attempt to bind, their posterity, the question arises, whether their
posterity have bound themselves. If they have done so, they can have done so
in only one or both of these two ways, viz., by voting, and paying taxes.
Let us consider these two matters, voting and tax paying, separately. And first
All the voting that has ever taken place under the Constitution, has been of
such a kind that it not only did not pledge the whole people to support the Constitution,
but it did not even pledge any one of them to do so, as the following considerations
1. In the very nature of things, the act of voting could bind nobody but the
actual voters. But owing to the property qualifications required, it is probable
that, during the first twenty or thirty years under the Constitution, not more
than one-tenth, fifteenth, or perhaps twentieth of the whole population (black
and white, men, women, and minors) were permitted to vote. Consequently, so far
as voting was concerned, not more than one-tenth, fifteenth, or twentieth of
those then existing, could have incurred any obligation to support the Constitution.
At the present time, it is probable that not more than one-sixth of the whole
population are permitted to vote. Consequently, so far as voting is concerned,
the other five-sixths can have given no pledge that they will support the Constitution.
2. Of the one-sixth that are permitted to vote, probably not more than two-thirds
(about one-ninth of the whole population) have usually voted. Many never vote
at all. Many vote only once in two, three, five, or ten years, in periods of
No one, by voting, can be said to pledge himself for any longer period than
that for which he votes. If, for example, I vote for an officer who is to hold
his office for only a year, I cannot be said to have thereby pledged myself to
support the government beyond that term. Therefore, on the ground of actual voting,
it probably cannot be said that more than one-ninth or one-eighth, of the whole
population are usually under any pledge to support the Constitution.
3. It cannot be said that, by voting, a man pledges himself to support the
Constitution, unless the act of voting be a perfectly voluntary one on his part.
Yet the act of voting cannot properly be called a voluntary one on the part of
any very large number of those who do vote. It is rather a measure of necessity
imposed upon them by others, than one of their own choice. On this point I repeat
what was said in a former number, <fn1> viz.:
"In truth, in the case of individuals, their actual voting is not to be
taken as proof of consent, even for the time being. On the contrary, it is to
be considered that, without his consent having even been asked a man finds himself
environed by a government that he cannot resist; a government that forces him
to pay money, render service, and forego the exercise of many of his natural
rights, under peril of weighty punishments. He sees, too, that other men practice
this tyranny over him by the use of the ballot. He sees further, that, if he
will but use the ballot [*8] himself, he has some chance of relieving himself
from this tyranny of others, by subjecting them to his own. In short, he finds
himself, without his consent, so situated that, if he use the ballot, he may
become a master; if he does not use it, he must become a slave. And he has no
other alternative than these two. In self-defence, he attempts the former. His
case is analogous to that of a man who has been forced into battle, where he
must either kill others, or be killed himself. Because, to save his own life
in battle, a man takes the lives of his opponents, it is not to be inferred that
the battle is one of his own choosing. Neither in contests with the ballot ---
which is a mere substitute for a bullet --- because, as his only chance of self-
preservation, a man uses a ballot, is it to be inferred that the contest is one
into which he voluntarily entered; that he voluntarily set up all his own natural
rights, as a stake against those of others, to be lost or won by the mere power
of numbers. On the contrary, it is to be considered that, in an exigency into
which he had been forced by others, and in which no other means of self-defence
offered, he, as a matter of necessity, used the only one that was left to him.
"Doubtless the most miserable of men, under the most oppressive government
in the world, if allowed the ballot, would use it, if they could see any chance
of thereby meliorating their condition. But it would not, therefore, be a legitimate
inference that the government itself, that crushes them, was one which they had
voluntarily set up, or even consented to. "Therefore, a man's voting under
the Constitution of the United States, is not to be taken as evidence that he
ever freely assented to the Constitution, even for the time being. Consequently
we have no proof that any very large portion, even of the actual voters of the
United States, ever really and voluntarily consented to the Constitution, even
for the time being. Nor can we ever have such proof, until every man is left
perfectly free to consent, or not, without thereby subjecting himself or his
property to be disturbed or injured by others."
As we can have no legal knowledge as to who votes from choice, and who from
the necessity thus forced upon him, we can have no legal knowledge, as to any
particular individual, that he voted from choice; or, consequently, that by voting,
he consented, or pledged himself, to support the government. Legally [*9] speaking,
therefore, the act of voting utterly fails to pledge any one to support the government.
It utterly fails to prove that the government rests upon the voluntary support
of anybody. On general principles of law and reason, it cannot be said that the
government has any voluntary supporters at all, until it can be distinctly shown
who its voluntary supporters are.
4. As taxation is made compulsory on all, whether they vote or not, a large
proportion of those who vote, no doubt do so to prevent their own money being
used against themselves; when, in fact, they would have gladly abstained from
voting, if they could thereby have saved themselves from taxation alone, to say
nothing of being saved from all the other usurpations and tyrannies of the government.
To take a man's property without his consent, and then to infer his consent because
he attempts, by voting, to prevent that property from being used to his injury,
is a very insufficient proof of his consent to support the Constitution. It is,
in fact, no proof at all. And as we can have no legal knowledge as to who the
particular individuals are, if there are any, who are willing to be taxed for
the sake of voting, we can have no legal knowledge that any particular individual
consents to be taxed for the sake of voting; or, consequently, consents to support
5. At nearly all elections, votes are given for various candidates for the
same office. Those who vote for the unsuccessful candidates cannot properly be
said to have voted to sustain the Constitution. They may, with more reason, be
supposed to have voted, not to support the Constitution, but specially to prevent
the tyranny which they anticipate the successful candidate intends to practice
upon them under color of the Constitution; and therefore may reasonably be supposed
to have voted against the Constitution itself. This supposition is the more reasonable,
inasmuch as such voting is the only mode allowed to them of expressing their
dissent to the Constitution. [*10]
6. Many votes are usually given for candidates who have no prospect of success.
Those who give such votes may reasonably be supposed to have voted as they did,
with a special intention, not to support, but to obstruct the execution of, the
Constitution; and, therefore, against the Constitution itself.
7. As all the different votes are given secretly (by secret ballot), there
is no legal means of knowing, from the votes themselves, who votes for, and who
votes against, the Constitution. Therefore, voting affords no legal evidence
that any particular individual supports the Constitution. And where there can
be no legal evidence that any particular individual supports the Constitution,
it cannot legally be said that anybody supports it. It is clearly impossible
to have any legal proof of the intentions of large numbers of men, where there
can be no legal proof of the intentions of any particular one of them.
8. There being no legal proof of any man's intentions, in voting, we can only
conjecture them. As a conjecture, it is probable, that a very large proportion
of those who vote, do so on this principle, viz., that if, by voting, they could
but get the government into their own hands (or that of their friends), and use
its powers against their opponents, they would then willingly support the Constitution;
but if their opponents are to have the power, and use it against them, then they
would not willingly support the Constitution.
In short, men's voluntary support of the Constitution is doubtless, in most
cases, wholly contingent upon the question whether, by means of the Constitution,
they can make themselves masters, or are to be made slaves.
Such contingent consent as that is, in law and reason, no consent at all.
9. As everybody who supports the Constitution by voting (if there are any such)
does so secretly (by secret ballot), and in a way to avoid all personal responsibility
for the acts of his agents or representatives, it cannot legally or reasonably
be [*11] said that anybody at all supports the Constitution by voting. No man
can reasonably or legally be said to do such a thing as assent to, or support,
the Constitution, unless he does it openly, and in a way to make himself personally
responsible for the acts of his agents, so long as they act within the limits
of the power he delegates to them.
10. As all voting is secret (by secret ballot), and as all secret governments
are necessarily only secret bands of robbers, tyrants, and murderers, the general
fact that our government is practically carried on by means of such voting, only
proves that there is among us a secret band of robbers, tyrants, and murderers,
whose purpose is to rob, enslave, and, so far as necessary to accomplish their
purposes, murder, the rest of the people. The simple fact of the existence of
such a band does nothing towards proving that "the people of the United
States," or any one of them, voluntarily supports the Constitution.
For all the reasons that have now been given, voting furnishes no legal evidence
as to who the particular individuals are (if there are any), who voluntarily
support the Constitution. It therefore furnishes no legal evidence that anybody
supports it voluntarily.
So far, therefore, as voting is concerned, the Constitution, legally speaking,
has no supporters at all.
And, as a matter of fact, there is not the slightest probability that the Constitution
has a single bona fide supporter in the country. That is to say, there is not
the slightest probability that there is a single man in the country, who both
understands what the Constitution really is, and sincerely supports it for what
it really is.
The ostensible supporters of the Constitution, like the ostensible supporters
of most other governments, are made up of three classes, viz.: 1. Knaves, a numerous
and active class, who see in the government an instrument which they can use
for their own aggrandizement or wealth. 2. Dupes --- a large class, no [*12]
doubt --- each of whom, because he is allowed one voice out of millions in deciding
what he may do with his own person and his own property, and because he is permitted
to have the same voice in robbing, enslaving, and murdering others, that others
have in robbing, enslaving, and murdering himself, is stupid enough to imagine
that he is a "free man," a "sovereign"; that this is "a
free government"; "a government of equal rights," "the best
government on earth," <fn2> and such like absurdities. 3. A class
who have some appreciation of the evils of government, but either do not see
how to get rid of them, or do not choose to so far sacrifice their private interests
as to give themselves seriously and earnestly to the work of making a change.
The payment of taxes, being compulsory, of course furnishes no evidence that
any one voluntarily supports the Constitution.
1. It is true that the theory of our Constitution is, that all taxes are paid
voluntarily; that our government is a mutual insurance company, voluntarily entered
into by the people with each other; that that each man makes a free and purely
voluntary contract with all others who are parties to the Constitution, to pay
so much money for so much protection, the same as he does with any other insurance
company; and that he is just as free not to be protected, and not to pay tax,
as he is to pay a tax, and be protected.
But this theory of our government is wholly different from the practical fact.
The fact is that the government, like a highwayman, says to a man: Your money,
or your life." And many, if not most, taxes are paid under the compulsion
of that threat.
The government does not, indeed, waylay a man in a lonely place, spring upon
him from the roadside, and, holding a pistol [*13] to his head, proceed to rifle
his pockets. But the robbery is none the less a robbery on that account; and
it is far more dastardly and shameful.
The highwayman takes solely upon himself the responsibility, danger, and crime
of his own act. He does not pretend that he has any rightful claim to your money,
or that he intends to use it for your own benefit. He does not pretend to be
anything but a robber. He has not acquired impudence enough to profess to be
merely a "protector," and that he takes men's money against their will,
merely to enable him to "protect" those infatuated travellers, who
feel perfectly able to protect themselves, or do not appreciate his peculiar
system of protection. He is too sensible a man to make such professions as these.
Furthermore, having taken your money, he leaves you, as you wish him to do. He
does not persist in following you on the road, against your will; assuming to
be your rightful "sovereign," on account of the "protection"
he affords you. He does not keep "protecting" you, by commanding you
to bow down and serve him; by requiring you to do this, and forbidding you to
do that; by robbing you of more money as often as he finds it for his interest
or pleasure to do so; and by branding you as a rebel, a traitor, and an enemy
to your country, and shooting you down without mercy, if you dispute his authority,
or resist his demands. He is too much of a gentleman to be guilty of such impostures,
and insults, and villanies as these. In short, he does not, in addition to robbing
you, attempt to make you either his dupe or his slave.
The proceedings of those robbers and murderers, who call themselves "the
government," are directly the opposite of these of the single highwayman.
In the first place, they do not, like him, make themselves individually known;
or, consequently, take upon themselves personally the responsibility of their
acts. On the contrary, they secretly (by secret ballot) designate some one of
their number [*14] to commit the robbery in their behalf, while they keep themselves
practically concealed. They say to the person thus designated:
Go to A_____ B_____, and say to him that "the government" has need
of money to meet the expenses of protecting him and his property. If he presumes
to say that he has never contracted with us to protect him, and that he wants
none of our protection, say to him that that is our business, and not his; that
we choose to protect him, whether he desires us to do so or not; and that we
demand pay, too, for protecting him. If he dares to inquire who the individuals
are, who have thus taken upon themselves the title of "the government,"
and who assume to protect him, and demand payment of him, without his having
ever made any contract with them, say to him that that, too, is our business,
and not his; that we do not choose to make ourselves individually known to him;
that we have secretly (by secret ballot) appointed you our agent to give him
notice of our demands, and, if he complies with them, to give him, in our name,
a receipt that will protect him against any similar demand for the present year.
If he refuses to comply, seize and sell enough of his property to pay not only
our demands, but all your own expenses and trouble beside. If he resists the
seizure of his property, call upon the bystanders to help you (doubtless some
of them will prove to be members of our band.) If, in defending his property,
he should kill any of our band who are assisting you, capture him at all hazards;
charge him (in one of our courts) with murder; convict him, and hang him. If
he should call upon his neighbors, or any others who, like him, may be disposed
to resist our demands, and they should come in large numbers to his assistance,
cry out that they are all rebels and traitors; that "our country" is
in danger; call upon the commander of our hired murderers; tell him to quell
the rebellion and "save the country," cost what it may. Tell him to
kill all who resist, though they should be hundreds of thou- [*15] sands; and
thus strike terror into all others similarly disposed. See that the work of murder
is thoroughly done; that we may have no further trouble of this kind hereafter.
When these traitors shall have thus been taught our strength and our determination,
they will be good loyal citizens for many years, and pay their taxes without
a why or a wherefore.
It is under such compulsion as this that taxes, so called, are paid. And how
much proof the payment of taxes affords, that the people consent to "support
the government," it needs no further argument to show.
2. Still another reason why the payment of taxes implies no consent, or pledge,
to support the government, is that the taxpayer does not know, and has no means
of knowing, who the particular individuals are who compose "the government."
To him "the government" is a myth, an abstraction, an incorporeality,
with which he can make no contract, and to which he can give no consent, and
make no pledge. He knows it only through its pretended agents. "The government"
itself he never sees. He knows indeed, by common report, that certain persons,
of a certain age, are permitted to vote; and thus to make themselves parts of,
or (if they choose) opponents of, the government, for the time being. But who
of them do thus vote, and especially how each one votes (whether so as to aid
or oppose the government), he does not know; the voting being all done secretly
(by secret ballot). Who, therefore, practically compose "the government,"
for the time being, he has no means of knowing. Of course he can make no contract
with them, give them no consent, and make them no pledge. Of necessity, therefore,
his paying taxes to them implies, on his part, no contract, consent, or pledge
to support them --- that is, to support "the government," or the Constitution.
3. Not knowing who the particular individuals are, who call themselves "the
government," the taxpayer does not know whom he pays his taxes to. All he
knows is that a man comes to [*16] him, representing himself to be the agent
of "the government" --- that is, the agent of a secret band of robbers
and murderers, who have taken to themselves the title of "the government,"
and have determined to kill everybody who refuses to give them whatever money
they demand. To save his life, he gives up his money to this agent. But as this
agent does not make his principals individually known to the taxpayer, the latter,
after he has given up his money, knows no more who are "the government"
--- that is, who were the robbers --- than he did before. To say, therefore,
that by giving up his money to their agent, he entered into a voluntary contract
with them, that he pledges himself to obey them, to support them, and to give
them whatever money they should demand of him in the future, is simply ridiculous.
4. All political power, so called, rests practically upon this matter of money.
Any number of scoundrels, having money enough to start with, can establish themselves
as a "government"; because, with money, they can hire soldiers, and
with soldiers extort more money; and also compel general obedience to their will.
It is with government, as Caesar said it was in war, that money and soldiers
mutually supported each other; that with money he could hire soldiers, and with
soldiers extort money. So these villains, who call themselves governments, well
understand that their power rests primarily upon money. With money they can hire
soldiers, and with soldiers extort money. And, when their authority is denied,
the first use they always make of money, is to hire soldiers to kill or subdue
all who refuse them more money.
For this reason, whoever desires liberty, should understand these vital facts,
viz.: 1. That every man who puts money into the hands of a "government"
(so called), puts into its hands a sword which will be used against him, to extort
more money from him, and also to keep him in subjection to its arbitrary will.
2. That those who will take his money, without his con- [*17] sent, in the first
place, will use it for his further robbery and enslavement, if he presumes to
resist their demands in the future. 3. That it is a perfect absurdity to suppose
that any body of men would ever take a man's money without his consent, for any
such object as they profess to take it for, viz., that of protecting him; for
why should they wish to protect him, if he does not wish them to do so? To suppose
that they would do so, is just as absurd as it would be to suppose that they
would take his money without his consent, for the purpose of buying food or clothing
for him, when he did not want it. 4. If a man wants "protection," he
is competent to make his own bargains for it; and nobody has any occasion to
rob him, in order to "protect" him against his will. 5. That the only
security men can have for their political liberty, consists in their keeping
their money in their own pockets, until they have assurances, perfectly satisfactory
to themselves, that it will be used as they wish it to be used, for their benefit,
and not for their injury. 6. That no government, so called, can reasonably be
trusted for a moment, or reasonably be supposed to have honest purposes in view,
any longer than it depends wholly upon voluntary support.
These facts are all so vital and so self-evident, that it cannot reasonably
be supposed that any one will voluntarily pay money to a "government,"
for the purpose of securing its protection, unless he first make an explicit
and purely voluntary contract with it for that purpose.
It is perfectly evident, therefore, that neither such voting, nor such payment
of taxes, as actually takes place, proves anybody's consent, or obligation, to
support the Constitution. Consequently we have no evidence at all that the Constitution
is binding upon anybody, or that anybody is under any contract or obligation
whatever to support it. And nobody is under any obligation to support it. [*18]
The constitution not only binds nobody now, but it never did bind anybody.
It never bound anybody, because it was never agreed to by anybody in such a manner
as to make it, on general principles of law and reason, binding upon him.
It is a general principle of law and reason, that a written instrument binds
no one until he has signed it. This principle is so inflexible a one, that even
though a man is unable to write his name, he must still "make his mark,"
before he is bound by a written contract. This custom was established ages ago,
when few men could write their names; when a clerk --- that is, a man who could
write --- was so rare and valuable a person, that even if he were guilty of high
crimes, he was entitled to pardon, on the ground that the public could not afford
to lose his services. Even at that time, a written contract must be signed; and
men who could not write, either "made their mark," or signed their
contracts by stamping their seals upon wax affixed to the parchment on which
their contracts were written. Hence the custom of affixing seals, that has continued
to this time.
The laws holds, and reason declares, that if a written instrument is not signed,
the presumption must be that the party to be bound by it, did not choose to sign
it, or to bind himself by it. And law and reason both give him until the last
moment, in which to decide whether he will sign it, or not. Neither law nor reason
requires or expects a man to agree to an instrument, until it is written; for
until it is written, he cannot know its precise legal meaning. And when it is
written, and he has had the opportunity to satisfy himself of its precise legal
meaning, he is then expected to decide, and not before, whether he will agree
to it or not. And if he do not then sign it, his reason is supposed to be, that
he does not choose to enter into such a contract. The fact that the instrument
was written for him to sign, or with the hope that he would sign it, goes for
Where would be the end of fraud and litigation, if one party could bring into
court a written instrument, without any signature, and claim to have it enforced,
upon the ground that it was written for another man to sign? that this other
man had promised to sign it? that he ought to have signed it? that he had had
the opportunity to sign it, if he would? but that he had refused or neglected
to do so? Yet that is the most that could ever be said of the Constitution. <fn3>
The very judges, who profess to derive all their authority from the Constitution
--- from an instrument that nobody ever signed --- would spurn any other instrument,
not signed, that should be brought before them for adjudication.
Moreover, a written instrument must, in law and reason, not only be signed,
but must also be delivered to the party (or to some one for him), in whose favor
it is made, before it can bind the party making it. The signing is of no effect,
unless the instrument be also delivered. And a party is at perfect liberty to
refuse to deliver a written instrument, after he has signed it. The Constitution
was not only never signed by anybody, but it was never delivered by anybody,
or to anybody's agent or attorney. It can therefore be of no more validity as
a contract, then can any other instrument that was never signed or delivered.
As further evidence of the general sense of mankind, as to the practical necessity
there is that all men's important contracts, especially those of a permanent
nature, should be both written and signed, the following facts are pertinent.
For nearly two hundred years --- that is, since 1677 --- there has been on
the statute book of England, and the same, in substance, if not precisely in
letter, has been re-enacted, and is now in force, in nearly or quite all the
States of this Union, a statute, the general object of which is to declare that
no action shall be brought to enforce contracts of the more important class,
unless they are put in writing, and signed by the parties to be held chargeable
upon them. <fn4>
The principle of the statute, be it observed, is, not merely that written contracts
shall be signed, but also that all con- [*21] tracts, except for those specially
exempted --- generally those that are for small amounts, and are to remain in
force for but a short time --- shall be both written and signed.
The reason of the statute, on this point, is, that it is now so easy a thing
for men to put their contracts in writing, and sign them, and their failure to
do so opens the door to so much doubt, fraud, and litigation, that men who neglect
to have their contracts --- of any considerable importance --- written and signed,
ought not to have the benefit of courts of justice to enforce them. And this
reason is a wise one; and that experience has confirmed its wisdom and necessity,
is demonstrated by the fact that it has been acted upon in England for nearly
two hundred years, and has been so nearly universally adopted in this country,
and that nobody thinks of repealing it.
We all know, too, how careful most men are to have their contracts written
and signed, even when this statute does not require it. For example, most men,
if they have money due them, of no larger amount than five or ten dollars, are
careful to take a note for it. If they buy even a small bill of goods, paying
for it at the time of delivery, they take a receipted bill for it. If they pay
a small balance of a book account, or any other small debt previously contracted,
they take a written receipt for it.
Furthermore, the law everywhere (probably) in our country, as well as in England,
requires that a large class of contracts, such as wills, deeds, etc., shall not
only be written and signed, but also sealed, witnessed, and acknowledged. And
in the case of married women conveying their rights in real estate, the law,
in many States, requires that the women shall be examined separate and apart
from their husbands, and declare that they sign their contracts free of any fear
or compulsion of their husbands.
Such are some of the precautions which the laws require, and which individuals
--- from motives of common prudence, even in cases not required by law --- take,
to put their contracts in writing, and have them signed, and, to guard against
all uncertainties [*22] and controversies in regard to their meaning and validity.
And yet we have what purports, or professes, or is claimed, to be a contract
--- the Constitution --- made eighty years ago, by men who are now all dead,
and who never had any power to bind us, but which (it is claimed) has nevertheless
bound three generations of men, consisting of many millions, and which (it is
claimed) will be binding upon all the millions that are to come; but which nobody
ever signed, sealed, delivered, witnessed, or acknowledged; and which few persons,
compared with the whole number that are claimed to be bound by it, have ever
read, or even seen, or ever will read, or see. And of those who ever have read
it, or ever will read it, scarcely any two, perhaps no two, have ever agreed,
or ever will agree, as to what it means.
Moreover, this supposed contract, which would not be received in any court
of justice sitting under its authority, if offered to prove a debt of five dollars,
owing by one man to another, is one by which --- as it is generally interpreted
by those who pretend to administer it --- all men, women and children throughout
the country, and through all time, surrender not only all their property, but
also their liberties, and even lives, into the hands of men who by this supposed
contract, are expressly made wholly irresponsible for their disposal of them.
And we are so insane, or so wicked, as to destroy property and lives without
limit, in fighting to compel men to fulfill a supposed contract, which, inasmuch
as it has never been signed by anybody, is, on general principles of law and
reason --- such principles as we are all governed by in regard to other contracts
--- the merest waste of paper, binding upon nobody, fit only to be thrown into
the fire; or, if preserved, preserved only to serve as a witness and a warning
of the folly and wickedness of mankind.
It is no exaggeration, but a literal truth, to say that, by the Constitution
--- not as I interpret it, but as it is interpreted by those [*23] who pretend
to administer it --- the properties, liberties, and lives of the entire people
of the United States are surrendered unreservedly into the hands of men who,
it is provided by the Constitution itself, shall never be "questioned"
as to any disposal they make of them.
Thus the Constitution (Art. I, Sec. 6) provides that, "for any speech
or debate [or vote,] in either house, they [the senators and representatives]
shall not be questioned in any other place."
The whole law-making power is given to these senators and representatives [when
acting by a two-thirds vote] <fn5>; and this provision protects them from
all responsibility for the laws they make.
The Constitution also enables them to secure the execution of all their laws,
by giving them power to withhold the salaries of, and to impeach and remove,
all judicial and executive officers, who refuse to execute them.
Thus the whole power of the government is in their hands, and they are made
utterly irresponsible for the use they make of it. What is this but absolute,
It is no answer to this view of the case to say that these men are under oath
to use their power only within certain limits; for what care they, or what should
they care, for oaths or limits, when it is expressly provided, by the Constitution
itself, that they shall never be "questioned," or held to any responsibility
whatever, for violating their oaths, or transgressing those limits?
Neither is it any answer to this view of the case to say that the men holding
this absolute, irresponsible power, must be men chosen by the people (or portions
of them) to hold it. A man is none the less a slave because he is allowed to
choose a new master once in a term of years. Neither are a people any the less
slaves because permitted periodically to choose new masters. What makes them
slaves is the fact that they now are, and are always hereafter to be, in the
hands of men whose power over them is, and always is to be, absolute and irresponsible.
The right of absolute and irresponsible dominion is the right of property,
and the right of property is the right of absolute, irresponsible dominion. The
two are identical; the one necessarily implies the other. Neither can exist without
the other. If, therefore, Congress have that absolute and irresponsible law-making
power, which the Constitution --- according to their interpretation of it ---
gives them, it can only be because they own us as property. If they own us as
property, they are our masters, and their will is our law. If they do not own
us as property, they are not our masters, and their will, as such, is of no authority
But these men who claim and exercise this absolute and irresponsible dominion
over us, dare not be consistent, and claim either to be our masters, or to own
us as property. They say they are only our servants, agents, attorneys, and representatives.
But this declaration involves an absurdity, a contradiction. No man can be my
servant, agent, attorney, or representative, and be, at the same time, uncontrollable
by me, and irresponsible to me for his acts. It is of no importance that I appointed
him, and put all power in his hands. If I made him uncontrollable by me, and
irresponsible to me, he is no longer my servant, agent, attorney, or representative.
If I gave him absolute, irre- [*25] sponsible power over my property, I gave
him the property. If I gave him absolute, irresponsible power over myself, I
made him my master, and gave myself to him as a slave. And it is of no importance
whether I called him master or servant, agent or owner. The only question is,
what power did I put in his hands? Was it an absolute and irresponsible one?
or a limited and responsible one?
For still another reason they are neither our servants, agents, attorneys,
nor representatives. And that reason is, that we do not make ourselves responsible
for their acts. If a man is my servant, agent, or attorney, I necessarily make
myself responsible for all his acts done within the limits of the power I have
intrusted to him. If I have intrusted him, as my agent, with either absolute
power, or any power at all, over the persons or properties of other men than
myself, I thereby necessarily make myself responsible to those other persons
for any injuries he may do them, so long as he acts within the limits of the
power I have granted him. But no individual who may be injured in his person
or property, by acts of Congress, can come to the individual electors, and hold
them responsible for these acts of their so-called agents or representatives.
This fact proves that these pretended agents of the people, of everybody, are
really the agents of nobody.
If, then, nobody is individually responsible for the acts of Congress, the
members of Congress are nobody's agents. And if they are nobody's agents, they
are themselves individually responsible for their own acts, and for the acts
of all whom they employ. And the authority they are exercising is simply their
own individual authority; and, by the law of nature --- the highest of all laws
--- anybody injured by their acts, anybody who is deprived by them of his property
or his liberty, has the same right to hold them individually responsible, that
he has to hold any other trespasser individually responsible. He has the same
right [*26] to resist them, and their agents, that he has to resist any other
It is plain, then, that on general principles of law and reason --- such principles
as we all act upon in courts of justice and in common life --- the Constitution
is no contract; that it binds nobody, and never did bind anybody; and that all
those who pretend to act by its authority, are really acting without any legitimate
authority at all; that, on general principles of law and reason, they are mere
usurpers, and that everybody not only has the right, but is morally bound, to
treat them as such.
If the people of this country wish to maintain such a government as the Constitution
describes, there is no reason in the world why they should not sign the instrument
itself, and thus make known their wishes in an open, authentic manner; in such
manner as the common sense and experience of mankind have shown to be reasonable
and necessary in such cases; and in such manner as to make themselves (as they
ought to do) individually responsible for the acts of the government. But the
people have never been asked to sign it. And the only reason why they have never
been asked to sign it, has been that it has been known that they never would
sign it; that they were neither such fools nor knaves as they must needs have
been to be willing to sign it; that (at least as it has been practically interpreted)
it is not what any sensible and honest man wants for himself; nor such as he
has any right to impose upon others. It is, to all moral intents and purposes,
as destitute of obligations as the compacts which robbers and thieves and pirates
enter into with each other, but never sign.
If any considerable number of the people believe the Constitution to be good,
why do they not sign it themselves, and make laws for, and administer them upon,
each other; leaving all [*27] other persons (who do not interfere with them)
in peace? Until they have tried the experiment for themselves, how can they have
the face to impose the Constitution upon, or even to recommend it to, others?
Plainly the reason for absurd and inconsistent conduct is that they want the
Constitution, not solely for any honest or legitimate use it can be of to themselves
or others, but for the dishonest and illegitimate power it gives them over the
persons and properties of others. But for this latter reason, all their eulogiums
on the Constitution, all their exhortations, and all their expenditures of money
and blood to sustain it, would be wanting.
The Constitution itself, then, being of no authority, on what authority does
our government practically rest? On what ground can those who pretend to administer
it, claim the right to seize men's property, to restrain them of their natural
liberty of action, industry, and trade, and to kill all who deny their authority
to dispose of men's properties, liberties, and lives at their pleasure or discretion?
The most they can say, in answer to this question, is, that some half, two-thirds,
or three-fourths, of the male adults of the country have a tacit understanding
that they will maintain a government under the Constitution; that they will select,
by ballot, the persons to administer it; and that those persons who may receive
a majority, or a plurality, of their ballots, shall act as their representatives,
and administer the Constitution in their name, and by their authority.
But this tacit understanding (admitting it to exist) cannot at all justify
the conclusion drawn from it. A tacit understanding between A, B, and C, that
they will, by ballot, depute D as their agent, to deprive me of my property,
liberty, or life, cannot at all authorize D to do so. He is none the less a robber,
tyrant, and murderer, because he claims to act as their agent, [*28] than he
would be if he avowedly acted on his own responsibility alone.
Neither am I bound to recognize him as their agent, nor can he legitimately
claim to be their agent, when he brings no written authority from them accrediting
him as such. I am under no obligation to take his word as to who his principals
may be, or whether he has any. Bringing no credentials, I have a right to say
he has no such authority even as he claims to have: and that he is therefore
intending to rob, enslave, or murder me on his own account.
This tacit understanding, therefore, among the voters of the country, amounts
to nothing as an authority to their agents. Neither do the ballots by which they
select their agents, avail any more than does their tacit understanding; for
their ballots are given in secret, and therefore in such a way as to avoid any
personal responsibility for the acts of their agents.
No body of men can be said to authorize a man to act as their agent, to the
injury of a third person, unless they do it in so open and authentic a manner
as to make themselves personally responsible for his acts. None of the voters
in this country appoint their political agents in any open, authentic manner,
or in any manner to make themselves responsible for their acts. Therefore these
pretended agents cannot legitimately claim to be really agents. Somebody must
be responsible for the acts of these pretended agents; and if they cannot show
any open and authentic credentials from their principals, they cannot, in law
or reason, be said to have any principals. The maxim applies here, that what
does not appear, does not exist. If they can show no principals, they have none.
But even these pretended agents do not themselves know who their pretended
principals are. These latter act in secret; for acting by secret ballot is acting
in secret as much as if they were to meet in secret conclave in the darkness
of the night. And they are personally as much unknown to the agents they select,
[*29] as they are to others. No pretended agent therefore can ever know by whose
ballots he is selected, or consequently who his real principles are. Not knowing
who his principles are, he has no right to say that he has any. He can, at most,
say only that he is the agent of a secret band of robbers and murderers, who
are bound by that faith which prevails among confederates in crime, to stand
by him, if his acts, done in their name, shall be resisted.
Men honestly engaged in attempting to establish justice in the world, have
no occasion thus to act in secret; or to appoint agents to do acts for which
they (the principals) are not willing to be responsible.
The secret ballot makes a secret government; and a secret government is a secret
band of robbers and murderers. Open despotism is better than this. The single
despot stands out in the face of all men, and says: I am the State: My will is
law: I am your master: I take the responsibility of my acts: The only arbiter
I acknowledge is the sword: If anyone denies my right, let him try conclusions
But a secret government is little less than a government of assassins. Under
it, a man knows not who his tyrants are, until they have struck, and perhaps
not then. He may guess, beforehand, as to some of his immediate neighbors. But
he really knows nothing. The man to whom he would most naturally fly for protection,
may prove an enemy, when the time of trial comes.
This is the kind of government we have; and it is the only one we are likely
to have, until men are ready to say: We will consent to no Constitution, except
such an one as we are neither ashamed nor afraid to sign; and we will authorize
no government to do anything in our name which we are not willing to be personally
responsible for. [*30]
What is the motive to the secret ballot? This, and only this: Like other confederates
in crime, those who use it are not friends, but enemies; and they are afraid
to be known, and to have their individual doings known, even to each other. They
can contrive to bring about a sufficient understanding to enable them to act
in concert against other persons; but beyond this they have no confidence, and
no friendship, among themselves. In fact, they are engaged quite as much in schemes
for plundering each other, as in plundering those who are not of them. And it
is perfectly well understood among them that the strongest party among them will,
in certain contingencies, murder each other by the hundreds of thousands (as
they lately did do) to accomplish their purposes against each other. Hence they
dare not be known, and have their individual doings known, even to each other.
And this is avowedly the only reason for the ballot: for a secret government;
a government by secret bands of robbers and murderers. And we are insane enough
to call this liberty! To be a member of this secret band of robbers and murderers
is esteemed a privilege and an honor! Without this privilege, a man is considered
a slave; but with it a free man! With it he is considered a free man, because
he has the same power to secretly (by secret ballot) procure the robbery, enslavement,
and murder of another man, and that other man has to procure his robbery, enslavement,
and murder. And this they call equal rights!
If any number of men, many or few, claim the right to govern the people of
this country, let them make and sign an open compact with each other to do so.
Let them thus make themselves individually known to those whom they propose to
govern. And let them thus openly take the legitimate responsibility of their
acts. How many of those who now support the Constitution, will ever do this?
How many will ever dare openly pro- [*31] claim their right to govern? or take
the legitimate responsibility of their acts? Not one!
It is obvious that, on general principles of law and reason, there exists no
such thing as a government created by, or resting upon, any consent, compact,
or agreement of "the people of the United States" with each other;
that the only visible, tangible, responsible government that exists, is that
of a few individuals only, who act in concert, and call themselves by the several
names of senators, representatives, presidents, judges, marshals, treasurers,
collectors, generals, colonels, captains, etc., etc.
On general principles of law and reason, it is of no importance whatever that
these few individuals profess to be the agents and representatives of "the
people of the United States"; since they can show no credentials from the
people themselves; they were never appointed as agents or representatives in
any open, authentic manner; they do not themselves know, and have no means of
knowing, and cannot prove, who their principals (as they call them) are individually;
and consequently cannot, in law or reason, be said to have any principals at
It is obvious, too, that if these alleged principals ever did appoint these
pretended agents, or representatives, they appointed them secretly (by secret
ballot), and in a way to avoid all personal responsibility for their acts; that,
at most, these alleged principals put these pretended agents forward for the
most criminal purposes, viz.: to plunder the people of their property, and restrain
them of their liberty; and that the only authority that these alleged principals
have for so doing, is simply a tacit understanding among themselves that they
will imprison, shoot, or hang every man who resists the exactions and restraints
which their agents or representatives may impose upon them.
Thus it is obvious that the only visible, tangible government we [*32] have
is made up of these professed agents or representatives of a secret band of robbers
and murderers, who, to cover up, or gloss over, their robberies and murders,
have taken to themselves the title of "the people of the United States";
and who, on the pretense of being "the people of the United States,"
assert their right to subject to their dominion, and to control and dispose of
at their pleasure, all property and persons found in the United States.
On general principles of law and reason, the oaths which these pretended agents
of the people take "to support the Constitution," are of no validity
or obligation. And why? For this, if for no other reason, viz., that they are
given to nobody. There is no privity (as the lawyers say) --- that is, no mutual
recognition, consent, and agreement --- between those who take these oaths, and
any other persons.
If I go upon Boston Common, and in the presence of a hundred thousand people,
men, women and children, with whom I have no contract upon the subject, take
an oath that I will enforce upon them the laws of Moses, of Lycurgus, of Solon,
of Justinian, or of Alfred, that oath is, on general principles of law and reason,
of no obligation. It is of no obligation, not merely because it is intrinsically
a criminal one, but also because it is given to nobody, and consequently pledges
my faith to nobody. It is merely given to the winds.
It would not alter the case at all to say that, among these hundred thousand
persons, in whose presence the oath was taken, there were two, three, or five
thousand male adults, who had secretly --- by secret ballot, and in a way to
avoid making themselves individually known to me, or to the remainder of the
hundred thousand --- designated me as their agent to rule, control, plunder,
and, if need be, murder, these hundred thousand [*33] people. The fact that they
had designated me secretly, and in a manner to prevent my knowing them individually,
prevents all privity between them and me; and consequently makes it impossible
that there can be any contract, or pledge of faith, on my part towards them;
for it is impossible that I can pledge my faith, in any legal sense, to a man
whom I neither know, nor have any means of knowing, individually.
So far as I am concerned, then, these two, three, or five thousand persons
are a secret band of robbers and murderers, who have secretly, and in a way to
save themselves from all responsibility for my acts, designated me as their agent;
and have, through some other agent, or pretended agent, made their wishes known
to me. But being, nevertheless, individually unknown to me, and having no open,
authentic contract with me, my oath is, on general principles of law and reason,
of no validity as a pledge of faith to them. And being no pledge of faith to
them, it is no pledge of faith to anybody. It is mere idle wind. At most, it
is only a pledge of faith to an unknown band of robbers and murderers, whose
instrument for plundering and murdering other people, I thus publicly confess
myself to be. And it has no other obligation than a similar oath given to any
other unknown body of pirates, robbers, and murderers. For these reasons the
oaths taken by members of Congress, "to support the Constitution,"
are, on general principles of law and reason, of no validity. They are not only
criminal in themselves, and therefore void; but they are also void for the further
reason that they are given to nobody.
It cannot be said that, in any legitimate or legal sense, they are given to
"the people of the United States"; because neither the whole, nor any
large proportion of the whole, people of the United States ever, either openly
or secretly, appointed or designated these men as their agents to carry the Constitution
into effect. The great body of the people --- that is, men, women, and children
--- were never asked, or even permitted, to signify, in any [*34] formal manner,
either openly or secretly, their choice or wish on the subject. The most that
these members of Congress can say, in favor of their appointment, is simply this:
Each one can say for himself:
I have evidence satisfactory to myself, that there exists, scattered throughout
the country, a band of men, having a tacit understanding with each other, and
calling themselves "the people of the United States," whose general
purposes are to control and plunder each other, and all other persons in the
country, and, so far as they can, even in neighboring countries; and to kill
every man who shall attempt to defend his person and property against their schemes
of plunder and dominion. Who these men are, individually, I have no certain means
of knowing, for they sign no papers, and give no open, authentic evidence of
their individual membership. They are not known individually even to each other.
They are apparently as much afraid of being individually known to each other,
as of being known to other persons. Hence they ordinarily have no mode either
of exercising, or of making known, their individual membership, otherwise than
by giving their votes secretly for certain agents to do their will. But although
these men are individually unknown, both to each other and to other persons,
it is generally understood in the country that none but male persons, of the
age of twenty-one years and upwards, can be members. It is also generally understood
that all male persons, born in the country, having certain complexions, and (in
some localities) certain amounts of property, and (in certain cases) even persons
of foreign birth, are permitted to be members. But it appears that usually not
more than one half, two-thirds, or in some cases, three-fourths, of all who are
thus permitted to become members of the band, ever exercise, or consequently
prove, their actual membership, in the only mode in which they ordinarily can
exercise or prove it, viz., by giving their votes secretly for the officers or
agents of the band. The number of these secret [*35] votes, so far as we have
any account of them, varies greatly from year to year, thus tending to prove
that the band, instead of being a permanent organization, is a merely pro tempore
affair with those who choose to act with it for the time being. The gross number
of these secret votes, or what purports to be their gross number, in different
localities, is occasionally published. Whether these reports are accurate or
not, we have no means of knowing. It is generally supposed that great frauds
are often committed in depositing them. They are understood to be received and
counted by certain men, who are themselves appointed for that purpose by the
same secret process by which all other officers and agents of the band are selected.
According to the reports of these receivers of votes (for whose accuracy or honesty,
however, I cannot vouch), and according to my best knowledge of the whole number
of male persons "in my district," who (it is supposed) were permitted
to vote, it would appear that one-half, two-thirds or three-fourths actually
did vote. Who the men were, individually, who cast these votes, I have no knowledge,
for the whole thing was done secretly. But of the secret votes thus given for
what they call a "member of Congress," the receivers reported that
I had a majority, or at least a larger number than any other one person. And
it is only by virtue of such a designation that I am now here to act in concert
with other persons similarly selected in other parts of the country. It is understood
among those who sent me here, that all persons so selected, will, on coming together
at the City of Washington, take an oath in each other's presence "to support
the Constitution of the United States." By this is meant a certain paper
that was drawn up eighty years ago. It was never signed by anybody, and apparently
has no obligation, and never had any obligation, as a contract. In fact, few
persons ever read it, and doubtless much the largest number of those who voted
for me and the others, never even saw it, or now pretend to know what it means.
Nevertheless, it is often spoken [*36] of in the country as "the Constitution
of the United States"; and for some reason or other, the men who sent me
here, seem to expect that I, and all with whom I act, will swear to carry this
Constitution into effect. I am therefore ready to take this oath, and to co-operate
with all others, similarly selected, who are ready to take the same oath.
This is the most that any member of Congress can say in proof that he has any
constituency; that he represents anybody; that his oath "to support the
Constitution," is given to anybody, or pledges his faith to anybody. He
has no open, written, or other authentic evidence, such as is required in all
other cases, that he was ever appointed the agent or representative of anybody.
He has no written power of attorney from any single individual. He has no such
legal knowledge as is required in all other cases, by which he can identify a
single one of those who pretend to have appointed him to represent them.
Of course his oath, professedly given to them, "to support the Constitution,"
is, on general principles of law and reason, an oath given to nobody. It pledges
his faith to nobody. If he fails to fulfil his oath, not a single person can
come forward, and say to him, you have betrayed me, or broken faith with me.
No one can come forward and say to him: I appointed you my attorney to act
for me. I required you to swear that, as my attorney, you would support the Constitution.
You promised me that you would do so; and now you have forfeited the oath you
gave to me. No single individual can say this.
No open, avowed, or responsible association, or body of men, [*37] can come
forward and say to him: We appointed you our attorney, to act for us. We required
you to swear that, as our attorney, you would support the Constitution. You promised
us that you would do so; and now you have forfeited the oath you gave to us.
No open, avowed, or responsible association, or body of men, can say this to
him; because there is no such association or body of men in existence. If any
one should assert that there is such an association, let him prove, if he can,
who compose it. Let him produce, if he can, any open, written, or other authentic
contract, signed or agreed to by these men; forming themselves into an association;
making themselves known as such to the world; appointing him as their agent;
and making themselves individually, or as an association, responsible for his
acts, done by their authority. Until all this can be shown, no one can say that,
in any legitimate sense, there is any such association; or that he is their agent;
or that he ever gave his oath to them; or ever pledged his faith to them.
On general principles of law and reason, it would be a sufficient answer for
him to say, to all individuals, and to all pretended associations of individuals,
who should accuse him of a breach of faith to them:
I never knew you. Where is your evidence that you, either individually or collectively,
ever appointed me your attorney? that you ever required me to swear to you, that,
as your attorney, I would support the Constitution? or that I have now broken
any faith that I ever pledged to you? You may, or you may not, be members of
that secret band of robbers and murderers, who act in secret; appoint their agents
by a secret ballot; who keep themselves individually unknown even to the agents
they thus appoint; and who, therefore, cannot claim that they have any agents;
or that any of their pretended agents ever gave his oath, or pledged his faith
to them. I repudiate you altogether. My oath was given to others, with whom you
have nothing to do; or it was idle wind, given only to the idle winds. Begone!
For the same reasons, the oaths of all the other pretended agents of this secret
band of robbers and murderers are, on [*38] general principles of law and reason,
equally destitute of obligation. They are given to nobody; but only to the winds.
The oaths of the tax-gatherers and treasurers of the band, are, on general
principles of law and reason, of no validity. If any tax-gatherer, for example,
should put the money he receives into his own pocket, and refuse to part with
it, the members of this band could not say to him: You collected that money as
our agent, and for our uses; and you swore to pay it over to us, or to those
we should appoint to receive it. You have betrayed us, and broken faith with
It would be a sufficient answer for him to say to them:
I never knew you. You never made yourselves individually known to me. I never
game by oath to you, as individuals. You may, or you may not, be members of that
secret band, who appoint agents to rob and murder other people; but who are cautious
not to make themselves individually known, either to such agents, or to those
whom their agents are commissioned to rob. If you are members of that band, you
have given me no proof that you ever commissioned me to rob others for your benefit.
I never knew you, as individuals, and of course never promised you that I would
pay over to you the proceeds of my robberies. I committed my robberies on my
own account, and for my own profit. If you thought I was fool enough to allow
you to keep yourselves concealed, and use me as your tool for robbing other persons;
or that I would take all the personal risk of the robberies, and pay over the
proceeds to you, you were particularly simple. As I took all the risk of my robberies,
I propose to take all the profits. Begone! You are fools, as well as villains.
If I gave my oath to anybody, I gave it to other persons than you. But I really
gave it to nobody. I only gave it to the winds. It answered my purposes at the
time. It enabled me to get the money I was after, and now I propose to keep it.
If you expected me to pay it over to you, you relied only upon that honor [*39]
that is said to prevail among thieves. You now understand that that is a very
poor reliance. I trust you may become wise enough to never rely upon it again.
If I have any duty in the matter, it is to give back the money to those from
whom I took it; not to pay it over to villains such as you.
On general principles of law and reason, the oaths which foreigners take, on
coming here, and being "naturalized" (as it is called), are of no validity.
They are necessarily given to nobody; because there is no open, authentic association,
to which they can join themselves; or to whom, as individuals, they can pledge
their faith. No such association, or organization, as "the people of the
United States," having ever been formed by any open, written, authentic,
or voluntary contract, there is, on general principles of law and reason, no
such association, or organization, in existence. And all oaths that purport to
be given to such an association are necessarily given only to the winds. They
cannot be said to be given to any man, or body of men, as individuals, because
no man, or body of men, can come forward with any proof that the oaths were given
to them, as individuals, or to any association of which they are members. To
say that there is a tacit understanding among a portion of the male adults of
the country, that they will call themselves "the people of the United States,"
and that they will act in concert in subjecting the remainder of the people of
the United States to their dominion; but that they will keep themselves personally
concealed by doing all their acts secretly, is wholly insufficient, on general
principles of law and reason, to prove the existence of any such association,
or organization, as "the people of the United States"; or consequently
to prove that the oaths of foreigners were given to any such association. [*40]
On general principles of law and reason, all the oaths which, since the war,
have been given by Southern men, that they will obey the laws of Congress, support
the Union, and the like, are of no validity. Such oaths are invalid, not only
because they were extorted by military power, and threats of confiscation, and
because they are in contravention of men's natural right to do as they please
about supporting the government, but also because they were given to nobody.
They were nominally given to "the United States." But being nominally
given to "the United States," they were necessarily given to nobody,
because, on general principles of law and reason, there were no "United
States," to whom the oaths could be given. That is to say, there was no
open, authentic, avowed, legitimate association, corporation, or body of men,
known as "the United States," or as "the people of the United
States," to whom the oaths could have been given. If anybody says there
was such a corporation, let him state who were the individuals that composed
it, and how and when they became a corporation. Were Mr. A, Mr. B, and Mr. C
members of it? If so, where are their signatures? Where the evidence of their
membership? Where the record? Where the open, authentic proof? There is none.
Therefore, in law and reason, there was no such corporation.
On general principles of law and reason, every corporation, association, or
organized body of men, having a legitimate corporate existence, and legitimate
corporate rights, must consist of certain known individuals, who can prove, by
legitimate and reasonable evidence, their membership. But nothing of this kind
can be proved in regard to the corporation, or body of men, who call themselves
"the United States." Not a man of them, in all the Northern States,
can prove by any legitimate evidence, such as is required to prove membership
in other legal corporations, that he himself, or any other man whom he can name,
is [*41] a member of any corporation or association called "the United States,"
or "the people of the United States," or, consequently, that there
is any such corporation. And since no such corporation can be proved to exist,
it cannot of course be proved that the oaths of Southern men were given to any
such corporation. The most that can be claimed is that the oaths were given to
a secret band of robbers and murderers, who called themselves "the United
States," and extorted those oaths. But that is certainly not enough to prove
that the oaths are of any obligation.
On general principles of law and reason, the oaths of soldiers, that they will
serve a given number of years, that they will obey the the orders of their superior
officers, that they will bear true allegiance to the government, and so forth,
are of no obligation. Independently of the criminality of an oath, that, for
a given number of years, he will kill all whom he may be commanded to kill, without
exercising his own judgment or conscience as to the justice or necessity of such
killing, there is this further reason why a soldier's oath is of no obligation,
viz., that, like all the other oaths that have now been mentioned, it is given
to nobody. There being, in no legitimate sense, any such corporation, or nation,
as "the United States," nor, consequently, in any legitimate sense,
any such government as "the government of the United States," a soldier's
oath given to, or contract made with, such a nation or government, is necessarily
an oath given to, or contract made with, nobody. Consequently such an oath or
contract can be of no obligation.
On general principles of law and reason, the treaties, so called, which purport
to be entered into with other nations, [*42] by persons calling themselves ambassadors,
secretaries, presidents, and senators of the United States, in the name, and
in behalf, of "the people of the United States," are of no validity.
These so-called ambassadors, secretaries, presidents, and senators, who claim
to be the agents of "the people of the United States" for making these
treaties, can show no open, written, or other authentic evidence that either
the whole "people of the United States," or any other open, avowed,
responsible body of men, calling themselves by that name, ever authorized these
pretended ambassadors and others to make treaties in the name of, or binding
upon any one of, "the people of the United States," or any other open,
avowed, responsible body of men, calling themselves by that name, ever authorized
these pretended ambassadors, secretaries, and others, in their name and behalf,
to recognize certain other persons, calling themselves emperors, kings, queens,
and the like, as the rightful rulers, sovereigns, masters, or representatives
of the different peoples whom they assume to govern, to represent, and to bind.
The "nations," as they are called, with whom our pretended ambassadors,
secretaries, presidents, and senators profess to make treaties, are as much myths
as our own. On general principles of law and reason, there are no such "nations."
That is to say, neither the whole people of England, for example, nor any open,
avowed, responsible body of men, calling themselves by that name, ever, by any
open, written, or other authentic contract with each other, formed themselves
into any bona fide, legitimate association or organization, or authorized any
king, queen, or other representative to make treaties in their name, or to bind
them, either individually, or as an association, by such treaties.
Our pretended treaties, then, being made with no legitimate or bona fide nations,
or representatives of nations, and being [*43] made, on our part, by persons
who have no legitimate authority to act for us, have intrinsically no more validity
than a pretended treaty made by the Man in the Moon with the king of the Pleiades.
On general principles of law and reason, debts contracted in the name of "the
United States," or of "the people of the United States," are of
no validity. It is utterly absurd to pretend that debts to the amount of twenty-five
hundred millions of dollars are binding upon thirty-five or forty millions of
people, when there is not a particle of legitimate evidence --- such as would
be required to prove a private debt --- that can be produced against any one
of them, that either he, or his properly authorized attorney, ever contracted
to pay one cent.
Certainly, neither the whole people of the United States, nor any number of
them, ever separately or individually contracted to pay a cent of these debts.
Certainly, also, neither the whole people of the United States, nor any number
of them, every, by any open, written, or other authentic and voluntary contract,
united themselves as a firm, corporation, or association, by the name of "the
United States," or "the people of the United States," and authorized
their agents to contract debts in their name.
Certainly, too, there is in existence no such firm, corporation, or association
as "the United States," or "the people of the United States,"
formed by any open, written, or other authentic and voluntary contract, and having
corporate property with which to pay these debts.
How, then, is it possible, on any general principle of law or reason, that
debts that are binding upon nobody individually, can be binding upon forty millions
of people collectively, when, on general and legitimate principles of law and
reason, these [*43] forty millions of people neither have, nor ever had, any
corporate property? never made any corporate or individual contract? and neither
have, nor ever had, any corporate existence?
Who, then, created these debts, in the name of "the United States"?
Why, at most, only a few persons, calling themselves "members of Congress,"
etc., who pretended to represent "the people of the United States,"
but who really represented only a secret band of robbers and murderers, who wanted
money to carry on the robberies and murders in which they were then engaged;
and who intended to extort from the future people of the United States, by robbery
and threats of murder (and real murder, if that should prove necessary), the
means to pay these debts.
This band of robbers and murderers, who were the real principals in contracting
these debts, is a secret one, because its members have never entered into any
open, written, avowed, or authentic contract, by which they may be individually
known to the world, or even to each other. Their real or pretended representatives,
who contracted these debts in their name, were selected (if selected at all)
for that purpose secretly (by secret ballot), and in a way to furnish evidence
against none of the principals individually; and these principals were really
known individually neither to their pretended representatives who contracted
these debts in their behalf, nor to those who lent the money. The money, therefore,
was all borrowed and lent in the dark; that is, by men who did not see each other's
faces, or know each other's names; who could not then, and cannot now, identify
each other as principals in the transactions; and who consequently can prove
no contract with each other.
Furthermore, the money was all lent and borrowed for criminal purposes; that
is, for purposes of robbery and murder; and for this reason the contracts were
all intrinsically void; and would have been so, even though the real parties,
borrowers and [*45] lenders, had come face to face, and made their contracts
openly, in their own proper names.
Furthermore, this secret band of robbers and murderers, who were the real borrowers
of this money, having no legitimate corporate existence, have no corporate property
with which to pay these debts. They do indeed pretend to own large tracts of
wild lands, lying between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and between the Gulf
of Mexico and the North Pole. But, on general principles of law and reason, they
might as well pretend to own the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans themselves; or the
atmosphere and the sunlight; and to hold them, and dispose of them, for the payment
of these debts.
Having no corporate property with which to pay what purports to be their corporate
debts, this secret band of robbers and murderers are really bankrupt. They have
nothing to pay with. In fact, they do not propose to pay their debts otherwise
than from the proceeds of their future robberies and murders. These are confessedly
their sole reliance; and were known to be such by the lenders of the money, at
the time the money was lent. And it was, therefore, virtually a part of the contract,
that the money should be repaid only from the proceeds of these future robberies
and murders. For this reason, if for no other, the contracts were void from the
In fact, these apparently two classes, borrowers and lenders, were really one
and the same class. They borrowed and lent money from and to themselves. They
themselves were not only part and parcel, but the very life and soul, of this
secret band of robbers and murderers, who borrowed and spent the money. Individually
they furnished money for a common enterprise; taking, in return, what purported
to be corporate promises for individual loans. The only excuse they had for taking
these so-called corporate promises of, for individual loans by, the same parties,
was that they might have some apparent excuse for the future robberies of the
band (that is, to pay the debts of [*46] the corporation), and that they might
also know what shares they were to be respectively entitled to out of the proceeds
of their future robberies.
Finally, if these debts had been created for the most innocent and honest purposes,
and in the most open and honest manner, by the real parties to the contracts,
these parties could thereby have bound nobody but themselves, and no property
but their own. They could have bound nobody that should have come after them,
and no property subsequently created by, or belonging to, other persons.
The Constitution having never been signed by anybody; and there being no other
open, written, or authentic contract between any parties whatever, by virtue
of which the United States government, so called, is maintained; and it being
well known that none but male persons, of twenty-one years of age and upwards,
are allowed any voice in the government; and it being also well known that a
large number of these adult persons seldom or never vote at all; and that all
those who do vote, do so secretly (by secret ballot), and in a way to prevent
their individual votes being known, either to the world, or even to each other;
and consequently in a way to make no one openly responsible for the acts of their
agents, or representatives, --- all these things being known, the questions arise:
Who compose the real governing power in the country? Who are the men, the responsible
men, who rob us of our property? Restrain us of our liberty? Subject us to their
arbitrary dominion? And devastate our homes, and shoot us down by the hundreds
of thousands, if we resist? How shall we find these men? How shall we know them
from others? How shall we defend ourselves and our property against them? Who,
of our neighbors, are members of this secret band of robbers and murderers? How
[*47] can we know which are their houses, that we may burn or demolish them?
Which their property, that we may destroy it? Which their persons, that we may
kill them, and rid the world and ourselves of such tyrants and monsters?
These are questions that must be answered, before men can be free; before they
can protect themselves against this secret band of robbers and murderers, who
now plunder, enslave, and destroy them.
The answer to these questions is, that only those who have the will and power
to shoot down their fellow men, are the real rulers in this, as in all other
(so-called) civilized countries; for by no others will civilized men be robbed,
Among savages, mere physical strength, on the part of one man, may enable him
to rob, enslave, or kill another man. Among barbarians, mere physical strength,
on the part of a body of men, disciplined, and acting in concert, though with
very little money or other wealth, may, under some circumstances, enable them
to rob, enslave, or kill another body of men, as numerous, or perhaps even more
numerous, than themselves. And among both savages and barbarians, mere want may
sometimes compel one man to sell himself as a slave to another. But with (so-called)
civilized peoples, among whom knowledge, wealth, and the means of acting in concert,
have become diffused; and who have invented such weapons and other means of defense
as to render mere physical strength of less importance; and by whom soldiers
in any requisite number, and other instrumentalities of war in any requisite
amount, can always be had for money, the question of war, and consequently the
question of power, is little else than a mere question of money. As a necessary
consequence, those who stand ready to furnish this money, are the real rulers.
It is so in Europe, and it is so in this country.
In Europe, the nominal rulers, the emperors and kings and parliaments, are
anything but the real rulers of their respective countries. They are little or
nothing else than mere tools, em- [*48] ployed by the wealthy to rob, enslave,
and (if need be) murder those who have less wealth, or none at all.
The Rothschilds, and that class of money-lenders of whom they are the representatives
and agents --- men who never think of lending a shilling to their next-door neighbors,
for purposes of honest industry, unless upon the most ample security, and at
the highest rate of interest --- stand ready, at all times, to lend money in
unlimited amounts to those robbers and murderers, who call themselves governments,
to be expended in shooting down those who do not submit quietly to being robbed
They lend their money in this manner, knowing that it is to be expended in
murdering their fellow men, for simply seeking their liberty and their rights;
knowing also that neither the interest nor the principal will ever be paid, except
as it will be extorted under terror of the repetition of such murders as those
for which the money lent is to be expended.
These money-lenders, the Rothschilds, for example, say to themselves: If we
lend a hundred millions sterling to the queen and parliament of England, it will
enable them to murder twenty, fifty, or a hundred thousand people in England,
Ireland, or India; and the terror inspired by such wholesale slaughter, will
enable them to keep the whole people of those countries in subjection for twenty,
or perhaps fifty, years to come; to control all their trade and industry; and
to extort from them large amounts of money, under the name of taxes; and from
the wealth thus extorted from them, they (the queen and parliament) can afford
to pay us a higher rate of interest for our money than we can get in any other
way. Or, if we lend this sum to the emperor of Austria, it will enable him to
murder so many of his people as to strike terror into the rest, and thus enable
him to keep them in subjection, and extort money from them, for twenty or fifty
years to come. And they say the same in regard to the emperor of Russia, the
king of Prussia, the emperor of France, [*49] or any other ruler, so called,
who, in their judgment, will be able, by murdering a reasonable portion of his
people, to keep the rest in subjection, and extort money from them, for a long
time to come, to pay the interest and the principal of the money lent him.
And why are these men so ready to lend money for murdering their fellow men?
Soley for this reason, viz., that such loans are considered better investments
than loans for purposes of honest industry. They pay higher rates of interest;
and it is less trouble to look after them. This is the whole matter.
The question of making these loans is, with these lenders, a mere question
of pecuniary profit. They lend money to be expended in robbing, enslaving, and
murdering their fellow men, solely because, on the whole, such loans pay better
than any others. They are no respecters of persons, no superstitious fools, that
reverence monarchs. They care no more for a king, or an emperor, than they do
for a beggar, except as he is a better customer, and can pay them better interest
for their money. If they doubt his ability to make his murders successful for
maintaining his power, and thus extorting money from his people in future, they
dismiss him unceremoniously as they would dismiss any other hopeless bankrupt,
who should want to borrow money to save himself from open insolvency.
When these great lenders of blood-money, like the Rothschilds, have loaned
vast sums in this way, for purposes of murder, to an emperor or a king, they
sell out the bonds taken by them, in small amounts, to anybody, and everybody,
who are disposed to buy them at satisfactory prices, to hold as investments.
They (the Rothschilds) thus soon get back their money, with great profits; and
are now ready to lend money in the same way again to any other robber and murderer,
called an emperor or king, who, they think, is likely to be successful in his
robberies and murders, and able to pay a good price for the money necessary to
carry them on. [*50]
This business of lending blood-money is one of the most thoroughly sordid,
cold-blooded, and criminal that was ever carried on, to any considerable extent,
amongst human beings. It is like lending money to slave traders, or to common
robbers and pirates, to be repaid out of their plunder. And the men who loan
money to governments, so called, for the purpose of enabling the latter to rob,
enslave, and murder their people, are among the greatest villains that the world
has ever seen. And they as much deserve to be hunted and killed (if they cannot
otherwise be got rid of) as any slave traders, robbers, or pirates that ever
When these emperors and kings, so-called, have obtained their loans, they proceed
to hire and train immense numbers of professional murderers, called soldiers,
and employ them in shooting down all who resist their demands for money. In fact,
most of them keep large bodies of these murderers constantly in their service,
as their only means of enforcing their extortions. There are now, I think, four
or five millions of these professional murderers constantly employed by the so-called
sovereigns of Europe. The enslaved people are, of course, forced to support and
pay all these murderers, as well as to submit to all the other extortions which
these murderers are employed to enforce.
It is only in this way that most of the so-called governments of Europe are
maintained. These so-called governments are in reality only great bands of robbers
and murderers, organized, disciplined, and constantly on the alert. And the so-called
sovereigns, in these different governments, are simply the heads, or chiefs,
of different bands of robbers and murderers. And these heads or chiefs are dependent
upon the lenders of blood-money for the means to carry on their robberies and
murders. They could not sustain themselves a moment but for the loans made to
them by these blood-money loan-mongers. And their first care is to maintain their
credit with them; for they know [*51] their end is come, the instant their credit
with them fails. Consequently the first proceeds of their extortions are scrupulously
applied to the payment of the interest on their loans.
In addition to paying the interest on their bonds, they perhaps grant to the
holders of them great monopolies in banking, like the Banks of England, of France,
and of Vienna; with the agreement that these banks shall furnish money whenever,
in sudden emergencies, it may be necessary to shoot down more of their people.
Perhaps also, by means of tariffs on competing imports, they give great monopolies
to certain branches of industry, in which these lenders of blood-money are engaged.
They also, by unequal taxation, exempt wholly or partially the property of these
loan-mongers, and throw corresponding burdens upon those who are too poor and
weak to resist.
Thus it is evident that all these men, who call themselves by the high-sounding
names of Emperors, Kings, Sovereigns, Monarchs, Most Christian Majesties, Most
Catholic Majesties, High Mightinesses, Most Serene and Potent Princes, and the
like, and who claim to rule "by the grace of God," by "Divine
Right" --- that is, by special authority from Heaven --- are intrinsically
not only the merest miscreants and wretches, engaged solely in plundering, enslaving,
and murdering their fellow men, but that they are also the merest hangers on,
the servile, obsequious, fawning dependents and tools of these blood-money loan-mongers,
on whom they rely for the means to carry on their crimes. These loan-mongers,
like the Rothschilds, laugh in their sleeves, and say to themselves: These despicable
creatures, who call themselves emperors, and kings, and majesties, and most serene
and potent princes; who profess to wear crowns, and sit on thrones; who deck
themselves with ribbons, and feathers, and jewels; and surround themselves with
hired flatterers and lickspittles; and whom we suffer to strut around, and palm
themselves off, upon fools and slaves, as sovereigns and lawgivers specially
appointed by Almighty God; and to hold them- [*52] selves out as the sole fountains
of honors, and dignities, and wealth, and power --- all these miscreants and
imposters know that we make them, and use them; that in us they live, move, and
have their being; that we require them (as the price of their positions) to take
upon themselves all the labor, all the danger, and all the odium of all the crimes
they commit for our profit; and that we will unmake them, strip them of their
gewgaws, and send them out into the world as beggars, or give them over to the
vengeance of the people they have enslaved, the moment they refuse to commit
any crime we require of them, or to pay over to us such share of the proceeds
of their robberies as we see fit to demand.
Now, what is true in Europe, is substantially true in this country. The difference
is the immaterial one, that, in this country, there is no visible, permanent
head, or chief, of these robbers and murderers who call themselves "the
government." That is to say, there is no one man, who calls himself the
state, or even emperor, king, or sovereign; no one who claims that he and his
children rule "by the Grace of God," by "Divine Right," or
by special appointment from Heaven. There are only certain men, who call themselves
presidents, senators, and representatives, and claim to be the authorized agents,
for the time being, or for certain short periods, of all "the people of
the United States"; but who can show no credentials, or powers of attorney,
or any other open, authentic evidence that they are so; and who notoriously are
not so; but are really only the agents of a secret band of robbers and murderers,
whom they themselves do not know, and have no means of knowing, individually;
but who, they trust, will openly or secretly, when the crisis comes, sustain
them in all their usurpations and crimes.
What is important to be noticed is, that these so-called presidents, senators,
and representatives, these pretended agents of all "the people of the United
States," the moment their exactions [*53] meet with any formidable resistance
from any portion of "the people" themselves, are obliged, like their
co-robbers and murderers in Europe, to fly at once to the lenders of blood money,
for the means to sustain their power. And they borrow their money on the same
principle, and for the same purpose, viz., to be expended in shooting down all
those "people of the United States" --- their own constituents and
principals, as they profess to call them --- who resist the robberies and enslavements
which these borrowers of the money are practising upon them. And they expect
to repay the loans, if at all, only from the proceeds of the future robberies,
which they anticipate it will be easy for them and their successors to perpetrate
through a long series of years, upon their pretended principals, if they can
but shoot down now some hundreds of thousands of them, and thus strike terror
into the rest.
Perhaps the facts were never made more evident, in any country on the globe,
than in our own, that these soulless blood-money loan-mongers are the real rulers;
that they rule from the most sordid and mercenary motives; that the ostensible
government, the presidents, senators, and representatives, so called, are merely
their tools; and that no ideas of, or regard for, justice or liberty had anything
to do in inducing them to lend their money for the war. In proof of all this,
look at the following facts.
Nearly a hundred years ago we professed to have got rid of all that religious
superstition, inculcated by a servile and corrupt priesthood in Europe, that
rulers, so called, derived their authority directly from Heaven; and that it
was consequently a religious duty on the part of the people to obey them. We
professed long ago to have learned that governments could rightfully exist only
by the free will, and on the voluntary support, of those who might choose to
sustain them. We all professed to have known long ago, that the only legitimate
objects of government were the maintenance of liberty and justice equally for
all. All this [*54] we had professed for nearly a hundred years. And we professed
to look with pity and contempt upon those ignorant, superstitious, and enslaved
peoples of Europe, who were so easily kept in subjection by the frauds and force
of priests and kings.
Notwithstanding all this, that we had learned, and known, and professed, for
nearly a century, these lenders of blood money had, for a long series of years
previous to the war, been the willing accomplices of the slave-holders in perverting
the government from the purposes of liberty and justice, to the greatest of crimes.
They had been such accomplices for a purely pecuniary consideration, to wit,
a control of the markets in the South; in other words, the privilege of holding
the slave-holders themselves in industrial and commercial subjection to the manufacturers
and merchants of the North (who afterwards furnished the money for the war).
And these Northern merchants and manufacturers, these lenders of blood-money,
were willing to continue to be the accomplices of the slave-holders in the future,
for the same pecuniary considerations. But the slave-holders, either doubting
the fidelity of their Northern allies, or feeling themselves strong enough to
keep their slaves in subjection without Northern assistance, would no longer
pay the price which these Northern men demanded. And it was to enforce this price
in the future --- that is, to monopolize the Southern markets, to maintain their
industrial and commercial control over the South --- that these Northern manufacturers
and merchants lent some of the profits of their former monopolies for the war,
in order to secure to themselves the same, or greater, monopolies in the future.
These --- and not any love of liberty or justice --- were the motives on which
the money for the war was lent by the North. In short, the North said to the
slave-holders: If you will not pay us our price (give us control of your markets)
for our assistance against your slaves, we will secure the same price (keep control
of your markets) by helping your slaves against you, and using them as our tools
for main- [*55] taining dominion over you; for the control of your markets we
will have, whether the tools we use for that purpose be black or white, and be
the cost, in blood and money, what it may.
On this principle, and from this motive, and not from any love of liberty,
or justice, the money was lent in enormous amounts, and at enormous rates of
interest. And it was only by means of these loans that the objects of the war
And now these lenders of blood-money demand their pay; and the government,
so called, becomes their tool, their servile, slavish, villanous tool, to extort
it from the labor of the enslaved people both of the North and South. It is to
be extorted by every form of direct, and indirect, and unequal taxation. Not
only the nominal debt and interest --- enormous as the latter was --- are to
be paid in full; but these holders of the debt are to be paid still further ---
and perhaps doubly, triply, or quadruply paid --- by such tariffs on imports
as will enable our home manufacturers to realize enormous prices for their commodities;
also by such monopolies in banking as will enable them to keep control of, and
thus enslave and plunder, the industry and trade of the great body of the Northern
people themselves. In short, the industrial and commercial slavery of the great
body of the people, North and South, black and white, is the price which these
lenders of blood money demand, and insist upon, and are determined to secure,
in return for the money lent for the war.
This programme having been fully arranged and systematized, they put their
sword into the hands of the chief murderer of the war, and charge him to carry
their scheme into effect. And now he, speaking as their organ, says, "Let
us have peace."
The meaning of this is: Submit quietly to all the robbery and slavery we have
arranged for you, and you can have "peace." But in case you resist,
the same lenders of blood-money, who furnished the means to subdue the South,
will furnish the means again to subdue you. [*56]
These are the terms on which alone this government, or, with few exceptions,
any other, ever gives "peace" to its people.
The whole affair, on the part of those who furnished the money, has been, and
now is, a deliberate scheme of robbery and murder; not merely to monopolize the
markets of the South, but also to monopolize the currency, and thus control the
industry and trade, and thus plunder and enslave the laborers, of both North
and South. And Congress and the president are today the merest tools for these
purposes. They are obliged to be, for they know that their own power, as rulers,
so-called, is at an end, the moment their credit with the blood-money loan-mongers
fails. They are like a bankrupt in the hands of an extortioner. They dare not
say nay to any demand made upon them. And to hide at once, if possible, both
their servility and crimes, they attempt to divert public attention, by crying
out that they have "Abolished Slavery!" That they have "Saved
the Country!" That they have "Preserved our Glorious Union!" and
that, in now paying the "National Debt," as they call it (as if the
people themselves, all of them who are to be taxed for its payment, had really
and voluntarily joined in contracting it), they are simply "Maintaining
the National Honor!"
By "maintaining the national honor," they mean simply that they themselves,
open robbers and murderers, assume to be the nation, and will keep faith with
those who lend them the money necessary to enable them to crush the great body
of the people under their feet; and will faithfully appropriate, from the proceeds
of their future robberies and murders, enough to pay all their loans, principal
The pretense that the "abolition of slavery" was either a motive
or justification for the war, is a fraud of the same character with that of "maintaining
the national honor." Who, but such usurpers, robbers, and murderers as they,
ever established slavery? Or what government, except one resting upon [*57] the
sword, like the one we now have, was ever capable of maintaining slavery? And
why did these men abolish slavery? Not from any love of liberty in general ---
not as an act of justice to the black man himself, but only "as a war measure,"
and because they wanted his assistance, and that of his friends, in carrying
on the war they had undertaken for maintaining and intensifying that political,
commercial, and industrial slavery, to which they have subjected the great body
of the people, both black and white. And yet these imposters now cry out that
they have abolished the chattel slavery of the black man --- although that was
not the motive of the war --- as if they thought they could thereby conceal,
atone for, or justify that other slavery which they were fighting to perpetuate,
and to render more rigorous and inexorable than it ever was before. There was
no difference of principle --- but only of degree --- between the slavery they
boast they have abolished, and the slavery they were fighting to preserve; for
all restraints upon men's natural liberty, not necessary for the simple maintenance
of justice, are of the nature of slavery, and differ from each other only in
If their object had really been to abolish slavery, or maintain liberty or
justice generally, they had only to say: All, whether white or black, who want
the protection of this government, shall have it; and all who do not want it,
will be left in peace, so long as they leave us in peace. Had they said this,
slavery would necessarily have been abolished at once; the war would have been
saved; and a thousand times nobler union than we have ever had would have been
the result. It would have been a voluntary union of free men; such a union as
will one day exist among all men, the world over, if the several nations, so
called, shall ever get rid of the usurpers, robbers, and murderers, called governments,
that now plunder, enslave, and destroy them.
Still another of the frauds of these men is, that they are now [*58] establishing,
and that the war was designed to establish, "a government of consent."
The only idea they have ever manifested as to what is a government of consent,
is this --- that it is one to which everybody must consent, or be shot. This
idea was the dominant one on which the war was carried on; and it is the dominant
one, now that we have got what is called "peace."
Their pretenses that they have "Saved the Country," and "Preserved
our Glorious Union," are frauds like all the rest of their pretenses. By
them they mean simply that they have subjugated, and maintained their power over,
an unwilling people. This they call "Saving the Country"; as if an
enslaved and subjugated people --- or as if any people kept in subjection by
the sword (as it is intended that all of us shall be hereafter) --- could be
said to have any country. This, too, they call "Preserving our Glorious
Union"; as if there could be said to be any Union, glorious or inglorious,
that was not voluntary. Or as if there could be said to be any union between
masters and slaves; between those who conquer, and those who are subjugated.
All these cries of having "abolished slavery," of having "saved
the country," of having "preserved the union," of establishing
"a government of consent," and of "maintaining the national honor,"
are all gross, shameless, transparent cheats --- so transparent that they ought
to deceive no one --- when uttered as justifications for the war, or for the
government that has succeeded the war, or for now compelling the people to pay
the cost of the war, or for compelling anybody to support a government that he
does not want.
The lesson taught by all these facts is this: As long as mankind continue to
pay "National Debts," so-called --- that is, so long as they are such
dupes and cowards as to pay for being cheated, plundered, enslaved, and murdered
--- so long there will be enough to lend the money for those purposes; and with
that [*59] money a plenty of tools, called soldiers, can be hired to keep them
in subjection. But when they refuse any longer to pay for being thus cheated,
plundered, enslaved, and murdered, they will cease to have cheats, and usurpers,
and robbers, and murderers and blood-money loan-mongers for masters.
Inasmuch as the Constitution was never signed, nor agreed to, by anybody, as
a contract, and therefore never bound anybody, and is now binding upon nobody;
and is, moreover, such an one as no people can ever hereafter be expected to
consent to, except as they may be forced to do so at the point of the bayonet,
it is perhaps of no importance what its true legal meaning, as a contract, is.
Nevertheless, the writer thinks it proper to say that, in his opinion, the Constitution
is no such instrument as it has generally been assumed to be; but that by false
interpretations, and naked usurpations, the government has been made in practice
a very widely, and almost wholly, different thing from what the Constitution
itself purports to authorize. He has heretofore written much, and could write
much more, to prove that such is the truth. But whether the Constitution really
be one thing, or another, this much is certain --- that it has either authorized
such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it. In either
case, it is unfit to exist.
<fn1> See "No Treason, No. 2" pages 5 and 6.
<fn2> Suppose it be "the best government on earth," does that
prove its own goodness, or only the badness of all other governments?
<fn3> The very men who drafted it, never signed it in any way to bind
themselves by it, as a contract. And not one of them probably ever would have
signed it in any way to bind himself by it, as a contract.
<fn4> I have personally examined the statute books of the following States,
viz.: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut,
New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, South
Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio,
Michagan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Texas, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota,
Nebraska, Kansas, Nveada, California, and Oregon, and find that in all these
States the English statute has been re-enacted, sometimes with modifications,
but generally enlarging its operations, and is now in force.
The following are some of the provisions of the Massachusetts statute:
"No action shall be brought in any of the following cases, that is to
. . . .
"To charge a person upon a special promise to answer for a debt, default,
or misdoings of another: . . . .
"Upon a contract for the sale of lands, tenements, hereditaments, or of
any interest in, or concerning them; or
"Upon an agreement that is not to be performed within one year from the
"Unless the promise, contract, or agreement, upon which such action is
broughtm or some memorandum or note thereof, is in writing, and signed by the
party to be charged therewith, or by some person thereunto by him lawfully authorized:
. . . .
"No contract for the sale of goods, wares, or merchandise, for the price
of fifty dollars or more, shall be good and valid, unless the purchaser accepts
and receives part of the goods so sold, or gives something in earnest to bind
the bargain, or in part payment; or unless some note or memorandum in writing
of the bargain is made and signed by the party to be charged thereby, or by some
person thereunto by him lawfully authorized."
<fn5>And this two-thirds vote may be but two-thirds of a quorum --- that
is two-thirds of a majority --- instead of two-thirds of the whole.
<fn6> Of what appreciable value is it to any man, as an individual, that
he is allowed a voice in choosing these public masters? His voice is only one
of several millions.