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No Treason: The Constitution Of No Authority

No Treason: The Constitution Of No Authority - Lysander Spooner Long before the the Civil War started, Lysander Spooner was a strong abolitionist and was extremely active in supporting efforts to free the slaves. Despite this, when war broke out, he strongly opposed it. Spooner contended that the Civil War was less about freeing the slaves than it was about maintaining the union. For him, keeping the South in the union meant violently forcing a large group of people (the Southerners) to be subjected by a government to which they no longer consented. No Treason was written in 1867, shortly after the Civil War. It is in that context that Spooner uses such strong language when he refers to the government as "robbers and murders" (he uses the phrase, or some variation on it, 38 times in the pamphlet). From his perspective, the government of the United States had just killed hundreds of thousands of men who were defending their right to be governed by consent. The result of this bloodshed was that while the slaves were freed, the surviving Southerners were no longer free to withdraw from the bonds of a government that no longer acted as their agent. Again, Spooner was anti-slavery and at times even advocated using violence to end slavery, but he felt the motivation for the war was not freeing the slaves, but the preservation of the union (and consequential suppression of the South) and that the principal reason for conserving the union was greed.Not content to simply denounce the government's use of violence to force the Southerners to stay in the United States, Spooner also attacks the authority of the constitution. How can a document that nobody has signed or voted for maintain authority over anyone? He argues that a social contract like the Constitution, one that is not explicitly agreed to like every other contract which must be signed, cannot be binding. One way to think of it is to ask yourself--if you were born into a country with an extremely repressive constitution would you accept its authority to oppress you solely by virtue of your being born into the geographical area over which the constitution claimed to exert authority? Essentially that is what happens with the US constitution, only because it is not considered repressive by most, its authority is generally accepted on these nebulous grounds.Spooner addresses the position that the constitution (and government) is authoritative because the votes of the majority support it by questioning how elections held by secret ballot can pretend to have any power over a person's life and property. He poses it as a group of men (at this time only men could vote) that gather, and by secret ballot vote to rob and plunder (through taxation and the threat of violence for resisting taxation) their fellow man for their own benefit. Spooner's logic is complex and deals with many of the nuances of voting for a document and agents (congressmen etc.) to exercise the authority of the document. No Treason is tough reading, not because the it is hard to follow, but because for most people, myself included, the content is jarring, hard to refute, and goes against a lifetime of beliefs. Whether or not he is right is a decision that the reader will have to make, but either way, his arguments should not be ignored. They are just as relevant today as they were more than 140 years ago when he made them.