Lysander Spooner

Lysander Spooner
Lysander Spooner
  • Born: January 19, 1808
  • Died: May 14, 1887
  • Nationality: American
  • Profession: Philosopher

102

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12

Citations

83

Concepts

0

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Quotes
Quote Topics Cited
… every man who puts money into the hands of a "government" (so called), puts into its hands a sword which will be used against himself, to extort more money from him, and also to keep him in subjection to its arbitrary will. Taxes
… no government, so called, can reasonably be trusted for a moment, or reasonably be supposed to have honest purposes in view, any longer than it depends wholly upon voluntary support Taxes
… the only security men can have for their political liberty, consists in their keeping their money in their own pockets, until they have assurances, perfectly satisfactory to themselves, that it will be used as they wish it to be used, for their benefit, and not for their injury Taxes
… the so-called sovereigns, in these different governments, are simply the heads, or chiefs, of different bands of robbers and murderers. Compliments, Insults & Rebukes ;Dictators, Despots, Autocrats, Autocracies & Dictatorships
A man is none the less a slave because he is allowed to choose a new master once in a term of years. Voters, Voting & Elections ;Slaves, Slavery & The Slave Trade
All restraints upon man's natural liberty, not necessary for the simple maintenance of justice, are of the nature of slavery, and differ from each other only in degree. Freedom & Liberty ;Slaves, Slavery & The Slave Trade
I see that [Daniel] Webster has avowed his intention to show fight on the slave clause of the Texan constitution. If he could be brought over to the doctrine of the Unconstitutionality of Slavery, he would kindle a conflagration that would destroy the patriarchal institution, if not the patriarchs themselves. But I do not know that he has courage or principle enough to do anything that he ought to do. Compliments, Insults & Rebukes ;Slaves, Slavery & The Slave Trade
If our fathers, in 1776, had acknowledged the principle that a majority had the right to rule the minority, we should never have become a nation; for they were in a small minority, as compared with those who claimed the right to rule over them. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
The principle that the majority have a right to rule the minority, practically resolves all government into a mere contest between two bodies of men, as to which of them shall be masters, and which of them slaves; a contest, that—however bloody—can, in the nature of things, never be finally closed, so long as man refuses to be a slave. Democracies & Republics
The question here arises, Whether the barons and the people intended that those peers (the jury) should be mere puppets in the hands of the king, exercising no opinion of their own as to the intrinsic merits of the accusations they should try, or the justice of the laws they should be called on to enforce? Whether those haughty and victorious barons, when they had their tyrant king at their feet, gave back to him his throne, with full power to enact any tyrannical laws he might please, reserving only to a jury...the contemptible and servile privilege of ascertaining, (under the dictation of the king, or his judges, as to the laws of evidence), the simple fact whether those laws had been transgressed? Was this the only restraint, which, when they had all power in their hands, they placed upon the tyranny of a king, whose oppressions they had risen in arms to resist? Was it to obtain such a charter as that, that the whole nation had united, as it were, like one man, against their king? Was it on such a charter that they intended to rely, for all future time, for the security of their liberties? No. They were engaged in no such senseless work as that. On the contrary, when they required him to renounce forever the power to punish any freeman, unless by the consent of his peers, they intended those peers should judge of, and try, the whole case on its merits, independently of all arbitrary legislation, or judicial authority, on the part of the king. In this way they took the liberties of each individual -- and thus the liberties of the whole people -- entirely out of the hands of the king, and out of the power of his laws, and placed them in the keeping of the people themselves. And this it was that made the trial by jury the palladium of their liberties. The trial by jury, be it observed, was the only real barrier interposed by them against absolute despotism. Could this trial, then, have been such an entire farce as it necessarily must have been, if the jury had had no power to judge of the justice of the laws the people were required to obey? Did it not rather imply that the jury were to judge independently and fearlessly as to everything involved in the charge, and especially as to its intrinsic justice, and thereon give their decision, (unbiased by any legislation of the king,) whether the accused might be punished? The reason of the thing, no less than the historical celebrity of the events, as securing the liberties of the people, and the veneration with which the trail by jury has continued to be regarded, notwithstanding its essence and vitality have been almost entirely extracted from it in practice, would settle the question, if other evidences had left the matter in doubt. Law, Courts, Jails, Crime & Law Enforcement
There has been no clearer principle of English or American constitutional law than that, in criminal cases, it is not only the power and duty of juries to judge what are the facts, what is the law, and what is the moral intent of the accused; but that it is also their power, and their primary and paramount duty, to judge the justice of the law, and to hold all laws invalid, that are, in their opinion, unjust or oppressive, and find all persons guiltless in violating, or resisting the execution of, such laws. Law, Courts, Jails, Crime & Law Enforcement
Vices are those acts by which a man harms himself or his property. Crimes are those acts by which one man harms the person or property of another. Vices are simply the errors which a man makes in his search after his own happiness. Unlike crimes, they imply no malice toward others, and no interference with their persons or property. In vices, the very essence of crime—that is, the design to injure the person or property of another—is wanting. It is a maxim of the law that there can be no crime without criminal intent; that is, without the intent to invade the person or property of another. But no one ever practices a vice with any such criminal intent. He practices his vice for his own happiness solely, and not from any malice toward others. Unless this clear distinction between vices and crimes be made and recognized by the laws, there can be on earth no such thing as individual right, liberty, or property, and the corresponding coequal rights of another man to the control of his own person and property Morality, Ethics & Conflict of Interest
A contract for the establishment of government, being nothing but a voluntary contract between individuals for their mutual benefit, differs, in nothing that is essential to its validity, from any other contract between man and man, or between nation and nation. Government
A government that can at pleasure accuse, shoot, and hang men, as traitors, for the one general offence of refusing to surrender themselves and their property unreservedly to its arbitrary will, can practice any and all special and particular oppressions it pleases. Government
A man is no less a slave because he is allowed to choose a new master once in a term of years.
A man who is without capital, and who, by prohibitions upon banking, is practically forbidden to hire any, is in a condition elevated but one degree above that of a chattel slave. He may live; but he can live only as the servant of others; compelled to perform such labor, and to perform it at such prices, as they may see fit to dictate.
A man's natural rights are his own, against the whole world; and any infringement of them is equally a crime, whether committed by one man, or by millions; whether committed by one man, calling himself a robber, (or by any other name indicating his true character,) or by millions, calling themselves a government. Government
A man's 'original and natural right' to make all contracts that are 'intrinsically obligatory,' and to coerce the fulfillment of them, is one of the most valuable and indispensable of all human possessions.
A married woman has the same natural right to acquire and hold property, and to make all contracts that she is mentally competent to make reasonably, as has a married man, or any other man.
A slave government is an oligarchy; and one, too, of the most arbitrary and criminal character. Government
A traitor is a betrayer - one who practices injury, while professing friendship. Benedict Arnold was a traitor, solely because, while professing friendship for the American cause, he attempted to injure it. An open enemy, however criminal in other respects, is no traitor. Friendship
All governments, the worst on earth, and the most tyrannical on earth, are free governments to that portion of the people who voluntarily support them.
All know the importance of sustaining the hopes of a sick man. The reason of this is that his nervous system is then, vastly more than in health, susceptible to the influence of particular states of the mind. Health, Healthcare & Medicine
All legitimate government is a mutual insurance company, voluntarily agreed upon by the parties to it, for the protection of their rights against wrong-doers. In its voluntary character it is precisely similar to an association for mutual protection against fire or shipwreck. Government
All, or nearly all, the advantage there is in fixing any constitutional limits to the power of a government, is simply to give notice to the government of the point at which it will meet with resistance. Power ;Government
Any government, that is its own judge of, and determines authoritatively for the people, what are its own powers over the people, is an absolute government of course. It has all the powers that it chooses to exercise. There is no other or at least no more accurate definition of a despotism than this. Government
Any number of scoundrels, having money enough to start with, can establish themselves as a 'government'; because, with money, they can hire soldiers, and with soldiers extort more money; and also compel general obedience to their will. Government ;Money, Coins & Minting
Any rule, not existing in the nature of things, or that is not permanent, universal and inflexible in its application, is no law, according to any correct definition of the term law. Nature
But for their right to judge of the law, and the justice of the law, juries would be no protection to an accused person, even as to matters of fact; for, if the government can dictate to a jury any law whatever, in a criminal case, it can certainly dictate to them the laws of evidence. Government
But that the people are stronger than the government, and will resist in extreme cases, our governments would be little or nothing else than organized systems of plunder and oppression. Government
But whether the Constitution really be one thing, or another, this much is certain - that it has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it. In either case, it is unfit to exist. Government
Children learn many principles of natural law at a very early age. For example: they learn that when one child has picked up an apple or a flower, it is his, and that his associates must not take it from him against his will.
Doing a thing by law, or according to law, is only carrying the law into execution. And punishing a man by, or according to, the sentence or judgment of his peers, is only carrying that sentence or judgment into execution.
Doubtless the most miserable of men, under the most oppressive government in the world, if allowed the ballot, would use it, if they could see any chance of thereby ameliorating their condition. Government
Even if the Constitution of the United States had intended to recognize slavery, as a constitutional state institution, such intended recognition would have failed of effect, and been legally void, because slavery then had no constitutional existence to be recognized.
For a government to declare a vice to be a crime, and to punish it as such, is an attempt to falsify the very nature of things. It is as absurd as it would be to declare truth to be falsehood, or falsehood truth. Truth ;Nature ;Government
If a jury have not the right to judge between the government and those who disobey its laws, and resist its oppressions, the government is absolute, and the people, legally speaking, are slaves. Government
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. Government ;Money, Coins & Minting
If it be said that the consent of the strongest party in a nation, is all that is necessary to justify the establishment of a government that shall have authority over the weaker party, it may be answered that the most despotic governments in the world rest upon that very principle, viz.: the consent of the strongest party. Government
If men were but to read the New Testament with the same tone and emphasis, with which they do other books, and were to keep out of mind the idea of its being sacred, they would be disgusted with the credulity, and the want of intellect, reason and judgment, that is apparent in it.
If physical power be the fountain of law, then law and force are synonymous terms. Or, perhaps, rather, law would be the result of a combination of will and force; of will, united with a physical power sufficient to compel obedience to it, but not necessarily having any moral character whatever. Power
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. 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. Government
If the jury have no right to judge of the justice of a law of the government, they plainly can do nothing to protect the people against the oppressions of the government; for there are no oppressions which the government may not authorize by law. Government
If the works of Jesus were so much more wonderful than man could perform as to deserve to be called miracles, was it not nonsense to caution his disciples so strongly against being deluded by the works of others?
If two individuals enter into a contract to commit trespass, theft, robbery or murder upon a third, the contract is unlawful and void, simply because it is a contract to violate natural justice, or men's natural rights.
In reality there is no such thing as an inflation of prices, relatively to gold. There is such a thing as a depreciated paper currency.
It cannot be said that the Constitution formed 'the people of the United States,' for all time, into a corporation. It does not speak of 'the people' as a corporation, but as individuals. A corporation does not describe itself as 'we,' nor as 'people,' nor as 'ourselves.' Nor does a corporation, in legal language, have any 'posterity.' Time ;Law, Courts, Jails, Crime & Law Enforcement
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 manifest that the only security against the tyranny of the government lies in forcible resistance to the execution of the injustice; because the injustice will certainly be executed, unless it be forcibly resisted. Government
It is perfectly clear, in the first place, that the constitution of the United States did not, of itself, create or establish slavery as a new institution; or even give any authority to the state governments to establish it as a new institution. The greatest sticklers for slavery do not claim this.
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. Government
It is with government paper, and bank paper, as it is with the paper of private persons; that is, it is worth just what can be delivered in redemption of it, and no more. We all understand that the notes of the Astors, and Stewarts, and Vanderbilts, though issued by millions, and tens of millions, are really worth their nominal values. Government
Jesus never instructed men to do what was right because it was right; yet this is the true reason why they should do it.
Justice is the object of government, and those who support the government, must be agreed as to the justice to be executed by it, or they cannot rightfully unite in maintaining the government itself. Government
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. Health, Healthcare & Medicine ;Law, Courts, Jails, Crime & Law Enforcement
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.'
Legislators and judges are necessarily exposed to all the temptations of money, fame, and power, to induce them to disregard justice between parties, and sell the rights, and violate the liberties of the people. Jurors, on the other hand, are exposed to none of these temptations. Power ;Money, Coins & Minting
Majorities and minorities cannot rightfully be taken at all into account in deciding questions of justice.
Majorities, as such, afford no guarantees for justice. They are men of the same nature as minorities. They have the same passions for fame, power, and money, as minorities; and are liable and likely to be equally - perhaps more than equally, because more boldly - rapacious, tyrannical and unprincipled, if intrusted with power. Nature ;Power ;Money, Coins & Minting
Martyrdom is evidence only of a man's honesty - it is no evidence that he is not mistaken. Men have suffered martyrdom for all sorts of opinions in politics and in religion; yet they could not therefore have all been in the right; although they could give no stronger evidence that they believed themselves in the right. Religion & God ;Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
Men's moral principles are weak enough without their being made subordinate to selfishness; and their selfishness is quite active enough, without any such effort as Christianity makes to constitute it the mainspring of all their conduct.
Money is the great instrumentality for manufacturing. Money, Coins & Minting
No court presumes to tell a jury that they are to try a capital case with the same indifference and unconcern as to consequences, that they would a case where the results of their decision would be less important.
Now a slave is not 'held' by any legal contract, obligation, duty, or authority, which the laws will enforce. He is 'held' only by brute force. One person beats another until the latter will obey him, work for him, if he require it, or do nothing if he require it. Work, Workers & The Labor Force ;Law, Courts, Jails, Crime & Law Enforcement
Now it is clear, that if the government can exclude, on account either of their opinions or feelings, any persons thus drawn by lot, the trial is no longer a trial by 'the country,' but only by a portion of the country. Government
One essential of a free government is that it rest wholly on voluntary support. And one certain proof that a government is not free, is that it coerces more or less persons to support it, against their will. Government
Our Constitution does not profess to have been established simply by the majority, but by 'the people' - the minority as much as the majority.
Practically and commercially speaking, a dollar is not necessarily a specific thing, made of silver, or gold, or any other single metal, or substance. It is only such a quantum of market value as exists in a given piece of silver or gold.
Slavery is a wrong to each individual enslaved; and not merely to the first of a series. Natural law, therefore, as much forbids the enslaving of the child, as if the wrong of enslaving the parent had never been perpetrated.
Slavery, if it can be legalized at all, can be legalized only by positive legislation. Natural law gives it no aid. Custom imparts to it no legal sanction. Law, Courts, Jails, Crime & Law Enforcement
That no government, so called, can reasonably be trusted, or reasonably be supposed to have honest purposes in view, any longer than it depends wholly upon voluntary support. Trust ;Government
The apology, that is constantly put forth for the injustice of government, viz., that a man must consent to give up some of his rights, in order to have his other rights protected - involves a palpable absurdity, both legally and politically. Government
The desertion of Jesus, by his followers, furnishes an argument in support of the supposition that he attempted to be king of the Jews, rather than that he was a superior being.
The greatest of all crimes are the wars that are carried on by governments, to plunder, enslave, and destroy mankind.
The imaginations of believers have dressed up and exaggerated the excellence of the style and matter of the New Testament generally, in the same manner, in which they have the moral instructions of Jesus.
The law does not require a man to cease to be a man, and act without regard to consequences, when he becomes a juror.
The laws recognize no obligation on the part of the slave to labor for or serve his master. If he refuse to labor, the law will not interfere to compel him. The master must do his own flogging, as in the case of an ox or a horse.
The mental capacity of a person to make reasonable contracts, is the only criterion, by which to determine his legal capacity to make obligatory contracts. And his mental capacity to make reasonable contracts is certainly not to be determined by the fact that he is, or is not, twenty-one years of age. Law, Courts, Jails, Crime & Law Enforcement
The mere toleration of the slave trade could not make slavery itself - the right of property in man - lawful any where; not even on board the slave ship. Toleration of a wrong is not law.
The number who actually consented to the Constitution of the United States, at the first, was very small. Considered as the act of the whole people, the adoption of the Constitution was the merest farce and imposture, binding upon nobody.
The only security men can have for their political liberty, consists in keeping their money in their own pockets. Money, Coins & Minting ;Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
The rescue of a person, who is assaulted, or restrained of his liberty, without authority of law, is not only morally, but legally, a meritorious act; for every body is under obligation to go to the assistance of one who is assailed by assassins, robbers, ravishers, kidnappers, or ruffians of any kind.
The right and the physical power of the people to resist injustice, are really the only securities that any people ever can have for their liberties. Practically no government knows any limit to its power but the endurance of the people. Power ;Government
The right of absolute and irresponsible dominion is the right of property, and the right of property is the right of absolute, irresponsible dominion. The two are identical; the one necessarily implying the other.
The right of revolution, which tyrants, in mockery, accord to mankind, is no legal right under a government; it is only a natural right to overturn a government. Government ;Law, Courts, Jails, Crime & Law Enforcement
The secret ballot makes a secret government; and a secret government is a secret band of robbers and murderers. Government
The single despot stands out in the face of all men, and says: I am the State: My will is law: I am your master: I take the responsibility of my acts: The only arbiter I acknowledge is the sword: If any one denies my right, let him try conclusions with me.
The trial by jury is a trial by 'the country,' in contradistinction to a trial by the government. The jurors are drawn by lot from the mass of the people, for the very purpose of having all classes of minds and feelings, that prevail among the people at large, represented in the jury. Government
The trial by jury might safely be introduced into a despotic government, if the jury were to exercise no right of judging of the law, or the justice of the law. Government
The very idea of law originates in men's natural rights. There is no other standard, than natural rights, by which civil law can be measured. Law has always been the name of that rule or principle of justice, which protects those rights. Thus we speak of natural law.
There can be no criminal intent in resisting injustice.
There is not, in the Constitution, a syllable that implies that persons, born within the territorial limits of the United States, have allegiance imposed upon them on account of their birth in the country, or that they will be judged by any different rule, on the subject of treason, than persons of foreign birth.
There is perhaps not an enlightened Christian in America who, notwithstanding he may believe that, at the time of Jesus, men were possessed of devils, believes that they ever have been in any other instance, either before or since. Time
Those who deny the right of a jury to protect an individual in resisting an unjust law of the government, deny him all defence whatsoever against oppression. Government
To deprive mankind of their natural right and power of creating wealth for themselves, is as great a tyranny as it is to rob them of it after they have created it. And this is done by all laws against honest banking. Power
To measure prices by a currency that is called by the same names as gold, but that is really inferior in value to gold, and then - because those prices are nominally higher than gold prices - to say that they are inflated, relatively to gold, is a perfect absurdity.
To say that majorities, as such, have a right to rule minorities, is equivalent to saying that minorities have, and ought to have, no rights, except such as majorities please to allow them.
Vices are simply the errors which a man makes in his search after his own happiness. Unlike crimes, they imply no malice toward others, and no interference with their persons or property. Happiness & Unhappiness
Vices are usually pleasurable, at least for the time being, and often do not disclose themselves as vices, by their effects, until after they have been practised for many years; perhaps for a lifetime. Time
What is the motive to the secret ballot? This, and only this: Like other confederates in crime, those who use it are not friends, but enemies; and they are afraid to be known, and to have their individual doings known, even to each other.
When a man says he is building a house for himself and his posterity, he does not mean to be understood as saying that he has any thought of binding them, nor is it to be inferred that he is so foolish as to imagine that he has any right or power to bind them, to live in it. Power
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.