No. 1 – 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 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 criminals.
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 existed.
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
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. [*8]
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,
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,
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
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
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 powers.
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 nobody.
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
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
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 their
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.
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 comfort."
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,
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 possibly slaves).
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
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
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
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 it pleases.
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
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 grandfathers.
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
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 of voting.
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 show.
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. [*7]
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 great excitement.
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,
"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 the Constitution.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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 nothing. [*19]
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.
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. [*20]
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
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
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]
; 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, irresponsible power?
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 over us.
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
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 trespassers.
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
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 with
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
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
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
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
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.
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 us.
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.
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
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
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 beginning.
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, or enslaved.
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 and enslaved.
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 lived.
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
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
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 were accomplished.
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
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
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 degree.
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
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.
See "No Treason, No. 2" pages 5 and 6.
Suppose it be "the best government on earth,"
does that prove its own goodness, or only the badness of all other
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.
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 say:
. . . .
"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 writing thereof:
"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."
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.
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.
Originally Published at http://www.lysanderspooner.org/notreason.htm