A Summary of: No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority by Lysander Spooner
Compiled and Edited by Dr Jimmy T (Gunny) LaBaume
No Treason No. 1
The North waged its aggressive war against the South based upon the principle ”that men may rightfully be compelled to submit to, and support, a government that they do not want; and that resistance, on their part, makes them traitors and criminals.”
This principle is not only self-evidently false; it is fatal to political freedom. The war did not decrease the number of slaves. Instead, it increased their numbers because any man subjected to a government that he does not want is a slave.
Previous to the war it might have been said that the uS government was a free one. No such statement can be made now.
As much as any government in history, the uS government demonstrated by its actions that government rests upon force. The North said that it was alright to consent to our liberation from England. But now that has been accomplished, and its power consolidated, it says: “Our power is our right.”
The North expended more money and blood to maintain its power than any other government in history. In other words, the uS government (supposedly resting on consent) expended more life and treasure than any other government ever—even those founded on force. And most insulting, it claims that it was all on behalf of liberty—an obviously absurd self-contradiction.
What is meant by saying that government rests on “consent?” Is it the consent of the most numerous party? Or is it the strongest party?
First, some of the most despotic governments in the world are based on the consent or agreement of the strongest party in subjecting their subjects to their dominion and the oppressions that normally follow. If it is the most numerous, then it needs to be pointed out that the infringement of natural rights is a crime whether committed by one man calling himself a “robber” or a million men calling themselves “government.”
Second, it is absurd to believe that the most numerous party can establish a government over the less numerous unless it is also the strongest. If fact, seldom if ever, are governments established by the most numerous party. They are usually established by the less numerous but the one that is strongest due to its “wealth, intelligence, and ability to act in concert.”
Third, the uS constitution does not claim to have been established by the majority. It was established by “the people,” a term which includes the minority as much as it does the majority.
Fourth, the founders were in a small minority in 1776 relative to those who claimed the right to rule over them.
Fifth, majorities, per se, do not guarantee justice. To believe that majorities have a right to rule minorities is to believe that minorities have no rights except those that majorities choose to allow them.
Sixth, some of the worst governments in history have been established by force but, with time, come to be supported by the majority. However, this majority has normally been composed of the “most ignorant, superstitious, timid, dependent, servile, and corrupt portions of the people…who have been over-awed by …power, intelligence, wealth, and arrogance…deceived by the frauds…and …corrupted by the inducements of the few who really constitute the government.”
Seventh, the idea that the majority has a right to rule the minority reduces government to a contest to determine who shall be the masters and who the slaves. This contest will never end as long as man refuses to be a slave.
Under natural law man is: 1) bestowed by nature with individual freedom; 2) required to call no man master; 3) authorized to pursue his own happiness in his own way as long as he does not interfere with the equal liberty of others; and 4) authorized to defend his rights and assist in the defense of his fellow men who may be suffering injustice.
So, how do millions of such men become a nation? How does “a nation” come to exist? By what right does the ruling class claim the ability to control and seize a man’s property and compel him to risk his own life or take the lives of others for the maintenance of their power? By what right are so many atrocities committed under the authority of the “nation” or for its preservation?
Obviously there are only three ways in which such a nation can come into existence—through force or fraud or both. In other words, such a nation exists by no “right” what-so-ever. Nations and governments can rightfully exist only by consent.
Government’s resting on consent implies that separate, individual consent is necessary from every man required to support the government, whether by taxation, personal service or both. Any one man’s consent is just as necessary as any other’s. The only logical alternative would be to say that no one’s consent is necessary.
It follows that, if a man has never agreed to support a government, he breaks no faith when he refuses to support it. This logical conclusion is integral to the idea of treason.
If, as was declared in 1776, necessity for consent is a sound principle for three million men, it is equally sound for three (or one). It is equally sound for men living in separate houses, or on separate farms or even on separate continents.
It was separate individuals who declared their dissent to the Crown. Colonial governments had no constitutional power to declare separation. They were organized under charters from, and acknowledged allegiance to, the Crown. The king never gave them constitutional power to absolve their allegiance. The founders acted only as individual revolutionists and in no sense as constitutional authorities. The whole Revolution was accomplished by separate individuals each exercising his natural rights and not by any government exercising constitutional powers.
Since each could consent only for himself, they declared that only by their individual consent could any government call on them for support. In other words, a man “had the same natural right to take up arms alone to defend his own property against a single tax-gatherer that he had to take up arms in company with three millions of others to defend the property of all against an army of tax-gatherers.”
The Revolution established the right of each man, by his own choice, to remove his support for the government “as a universal right of all men, at all times, and under all circumstances.”
The Founders were not traitors because they did not betray anybody. All they did was exercise their natural right to declare that they were under no obligation to continue their political connection with the king and the English and they chose to dissolve it.
This is generally true of all revolutionists. They are simply men, who choose to exercise their natural right to dissolve their connection with the government under which they have lived. This is no more treasonous than the man who chooses to leave a church or any other voluntary association.
This is the principle on which the Constitution professes to rest. If so, it authorizes no government except one depending completely on voluntary support. The little government that man needs is practicable, natural and easy under this principle.
If the Constitution does not rest upon this principle, it has no right to exist.
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