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The Con­sti­tu­tion of No Authority

by Lysander Spooner (18081887)


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. [This essay was writ­ten in 1869.] 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 expressly 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 is so fool­ish as to imag­ine that he has any right or power to bind them, to live in it. So far as they are con­cerned, he only means to be under­stood as say­ing that his hopes and motives, in build­ing it, are that they, or at least some of them, may find it for their hap­pi­ness to live in it.

So when a man says he is plant­ing a tree for him­self and his pos­ter­ity, he does not mean to be under­stood as say­ing that he has any thought of com­pelling them, nor is it to be inferred that he is such a sim­ple­ton as to imag­ine that he has any right or power to com­pel them, to eat the fruit. So far as they are con­cerned, he only means to say that his hopes and motives, in plant­ing the tree, are that its fruit may be agree­able to them.

So it was with those who orig­i­nally adopted the Con­sti­tu­tion. What­ever may have been their per­sonal inten­tions, the legal mean­ing of their lan­guage, so far as their “pos­ter­ity” was con­cerned, sim­ply was, that their hopes and motives, in enter­ing into the agree­ment, were that it might prove use­ful and accept­able to their pos­ter­ity; that it might pro­mote their union, safety, tran­quil­ity, and wel­fare; and that it might tend “to secure to them the bless­ings of lib­erty.” The lan­guage does not assert nor at all imply, any right, power, or dis­po­si­tion, on the part of the orig­i­nal par­ties to the agree­ment, to com­pel their “pos­ter­ity” to live under it. If they had intended to bind their pos­ter­ity to live under it, they should have said that their objec­tive was, not “to secure to them the bless­ings of lib­erty,” but to make slaves of them; for if their “pos­ter­ity” are bound to live under it, they are noth­ing less than the slaves of their fool­ish, tyran­ni­cal, and dead 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, have any “pos­ter­ity.” It sup­poses itself to have, and speaks of itself as hav­ing, per­pet­ual exis­tence, as a sin­gle individuality.

More­over, no body of men, exist­ing at any one time, have the power to cre­ate a per­pet­ual cor­po­ra­tion. A cor­po­ra­tion can become prac­ti­cally per­pet­ual only by the vol­un­tary acces­sion of new mem­bers, as the old ones die off. But for this vol­un­tary acces­sion of new mem­bers, the cor­po­ra­tion nec­es­sar­ily dies with the death of those who orig­i­nally com­posed it.

Legally speak­ing, there­fore, there is, in the Con­sti­tu­tion, noth­ing that pro­fesses or attempts to bind the “pos­ter­ity” of those who estab­lished 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.

At the present time [1869], 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. [In recent years, since 1940, the num­ber of vot­ers in elec­tions has usu­ally fluc­tu­ated between one-​third and two-​fifths of the populace.]

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, viz.:

In truth, in the case of indi­vid­u­als, their actual vot­ing is not to be taken as proof of con­sent, even for the time being. On the con­trary, it is to be con­sid­ered that, with­out his con­sent hav­ing even been asked a man finds him­self envi­roned by a gov­ern­ment that he can­not resist; a gov­ern­ment that forces him to pay money, ren­der ser­vice, and forego the exer­cise of many of his nat­ural rights, under peril of weighty pun­ish­ments. He sees, too, that other men prac­tice this tyranny over him by the use of the bal­lot. He sees fur­ther, that, if he will but use the bal­lot 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 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 exec­tion of, the Con­sti­tu­tion; and, there­fore, against the Con­sti­tu­tion itself.

7. As all the dif­fer­ent votes are given secretly (by secret bal­lot), there is no legal means of know­ing, from the votes them­selves, who votes for, and who votes against, the Con­sti­tu­tion. There­fore, vot­ing affords no legal evi­dence that any par­tic­u­lar indi­vid­ual sup­ports the Con­sti­tu­tion. And where there can be no legal evi­dence that any par­tic­u­lar indi­vid­ual sup­ports the Con­sti­tu­tion, it can­not legally be said that any­body sup­ports it. It is clearly impos­si­ble to have any legal proof of the inten­tions of large num­bers of men, where there can be no legal proof of the inten­tions of any par­tic­u­lar one of them.

8. There being no legal proof of any man’s inten­tions, in vot­ing, we can only con­jec­ture them. As a con­jec­ture, it is prob­a­ble, that a very large pro­por­tion of those who vote, do so on this prin­ci­ple, viz., that if, by vot­ing, they could but get the gov­ern­ment into their own hands (or that of their friends), and use its pow­ers against their oppo­nents, they would then will­ingly sup­port the Con­sti­tu­tion; but if their oppo­nents are to have the power, and use it against them, then they would NOT will­ingly sup­port the Constitution.

In short, men’s vol­un­tary sup­port of the Con­sti­tu­tion is doubt­less, in most cases, wholly con­tin­gent upon the ques­tion whether, by means of the Con­sti­tu­tion, they can make them­selves mas­ters, or are to be made slaves.

Such con­tin­gent con­sent as that is, in law and rea­son, no con­sent at all.

9. As every­body who sup­ports the Con­sti­tu­tion by vot­ing (if there are any such) does so secretly (by secret bal­lot), and in a way to avoid all per­sonal respon­si­bil­ity for the acts of his agents or rep­re­sen­ta­tives, it can­not legally or rea­son­ably be said that any­body at all sup­ports the Con­sti­tu­tion by vot­ing. No man can rea­son­ably or legally be said to do such a thing as assent to, or sup­port, the Con­sti­tu­tion, unless he does it openly, and in a way to make him­self per­son­ally respon­si­ble for the acts of his agents, so long as they act within the lim­its of the power he del­e­gates to them.

10. As all vot­ing is secret (by secret bal­lot), and as all secret gov­ern­ments are nec­es­sar­ily only secret bands of rob­bers, tyrants, and mur­der­ers, the gen­eral fact that our gov­ern­ment is prac­ti­cally car­ried on by means of such vot­ing, only proves that there is among us a secret band of rob­bers, tyrants, and mur­der­ers, whose pur­pose is to rob, enslave, and, so far as nec­es­sary to accom­plish their pur­poses, mur­der, the rest of the peo­ple. The sim­ple fact of the exis­tence of such a vand 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 doubt — each of whom, because he is allowed one voice out of mil­lions in decid­ing what he may do with his own per­son and his own prop­erty, and because he is per­mit­ted to have the same voice in rob­bing, enslav­ing, and mur­der­ing oth­ers, that oth­ers have in rob­bing, enslav­ing, and mur­der­ing him­self, is stu­pid enough to imag­ine that he is a “free man,” a “sov­er­eign”; that this is “a free gov­ern­ment”; “a gov­ern­ment of equal rights,” “the best gov­ern­ment on earth,” [1] 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.

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[1] Sup­pose it be “the best gov­ern­ment on earth,” does that prove its own good­ness, or only the bad­ness of all other governments?

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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 to his head, pro­ceed to rifle his pock­ets. But the rob­bery is none the less a rob­bery on that account; and it is far more das­tardly and shameful.

The high­way­man takes solely upon him­self the respon­si­bil­ity, dan­ger, and crime of his own act. He does not pre­tend that he has any right­ful claim to your money, or that he intends to use it for your own ben­e­fit. He does not pre­tend to be any­thing but a rob­ber. He has not acquired impu­dence enough to pro­fess to be merely a “pro­tec­tor,” and that he takes men’s money against their will, merely to enable him to “pro­tect” those infat­u­ated trav­ellers, who feel per­fectly able to pro­tect them­selves, or do not appre­ci­ate his pecu­liar sys­tem of pro­tec­tion. He is too sen­si­ble a man to make such pro­fes­sions as these. Fur­ther­more, hav­ing taken your money, he leaves you, as you wish him to do. He does not per­sist in fol­low­ing you on the road, against your will; assum­ing to be your right­ful “sov­er­eign,” on account of the “pro­tec­tion” he affords you. He does not keep “pro­tect­ing” you, by com­mand­ing you to bow down and serve him; by requir­ing you to do this, and for­bid­ding you to do that; by rob­bing you of more money as often as he finds it for his inter­est or plea­sure to do so; and by brand­ing you as a rebel, a trai­tor, and an enemy to your coun­try, and shoot­ing you down with­out mercy, if you dis­pute his author­ity, or resist his demands. He is too much of a gen­tle­man to be guilty of such impos­tures, and insults, and vil­la­nies as these. In short, he does not, in addi­tion to rob­bing you, attempt to make you either his dupe or his slave.

The pro­ceed­ings of those rob­bers and mur­der­ers, who call them­selves “the gov­ern­ment,” are directly the oppo­site of these of the sin­gle highwayman.

In the first place, they do not, like him, make them­selves indi­vid­u­ally known; or, con­se­quently, take upon them­selves per­son­ally the respon­si­bil­ity of their acts. On the con­trary, they secretly (by secret bal­lot) des­ig­nate some one of their num­ber 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 thou­sands; 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 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 con­sent, 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 moeny 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.

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. [1] 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. [1] 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.

More­over, a writ­ten instru­ment must, in law and rea­son, not only be signed, but must also be deliv­ered to the party (or to some one for him), in whose favor it is made, before it can bind the party mak­ing it. The sign­ing is of no effect, unless the instru­ment be also deliv­ered. And a party is at per­fect lib­erty to refuse to deliver a writ­ten instru­ment, after he has signed it. The Con­sti­tu­tion was not only never signed by any­body, but it was never deliv­ered by any­body, or to anybody’s agent or attor­ney. It can there­fore be of no more valid­ity as a con­tract, then can any other instru­ment that was never signed or delivered.


As fur­ther evi­dence of the gen­eral sense of mankind, as to the prac­ti­cal neces­sity there is that all men’s IMPOR­TANT con­tracts, espe­cially those of a per­ma­nent nature, should be both writ­ten and signed, the fol­low­ing facts are pertinent.

For nearly two hun­dred years — that is, since 1677 — there has been on the statute book of Eng­land, and the same, in sub­stance, if not pre­cisely in let­ter, has been re-​enacted, and is now in force, in nearly or quite all the States of this Union, a statute, the gen­eral object of which is to declare that no action shall be brought to enforce con­tracts of the more impor­tant class, UNLESS THEY ARE PUT IN WRIT­ING, AND SIGNED BY THE PAR­TIES TO BE HELD CHARGE­ABLE UPON THEM. [At this point there is a foot­note list­ing 34 states whose statute books Spooner had exam­ined, all of which had vari­a­tions of this Eng­lish statute; the foot­note also quotes part of the Mass­a­chus­setts statute.]

The prin­ci­ple of the statute, be it observed, is, not merely that writ­ten con­tracts shall be signed, but also that all con­tracts, 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 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 princ­ples of law and rea­son — such prin­ci­ples as we are all gov­erned by in regard to other con­tracts — the mer­est waste of paper, bind­ing upon nobody, fit only to be thrown into the fire; or, if pre­served, pre­served only to serve as a wit­ness and a warn­ing of the folly and wicked­ness of mankind.


It is no exag­ger­a­tion, but a lit­eral truth, to say that, by the Con­sti­tu­tion — NOT AS I INTER­PRET IT, BUT AS IT IS INTER­PRETED BY THOSE 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); [1] and this pro­vi­sion pro­tects them from all respon­si­bil­ity for the laws they make. [1] 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. 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 reson­si­bil­ity 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. [2] [2] 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.

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, irre­spon­si­ble power over my prop­erty, I gave him the prop­erty. If I gave him absolute, irre­spon­si­ble power over myself, I made him my mas­ter, and gave myself to him as a slave. And it is of no impor­tance whether I called him mas­ter or ser­vant, agent or owner. The only ques­tion is, what power did I put in his hands? Was it an absolute and irre­spon­si­ble one? or a lim­ited and respon­si­ble one?

For still another rea­son they are nei­ther our ser­vants, agents, attor­neys, nor rep­re­sen­ta­tives. And that rea­son is, that we do not make our­selves respon­si­ble for their acts. If a man is my ser­vant, agent, or attor­ney, I nec­es­sar­ily make myself respon­si­ble for all his acts done within the lim­its of the power I have intrusted to him. If I have intrusted him, as my agent, with either absolute power, or any power at all, over the per­sons or prop­er­ties of other men than myself, I thereby nec­es­sar­ily make myself respon­si­ble to those other per­sons for any injuries he may do them, so long as he acts within the lim­its of the power I have granted him. But no indi­vid­ual who may be injured in his per­son or prop­erty, by acts of Con­gress, can come to the indi­vid­ual elec­tors, and hold them respon­si­ble for these acts of their so-​called agents or rep­re­sen­ta­tives. This fact proves that these pre­tended agents of the peo­ple, of every­body, are really the agents of nobody.

If, then, nobody is indi­vid­u­ally respon­si­ble for the acts of Con­gress, the mem­bers of Con­gress are nobody’s agents. And if they are nobody’s agents, they are them­selves indi­vid­u­ally respon­si­ble for their own acts, and for the acts of all whom they employ. And the author­ity they are exer­cis­ing is sim­ply their own indi­vid­ual author­ity; and, by the law of nature — the high­est of all laws — any­body injured by their acts, any­body who is deprived by them of his prop­erty or his lib­erty, has the same right to hold them indi­vid­u­ally respon­si­ble, that he has to hold any other tres­passer indi­vid­u­ally respon­si­ble. He has the same right 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 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, 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, as they are to oth­ers. No pre­tended agent there­fore can ever know by whose bal­lots he is selected, or con­se­quently who his real prin­ci­ples are. Not know­ing who his prin­ci­ples are, he has no right to say that he has any. He can, at most, say only that he is the agent of a secret band of rob­bers and mur­der­ers, who are bound by that faith which pre­vails among con­fed­er­ates in crime, to stand by him, if his acts, done in their name, shall be resisted.

Men hon­estly engaged in attempt­ing to estab­lish jus­tice in the world, have no occa­sion thus to act in secret; or to appoint agents to do acts for which they (the prin­ci­pals) are not will­ing to be responsible.

The secret bal­lot makes a secret gov­ern­ment; and a secret gov­ern­ment is a secret band of rob­bers and mur­der­ers. Open despo­tism is bet­ter than this. The sin­gle despot stands out in the face of all men, and says: I am the State: My will is law: I am your mas­ter: I take the respon­si­bil­ity of my acts: The only arbiter I acknowl­edge is the sword: If any­one denies my right, let him try con­clu­sions with me.

But a secret gov­ern­ment is lit­tle less than a gov­ern­ment of assas­sins. Under it, a man knows not who his tyrants are, until they have struck, and per­haps not then. He may GUESS, before­hand, as to some of his imme­di­ate neigh­bors. But he really knows noth­ing. The man to whom he would most nat­u­rally fly for pro­tec­tion, may prove an enemy, when the time of trial comes.

This is the kind of gov­ern­ment we have; and it is the only one we are likely to have, until men are ready to say: We will con­sent to no Con­sti­tu­tion, except such an one as we are nei­ther ashamed nor afraid to sign; and we will autho­rize no gov­ern­ment to do any­thing in our name which we are not will­ing to be per­son­ally respon­si­ble for.


What is the motive to the secret bal­lot? This, and only this: Like other con­fed­er­ates in crime, those who use it are not friends, but ene­mies; and they are afraid to be known, and to have their indi­vid­ual doings known, even to each other. They can con­trive to bring about a suf­fi­cient under­stand­ing to enable them to act in con­cert against other per­sons; but beyond this they have no con­fi­dence, and no friend­ship, among them­selves. In fact, they are engaged quite as much in schemes for plun­der­ing each other, as in plun­der­ing those who are not of them. And it is per­fectly well under­stood among them that the strongest party among them will, in cer­tain con­tin­gen­cies, mur­der each other by the hun­dreds of thou­sands (as they lately did do) to accom­plish their pur­poses against each other. Hence they dare not be known, and have their indi­vid­ual doings known, even to each other. And this is avowedly the only rea­son for the bal­lot: for a secret gov­ern­ment; a gov­ern­ment by secret bands of rob­bers and mur­der­ers. And we are insane enough to call this lib­erty! To be a mem­ber of this secret band of rob­bers and mur­der­ers is esteemed a priv­i­lege and an honor! With­out this priv­i­lege, a man is con­sid­ered a slave; but with it a free man! With it he is con­sid­ered a free man, because he has the same power to secretly (by secret bal­lot) pro­cure the rob­bery, enslave­ment, and mur­der of another man, and that other man has to pro­cure his rob­bery, enslave­ment, and mur­der. And this they call equal rights!

If any num­ber of men, many or few, claim the right to gov­ern the peo­ple of this coun­try, let them make and sign an open com­pact with each other to do so. Let them thus make them­selves indi­vid­u­ally known to those whom they pro­pose to gov­ern. And let them thus openly take the legit­i­mate respon­si­bil­ity of their acts. How many of those who now sup­port the Con­sti­tu­tion, will ever do this? How many will ever dare openly pro­claim their right to gov­ern? or take the legit­i­mate respon­si­bil­ity of their acts? Not one!


It is obvi­ous that, on gen­eral prin­ci­ples of law and rea­son, there exists no such thing as a gov­ern­ment cre­ated by, or rest­ing upon, any con­sent, com­pact, or agree­ment of “the peo­ple of the United States” with each other; that the only vis­i­ble, tan­gi­ble, respon­si­ble gov­ern­ment that exists, is that of a few indi­vid­u­als only, who act in con­cert, and call them­selves by the sev­eral names of sen­a­tors, rep­re­sen­ta­tives, pres­i­dents, judges, mar­shals, trea­sur­ers, col­lec­tors, gen­er­als, colonels, cap­tains, etc., etc.

On gen­eral prin­ci­ples of law and rea­son, it is of no impor­tance what­ever that these few indi­vid­u­als pro­fess to be the agents and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of “the peo­ple of the United States”; since they can show no cre­den­tials from the peo­ple them­selves; they were never appointed as agents or rep­re­sen­ta­tives in any open, authen­tic man­ner; they do not them­selves know, and have no means of know­ing, and can­not prove, who their prin­ci­pals (as they call them) are indi­vid­u­ally; and con­se­quently can­not, in law or rea­son, be said to have any prin­ci­pals at all.

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 have is made up of these pro­fessed agents or rep­re­sen­ta­tives of a secret band of rob­bers and mur­der­ers, who, to cover up, or gloss over, their rob­beries and mur­ders, have taken to them­selves the title of “the peo­ple of the United States”; and who, on the pre­tense of being “the peo­ple of the United States,” assert their right to sub­ject to their domin­ion, and to con­trol and dis­pose of at their plea­sure, all prop­erty and per­sons found in the United States.


On gen­eral prin­ci­ples of law and rea­son, the oaths which these pre­tended agents of the peo­ple take “to sup­port the Con­sti­tu­tion,” are of no valid­ity or oblig­a­tion. And why? For this, if for no other rea­son, viz., THAT THEY ARE GIVEN TO NOBODY. There is no priv­ity (as the lawyers say) — that is, no mutual recog­ni­tion, con­sent, and agree­ment — between those who take these oaths, and any other persons.

If I go upon Boston Com­mon, and in the pres­ence of a hun­dred thou­sand peo­ple, men, women and chil­dren, with whom I have no con­tract upon the sub­ject, take an oath that I will enforce upon them the laws of Moses, of Lycur­gus, of Solon, of Jus­tin­ian, or of Alfred, that oath is, on gen­eral prin­ci­ples of law and rea­son, of no oblig­a­tion. It is of no oblig­a­tion, not merely because it is intrin­si­cally a crim­i­nal one, BUT ALSO BECAUSE IT IS GIVEN TO NOBODY, and con­se­quently pledges my faith to nobody. It is merely given to the winds.

It would not alter the case at all to say that, among these hun­dred thou­sand per­sons, in whose pres­ence the oath was taken, there were two, three, or five thou­sand male adults, who had SECRETLY — by secret bal­lot, and in a way to avoid mak­ing them­selves INDI­VID­U­ALLY known to me, or to the remain­der of the hun­dred thou­sand — des­ig­nated me as their agent to rule, con­trol, plun­der, and, if need be, mur­der, these hun­dred thou­sand 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 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 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 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, can come for­ward and say to him: We appointed you our attor­ney, to act forus. We required you to swear that, as our attor­ney, you would sup­port the Con­sti­tu­tion. You promised us that you would do so; and now you have for­feited the oath you gave to us.

No open, avowed, or respon­si­ble asso­ci­a­tion, or body of men, can say this to him; because there is no such asso­ci­a­tion or body of men in exis­tence. If any one should assert that there is such an asso­ci­a­tion, let him prove, if he can, who com­pose it. Let him pro­duce, if he can, any open, writ­ten, or other authen­tic con­tract, signed or agreed to by these men; form­ing them­selves into an asso­ci­a­tion; mak­ing them­selves known as such to the world; appoint­ing him as their agent; and mak­ing them­selves indi­vid­u­ally, or as an asso­ci­a­tion, respon­si­ble for his acts, done by their author­ity. Until all this can be shown, no one can say that, in any legit­i­mate sense, there is any such asso­ci­a­tion; or that he is their agent; or that he ever gave his oath to them; or ever pledged his faith to them.

On gen­eral prin­ci­ples of law and rea­son, it would be a suf­fi­cient answer for him to say, to all indi­vid­u­als, and to all pre­tended asso­ci­a­tions of indi­vid­u­als, who should accuse him of a breach of faith to them:

I never knew you. Where is your evi­dence that you, either indi­vid­u­ally or col­lec­tively, ever appointed me your attor­ney? that you ever required me to swear to you, that, as your attor­ney, I would sup­port the Con­sti­tu­tion? or that I have now bro­ken any faith that I ever pledged to you? You may, or you may not, be mem­bers of that secret band of rob­bers and mur­der­ers, who act in secret; appoint their agents by a secret bal­lot; who keep them­selves indi­vid­u­ally unknown even to the agents they thus appoint; and who, there­fore, can­not claim that they have any agents; or that any of their pre­tended agents ever gave his oath, or pledged his faith to them. I repu­di­ate you alto­gether. My oath was given to oth­ers, with whom you have noth­ing to do; or it was idle wind, given only to the idle winds. Begone!


For the same rea­sons, the oaths of all the other pre­tended agents of this secret band of rob­bers and mur­der­ers are, on 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 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 a mem­ber of any cor­po­ra­tion or asso­ci­a­tion called “the United States,” or “the peo­ple of the United States,” or, con­se­quently, that there is any such cor­po­ra­tion. And since no such cor­po­ra­tion can be proved to exist, it can­not of course be proved that the oaths of South­ern men were given to any such cor­po­ra­tion. The most that can be claimed is that the oaths were given to a secret band of rob­bers and mur­der­ers, who called them­selves “the United States,” and extorted those oaths. But that is cer­tainly not enough to prove that the oaths are of any obligation.


On gen­eral prin­ci­ples of law and rea­son, the oaths of sol­diers, that they will serve a given num­ber of years, that they will obey the the orders of their supe­rior offi­cers, that they will bear true alle­giance to the gov­ern­ment, and so forth, are of no oblig­a­tion. Inde­pen­dently of the crim­i­nal­ity of an oath, that, for a given num­ber of years, he will kill all whom he may be com­manded to kill, with­out exer­cis­ing his own judg­ment or con­science as to the jus­tice or neces­sity of such killing, there is this fur­ther rea­son why a soldier’s oath is of no oblig­a­tion, viz., that, like all the other oaths that have now been men­tioned, IT IS GIVEN TO NOBODY. There being, in no legit­i­mate sense, any such cor­po­ra­tion, or nation, as “the United States,” nor, con­se­quently, in any legit­i­mate sense, any such gov­ern­ment as “the gov­ern­ment of the United States,” a soldier’s oath given to, or con­tract made with, such a nation or gov­ern­ment, is nec­es­sar­ily an oath given to, or con­tract made with, nobody. Con­se­quently such an oath or con­tract can be of no obligation.


On gen­eral prin­ci­ples of law and rea­son, the treaties, so called, which pur­port to be entered into with other nations, 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 made, on our part, by per­sons who have no legit­i­mate author­ity to act for us, have instrin­si­cally 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 [the approx­i­mate national debt and pop­u­la­tion in 1870], 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 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 lenders, had come face to face, and made their con­tracts openly, in their own proper names.

Fur­ther­more, this secret band of rob­bers and mur­der­ers, who were the real bor­row­ers of this money, hav­ing no legit­i­mate cor­po­rate exis­tence, have no cor­po­rate prop­erty with which to pay these debts. They do indeed pre­tend to own large tracts of wild lands, lying between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and between the Gulf of Mex­ico and the North Pole. But, on gen­eral prin­ci­ples of law and rea­son, they might as well pre­tend to own the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans them­selves; or the atmos­phere and the sun­light; and to hold them, and dis­pose of them, for the pay­ment of these debts.

Hav­ing no cor­po­rate prop­erty with which to pay what pur­ports to be their cor­po­rate debts, this secret band of rob­bers and mur­der­ers are really bank­rupt. They have noth­ing to pay with. In fact, they do not pro­pose to pay their debts oth­er­wise than from the pro­ceeds of their future rob­beries and mur­ders. These are con­fess­edly their sole reliance; and were known to be such by the lenders of the money, at the time the money was lent. And it was, there­fore, vir­tu­ally a part of the con­tract, that the money should be repaid only from the pro­ceeds of these future rob­beries and mur­ders. For this rea­son, if for no other, the con­tracts were void from the 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 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 hooms, 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 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 becom dif­fusede; 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, employed by the wealthy to rob, enslave, and (if need be) mur­der those who have less wealth, or none at all.

The Ros­thchilds, 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 Ros­thchilds, 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, 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.

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 [1870], 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 their end is come, the instant their credit with them fails. Con­se­quently the first pro­ceeds of their extor­tions are scrupu­lously applied to the pay­ment of the inter­est on their loans.

In addi­tion to pay­ing the inter­est on their bonds, they per­haps grant to the hold­ers of them great monop­o­lies in bank­ing, like the Banks of Eng­land, of France, and of Vienna; with the agree­ment that these banks shall fur­nish money when­ever, in sud­den emer­gen­cies, it may be nec­es­sary to shoot down more of their peo­ple. Per­haps also, by means of tar­iffs on com­pet­ing imports, they give great monop­o­lies to cer­tain branches of indus­try, in which these lenders of blood-​money are engaged. They also, by unequal tax­a­tion, exempt wholly or par­tially the prop­erty of these loan-​mongers, and throw cor­re­spond­ing bur­dens upon those who are too poor and weak to resist.

Thus it is evi­dent that all these men, who call them­selves by the high-​sounding names of Emper­ors, Kings, Sov­er­eigns, Mon­archs, Most Chris­t­ian Majesties, Most Catholic Majesties, High Might­i­nesses, Most Serene and Potent Princes, and the like, and who claim to rule “by the grace of God,” by “Divine Right” — that is, by spe­cial author­ity from Heaven — are intrin­si­cally not only the mer­est mis­cre­ants and wretches, engaged solely in plun­der­ing, enslav­ing, and mur­der­ing their fel­low men, but that they are also the mer­est hang­ers on, the servile, obse­quious, fawn­ing depen­dents and tools of these blood-​money loan-​mongers, on whom they rely for the means to carry on their crimes. These loan-​mongers, like the Roth­schilds, laugh in their sleeves, and say to them­selves: These despi­ca­ble crea­tures, who call them­selves emper­ors, and kings, and majesties, and most serene and potent princes; who pro­fess to wear crowns, and sit on thrones; who deck them­selves with rib­bons, and feath­ers, and jew­els; and sur­round them­selves with hired flat­ter­ers and lick­spit­tles; and whom we suf­fer to strut around, and palm them­selves off, upon fools and slaves, as sov­er­eigns and law­givers spe­cially appointed by Almighty God; and to hold them­selves out as the sole foun­tains of hon­ors, and dig­ni­ties, and wealth, and power — all these mis­cre­ants and imposters know that we make them, and use them; that in us they live, move, and have their being; that we require them (as the price of their posi­tions) to take upon them­selves all the labor, all the dan­ger, and all the odium of all the crimes they com­mit for our profit; and that we will unmake them, strip them of their gew­gaws, and send them out into the world as beg­gars, or give them over to the vengeance of the peo­ple they have enslaved, the moment they refuse to com­mit any crime we require of them, or to pay over to us such share of the pro­ceeds of their rob­beries as we see fit to demand.


Now, what is true in Europe, is sub­stan­tially true in this coun­try. The dif­fer­ence is the imma­te­r­ial one, that, in this coun­try, there is no vis­i­ble, per­ma­nent head, or chief, of these rob­bers and mur­der­ers who call them­selves “the gov­ern­ment.” That is to say, there is no ONE MAN, who calls him­self the state, or even emperor, king, or sov­er­eign; no one who claims that he and his chil­dren rule “by the Grace of God,” by “Divine Right,” or by spe­cial appoint­ment from Heaven. There are only cer­tain men, who call them­selves pres­i­dents, sen­a­tors, and rep­re­sen­ta­tives, and claim to be the autho­rized agents, FOR THE TIME BEING, OR FOR CER­TAIN SHORT PERI­ODS, OF ALL “the peo­ple of the United States”; but who can show no cre­den­tials, or pow­ers of attor­ney, or any other open, authen­tic evi­dence that they are so; and who noto­ri­ously are not so; but are really only the agents of a secret band of rob­bers and mur­der­ers, whom they them­selves do not know, and have no means of know­ing, indi­vid­u­ally; but who, they trust, will openly or secretly, when the cri­sis comes, sus­tain them in all their usurpa­tions and crimes.

What is impor­tant to be noticed is, that these so-​called pres­i­dents, sen­a­tors, and rep­re­sen­ta­tives, these pre­tended agents of all “the peo­ple of the United States,” the moment their exac­tions 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 [i.e, the Civil 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 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 main­tain­ing 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 war.

This pro­gramme hav­ing been fully arranged and sys­tem­atized, they put their sword into the hands of the chief mur­derer of the war, [undoubt­edly a ref­er­ence to Gen­eral Grant, who had just become pres­i­dent] and charge him to carry their scheme into effect. And now he, speak­ing as their organ, says, “LET US HAVE PEACE.”

The mean­ing of this is: Sub­mit qui­etly to all the rob­bery and slav­ery we have arranged for you, and you can have “peace.” But in case you resist, the same lenders of blood-​money, who fur­nished the means to sub­due the South, will fur­nish the means again to sub­due you.

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 and interest.

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 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 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 suceeded the war, or for now com­pelling the peo­ple to pay the cost of the war, or for com­pelling any­body to sup­port a gov­ern­ment that he does not want.

The les­son taught by all these facts is this: As long as mankind con­tinue to pay “national debts,” so-​called — that is, so long as they are such dupes and cow­ards as to pay for being cheated, plun­dered, enslaved, and mur­dered — so long there will be enough to lend the money for those pur­poses; and with that 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.


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