Lysander Spooner

Lysander Spooner
(1801-1887)

No Treason #1

Notwithstanding all the proclamations we have made to mankind, within the last ninety years, that our government rested on consent, and that that was the only rightful basis on which any government could rest, the late war has practically demonstrated that our government rests upon force---as much so as any government that ever existed. The North has thus virtually said to the world: It was al very well to prate of consent, so long as the objects to be accomplished were to liberate ourselves from our connexion with England, and also to coax a scattered and jealous people into a great national union; but now that those purposes have been accomplished, and the power of the North has become consolidated, it is sufficient for us---as for all governments---simply to say: Our power is our right.

In proportion to her wealth and population, the North has probably expended more money and blood to maintain her power over an unwilling people, than any other government ever did. And in her estimation, it is apparently the chief glory of her success, and an adequate compensation for all her own losses, that all pretence of any necessity for consent to the perpetuity or power of the government is (as she thinks) forever expunged from the minds of the people. In short, the North exults beyond measure in the proof she has given, that a government, professedly resting on consent, will expend more life and treasure in crushing dissent, than any government openly founded on force, has ever done.

And she claims that she has done all this in behalf of liberty! In behalf of free government! In behalf of the principle that government should rest on consent! If the successors of Roger Williams, within a hundred years after their State had been founded upon the principle of free religious toleration, and when the Baptists had become strong on the credit of that principle, had taken to burning heretics with a fury never before seen among men; and had they finally gloried in having thus suppressed all question of the truths of the State religion; and had they further claimed to have done all this in behalf of freedom of conscience, the inconsistency between profession and conduct would scarcely been greater than that of the North, in carrying on such a war as she has done, to compel men to live under and support a government that they did not want; and in then claiming that she did it in behalf of the principle that government should rest on consent.

This astonishing absurdity and self-contradiction are to be accounted for only by supposing, either that the lusts of fame, and power, and money, have made her utterly blind to, or utterly reckless of, the inconsistency and enormity of her conduct; or that she has never even understood what was implied in a government's resting on consent. Perhaps this last explanation is the true one. In charity to human nature, it is to be hoped that it is.

Next


No Treason - Introduction
No Treason #1, Chapter II

No Treason #2 (1867)
No Treason #6 (1870)

NOTICE: Lysander Spooner is not affiliated with Freedom School.
NOTICE: If anything in this presentation is found to be in error a good faith effort will be made to correct it in timely fashion upon notification.
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