Posts tagged Lysander Spooner Day

Happy Lysander Spooner Day!

To-day — 19 January 2013 — is the 205th birthday of the militant abolitionist, philosopher and individualist anarchist Lysander Spooner (b. 19 January 1808, Athol, Massachusetts; d. May 14, 1887, Boston, Massachusetts). In honor of his life and work, the Ministry of Culture in this secessionist republic of one is happy to once again mark to-day as Lysander Spooner Day.

This is from Spooner’s first letter to Thomas F. Bayard: Challenging His Right — and That of All the Other So-Called Senators and Representatives in Congress — To Exercise Any Legislative Power Whatever Over the People of the United States.

1. No man can delegate, or give to another, any right of arbitrary dominion over himself; for that would be giving himself away as a slave. And this no one can do. Any contract to do so is necessarily an absurd one, and has no validity. To call such a contract a ‘Constitution,’ or by any other high-sounding name, does not alter its character as an absurd and void contract.

2. No man can delegate, or give to another, any right of arbitrary dominion over a third person; for that would imply a right in the first person, not only to make the third person his slave, but also a right to dispose of him as a slave to still other persons. Any contract to do this is necessarily a criminal one and therefore invalid. To call such a contract a ‘Constitution’ does not at all lessen its criminality, or add to its validity.

These facts, that no man can delegate, or give away, his own natural right to liberty, nor any other man’s natural right to liberty, prove that he can delegate no right of arbitrary dominion whatever—or, what is the same thing, no legislative power whatever—over himself or anybody else, to any man, or body of men.

. . . All this pretended delegation of legislative power—that is, of a power, on the part of the legislators, so-called, to make any laws of their own device, distinct from the law of nature—is therefore an entire falsehood; a falsehood whose only purpose is to cover and hide a pure usurpation, by one body of men, of arbitrary dominion over other men.

. . . For all the reasons now given, and for still others that might be given, the legislative power now exercised by Congress is, in both law and reason, purely personal, arbitrary, irresponsible, usurped dominion on the part of the legislators themselves, and not a power delegated to them by anybody.

Yet under the pretense that this instrument gives them the right of an arbitrary and irresponsible dominion over the whole people of the United States, Congress has gone on, for ninety years and more, filling great volumes with laws of their own device, which the people at large have never read, nor even seen nor ever will read or see; and of whose legal meanings it is morally impossible that they should ever know anything. Congress has never dared to require the people even to read these laws. Had it done so, the oppression would have been an intolerable one; and the people, rather than endure it, would have either rebelled, and overthrown the government, or would have fled the country. Yet these laws, which Congress has not dared to require the people even to read, it has compelled them, at the point of the bayonet, to obey.

And this moral, and legal, and political monstrosity is the kind of government which Congress claims that the Constitution authorizes it to impose upon the people.

Sir, can you say that such an arbitrary and irresponsible dominion as this, over the properties, liberties, and lives of fifty millions of people—or even over the property, liberty, or life of any one of those fifty millions—can be justified on any reason whatever? If not, with what color of truth can you say that you yourself, or anybody else, can act as a legislator, under the Constitution of the United States, and yet be an honest man?

. . . I trust I need not suspect you, as a legislator under the Constitution, and claiming to be an honest man, of any desire to evade the issue presented in this pamphlet. If you shall see fit to meet it, I hope you will excuse me for suggesting that — to avoid verbiage, and everything indefinite — you give at least a single specimen of a law that either heretofore has been made, or that you conceive it possible for legislators to make—that is, some law of their own device—that either has been, or shall be, really and truly obligatory upon other persons, and which such other persons have been, or may be, rightfully compelled to obey.

If you can either find or devise any such law, I trust you will make it known, that it may be examined, and the question of its obligation be fairly settled in the popular mind.

But if it should happen that you can neither find such a law in the existing statute books of the United States, nor, in your own mind, conceive of such a law as possible under the Constitution, I give you leave to find it, if that be possible, in the constitution or statute book of any other people that now exist, or ever have existed, on the earth.

If, finally, you shall find no such law, anywhere, nor be able to conceive of any such law yourself, I take the liberty to suggest that it is your imperative duty to submit the question to your associate legislators; and, if they can give no light on the subject, that you call upon them to burn all the existing statute books of the United States, and then to go home and content themselves with the exercise of only such rights and powers as nature has given to them in common with the rest of mankind.

— Lysander Spooner, A Letter to Thomas F. Bayard (Boston, May 22, 1882)

And this is from No. 6 (The Constitution of No Authority) of his most famous pamphlet series, No Treason

The payment of taxes, being compulsory, of course furnishes no evidence that any one voluntarily supports the Constitution. . . . [T]his 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 road side, 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.

— Lysander Spooner, No Treason, no. 6: The Constitution of No Authority (1870)

And this is from the end of the same pamphlet:

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.

— Lysander Spooner, Appendix to No Treason, no. 6: The Constitution of No Authority (1870)

See also:

Happy Lysander Spooner Day!

To-day — 19 January 2008 — is the 200th birthday of the militant abolitionist, philosopher, and individualist anarchist Lysander Spooner (b. 19 January 1808, Althol, Massachusetts; d. May 14, 1887, Boston, Massachusetts). In honor of his life and work, the Ministry of Culture of this secessionist republic of one has declared that 19 January shall be celebrated as Lysander Spooner Day.

This is from the end of Spooner’s famous pamphlet No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority:

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.

— Lysander Spooner (1870): No Treason No. 6: The Constitution of No Authority

And this is from an earlier number of No Treason:

But to say that the consent of either the strongest party, or the most numerous party, in a nation, is sufficient justification for the establishment or maintenance of a government that shall control the whole nation, does not obviate the difficulty. The question still remains, how comes such a thing as a nation to exist? How do millions of men, scattered over an extensive territory — each gifted by nature with individual freedom; required by the law of nature to call no man, or body of men, his masters; authorized by that law to seek his own happiness in his own way, to do what he will with himself and his property, so long as he does not trespass upon the equal liberty of others; authorized also, by that law, to defend his own rights, and redress his own wrongs; and to go to the assistance and defence of any of his fellow men who may be suffering any kind of injustice — how do millions of such men come to be a nation, in the first place? How is it that each of them comes to be stripped of his natural, God-given rights, and to be incorporated, compressed, compacted, and consolidated into a mass with other men, whom he never saw; with whom he has no contract; and towards many of whom he has no sentiments but fear, hatred, or contempt? How does he become subjected to the control of men like himself, who, by nature, had no authority over him; but who command him to do this, and forbid him to do that, as if they were his sovereigns, and he their subject; and as if their wills and their interests were the only standards of his duties and his rights; and who compel him to submission under peril of confiscation, imprisonment, and death?

Clearly all this is the work of force, or fraud, or both.

By what right, then, did we become a nation? By what right do we continue to be a nation? And by what right do either the strongest, or the most numerous, party, now existing within the territorial limits, called The United States, claim that there really is such a nation as the United States? Certainly they are bound to show the rightful existence of a nation, before they can claim, on that ground, that they themselves have a right to control it; to seize, for their purposes, so much of every man’s property within it, as they may choose; and, at their discretion, to compel any man to risk his own life, or take the lives of other men, for the maintenance of their power.

To speak of either their numbers, or their strength, is not to the purpose. The question is by what right does the nation exist? And by what right are so many atrocities committed by its authority? or for its preservation?

The answer to this question must certainly be, that at least such a nation exists by no right whatever.

We are, therefore, driven to the acknowledgment that nations and governments, if they can rightfully exist at all, can exist only by consent.

— Lysander Spooner (1867): No Treason, no. 1

And this is from A Letter to Grover Cleveland, on His False Inaugural Address, The Usurpations and Crimes of Lawmakers and Judges, and the Consequent Poverty, Ignorance, and Servitude of the People, perhaps the finest letter ever written to the President of the United States:

Let me then remind you that justice is an immutable, natural principle; and not anything that can be made, unmade, or altered by any human power.

It is also a subject of science, and is to be learned, like mathematics, or any other science. It does not derive its authority from the commands, will, pleasure, or discretion of any possible combination of men, whether calling themselves a government, or by any other name.

It is also, at all times, and in all places, the supreme law. And being everywhere and always the supreme law, it is necessarily everywhere and always the only law.

Lawmakers, as they call themselves, can add nothing to it, nor take anything from it. Therefore all their laws, as they call them, —- that is, all the laws of their own making, —- have no color of authority or obligation. It is a falsehood to call them laws; for there is nothing in them that either creates men’s duties or rights, or enlightens them as to their duties or rights. There is consequently nothing binding or obligatory about them. And nobody is bound to take the least notice of them, unless it be to trample them under foot, as usurpations. If they command men to do justice, they add nothing to men’s obligation to do it, or to any man’s right to enforce it. They are therefore mere idle wind, such as would be commands to consider the day as day, and the night as night. If they command or license any man to do injustice, they are criminal on their face. If they command any man to do anything which justice does not require him to do, they are simple, naked usurpations and tyrannies. If they forbid any man to do anything, which justice could permit him to do, they are criminal invasions of his natural and rightful liberty. In whatever light, therefore, they are viewed, they are utterly destitute of everything like authority or obligation. They are all necessarily either the impudent, fraudulent, and criminal usurpations of tyrants, robbers, and murderers, or the senseless work of ignorant or thoughtless men, who do not know, or certainly do not realize, what they are doing.

— Lysander Spooner (1886): A Letter to Grover Cleveland, on His False Inaugural Address, The Usurpations and Crimes of Lawmakers and Judges, and the Consequent Poverty, Ignorance, and Servitude of the People

Further reading: