A LETTER TO GROVER CLEVELAND.
By Lysander Spooner SECTION I. To Grover Cleveland: SIR, --- Your inaugural address is probably as honest, sensible, and consistent a one as that of any president within the last fifty years, or, perhaps, as any since the foundation of the government. If, therefore, it is false, absurd, self-contradictory, and ridiculous, it is not (as I think) because you are personally less honest, sensible, or consistent than your predecessors, but because the government itself --- according to your own description of it, and according to the practical administration of it for nearly a hundred years --- is an utterly and palpably false, absurd, and criminal one. Such praises as you bestow upon it are, therefore, necessarily false, absurd, and ridiculous. Thus you describe it as "a government pledged to do equal and exact justice to all men." Did you stop to think what that means? Evidently you did not; for nearly, or quite, all the rest of your address is in direct contradiction to it. 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 [*4] 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. This science of justice, or natural law, is the only science that tells us what are, and what are not, each man's natural, inherent, inalienable, individual rights, as against any and all other men. And to say that any, or all, other men may rightfully compel him to obey any or all such other laws as they may see fit to make, is to say that he has no rights of his own, but is their subject, their property, and their slave. For the reasons now given, the simple maintenance of justice, or natural law, is plainly the one only purpose for which any coercive power --- or anything bearing the name of government --- has a right to exist. It is intrinsically just as false, absurd, ludicrous, and ridiculous to say that lawmakers, so-called, can invent and make any laws, of their own, authoritatively fixing, or declaring, the rights of individuals, or that shall be in any manner authoritative or obligatory upon individuals, or that individuals may rightfully be compelled to obey, as it would be to say that they can invent and make such mathematics, chemistry, physiology, or other sciences, as they see fit, and rightfully compel individuals to conform all their actions to them, instead of conforming them to the mathematics, chemistry, physiology, or other sciences of nature. Lawmakers, as they call themselves, might just as well claim the right to abolish, by statute, the natural law of gravitation, the natural laws of light, heat, and electricity, and all the other natural laws of matter and mind, and institute laws of their own in the place of them, and compel conformity to them, as to claim the right to set aside the natural law of justice, and compel obedience to such other laws as they may see fit to manufacture, and set up in its stead. Let me now ask you how you imagine that your so-called lawmakers can "do equal and exact justice to all men," by any so-called laws of their own making. If their laws command anything but justice, or forbid anything but injustice, they are themselves unjust and criminal. If they simply command justice, and forbid injustice, they add nothing to the natural authority of justice, or to men's obliga- [*5] -tion to obey it. It is, therefore, a simple impertinence, and sheer impudence, on their part, to assume that their commands, as such, are of any authority whatever. It is also sheer impudence, on their part, to assume that their commands are at all necessary to teach other men what is, and what is not, justice. The science of justice is as open to be learned by all other men, as by themselves; and it is, in general, so simple and easy to be learned, that there is no need of, and no place for, any man, or body of men, to teach it, declare it, or command it, on their own authority. For one, or another, of these reasons, therefore, each and every law, so-called, that forty-eight different congresses have presumed to make, within the last ninety-six years, have been utterly destitute of all legitimate authority. That is to say, they have either been criminal, as commanding or licensing men to do what justice forbade them to do, or as forbidding them to do what justice would have permitted them to do; or else they have been superfluous, as adding nothing to men's knowledge of justice, or to their obligation to do justice, or abstain from injustice. What excuse, then, have you for attempting to enforce upon the people that great mass of superfluous or criminal laws (so-called) which ignorant and foolish, or impudent and criminal, men have, for so many years, been manufacturing, and promulgating, and enforcing, in violation of justice, and of all men's natural, inherent, and inalienable rights?
Perhaps you will say that there is no such science as that of justice. If you do say this, by what right, or on what reason, do you proclaim your intention "to do equal and exact justice to all men"? If there is no science of justice, how do you know that there is any such principle as justice? Or how do you know what is, and what is not, justice? If there is no science of justice, --- such as the people can learn and understand for themselves, --- why do you say anything about justice to them? Or why do you promise them any such thing as "equal and exact justice" if they do not know, and are incapable of learning, what justice is? Do you use this phrase to deceive those whom you look upon as being so ignorant, so destitute of reason, as to be deceived by idle, unmeaning words? If you do not, you are plainly bound to let us all know what you do mean, by doing "equal and exact justice to all men." I can assure you, sir, that a very large portion of the people of this country do not believe that the government is doing "equal and exact justice to all men." And some persons are earnestly promulgating the idea that the government is not attempting to do, and has no intention of doing, anything like "equal and exact justice to all men"; that, on the contrary, it is knowingly, deliberately, and wilfully doing an incalculable amount of injustice; that it has always been doing this in the past, and that it has no intention of doing anything else in the future; that [*6] it is a mere tool in the hands of a few ambitious, rapacious, and unprincipled men; that its purpose, in doing all this injustice, is to keep --- so far as they can without driving the people to rebellion --- all wealth, and all political power, in as few hands as possible; and that this injustice is the direct cause of all the widespread poverty, ignorance, and servitude among the great body of the people. Now, Sir, I wish I could hope that you would do something to show that you are not a party to any such scheme as that; something to show that you are neither corrupt enough, nor blind enough, nor coward enough, to be made use of for any such purpose as that; something to show that when you profess your intention "to do equal and exact justice to all men," you attach some real and definite meaning to your words. Until you do that, is it not plain that the people have a right to consider you a tyrant, and the confederate and tool of tyrants, and to get rid of you as unceremoniously as they would of any other tyrant?
Sir, if any government is to be a rational, consistent, and honest one, it must evidently be based on some fundamental, immutable, eternal principle; such as every man may reasonably agree to, and such as every man may rightfully be compelled to abide by, and obey. And the whole power of the government must be limited to the maintenance of that single principle. And that one principle is justice. There is no other principle that any man can rightfully enforce upon others, or ought to consent to have enforced against himself. Every man claims the protection of this principle for himself, whether he is willing to accord it to others, or not. Yet such is the inconsistency of human nature, that some men --- in fact, many men --- who will risk their lives for this principle, when their own liberty or property is at stake, will violate it in the most flagrant manner, if they can thereby obtain arbitrary power over the persons or property of others. We have seen this fact illustrated in this country, through its whole history --- especially during the last hundred years --- and in the case of many of the most conspicuous persons. And their example and influence have been employed to pervert the whole character of the government. It is against such men, that all others, who desire nothing but justice for themselves, and are willing to unite to secure it for all others, must combine, if we are ever to have justice established for any.
It is self-evident that no number of men, by conspiring, and calling themselves a government, can acquire any rights whatever over other men, or other men's property, which they had not before, as individuals. And whenever any number [*7] of men, calling themselves a government, do anything to another man, or to his property, which they had no right to do as individuals, they thereby declare themselves trespassers, robbers, or murderers, according to the nature of their acts. Men, as individuals, may rightfully compel each other to obey this one law of justice. And it is the only law which any man can rightfully be compelled, by his fellow men, to obey. All other laws, it is optional with each man to obey, or not, as he may choose. But this one law of justice he may rightfully be compelled to obey; and all the force that reasonably necessary to compel him, may rightfully be used against him. But the right of every man to do anything, and everything, which justice does not forbid him to do, is a natural, inherent, inalienable right. It is his right, as against any and all other men, whether they be many, or few. It is a right indispensable to every man's highest happiness; and to every man's power of judging and determining for himself what will, and what will not, promote his happiness. Any restriction upon the exercise of this right is a restriction upon his rightful power of providing for, and accomplishing, his own well-being. Sir, these natural, inherent, inalienable, individual rights are sacred things. They are the only human rights. They are the only rights by which any man can protect his own property, liberty, or life against any one who may be disposed to take it away. Consequently they are not things that any set of either blockheads or villains, calling themselves a government, can rightfully take into their own hands, and dispose of at their pleasure, as they have been accustomed to do in this, and in nearly or quite all other countries.
Sir, I repeat that individual rights are the only human rights. Legally speaking, there are no such things as "public rights," as distinguished from individual rights. Legally speaking, there is no such creature or thing as "the public." The term "the public" is an utterly vague and indefinite one, applied arbitrarily and at random to a greater or less number of individuals, each and every one of whom have their own separate, individual rights, and none others. And the protection of these separate, individual rights is the one only legitimate purpose, for which anything in the nature of a governing, or coercive, power has a right to exist. And these separate, individual rights all rest upon, and can be ascertained only by, the one science of justice. Legally speaking, the term "public rights" is as vague and indefinite as are the terms "public health," "public good," "public welfare," and the like. It has no legal meaning, except when used to describe the separate, private, individual rights of a greater or less number of individuals. In so far as the separate, private, natural rights of individuals are secured, in [*8] just so far, and no farther, are the "public rights" secured. In so far as the separate, private, natural rights of individuals are disregarded or violated, in just so far are public rights" disregarded or violated. Therefore all the pretences of so-called lawmakers, that they are protecting "public rights," by violating private rights, are sheer and utter contradictions and frauds. They are just as false and absurd as it would be to say that they are protecting the public health, by arbitrarily poisoning and destroying the health of single individuals. The pretence of the lawmakers, that they are promoting the "public good," by violating individual "rights," is just as false and absurd as is the pretence that they are protecting "public rights" by violating "private rights." Sir, the greatest "public good," of which any coercive power, calling itself a government, or by any other name, is capable, is the protection of each and every individual in the quiet and peaceful enjoyment and exercise of all his own natural, inherent, inalienable, individual "rights." This is a "good" that comes home to each and every individual, of whom "the public" is composed. It is also a "good," which each and every one of these individuals, composing "the public," can appreciate. It is a "good," for the loss of which governments can make no compensation whatever. It is a universal and impartial "good," of the highest importance to each and every human being; and not any such vague, false, and criminal thing as the lawmakers --- when violating private rights --- tell us they are trying to accomplish, under the name of "the public good." It is also the only "equal and exact justice," which you, or anybody else, are capable of securing, or have any occasion to secure, to any human being. Let but this "equal and exact justice" be secured "to all men," and they will then be abundantly able to take care of themselves, and secure their own highest "good." Or if any one should ever chance to need anything more than this, he may safely trust to the voluntary kindness of his fellow men to supply it. It is one of those things not easily accounted for, that men who would scorn to do an injustice to a fellow man, in a private transaction, --- who would scorn to usurp any arbitrary dominion over him, or his property, --- who would be in the highest degree indignant, if charged with any private injustice, --- and who, at a moment's warning, would take their lives in their hands, to defend their own rights, and redress their own wrongs, --- will, the moment they become members of what they call a government, assume that they are absolved from all principles and all obligations that were imperative upon them, as individuals; will assume that they are invested with a right of arbitrary and irresponsible dominion over other men, and other men's property. Yet they are doing this continually. And all the laws they make are based upon the assumption that they have now become invested with rights that are more than human, and that those, on whom their laws are to operate, have lost even their human rights. They seem to be utterly blind to the fact, that the only reason there can be for their existence as a government, is that [*9] they may protect those very "rights," which they before scrupulously respected, but which they now unscrupulously trample upon.
But you evidently believe nothing of what I have now been saying. You evidently believe that justice is no law at all, unless in cases where the lawmakers may chance to prefer it to any law which they themselves can invent. You evidently believe that a certain paper, called the constitution, which nobody ever signed, which few persons ever read, which the great body of the people never saw, and as to the meaning of which no two persons were ever agreed, is the supreme law of this land, anything in the law of nature --- anything in the natural, inherent, inalienable, individual rights of fifty millions of people --- to the contrary notwithstanding. Did folly, falsehood, absurdity, assumption, or criminality ever reach a higher point than that? You evidently believe that those great volumes of statutes, which the people at large have never read, nor even seen, and never will read, nor see, but which such men as you and your lawmakers have been manufacturing for nearly a hundred years, to restrain them of their liberty, and deprive them of their natural rights, were all made for their benefit, by men wiser than they --- wiser even than justice itself --- and having only their welfare at heart! You evidently believe that the men who made those laws were duly authorized to make them; and that you yourself have been duly authorized to enforce them. But in this you are utterly mistaken. You have not so much as the honest, responsible scratch of one single pen, to justify you in the exercise of the power you have taken upon yourself to exercise. For example, you have no such evidence of your right to take any man's property for the support of your government, as would be required of you, if you were to claim pay for a single day's honest labor. It was once said, in this country, that taxation without consent was robbery. And a seven years' war was fought to maintain that principle. But if that principle were a true one in behalf of three millions of men, it is an equally true one in behalf of three men, or of one man. Who are ever taxed? Individuals only. Who have property that can be taxed? Individuals only. Who can give their consent to be taxed? Individuals only. Who are ever taxed without their consent? Individuals only. Who, then, are robbed, if taxed without their consent? Individuals only. If taxation without consent is robbery, the United States government has never had, has not now, and is never likely to have, a single honest dollar in its treasury. [*10] If taxation without consent is not robbery, then any band of robbers have only to declare themselves a government, and all their robberies are legalized. If any man's money can be taken by a so-called government, without his own personal consent, all his other rights are taken with it; for with his money the government can, and will, hire soldiers to stand over him, compel him to submit to its arbitrary will, and kill him if he resists. That your whole claim of a right to any man's money for the support of your government, without his consent, is the merest farce and fraud, is proved by the fact that you have no such evidence of your right to take it, as would be required of you, by one of your own courts, to prove a debt of five dollars, that might be honestly due you. You and your lawmakers have no such evidence of your right of dominion over the people of this country, as would be required to prove your right to any material property, that you might have purchased. When a man parts with any considerable amount of such material property as he has a natural right to part with, --- as, for example, houses, or lands, or food, or clothing, or anything else of much value, --- he usually gives, and the purchaser usually demands, some written acknowledgment, receipt, bill of sale, or other evidence, that will prove that he voluntarily parted with it, and that the purchaser is now the real and true owner of it. But you hold that fifth millions of people have voluntarily parted, not only with their natural right of dominion over all their material property, but also with all their natural right of dominion over their own souls and bodies; when not one of them has ever given you a scrap of writing, or even "made his mark," to that effect. You have not so much as the honest signature of a single human being, granting to you or your lawmakers any right of dominion whatever over him or his property. You hold your place only by a title, which, on no just principle of law or reason, is worth a straw. And all who are associated with you in the government --- whether they be called senators, representatives, judges, executive officers, or what not --- all hold their places, directly or indirectly, only by the same worthless title. That title is nothing more nor less than votes given in secret (by secret ballot), by not more than one-fifth of the whole population. These votes were given in secret solely because those who gave them did not dare to make themselves personally responsible, either for their own acts, or the acts of their agents, the lawmakers, judges, etc. These voters, having given their votes in secret (by secret ballot), have put it out of your power --- and out of the power of all others associated with you in the government --- to designate your principals individually. That is to say, you have no legal knowledge as to who voted for you, or who voted against you. And being unable to designate your principals individually, you have no right to say that you [*11] have any principals. And having no right to say that you have any principals, you are bound, on every just principle of law or reason, to confess that you are mere usurpers, making laws, and enforcing them, upon your own authority alone. A secret ballot makes a secret government; and a secret government is nothing else than a government by conspiracy. And a government by conspiracy is the only government we now have. You say that "every voter exercises a public trust." Who appointed him to that trust? Nobody. He simply usurped the power; he never accepted the trust. And because be usurped the power, he dares exercise it only in secret. Not one of all the ten millions of voters, who helped to place you in power, would have dared to do so, if he had known that he was to be held personally responsible, before any just tribunal, for the acts of those for whom he voted. Inasmuch as all the votes, given for you and your lawmakers, were given in secret, all that you and they can say, in support of your authority as rulers, is that you venture upon your acts as lawmakers, etc., not because you have any open, authentic, written, legitimate authority granted you by any human being, --- for you can show nothing of the kind, --- but only because, from certain reports made to you of votes given in secret, you have reason to believe that you have at your backs a secret association strong enough to sustain you by force, in case your authority should be resisted. Is there a government on earth that rests upon a more false, absurd, or tyrannical basis than that?
But the falsehood and absurdity of your whole system of government do not result solely from the fact that it rests wholly upon votes given in secret, or by men who take care to avoid all personal responsibility for their own acts, or the acts of their agents. On the contrary, if every man, woman, and child in the United States had openly signed, sealed, and delivered to you and your associates, a written document, purporting to invest you with all the legislative, judicial, and executive powers that you now exercise, they would not thereby have given you the slightest legitimate authority. Such a contract, purporting to surrender into your hands all their natural rights of person and property, to be disposed of at your pleasure or discretion, would have been simply an absurd and void contract, giving you no real authority whatever. It is a natural impossibility for any man to make a binding contract, by which he shall surrender to others a single one of what are commonly called his "natural, inherent, inalienable rights." It is a natural impossibility for any man to make a binding contract, that shall invest others with any right whatever of arbitrary, irresponsible dominion over him. [*12] The right of arbitrary, irresponsible dominion is the right of property; and the right of property is the right of arbitrary, irresponsible dominion. The two are identical. There is no difference between them. Neither can exist without the other. If, therefore, our so-called lawmakers really have that right of arbitrary, irresponsible dominion over us, which they claim to have, and which they habitually exercise, it must be because they own us as property. If they own us as property, it must be because nature made us their property; for, as no man can sell himself as a slave, we could never make a binding contract that should make us their property --- or, what is the same thing, give them any right of arbitrary, irresponsible dominion over us. As a lawyer, you certainly ought to know that all this is true.
Sir, consider, for a moment, what an utterly false, absurd, ridiculous, and criminal government we now have. It all rests upon the false, ridiculous, and utterly groundless assumption, that fifty millions of people not only could voluntarily surrender, but actually have voluntarily surrendered, all their natural rights, as human beings, into the custody of some four hundred men, called lawmakers, judges, etc., who are to be held utterly irresponsible for the disposal they may make of them.(1) The only right, which any individual is supposed to retain, or possess, under the government, is a purely fictitious one, --- one that nature never gave him, --- to wit, his right (so-called), as one of some ten millions of male adults, to give away, by his vote, not only all his own natural, inherent, inalienable, human rights, but also all the natural, inherent, inalienable, human rights of forty millions of other human beings --- that is, women and children. To suppose that any one of all these ten millions of male adults would voluntarily surrender a single one of all his natural, inherent, inalienable, human rights into the hands of irresponsible men, is an absurdity; because, first, he has no [*13] power to do so, any contract he may make for that purpose being absurd, and necessarily void; and, secondly, because he can have no rational motive for doing so. To suppose him to do so, is to suppose him to be an idiot, incapable of making any rational and obligatory contract. It is to suppose he would voluntarily give away everything in life that was of value to himself, and get nothing in return. To suppose that he would attempt to give away all the natural rights of other persons --- that is, the women and children --- as well as his own, is to suppose him to attempt to do something that he has no right, or power, to do. It is to suppose him to be both a villain and a fool. And yet this government now rests wholly upon the assumption that some ten millions of male adults --- men supposed to be compos mentis --- have not only attempted to do, but have actually succeeded in doing, these absurd and impossible things. It cannot be said that men put all their rights into the hands of the government, in order to have them protected; because there can be no such thing as a man's being protected in his rights, any longer than he is allowed to retain them in his own possession. The only possible way, in which any man can be protected in his rights, is to protect him in his own actual possession and exercise of them. And yet our government is absurd enough to assume that a man can be protected in his rights, after he has surrendered them altogether into other hands than his own. This is just as absurd as it would be to assume that a man had given himself away as a slave, in order to be protected in the enjoyment of his liberty. A man wants his rights protected, solely that he himself may possess and use them, and have the full benefit of them. But if he is compelled to give them up to somebody else, --- to a government, so-called, or to any body else, --- he ceases to have any rights of his own to be protected. To say, as the advocates of our government do, that a man must give up some of his natural rights, to a government, in order to have the rest of them protected the government being all the while the sole and irresponsible judge as to what rights he does give up, and what he retains, and what are to be protected --- is to say that he gives up all the rights that the government chooses, at any time, to assume that he has given up; and that he retains none, and is to be protected in none, except such as the government shall, at all times, see fit to protect, and to permit him to retain. This is to suppose that he has retained no rights at all, that he can, at any time, claim as his own, as against the government. It is to say that he has really given up every right, and reserved none. For a still further reason, it is absurd to say that a man must give up some of his rights to a government, in order that government may protect him in the rest. That reason is, that every right he gives up diminishes his own power of self-protection, and makes it so much more difficult for the government to protect him. And yet our government says a man must give up all his rights, in order that it [*14] may protect him. It might just as well be said that a man must consent to be bound hand and foot, in order to enable a government, or his friends, to protect him against an enemy. Leave him in full possession of his limbs, and of all his powers, and he will do more for his own protection than be otherwise could, and will have less need of protection from a government, or any other source. Finally, if a man, who is compos mentis, wants any outside protection for his rights, he is perfectly competent to make his own bargain for such as he desires; and other persons have no occasion to thrust their protection upon him, against his will; or to insist, as they now do, that he shall give up all, or any, of his rights to them, in consideration of such protection, and only such protection, as they may afterwards choose to give him. It is especially noticeable that those persons, who are so impatient to protect other men in their rights that they cannot wait until they are requested to do so, have a somewhat inveterate habit of killing all who do not voluntarily accept their protection; or do not consent to give up to them all their rights in exchange for it. If A were to go to B, a merchant, and say to him,"Sir, I am a night-watchman, and I insist upon your employing me as such in protecting your property against burglars; and to enable me to do so more effectually, I insist upon your letting me tie your own hands and feet, so that you cannot interfere with me; and also upon your delivering up to me all your keys to your store, your safe, and to all your valuables; and that you authorize me to act solely and fully according to my own will, pleasure, and discretion in the matter; and I demand still further, that you shall give me an absolute guaranty that you will not hold me to any accountability whatever for anything I may do, or for anything that may happen to your goods while they are under my protection; and unless you comply with this proposal, I will now kill you on the spot," --- if A were to say all this to B, B would naturally conclude that A himself was the most impudent and dangerous burglar that he (B) had to fear; and that if he (B) wished to secure his property against burglars, his best way would be to kill A in the first place, and then take his chances against all such other burglars as might come afterwards. Our government constantly acts the part that is here supposed to be acted by A. And it is just as impudent a scoundrel as A is here supposed to be. It insists that every man shall give up all his rights unreservedly into its custody, and then hold it wholly irresponsible for any disposal it may make of them. And it gives him no alternative but death. If by putting a bayonet to a man's breast, and giving him his choice, to die, or be "protected in his rights," it secures his consent to the latter alternative, it then proclaims itself a free government, --- a government resting on consent! You yourself describe such a government as "the best government ever vouchsafed to man." Can you tell me of one that is worse in principle? [*15] But perhaps you will say that ours is not so bad, in principle, as the others, for the reason that here, once in two, four, or six years, each male adult is permitted to have one vote in ten millions, in choosing the public protectors. Well, if you think that that materially alters the case, I wish you joy of your remarkable discernment.
Sir, if a government is to "do equal and exact justice to all men," it must do simply that, and nothing more. If it does more than that to any, --- that is, if it gives monopolies, privileges, exemptions, bounties, or favors to any, --- it can do so only by doing injustice to more or less others. It can give to one only what it takes from others; for it has nothing of its own to give to any one. The best that it can do for all, and the only honest thing it can do for any, is simply to secure to each and every one his own rights, --- the rights that nature gave him, --- his rights of person, and his rights of property; leaving him, then, to pursue his own interests, and secure his own welfare, by the free and full exercise of his own powers of body and mind; so long as he trespasses upon the equal rights of no other person. If he desires any favors from any body, he must, I repeat, depend upon the voluntary kindness of such of his fellow men as may be willing to grant them. No government can have any right to grant them; because no government can have a right to take from one man any thing that is his, and give it to another. If this be the only true idea of an honest government, it is plain that it can have nothing to do with men's "interests," "welfare," or "prosperity," as distinguished from their "rights." Being secured in their rights, each and all must take the sole charge of, and have the sole responsibility for, their own "interests," "welfare," and "prosperity." By simply protecting every man in his rights, a government necessarily keeps open to every one the widest possible field, that he honestly can have, for such industry as he may choose to follow. It also insures him the widest possible field for obtaining such capital as he needs for his industry, and the widest possible markets for the products of his labor. With the possession of these rights, he must be content. No honest government can go into business with any individuals, be they many, or few. It cannot furnish capital to any, nor prohibit the loaning of capital to any. It can give to no one any special aid to competition; nor protect any one from competition. It must adhere inflexibly to the principle of entire freedom for all honest industry, and all honest traffic. It can do to no one any favor, nor render to any one any assistance, which it withholds from another. It must hold the scales impartially between them; taking no cognizance of any man's "interests," "welfare," or "prosperity," otherwise than by simply protecting him in his "rights." In opposition to this view, lawmakers profess to have weighty duties laid upon [*16] them, to promote men's "interests," "welfare," and "prosperity," as distinguished from their "rights." They seldom have any thing to say about men's "rights." On the contrary, they take it for granted that they are charged with the duty of promoting, superintending, directing, and controlling the "business" of the country. In the performance of this supposed duty, all ideas of individual "rights" are cast aside. Not knowing any way --- because there is no way --- in which they can impartially promote all men's "interests," "welfare," and "prosperity," otherwise than by protecting impartially all men's rights, they boldly proclaim that "individual rights must not be permitted to stand in the way of the public good, the public welfare, and the business interests of the country." Substantially all their lawmaking proceeds upon this theory; for there is no other theory, on which they can find any justification whatever for any lawmaking at all. So they proceed to give monopolies, privileges, bounties, grants, loans, etc., etc., to particular persons, or classes of persons; justifying themselves by saying that these privileged persons will "give employment" to the unprivileged; and that this employment, given by the privileged to the unprivileged, will compensate the latter for the loss of their "rights." And they carry on their lawmaking of this kind to the greatest extent they think is possible, without causing rebellion and revolution, on the part of the injured classes. Sir, I am sorry to see that you adopt this lawmaking theory to its fullest extent; that although, for once only, and in a dozen words only, --- and then merely incidentally, --- you describe the government as "a government pledged to do equal and exact justice to all men," you show, throughout the rest of your address, that you have no thought of abiding by that principle; that you are either utterly ignorant, or utterly regardless, of what that principle requires of you; that the government, so far as your influence goes, is to be given up to the business of lawmaking, --- that is, to the business of abolishing justice, and establishing injustice in its place; that you hold it to be the proper duty and function of the government to be constantly looking after men's "interests," "welfare," "prosperity," etc., etc., as distinguished from their rights; that it must consider men's "rights" as no guide to the promotion of their "interests"; that it must give favors to some, and withhold the same favors from others; that in order to give these favors to some, it must take from others their rights; that, in reality, it must traffic in both men's interests and their rights; that it must keep open shop, and sell men's interests and rights to the highest bidders; and that this is your only plan for promoting "the general welfare," "the common interest," etc., etc. That such is your idea of the constitutional duties and functions of the government, is shown by different parts of your address: but more fully, perhaps, by this: The large variety of diverse and competing interests subject to federal control, persistently seeking recognition of their' claims, need give us no fear that the greatest good of the great- [*17] est number will fail to be accomplished, if, in the halls of national legislation, that spirit of amity and mutual concession shall prevail, in which the constitution had its birth. If this involves the surrender or postponement of private interests, and the abandonment of local advantages, compensation will be found in the assurance that thus the common interest is subserved, and the general welfare advanced. What is all this but saying that the government is not at all an institution for "doing equal and exact justice to all men," or for the impartial protection of all men's rights; but that it is its proper business to take sides, for and against, a "large variety of diverse and competing interests"; that it has this "large variety of diverse and competing interests" under its arbitrary "control", that it can, at its pleasure, make such laws as will give success to some of them, and insure the defeat of others; that these "various, diverse, and competing interests" will be "persistently seeking recognition of their claim . . . in the halls of national legislation," --- that is, will be "persistently" clamoring for laws to be made in their favor; that, in fact,"the halls of national legislation" are to be mere arenas, into which the government actually invites the advocates and representatives of all the selfish schemes of avarice and ambition that unprincipled men can devise; that these schemes will there be free to "compete" with each other in their corrupt offers for government favor and support; and that it is to be the proper and ordinary business of the lawmakers to listen to all these schemes; to adopt some of them, and sustain them with all the money and power of the government; and to "postpone," "abandon," oppose, and defeat all others; it being well known, all the while, that the lawmakers will, individually, favor, or oppose, these various schemes, according to their own irresponsible will, pleasure, and discretion, --- that is, according as they can better serve their own personal interests and ambitions by doing the one or the other. Was a more thorough scheme of national villainy ever invented? Sir, do you not know that in this conflict, between these "various, diverse, and competing interests," all ideas of individual "rights" --- all ideas of "equal and exact justice to all men" --- will be cast to the winds; that the boldest, the strongest, the most fraudulent, the most rapacious, and the most corrupt, men will have control of the government, and make it a mere instrument for plundering the great body of the people? Your idea of the real character of the government is plainly this: The lawmakers are to assume absolute and irresponsible "control" of all the financial resources, all the legislative, judicial, and executive powers, of the government, and employ them all for the promotion of such schemes of plunder and ambition as they may select from all those that may be submitted to them for their approval; that they are to keep "the halls of national legislation" wide open for the admission of all persons having such schemes to offer; and that they are to grant monopolies, privileges, loans, and bounties to all such of these schemes as they can make [*18] subserve their own individual interests and ambitions, and reject or "postpone" all others. And that there is to be no limit to their operations of this kind, except their fear of exciting rebellion and resistance on the part of the plundered classes. And you are just fool enough to tell us that such a government as this may be relied on to "accomplish the greatest good to the greatest number," "to subserve the common interest," and "advance the general welfare," "if," only,"in the halls of national legislation, that spirit of amity and mutual concession shall prevail, in which the constitution had its birth." You here assume that "the general welfare" is to depend, not upon the free and untrammelled enterprise and industry of the whole people, acting individually, and each enjoying and exercising all his natural rights; but wholly or principally upon the success of such particular schemes as the government may take under its special "control." And this means that "the general welfare" is to depend, wholly or principally, upon such privileges, monopolies, loans, and bounties as the government may grant to more or less of that "large variety of diverse and competing interests" --- that is, schemes --- that may be "persistently" pressed upon its attention. But as you impliedly acknowledge that the government cannot take all these "interests" (schemes) under its "control," and bestow its favors upon all alike, you concede that some of them must be "surrendered," "postponed," or "abandoned"; and that, consequently, the government cannot get on at all, unless,"in the halls of national legislation, that spirit of amity and mutual concession shall prevail, in which the constitution had its birth." This "spirit of amity and mutual concession in the halls of legislation," you explain to mean this: a disposition, on the part of the lawmakers respectively --- whose various schemes of plunder cannot all be accomplished, by reason of their being beyond the financial resources of the government, or the endurance of the people --- to "surrender" some of them,"postpone" others, and "abandon" others, in order that the general business of robbery may go on to the greatest extent possible, and that each one of the lawmakers may succeed with as many of the schemes he is specially intrusted with, as he can carry through by means of such bargains, for mutual help, as he may be able to make with his fellow lawmakers. Such is the plan of government, to which you say that you "consecrate" yourself, and "engage your every faculty and effort." Was a more shameless avowal ever made? You cannot claim to be ignorant of what crimes such a government will commit. You have had abundant opportunity to know --- and if you have kept your eyes open, you do know --- what these schemes of robbery have been in the past; and from these you can judge what they will be in the future. You know that under such a system, every senator and representative --- probably without an exception --- will come to the congress as the champion of the dominant scoundrelisms of his own State or district; that he will be elected solely to serve [*19] those "interests," as you call them; that in offering himself as a candidate, he will announce the robbery, or robberies, to which all his efforts will be directed; that he will call these robberies his "policy"; or if he be lost to all decency, he will call them his "principles"; that they will always be such as he thinks will best subserve his own interests, or ambitions; that he will go to "the halls of national legislation" with his head full of plans for making bargains with other lawmakers --- as corrupt as himself --- for mutual help in carrying their respective schemes. Such has been the character of our congresses nearly, or quite, from the beginning. It can scarcely be said that there has ever been an honest man in one of them. A man has sometimes gained a reputation for honesty, in his own State or district, by opposing some one or more of the robberies that were proposed by members from other portions of the country. But such a man has seldom, or never, deserved his reputation; for he has, generally, if not always, been the advocate of some one or more schemes of robbery, by which more or less of his own constituents were to profit, and which he knew it would be indispensable that he should advocate, in order to give him votes at home. If there have ever been any members, who were consistently honest throughout, --- who were really in favor of "doing equal and exact justice to all men," --- and, of course, nothing more than that to any, --- their numbers have been few; so few as to have left no mark upon the general legislation. They have but constituted the exceptions that proved the rule. If you were now required to name such a lawmaker, I think you would search our history in vain to find him. That this is no exaggerated description of our national lawmaking, the following facts will prove. For the first seventy years of the government, one portion of the lawmakers would be satisfied with nothing less than permission to rob one-sixth, or one-seventh, of the whole population, not only of their labor, but even of their right to their own persons. In 1860, this class of lawmakers comprised all the senators and representatives from fifteen, of the then thirty-three, States.(2) This body of lawmakers, standing always firmly together, and capable of turning the scale for, or against, any scheme of robbery, in which northern men were interested, but on which northern men were divided, --- such as navigation acts, tariffs, bounties, grants, war, peace, etc., --- could purchase immunity for their own crime, by supporting such, and so many, northern crimes --- second only to their own in atrocity --- as could be mutually agreed on. [*20] In this way the slaveholders bargained for, and secured, protection for slavery and the slave trade, by consenting to such navigation acts as some of the northern States desired, and to such tariffs on imports --- such as iron, coal, wool, woollen goods, etc., --- as should enable the home producers of similar articles to make fortunes by robbing everybody else in the prices of their goods. Another class of lawmakers have been satisfied with nothing less than such a monopoly of money, as should enable the holders of it to suppress, as far as possible, all industry and traffic, except such as they themselves should control; such a monopoly of money as would put it wholly out of the power of the great body of wealth-producers to hire the capital needed for their industries; and thus compel them --- especially the mechanical portions of them --- by the alternative of starvation --- to sell their labor to the monopolists of money, for just such prices as these latter should choose to pay. This monopoly of money has also given, to the holders of it, a control, so nearly absolute, of all industry --- agricultural as well as mechanical --- and all traffic, as has enabled them to plunder all the producing classes in the prices of their labor, or the products of their labor. Have you been blind, all these years, to the existence, or the effects, of this monopoly of money? Still another class of lawmakers have demanded unequal taxation on the various kinds of home property, that are subject to taxation; such unequal taxation as would throw heavy burdens upon some kinds of property, and very light burdens, or no burdens at all, upon other kinds. And yet another class of lawmakers have demanded great appropriations, or loans, of money, or grants of lands, to enterprises intended to give great wealth to a few, at the expense of everybody else. These are some of the schemes of downright and outright robbery, which you mildly describe as "the large variety of diverse and competing interests, subject to federal control, persistently seeking recognition of their claims . . . in the halls of national legislation"; and each having its champions and representatives among the lawmakers. You know that all, or very nearly all, the legislation of congress is devoted to these various schemes of robbery; and that little, or no, legislation goes through, except by means of such bargains as these lawmakers may enter into with each other, for mutual support of their respective robberies. And yet you have the mendacity, or the stupidity, to tell us that so much of this legislation as does go through, may be relied on to "accomplish the greatest good to the greatest number," to "subserve the common interest," and "advance the general welfare." And when these schemes of robbery become so numerous, atrocious, and unendurable that they can no longer be reconciled "in the halls of national legislation," by "surrendering" some of them,"postponing" others, and "abandoning" others, you assume --- for such has been the prevailing opinion, and you say nothing to [*21] the contrary --- that it is the right of the strongest party, or parties, to murder a half million of men, if that be necessary, --- and as we once did, --- not to secure liberty or justice to any body, --- but to compel the weaker of these would-be robbers to submit to all such robberies as the stronger ones may choose to practise upon them.
Sir, your idea of the true character of our government is plainly this: you assume that all the natural, inherent, inalienable, individual, human rights of fifty millions of people --- all their individual rights to preserve their own lives, and promote their own happiness --- have been thrown into one common heap, --- into hotchpotch, as the lawyers say: and that this hotchpotch has been given into the hands of some four hundred champion robbers, each of whom has pledged himself to carry off as large a portion of it as possible, to be divided among those men --- well known to himself, but who --- to save themselves from all responsibility for his acts --- have secretly (by secret ballot) appointed him to be their champion. Sir, if you had assumed that all the people of this country had thrown all their wealth, all their rights, all their means of living, into hotchpotch; and that this hotchpotch had been given over to four hundred ferocious hounds; and that each of these hounds had been selected and trained to bring to his masters so much of this common plunder as he, in the general fight, or scramble, could get off with, you would scarcely have drawn a more vivid picture of the true character of the government of the United States, than you have done in your inaugural address. No wonder that you are obliged to confess that such a government can be carried on only "amid the din of party strife"; that it will be influenced --- you should have said directed --- by "purely partisan zeal"; and that it will be attended by "the animosities of political strife, the bitterness of partisan defeat, and the exultation of partisan triumph." What gang of robbers, quarrelling over the division of their plunder, could exhibit a more shameful picture than you thus acknowledge to be shown by the government of the United States? Sir, nothing of all this "din," and "strife," and "animosity," and "bitterness," is caused by any attempt, on the part of the government, to simply "do equal and exact justice to all men," --- to simply protect every man impartially in all his natural rights to life, liberty, and property. It is all caused simply and solely by the government's violation of some men's "rights," to promote other men's "interests." If you do not know this, you are mentally an object of pity. Sir, men's "rights" are always harmonious. That is to say, each man's "rights" are always consistent and harmonious with each and every other man's "rights." But their "interests," as you estimate them, constantly clash; especially such [*22] "interests" as depend on government grants of monopolies, privileges, loans, and bounties. And these "interests," like the interests of other gamblers, clash with a fury proportioned to the amounts at stake. It is these clashing "interests," and not any clashing "rights," that give rise to all the strife you have here depicted, and to all this necessity for "that spirit of amity and mutual concession,"which you hold to be indispensable to the accomplishment of such legislation as you say is necessary to the welfare of the country. Each and every man's "rights" being consistent and harmonious with each and every other man's "rights"; and all men's rights being immutably fixed, and easily ascertained, by a science that is open to be learned and known by all; a government that does nothing but "equal and exact justice to all men" --- that simply gives to every man his own, and nothing more to any --- has no cause and no occasion for any "political parties." What are these "political parties" but standing armies of robbers, each trying to rob the other, and to prevent being itself robbed by the other? A government that seeks only to "do equal and exact justice to all men," has no cause and no occasion to enlist all the fighting men in the nation in two hostile ranks; to keep them always in battle array, and burning with hatred towards each other. It has no cause and no occasion for any "political warfare," any "political hostility," any "political campaigns," any "political contests," any "political fights," any "political defeats," or any "political triumphs." It has no cause and no occasion for any of those "political leaders," so called, whose whole business is to invent new schemes of robbery, and organize the people into opposing bands of robbers; all for their own aggrandizement alone. It has no cause and no occasion for the toleration, or the existence, of that vile horde of political bullies, and swindlers, and blackguards, who enlist on one side or the other, and fight for pay; who, year in and year out, employ their lungs and their ink in spreading lies among ignorant people, to excite their hopes of gain, or their fears of loss, and thus obtain their votes. In short, it has no cause and no occasion for all this "din of party strife," for all this "purely partisan zeal," for all "the bitterness of partisan defeat," for all "the exultation of partisan triumph," nor, worst of all, for any of "that spirit of amity and mutual concession [by which you evidently mean that readiness,"in the halls of national legislation," to sacrifice some men's "rights" to promote other men's "interests"] in which [you say] the constitution had its birth." If the constitution does really, or naturally, give rise to all this "strife," and require all this "spirit of amity and mutual concession," --- and I do not care now to deny that it does, --- so much the worse for the constitution. And so much the worse for all those men who, like yourself, swear to "preserve, protect, and defend it." And yet you have the face to make no end of professions, or pretences, that the impelling power, the real motive, in all this robbery and strife, is nothing else [*23] than "the service of the people," "their interests," "the promotion of their welfare," "good government," "government by the people," "the popular will," "the general weal," "the achievements of our national destiny," "the benefits which our happy form of government can bestow," "the lasting welfare of the country," "the priceless benefits of the constitution," "the greatest good to the greatest number," "the common interest," "the general welfare," "the people's will," "the mission of the American people," "our civil policy," "the genius of our institutions," "the needs of our people in their home life," "the settlement and development of the resources of our vast territory," "the prosperity of our republic," "the interests and prosperity of all the people," "the safety and confidence of business interests," "making the wage of labor sure and steady," "a due regard to the interests of capital invested and workingmen employed in American industries," "reform in the administration of the government," "the application of business principles to public affairs," "the constant and ever varying wants of an active and enterprising population," "a firm determination to secure to all the people of the land the full benefits of the best form of government ever vouchsafed to man," "the blessings of our national life," etc., etc. Sir, what is the use of such a deluge of unmeaning words, unless it be to gloss over, and, if possible, hide, the true character of the acts of the government? Such "generalities" as these do not even "glitter." They are only the stale phrases of the demagogue, who wishes to appear to promise everything, but commits himself to nothing. Or else, they are the senseless talk of a mere political parrot, who repeats words he has been taught to utter, without knowing their meaning. At best, they are the mere gibberish of a man destitute of all political ideas, but who imagines that "good government," "the general welfare," "the common interest," "the best form of government ever vouchsafed to man," etc., etc., must be very good things, if anybody can ever find out what they are. There is nothing definite, nothing real, nothing tangible, nothing honest, about them. Yet they constitute your entire stock in trade. In resorting to them --- in holding them up to public gaze as comprising your political creed --- you assume that they have a meaning; that they are matters of overruling importance; that they require the action of an omnipotent, irresponsible, lawmaking government; that all these "interests" must be represented, and can be secured, only "in the halls of national legislation"; and by such political hounds as have been selected and trained, and sent there, solely that they may bring off, to their respective masters, as much as possible of the public plunder they hold in their hands; that is, as much as possible of the earnings of all the honest wealth-producers of the country. And when these masters count up the spoils that their hounds have thus brought home to them, they set up a corresponding shout that "the public prosperity," "the common interest," and "the general welfare" have been "advanced." And the scoundrels by whom the work has been accomplished,"in the halls of national [*24] legislation," are trumpeted to the world as "great statesmen." And you are just stupid enough to be deceived into the belief, or just knave enough to pretend to be deceived into the belief, that all this is really the truth. One would infer from your address that you think the people of this country in --- capable of doing anything for themselves, individually; that they would all perish, but for the employment given them by that "large variety of diverse and competing interests" --- that is, such purely selfish schemes --- as may be "persistently seeking recognition of their claims in the halls of national legislation," and secure for themselves such monopolies and advantages as congress may see fit to grant them. Instead of your recognizing the right of each and every individual to judge of, and provide for, his own well-being, according to the dictates of his own judgment, and by the free exercise of his own powers of body and mind, --- so long as he infringes the equal rights of no other person, --- you assume that fifty millions of people, who never saw you, and never will see you, who know almost nothing about you, and care very little about you, are all so weak, ignorant, and degraded as to be humbly and beseechingly looking to you --- and to a few more lawmakers (so called) whom they never saw, and never will see, and of whom they know almost nothing --- to enlighten, direct, and "control" them in their daily labors to supply their own wants, and promote their own happiness! You thus assume that these fifty millions of people are so debased, mentally and morally, that they look upon you and your associate lawmakers as their earthly gods, holding their destinies in your hands, and anxiously studying their welfare; instead of looking upon you --- as most of you certainly ought to be looked upon --- as a mere cabal of ignorant, selfish, ambitious, rapacious, and unprincipled men, who know very little, and care to know very little, except how you can get fame, and power, and money, by trampling upon other men's rights, and robbing them of the fruits of their labor. Assuming yourself to be the greatest of these gods, charged with the "welfare" of fifty millions of people, you enter upon the mighty task with all the mock solemnity, and ridiculous grandiloquence, of a man ignorant enough to imagine that he is really performing a solemn duty, and doing an immense public service, instead of simply making a fool of himself. Thus you say: Fellow citizens: In the presence of this vast assemblage of my countrymen, I am about to supplement and seal, by the oath which I shall take, the manifestation of the will of a great and free people. In the exercise of their power and right of self-government, they have committed to one of their fellow citizens a supreme and sacred trust, and he here consecrates himself to their service. This impressive ceremony adds little to the solemn sense of responsibility with which I contemplate the duty I owe to all the people of the land. Nothing can relieve me from anxiety lest by any act of mine their interests [not their rights] may suffer, and nothing is needed to strengthen my resolution to engage every faculty and effort [*25] in the promotion of their welfare. [Not in "doing equal and exact justice to all men." After having once described the government as one "pledged to do equal and exact justice to all men," you drop that subject entirely, and wander off into "interests," and "welfare," and an astonishing number of other equally unmeaning things.] Sir, you would have no occasion to take all this tremendous labor and responsibility upon yourself, if you and your lawmakers would but keep your hands off the "rights" of your "countrymen." Your "countrymen" would be perfectly competent to take care of their own "interests," and provide for their own "welfare," if their hands were not tied, and their powers crippled, by such fetters as men like you and your lawmakers have fastened upon them. Do you know so little of your "countrymen," that you need to be told that their own strength and skill must be their sole reliance for their own well-being? Or that they are abundantly able, and willing, and anxious above all other things, to supply their own "needs in their home life," and secure their own "welfare"? Or that they would do it, not only without jar or friction, but as their highest duty and pleasure, if their powers were not manacled by the absurd and villainous laws you propose to execute upon them? Are you so stupid as to imagine that putting chains on men's hands, and fetters on their feet, and insurmountable obstacles in their paths, is the way to supply their "needs," and promote their "welfare"? Do you think your "countrymen" need to be told, either by yourself, or by any such gang of ignorant or unprincipled men as all lawmakers are, what to do,and what not to do, to supply their own "needs in their home life"? Do they not know how to grow their own food, make their own clothing, build their own houses, print their own books, acquire all the knowledge, and create all the wealth, they desire, without being domineered over, and thwarted in all their efforts, by any set of either fools or villains, who may call themselves their lawmakers? And do you think they will never get their eyes open to see what blockheads, or impostors, you and your lawmakers are? Do they not now --- at least so far as you will permit them to do it --- grow their own food, build their own houses, make their own clothing, print their own books? Do they not make all the scientific discoveries and mechanical inventions, by which all wealth is created? Or are all these thing done by "the government"? Are you an idiot, that you can talk as you do, about what you and your lawmakers are doing to provide for the real wants, and promote the real "welfare," of fifty millions of people?
But perhaps the most brilliant idea in your whole address, is this: Every citizen owes the country a vigilant watch and close scrutiny of its public servants, and a fair and reasonable estimate of their fidelity and usefulness. Thus is the people's will [*26] impressed upon the whole framework of our civil policy, municipal, State, and federal; and this is the price of our liberty, and the inspiration of our faith in the republic. The essential parts of this declaration are these: "Every citizen owes the country a vigilant watch and close scrutiny of its public servants, . . . and this is the price of our liberty." Who are these "public servants," that need all this watching? Evidently they are the lawmakers, and the lawmakers only. They are not only the chief "public servants," but they are absolute masters of all the other "public servants." These other "public servants," judicial and executive, --- the courts, the army, the navy, the collectors of taxes, etc., etc., --- have no function whatever, except that of simple obedience to the lawmakers. They are appointed, paid, and have their duties prescribed to them, by the lawmakers; and are made responsible only to the lawmakers. They are mere puppets in the hands of the lawmakers. Clearly, then, the lawmakers are the only ones we have any occasion to watch. Your declaration, therefore, amounts, practically, to this, and this only: Every citizen owes the country a vigilant watch and close scrutiny of ITS LAWMAKERS, . . . and this is the price of our liberty. Sir, your declaration is so far true, as that all the danger to "our liberty" comes solely from the lawmakers. And why are the lawmakers dangerous to "our liberty"? Because it is a natural impossibility that they can make any law --- that is, any law of their own invention --- that does not violate "our liberty." The law of justice is the one only law that does not violate "our liberty." And that is not a law that was made by the lawmakers. It existed before they were born, and will exist after they are dead. It derives not one particle of its authority from any commands of theirs. It is, therefore, in no sense, one of their laws. Only laws of their own invention are their laws. And as it is naturally impossible that they can invent any law of their own, that shall not conflict with the law of justice, it is naturally impossible that they can make a law --- that is, a law of their own invention --- that shall not violate "our liberty." The law of justice is the precise measure, and the only precise measure, of the rightful "liberty" of each and every human being. Any law --- made by lawmakers --- that should give to any man more liberty than is given him by the law of justice, would be a license to commit an injustice upon one or more other persons. On the other hand, any law --- made by lawmakers --- that should take from any human being any "liberty" that is given him by the law of justice, would be taking from him a part of his own rightful "liberty." Inasmuch, then, as every possible law, that can be made by lawmakers, must either give to some one or more persons more "liberty" than the law of nature --- or the law of justice --- gives them, and more "liberty" than is consistent with the natural and equal "liberty" of all other persons; or else must take from some one [*27] or more persons some portion of that "liberty" which the law of nature --- or the law of justice --- gives to every human being, it is inevitable that every law, that can be made by lawmakers, must be a violation of the natural and rightful "liberty" of some one or more persons. Therefore the very idea of a lawmaking government --- a government that is to make laws of its own invention --- is necessarily in direct and inevitable conflict with "our liberty." In fact, the whole, sole, and only real purpose of any lawmaking government whatever is to take from some one or more persons their "liberty." Consequently the only way in which all men can preserve their "liberty," is not to have any lawmaking government at all. We have been told, time out of mind, that "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty." But this admonition, by reason of its indefiniteness, has heretofore fallen dead upon the popular mind. It, in reality, tells us nothing that we need to know, to enable us to preserve "our liberty." It does not even tell us what "our liberty" is, or how, or when, or through whom, it is endangered, or destroyed. 1. It does not tell us that individual liberty is the only human liberty. It does not tell us that "national liberty," "political liberty," "republican liberty," "democratic liberty," "constitutional liberty," "liberty under law," and all the other kinds of liberty that men have ever invented, and with which tyrants, as well as demagogues, have amused and cheated the ignorant, are not liberty at all, unless in so far as they may, under certain circumstances, have chanced to contribute something to, or given some impulse toward, individual liberty. 2. It does not tell us that individual liberty means freedom from all compulsion to do anything whatever, except what justice requires us to do, and freedom to do everything whatever that justice permits us to do. It does not tell us that individual liberty means freedom from all human restraint or coercion whatsoever, so long as we "live honestly, hurt nobody, and give to every one his due." 3. It does not tell us that there is any science of liberty; any science, which every man may learn, and by which every man may know, what is, and what is not, his own, and every other man's, rightful "liberty." 4. It does not tell us that this right of individual liberty rests upon an immutable, natural principle, which no human power can make, unmake, or alter; nor that all human authority, that claims to set it aside, or modify it, is nothing but falsehood, absurdity, usurpation, tyranny, and crime. 5. It does not tell us that this right of individual liberty is a natural, inherent, inalienable right; that therefore no man can part with it, or delegate it to another, if he would; and that, consequently, all the claims that have ever been made, by governments, priests. or any other powers, that individuals have voluntarily surrendered, or "delegated," their liberty to others, are all impostures and frauds. 6. It does not tell us that all human laws, so called, and all human lawmaking, --- all commands, either by one man, or any number of men, calling themselves a [*28] government, or by any other name --- requiring any individual to do this, or for --- bidding him to do that --- so long as be "lives honestly, hurts no one, and gives to every one his due" --- are all false and tyrannical assumptions of a right of authority and dominion over him; are all violations of his natural, inherent, inalienable, rightful, individual liberty; and, as such, are to be resented and resisted to the utmost, by every one who does not choose to be a slave. 7. And, finally, it does not tell us that all lawmaking governments whatsoever --- whether called monarchies, aristocracies, republics, democracies, or by any other name --- are all alike violations of men's natural and rightful liberty. We can now see why lawmakers are the only enemies, from whom "our liberty" has anything to fear, or whom we have any occasion to watch. They are to be watched, because they claim the right to abolish justice, and establish injustice in its stead; because they claim the right to command us to do things which justice does not require us to do, and to forbid us to do things which justice' permits us to do; because they deny our right to be, individually, and absolutely, our own masters and owners, so long as we obey the one law of justice towards all other persons; because they claim to be our masters, and that their commands, as such, are authoritative and binding upon us as law; and that they may rightfully compel us to obey them. "Our liberty" is in danger only from the lawmakers, because it is only through' the agency of lawmakers, that anybody pretends to be able to take away "our liberty." It is only the lawmakers that claim to be above all responsibility for taking away "our liberty." Lawmakers are the only ones who are impudent enough to assert for themselves the right to take away "our liberty." They are the only ones who are impudent enough to tell us that we have voluntarily surrendered "our liberty" into their hands. They are the only ones who have the insolent condescension to tell us that, in consideration of our having surrendered into their hands "our liberty," and all our natural, inherent, inalienable rights as human beings, they are disposed to give us, in return,"good government," "the best form of government ever vouchsafed to man"; to "protect" us, to provide for our "welfare," to promote our "interests," etc., etc: And yet you are just blockhead enough to tell us that if "Every citizen" --- fifth millions and more of them --- will but keep "a vigilant watch and close scrutiny" upon these lawmakers,"our liberty" may be preserved! Don't you think, sir, that you are really the wisest man that ever told "a great and free people" how they could preserve "their liberty"? To be entirely candid, don't you think, sir, that a surer way of preserving "our liberty" would be to have no lawmakers at all? [*29]
But, in spite of all I have said, or, perhaps, can say, you will probably persist in your idea that the world needs a great deal of lawmaking; that mankind in general are not entitled to have any will, choice, judgment, or conscience of their own; that, if not very wicked, they are at least very ignorant and stupid; that they know very little of what is for their own good, or how to promote their own "interests," "welfare," or "prosperity"; that it is therefore necessary that they should be put under guardianship to lawmakers; that these lawmakers, being a very superior race of beings, --- wise beyond the rest of their species, --- and entirely free from all those selfish passions which tempt common mortals to do wrong, --- must be intrusted with absolute and irresponsible dominion over the less favored of their kind; must prescribe to the latter, authoritatively, what they may, and may not, do; and, in general, manage the affairs of this world according to their discretion, free of all accountability to any human tribunals. And you seem to be perfectly confident that, under this absolute and irresponsible dominion of the lawmakers, the affairs of this world will be rightly managed; that the "interests," "welfare," and "prosperity" of "a great and free people" will be properly attended to; that "the greatest good of the greatest number" will be accomplished, etc., etc. And yet you hold that all this lawmaking, and all this subjection of the great body of the people to the arbitrary, irresponsible dominion of the lawmakers, will not interfere at all with "our liberty," if only "every citizen" will but keep "a vigilant watch nd close scrutiny" of the lawmakers. Well, perhaps this is all so; although this subjection to the arbitrary will of any man, or body of men, whatever, and under any pretence whatever, seems, on the face of it, to be much more like slavery, than it does like "liberty." If, therefore, you really intend to continue this system of lawmaking, it seems indispensable that you should explain to us what you mean by the term "our liberty." So far as your address gives us any light on the subject, you evidently means by the term "our liberty," just such, and only such,"liberty," as the lawmakers may see fit to allow us to have. You seem to have no conception of any other "liberty" whatever. You give us no idea of any other "liberty" that we can secure to ourselves, even though "every citizen " --- fifty millions and more of them --- shall all keep "a vigilant watch and close scrutiny" upon the lawmakers. Now, inasmuch as the human race always have had all the "liberty" their lawmakers have seen fit to permit them to have; and inasmuch as, under your system of lawmaking, they always will have as much "liberty" as their lawmakers shall see fit to give then; and inasmuch as you apparently concede the right, which the [*30] lawmakers have always claimed, of killing all those who are not content with so much "liberty" as their lawmakers have seen fit to allow them, --- it seems very plain that you have not added anything to our stock of knowledge on the subject of "our liberty." Leaving us thus, as you do, in as great darkness as we ever were, on this all --- important subject of "our liberty," I think you ought to submit patiently to a little questioning on the part of those of us, who feel that all this lawmaking each and every separate particle of it --- is a violation of "our liberty." Will you, therefore, please tell us whether any, and, if any, how much, of that natural liberty --- of that natural, inherent, inalienable, individual right to liberty --- with which it has generally been supposed that God, or Nature, has endowed every human being, will be left to us, if the lawmakers are to continue, as you would have them do, the exercise of their arbitrary, irresponsible dominion over us? Are you prepared to answer that question? No. You appear to have never given a thought to any such question as that. I will therefore answer it for you. And my answer is, that from the moment it is conceded that any man, or body of men, whatever, under any pretence whatever, have the right to make laws of their own invention, and compel other men to obey them, every vestige of man's natural and rightful liberty is denied him. That this is so is proved by the fact that all a man's natural rights stand upon one and the same basis, viz., that they are the gift of God, or Nature, to him, as an individual, for his own uses, and for his own happiness. If any one of these natural rights may be arbitrarily taken from him by other men, all of them may be taken from him on the same reason. No one of these rights is any more sacred or inviolable in its nature, than are all the others. The denial of any one of these rights is therefore equivalent to a denial of all the others. The violation of any one of these rights, by lawmakers, is equivalent to the assertion of a right to violate all of them. Plainly, unless all a man's natural rights are inviolable by lawmakers, none of them are. It is an absurdity to say that a man has any rights of his own, if other men, whether calling themselves a government, or by any other name, have the right to take them from him, without his consent. Therefore the very idea of a lawmaking government necessarily implies a denial of all such things as individual liberty, or individual rights. From this statement it does not follow that every lawmaking government will, in practice, take from every man all his natural rights. It will do as it --- pleases about it. It will take some, leaving him to enjoy others, just as its own pleasure or discretion shall dictate at the time. It would defeat its own ends, if it were wantonly to take away all his natural rights, --- as, for example, his right to live, and to breathe, --- for then he would be dead, and the government could then [*31] get nothing more out of him. The most tyrannical government will, therefore, if it have any sense, leave its victims enough liberty to enable them to provide for their own subsistence, to pay their taxes, and to render such military or other service as the government may have need of. But it will do this for its own good, and not for theirs. In allowing them this liberty, it does not at all recognize their right to it, but only consults its own interests. Now, sir, this is the real character of the government of the United States, as it is of all other lawmaking governments. There is not a single human right, which the government of the United States recognizes as inviolable. It tramples upon any and every individual right, whenever its own will, pleasure, or discretion shall so dictate. It takes men's property, liberty, and lives whenever it can nerve its own purposes by doing so. All these things prove that the government does not exist at all for the protection of men's rights; but that it absolutely denies to the people any rights, or any liberty, whatever, except such as it shall see fit to permit them to have for the time being. It virtually declares that it does not itself exist at all for the good of the people, but that the people exist solely for the use of the government. All these things prove that the government is not one voluntarily established and sustained by the people, for the protection of their natural, inherent, individual rights, but that it is merely a government of usurpers, robbers, and tyrants, who claim to own the people as their slaves, and claim the right to dispose of them, and their property, at their (the usurpers') pleasure or discretion. Now, sir, since you may be disposed to deny that such is the real character of the government, I propose to prove it, by evidences so numerous and conclusive that you cannot dispute them. My proposition, then, is, that there is not a single natural, human right, that the government of the United States recognizes as inviolable; that there is not a single natural, human right, that it hesitates to trample under foot, whenever it thinks it can promote its own interests by doing so. The proofs of this proposition are so numerous, that only a few of the most important can here be enumerated. l. The government does not even recognize a man's natural right to his own life. If it have need of him, for the maintenance of its power, it takes him, against his will (conscripts him), and puts him before the cannon's mouth, to be blown in pieces, as if he were a mere senseless thing, having no more rights than if he were a shell, a canister, or a torpedo. It considers him simply as so much senseless war material, to be consumed, expended, and destroyed for the maintenance of its power. It no more recognizes his right to have anything to say in the matter, than if he were but so much weight of powder or ball. It does not recognize him at all as a human being, having any rights whatever of his own, but only as an instrument, a weapon, or a machine, to be used in killing other men. [*32] 2. The government not only denies a man's right, as a moral human being, to have any will, any judgment, or any conscience of his own, as to whether he himself will be killed in battle, but it equally denies his right to have any will, any judgment, or any conscience of his on, as a moral human being, as to whether he shall be used as a mere weapon for killing other men. If he refuses to kill any, or all, other men, whom it commands him to kill, it takes his own life, as unceremoniously as if he were but a dog. Is it possible to conceive of a more complete denial of all a man's natural, human rights, than is the denial of his right to have any will, judgment, or conscience of his own, either as to his being killed himself, or as to his being used as a mere weapon far killing other men? 3. But in still another way, than by its conscriptions, the government denies a man's right to any will, choice, judgment, or conscience of his own, in regard either to being killed himself, or used as a weapon in its hands for killing other people. If, in private life, a man enters into a perfectly voluntary agreement to work for another, at some innocent and useful labor, for a day, a week, a month, or a year, he cannot lawfully be compelled to fulfil that contract; because such compulsion would be an acknowledgment of his right to sell his own liberty. And this is what no one can do. This right of personal liberty is inalienable. No man can sell it, or transfer it to another; or give to another any right of arbitrary dominion over him. All contracts for such a purpose are absurd and void contracts, that no man can rightfully be compelled to fulfil. But when a deluded or ignorant young man has once been enticed into a contract to kill others, and to take his chances of being killed himself, in the service of the government, for any given number of years, the government holds that such a contract to sell his liberty, his judgment, his conscience, and his life, is a valid and binding contract; and that if he fails to fulfil it, he may rightfully be shot. All these things prove that the government recognizes no right of the individual, to his own life, or liberty, or to the exercise of his own will, judgment, or conscience, in regard to his killing his fellow-men, or to being killed himself, if the government sees fit to use him as mere war material, in maintaining its arbitrary dominion over other human beings. 4. The government recognizes no such thing as any natural right of property, on the part of individuals. This is proved by the fact that it takes, for its own uses, any and every man's property --- when it pleases, and as much of it as it pleases --- without obtaining, or even asking, his consent. This taking of a man's property, without his consent, is a denial of his right of property; for the right of property is the right of supreme, absolute, and irresponsible dominion over anything that is naturally a subject of property, --- that is, of [*33] ownership. It is a right against all the world. And this right of property --- this right of supreme, absolute, and irresponsible dominion over anything that is naturally a subject of ownership --- is subject only to this qualification, viz., that each man must so use his own, as not to injure another. If A uses his own property so as to injure the person or property of B, his own property may rightfully be taken to any extent that is necessary to make reparation for the wrong he has done. This is the only qualification to which the natural right of property is subject. When, therefore, a government takes a man's property, for its own support, or for its own uses, without his consent, it practically denies his right of property altogether; for it practically asserts that its right of dominion is superior to his. No man can be said to have any right of property at all, in any thing --- that is, any right of supreme, absolute, and irresponsible dominion over any thing --- of which any other men may rightfully deprive him at their pleasure. Now, the government of the United States, in asserting its right to take at pleasure the property of individuals, without their consent, virtually denies their right of property altogether, because it asserts that its right. of dominion over it, is superior to theirs. 5. The government denies the natural right of human beings' to live on this planet. This it does by denying their natural right to those things that are indispensable to the maintenance of life. It says that, for every thing necessary to the maintenance of life, they must have a special permit from the government; and that the government cannot be required to grant them any other means of living than it chooses to grant them. All this is shown as follows, viz.; The government denies the natural right of individuals to take possession of wilderness land, and hold and cultivate it for their own subsistence. It asserts that wilderness land is the property of the government; and that individuals have no right to take possession of, or cultivate, it, unless by special grant of the government. And if an individual attempts to exercise this natural right, the government punishes him as a trespasser and a criminal. The government has no more right to claim the ownership of wilderness lands; than it has to claim the ownership of the sunshine, the water, or the atmosphere. And it has no more right to punish a man for taking possession of wilderness land, and cultivating it, without the consent of the government, than it has to punish him for breathing the air, drinking the water, or enjoying the sunshine, without a special grant from the government. In thus asserting the government's right of property in wilderness land, and in denying men's right to take possession of and cultivate it, except on first obtaining a grant from the government, --- which grant the government may withhold if it pleases, --- the government plainly denies the natural right of men to live on this [*34] planet, by denying their natural right to the means that are indispensable to their procuring the food that is necessary for supporting life. In asserting its right of arbitrary dominion over that natural wealth that is indispensable to the support of human life, it asserts its right to withhold that wealth from those whose lives are dependent upon it. In this way it denies the natural right of human beings to live on the planet. It asserts that government owns the planet, and that men have no right to live on it, except by first getting a permit from the government. This denial of men's natural right to take possession of and cultivate wilderness land is not altered at all by the fact that the government consents to sell as much land as it thinks it expedient or profitable to sell; nor by the fact that, in certain cases, it gives outright certain lands to certain persons. Notwithstanding these sales and gifts, the fact remains that the government claims the original ownership of the lands; and thus denies the natural right of individuals to take possession of and cultivate them. In denying this natural right of individuals, it denies their natural right to live on the earth; and asserts that they have no other right to life than the government, by its own mere will, pleasure, and discretion, may see fit to grant them. In thus denying man's natural right to life, it of course denies every other natural right of human beings; and asserts that they have no natural right to anything; but that, for all other things, as well as for life itself, they must depend wholly upon the good pleasure and discretion of the government.
In still another way, the government denies men's natural right to life. And that is by denying their natural right to make any of those contracts with each other, for buying and selling, borrowing and lending, giving and receiving, property, which are necessary, if men are to exist in any considerable numbers on the earth. Even the few savages, who contrive to live, mostly or wholly, by hunting, fishing, and gathering wild fruits, without cultivating the earth, and almost wholly without the use of tools or machinery, are yet, at times, necessitated to buy and sell, borrow and lend, give and receive, articles of food, if no others, as their only means of preserving their lives. But, in civilized life, where but a small portion of men's labor is necessary for the production of food, and they employ themselves in an almost infinite variety of industries, and in the production of an almost infinite variety of commodities, it would be impossible for them to live, if they were wholly prohibited from buying and selling, borrowing and lending, giving and receiving, the products of each other's labor. Yet the government of the United States --- either acting separately, or jointly [*35] with the State governments --- has heretofore constantly denied, and still constantly denies, the natural right of the people, as individuals, to make their own contracts, for such buying and selling, borrowing and lending, and giving and receiving, such commodities as they produce for each other's uses. I repeat that both the national and State governments have constantly denied the natural right of individuals to make their own contracts. They have done this, sometimes by arbitrarily forbidding them to make particular contracts, and sometimes by arbitrarily qualifying the obligations of particular contracts, when the contracts themselves were naturally and intrinsically as just and lawful as any others that men ever enter into; and were, consequently, such as men have as perfect a natural right to make, as they have to make any of those contracts which they are permitted to make. The laws arbitrarily prohibiting, or arbitrarily qualifying, certain contracts, that are naturally and intrinsically just and lawful, are so numerous, and so well known, that they need not all be enumerated here. But any and all such prohibitions, or qualifications, are a denial of men's natural right to make their own contracts. They are a denial of men's right to make any contracts whatever, except such as the governments shall see fit to permit them to make. It is the natural right of any and all human beings, who are mentally competent to make reasonable contracts, to make any and every possible contract, that is naturally and intrinsically just and honest, for buying and selling, borrowing and lending, giving and receiving, any and all possible commodities, that are naturally vendible, loanable, and transferable, and that any two or more individuals may, at any time, without force or fraud, choose to buy and sell, borrow and lend, give and receive, of and to each other. And it is plainly only by the untrammelled exercise of this natural right, that all the loan able capital, that is required by men's industries, can be lent and borrowed, or that all the money can be supplied for the purchase and sale of that almost infinite diversity and amount of commodities, that men are capable of producing, and that are to be transferred from the hands of the producers to those of the consumers. But the government of the United States --- and also the governments of the States --- utterly deny the natural right of any individuals whatever to make any contracts whatever, for buying and selling, borrowing and lending, giving and receiving, any and all such commodities, as are naturally vendible, loanable, and transferable, and as the producers and consumers of such commodities may wish to buy and sell, borrow and lend, give and receive, of and to each other. These governments (State and national) deny this natural right of buying and selling, etc., by arbitrarily prohibiting, or qualifying, all such, and so many, of these contracts, as they choose to prohibit, or qualify. The prohibition, or qualification, of any one of these contracts --- that are intrin- [*36] sically just and lawful --- is a denial of all individual natural right to make any of them. For the right to make any and all of them stands on the same grounds of natural law, natural justice, and men's natural rights. If a government has the right to prohibit, or qualify, any one of these contracts, it has the same right to prohibit, or qualify, all of them. Therefore the assertion, by the government, of a right to prohibit, or qualify, any one of them, is equivalent to a denial of all natural right, on the part of individuals, to make any of them. The power that has been thus usurped by governments, to arbitrarily prohibit or qualify all contracts that are naturally and intrinsically jet and lawful, has been the great, perhaps the greatest, of all the instrumentalities, by which, in this, as in other countries, nearly all the wealth, accumulated by the labor of the many, has been, and is now, transferred into the pockets of the few. It is by this arbitrary power over contracts, that the monopoly of money is sustained. Few people have any real perception of the power, which this monopoly gives to the holders of it, over the industry and traffic of all other persons. And the one only purpose of the monopoly is to enable the holders of it to rob everybody else in the prices of their labor, and the products of their labor. The theory, on which the advocates of this monopoly attempt to justify it, is simply this: That it is not at all necessary that money should be a bona fide equivalent of the labor or property that is to be bought with it; that if the government will but specially license a small amount of money, and prohibit all other money, the holders of the licensed money will then be able o buy with it the labor and property of all other persons for a half, a tenth, a hundredth, a thousandth, or a millionth, of what such labor and property are really and truly worth. David A. Wells, one of the most prominent --- perhaps at this time, the most prominent --- advocate of the monopoly, in this country, states the theory thus: A three-cent piece, if it could be divided into a sufficient number of pieces, with each piece capable of being handled, would undoubtedly suffice for doing all the business of the country in the way of facilitating exchanges, if no other better instrumentality was available. --- New York Herald, February 13, 1875. He means here to say, that "a three-cent piece" contains as much real, true, and natural market value, as it would be necessary that all the money of the country should have, if the government would but prohibit all other money; that is, if the government, by its arbitrary legislative power, would but make all other and better' money unavailable. And this is the theory, on which John Locke, David Hume, Adam Smith, David Ricardo, J. R. McCulloch, and John Stuart Mill, in England, and Amasa Walker, Charles H. Carroll, Hugh McCulloch, in this country, and all the other conspicuous advocates of the monopoly, both in this country and in England, have attempted to justify it. They have all held that it was not necessary that money should be [*37] a bona fide equivalent of the labor or property to be bought with it; but that, by the prohibition of all other money, the holders of a comparatively worthless amount of licensed money would be enabled to buy, at their own prices, the labor and property of all other men. And this is the theory on which the governments of England and the United States have always, with immaterial exceptions, acted, in prohibiting all but such small amounts of money as they (the governments) should specially license. And it is the theory upon which they act now. And it is so manifestly a theory of pure robbery, that scarce a word can be necessary to make it more evidently so than it now is. But inasmuch as your mind seems to be filled with the wildest visions of the excellency of this government, and to be strangely ignorant of its wrongs; and inasmuch as this monopoly of money is, in its practical operation, one of the greatest --- possibly the greatest --- of all these wrongs, and the one that is most relied upon for robbing the great body of the people, and keeping them in poverty and servitude, it is plainly important that you should have your eyes opened on the subject. I therefore submit, for your consideration, the following self-evident propositions: 1. That to make all traffic just and equal, it is indispensable that, in each separate purchase and sale, the money paid should be a bona fide equivalent of the labor or property bought with it. Dare you, or any other man, of common sense and common honesty, dispute the truth of that proposition? If not, let us consider that principle established. It will then serve as one of the necessary and infallible guides to the true, settlement of all the other questions that remain to be settled. 2. That so long as no force or fraud is practised by either party, the parties themselves, to each separate contract, have the sole, absolute, and unqualified right to decide for themselves, what money, and how much of it, shall be considered a bona fide equivalent of the labor or property that is to be exchanged for it. All this is necessarily implied in the natural right of men to make their own contracts, for buying and selling their respective commodities. Will you dispute the truth of that proposition? 3. That any one man, who has an honest dollar, of any kind whatsoever, has as perfect a right, as any other man can have, to offer it in the market, in competition with any and all other dollars, in exchange for such labor or property as may be in the market for sale. Will you dispute the truth of that proposition? 4. That where no fraud is practised, every person, who is mentally competent to make reasonable contracts, must be presumed to be as competent to judge of the value of the money that is offered in the market, as he is to judge of the value of all the other commodities that are bought and sold for money. [*38] Will you dispute the truth of that proposition?\ 5. That the free and open market, in which all honest money and all honest commodities are free to be given and received in exchange for each other, is the true, final, absolute, and only test of the true and natural market value of all money, as of all the other commodities that are bought and sold for money. Will you dispute the truth of that proposition? 6. That any prohibition, by a government, of any such kind or amount of money --- provided it be honest in itself --- as the parties to contracts may voluntarily agree to give and receive in exchange for labor or property, is a palpable violation of their natural right to make their own contracts, and to buy and sell their labor and property on such terms as they may find to be necessary for the supply of their wants, or may think most beneficial to their interests. Will you dispute the truth of that proposition? 7. That any government, that licenses a small amount of an article of such universal necessity as money, and that gives the control of it into a few hands, selected by itself, and then prohibits any and all other money --- that is intrinsically honest and valuable --- palpably violates all other men's natural right to make their own contracts, and infallibly proves its purpose to be to enable the few holders of the licensed money to rob all other persons in the prices of their labor and property. Will you dispute the truth of that proposition? Are not all these propositions so self-evident, or so easily demonstrated, that they cannot, with any reason, be disputed? If you feel competent to show the falsehood of any one of them, I hope you will attempt the task.
If, now, you wish to form some rational opinion of the extent of the robbery practised in this country, by the holders of this monopoly of money, you have only to look at the following facts. There are, in this country, I think, at least twenty --- five millions of persons, male and female, sixteen years old, and upwards, mentally and physically capable of running machinery, producing wealth, and supplying their own needs for an independent and comfortable subsistence. To make their industry most effective, and to enable them, individually, to put into their own pockets as large a portion as possible of their own earnings, they need, on an average, one thousand dollars each of money capital. Some need one, two, three, or five hundred dollars, others one, two, three, or five thousand. These persons, then, need, in the aggregate, twenty-five thousand millions of dollars ($25, 000, 000, 000), of money capital. [*39] They need all this money capital to enable them to buy the raw materials upon which to bestow their labor, the implements and machinery with which to labor, and their means of subsistence while producing their goods for the market. Unless they can get this capital --- they must all either work at a disadvantage, or not work at all. A very large portion of them, to save themselves from starvation, have no alternative but to sell their labor to others, at just such prices as these others choose to pay. And these others choose to pay only such prices as are far below what the laborers could produce, if they themselves had the necessary capital to work with. But this needed capital your lawmakers arbitrarily forbid them to have; and for no other reason than to reduce them to the condition of servants; and subject them to all such extortions as their employers --- the holders of the privileged money --- may choose to practise upon them. If, now, you ask me where these twenty-five thousand millions of dollars of money capital, which these laborers need, are to come from, I answer: Theoretically there are, in this country, fifty thousand millions of dollars of money capital ($50,000,000,000) --- or twice as much as I have supposed these laborers to need --- NOW LYING IDLE! And it is lying idle, solely because the circulation of it, as money, is prohibited by the lawmakers. If you ask how this can be, I will tell you. Theoretically, every dollar's worth of material property, that is capable of being taken by law, and applied to the payment of the owner debts, is capable of being represented by a promissory note, that shall circulate as money. But taking all this material property at only half its actual value, it is still capable of supplying the twenty-five thousand millions of dollars --- or one thousand dollars each --- which these laborers need. Now, we know --- because experience has taught us --- that solvent promissory notes, made payable in coin on demand, are the best money that mankind have ever had; (although probably not the best they ever will have). To make a note solvent, and suitable for circulation as money, it is only necessary that it should be made payable in coin on demand, and be issued by a person, or persons, who are known to have in their hands abundant material property, that can be taken by law, and applied to the payment of the note, with all costs and damages for non-payment on demand. Theoretically, I repeat, all the material property in the country, that can be taken by law, and applied to the payment of debts, can he used as banking capital; and be represented by promissory notes, made payable in coin on demand. And, practically, so much of it can be used as banking capital as may be required for supplying all the notes that can be kept in circulation as money. Although these notes are made legally payable in coin on demand, it is seldom that such payment is demanded, if only it be publicly known that the notes are solvent: [*40] that is, if it be publicly known that they are issued by persons who have so much material property, that can be taken by law, and sold, as may be necessary to bring the coin that is needed to pay the notes. In such cases, the notes are preferred to the coin, because they are so much more safe and convenient for handling, counting, and transportation, than is the coin; and also because we can have so many times more of them. These notes are also a legal tender, to the banks that issue them, in payment of the notes discounted; that is, in payment of the notes given by the borrowers to the banks. And, in the ordinary course of things, all the notes, issued by the banks for circulation, are wanted, and come back to the banks, in payment of the notes discounted; thus saving all necessity for redeeming them with coin, except in rare cases. For meeting these rare cases, the banks find it necessary to keep on hand small amounts of con; probably not more than one per cent. of the amount of notes in circulation. As the notes discounted have usually but a short time to run, --- say three months on an average, --- the bank notes issued for circulation will