Lysander Spooner

Lysander Spooner
(1801-1887)

No Treason #2
IV

The Constitution certainly supposes that the crime of treason can be committed only by man, as an individual. It would be very curious to see a man indicted, convicted, or hanged, otherwise than as an individual; or accused of having committed his treason otherwise than as an individual. And yet it is clearly impossible that anyone can be personally guilty of treason, can be a traitor in fact, unless he, as an individual, has in some way voluntarily pledged his faith and fidelity to the government. Certainly no man, or body of men, could pledge it for him, without his consent; and no man, or body of men, have any right to presume it against him, when he has not pledged it himself.

It is plain, therefore, that if, when the Constitution says treason, it means treason---treason in fact, and nothing else---there is no ground at all for pretending that the Southern people have committed that crime. But if, on the other hand, when the Constitution says treason, it means what the Czar and the Kaiser mean by treason, then our government is, in principle, no better than theirs; and has no claim whatever to be considered a free government.

One essential of a free government is that it rest wholly on voluntary support. And one certain proof that a government is not free, is that it coerces more or less persons to support it, against their will. All governments, the worst on earth, and the most tyrannical on earth, are free governments to that portion of the people who voluntarily support them. And all governments---through the best on earth in other respects---are nevertheless tyrannies to that portion of the people---whether few or many---who are compelled to support them against their will. A government is like a church, or any other institution, in these respects. There is no other criterion whatever, by which to determine whether a government is a free one, or not, than the single one of its depending, or not depending, solely on voluntary support.

Next

No Treason - Introduction
No Treason #2, Chapter VII-X
No Treason #1 (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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