Book Report: No Treason by Lysander Spooner

No Treason


No Treason

By Lysander Spooner

Published by the Author, 1867 – 1870

89 Pages

$7.94 Paperback from Amazon

$0.99 Kindle Edition from Amazon

$0.00 PDF from


Lysander Spooner would be old as fuck if it weren’t for the fact that he is dead.  Though what is death, really?  I beseech thee to look at thou’s picture and tell me that a man with a beard like that could ever really die.


Despite not quite meeting the legal qualifications, Spooner practiced law in Massachusetts by arguing that the government had no right to tell him he had to get a college degree to practice law.  Throughout his life, Spooner also acted upon opportunities to be a failed businessman, failed real estate developer, failed financier, failed inventor, failed pamphleteer, failed lover, and all around son of a bitch.  He died in poverty.  He died alone.

Spooner passed, physically, in 1887, but now that we’ve reached the age of the internet, his ideas will presumably live on forever.  He has been sanctioned and deified by the contemporary intellectual libertarian establishment, with Murray Rothbard calling No Treason, “the greatest case for anarchist political philosophy ever written.”

Having grown up in the North whilst attending public school, I don’t actually know anything about the Civil War.  I don’t remember ever talking about the Civil War in school.  I have no idea as to what age one is supposed to learn about the Civil War.

I have relied on two generally accepted gems of wisdom to interpret and judge the bloodiest war in American history for most of my life:

  1. The Confederate Flag is a symbol of racism
  2. Abraham Lincoln wanted to abolish slavery

But with the release of two recent films celebrating the American godhood of Abraham Lincoln (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer, Lincoln), internet Civil War alt-historians have been speaking out, armed with quotes by Honest Abe himself:


“I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races, [applause] — that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, not to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will for ever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality.”

-Abraham Lincoln, Lincoln vs. Douglas Debate, Sept. 18, 1858


“My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union.”

-Abraham Lincoln, Letter to Horace Greeley, 1862


President Abraham Lincoln was a fucking racist.


I imagined myself building a stand-up comedy routine and closing by putting a top hat on and saying: Good evening.  I am President Lincoln and I would like to read to you some of my favorite quotes I made in history.  Let me be clear — I am Abraham Lincoln the Dead President.  I made these quotes.  The guy who ended slavery.  He made them.

But it wasn’t until individuals from multiple states made petitions on with tens of thousands of signatures requesting the right to peacefully secede that I gave the issue any more thought.  Many accounts dismissed the petitions as mobs of angry white people crying about the loss of Mitt Romney.  But I thought the petitions were neat and I in no way supported Mitt Romney.  I thought the petitions were neat as a form of political protest because I think President Obama is more of a NeoCon than George (H)W Bush and if you care about human rights and war and peace, the presidency of Barack Obama proves out that your vote doesn’t count.

Per the petitions, there were calls of racism.  I’m not really belittling that charge.  It’s really quite fascinating that, both then and now, secession and race seem to go hand-in-hand.  However, if you want to grasp the issue of secession, you have to let the issue of racism slip away a bit.  The issue of equality for all men is actually central to the issue of secession, but it’s an equality not just regardless of race, but of wealth, power, and office.  The issue of secession centers around what it means to be master and slave.  Both then and now.

Spooner himself was a long-standing abolitionist.  He published The Unconstitutionality of Slavery in 1845, and subsequently advocated armed slave rebellions.  Spooner did not, however, support the Civil War.  In No Treason, Spooner seems to take it for granted that the reader will agree that the War was fought for other reasons.  He probably spends (only) 3 of 51 pdf pages on its origins, and opens the essay with:

The question of treason is distinct from that of slavery; and is the same that it would have been, if free States, instead of slave States, had seceded.

On the part of the North, the war was carried on, not to liberate slaves, but by a government that had always perverted and violated the Constitution, to keep the slaves in bondage; and was still willing to do so, if the slaveholders could be thereby induced to stay in the Union.

The principle, on which the war was waged by the North, was simply this: That men may rightfully be compelled to submit to, and support, a government that they do not want; and that resistance, on their part, makes them traitors and criminals.

No Treason is, by no means, a(n) historical account of the origins of the Civil War.  Nor is it an argument that secession is allowed under the law of the United States.  Instead, Spooner argues that governments have legitimate authority only by consent of the governed, as individuals.  Further, he argues that the Constitution has no authority as a contract over the “current” population, nor can voters enter into any social contract on behalf of the entire populace.

Spooner believed in natural rights.  He believed that all people, whether white or black, whether male or female, had a right to rule themselves that could not be taken away by tradition, law, or the might of the majority.  He believed the yet-to-be-written Constitution could not have granted the American Revolutionaries the right to secede from the British Empire.  And the Constitution, once written, did not take that right away.

Though some may be intimidated to read a century-and-a-half old document due to the prospect of encountering unintelligible, old-timey word choice, such fears are unfounded.  No Treason is surprisingly readable.  That said, No Treason is not a one-stop treatise on political philosophy; it’s a man swinging an ax because he’s too old to run.  The splattered blood will cause the converted to want to pick up a bayonet and fight battles gone.  It will make those who have thought little, think a bit more as to whom they pledge allegiance.  The rest (particularly those who do not find “natural rights” to be so evident on general principles of law and reason) may resent how quick Spooner is to dismiss them, and may return in kind.

A man is none the less a slave because he is allowed to choose a new master once in a term of years.

-Lysander Spooner, No Treason, No. VI, The Constitution of No Authority

Bits of information were haphazardly stolen from:
  1. Biography from The Collected Works of Lysander Spooner by Charles Shively
  2. Lysander Spooner from Wikipedia
  3. An Abolitionist Defends the South by Thomas DiLorenzo



No Treason: A Half-Sane, Incoherent, and At Times Possibly Incorrect Outline


  • the civil war was not fought over the issue of slavery, but instead over the principle that men could be forced to submit to a particular government
    • thus, all men must be slaves, as then all men can be disposed or used at another’s whim
    • if such actions are not sanctioned by the constitution, it should be made public knowledge
      • if they are sanctioned by the constitution, it should be overthrown.

No Treason: No. 1


  • the United States prides itself on being a government of consent, yet has spent more resources on forcing its own citizens to submit to it via the Civil War than any government in history
    • either those supporting the Union don’t know what it means to have consent of the governed, or they are so blinded by power and money they are willing to gloss over such crimes


what does it mean for a government to rule by consent?

  • if the “strongest party” constitutes just authority, then all tyrants and despots and oppressive regimes make the cut
  • if the “most numerous party” makes the grade, one may respond:
    • each individual has natural rights than cannot be overridden merely because he or she is outnumbered
    • the “most numerous party” would only hold power by also being the “strongest party”
    • the constitution cites establishment by “the people,” which includes the minority
    • the founding fathers were a minority rebelling against a majority
    • the nature of men in the majority is not superior in quality as that of those in the minority, and claiming the majority can rule the minority is the equivalent of saying those in the minority have no rights
    • many of the worst governments in history came to be supported by a majority of their populace
    • the principle of majority rule means that government is a constant contest to see who will be masters and who slaves


even if one believes that might makes right in an existing nation, one still must ask how the nation was formed

  • how is it that those who have a natural right to be their own masters came to be subjected to the wills of others
  • any government created by force would clearly be illegitimate and a violation of the natural rights its citizens
  • all nations and governments only have the right to exist by consent of the governed


what is implied by the government ruling by consent?

  • each individual consents to the requirement to pay taxes or personal service to support the government
    • to deny that every individual must consent is to deny that any individual must consent, or that consent is required at all
    • if a man has not agreed to support a government, he cannot commit treason
    • when the Declaration of Independence was made in 1776, it represented each man as separate individuals
      • the colonial governments at the time had no constitutional power at the time, and so were merely a committee of revolutionaries rebelling against the Crown
      • legally, the Declaration must only have been assented to by separate individuals, not a government
      • every person in the colonies had a natural right to declare independence, regardless of how many of the others joined it; the Declaration was legitimate, even if it had only been signed by one person
        • the Revolution asserted the right of each man to release himself from the support of the current government at his own discretion
        • rulers, kings, members of the government are no better and have no more rights than those they rule
          • revolutionists, then, are not traitors
            • treasons implies breach of faith or contract
            • if governments rule by voluntary associations, men must be free to leave
            • if a government does not rule by consent then, it is one’s duty to rebel


No Treason: No. II.  The Constitution.


“We, the people” implies the consent of each freely acting individual

  • the constitution rests on this consent
    • without consent, the constitution would be invalid
    • a voluntary agreement only has validity over those who agree to it
      • women, children, and blacks were not asked to give their consent to the constitution
      • property qualifications excluded many of the white males from the right of suffrage, and even many of those with suffrage may not have exercised it
      • the founding fathers had no right to bind anyone to a political contract other than themselves, especially those that weren’t even born yet
        • no time period was specified in the Constitution, implying that even those who signed it had the right to voluntarily and subsequently leave it
        • man finds himself forced into allegiance with a government that he never swore to
          • he sees that others are voting to dictate how this tyranny be used against him, and realizes his choice is to also vote and therefore submit others to his tyranny
            • a man does not, therefore, swear allegiance to a government by voting, as he is forced into a situation where he attempts to become master or is forced to be slave


“Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort” is the only definition of treason offered by the Constitution

  • the word traitor implies some level of deceit
    • those who openly declare themselves enemies cannot be traitors
    • one cannot be considered a traitor against a government without first swearing allegiance to it
  • a crime cannot be committed without criminal intent
    • those who revolt cannot be considered traitors or criminals if they honestly believe they are merely defending their rights


the Constitution does not specify the precise individuals who would become traitors by “levying war against the United States” and therefore reason must be employed to determine if someone is truly a traitor even after committing such acts

  • we would all accept that an Englishmen levying war against the United States would not be a traitor
    • one would need to first voluntarily swear allegiance or service to the government and then betray that trust to become a traitor
    • since the Constitution does not apply to someone merely because they were born in the territorial limits of the United States, one such person would not be a traitor for rebelling against the US government on the ground of birth in this country
      • they are not “person or persons, owing allegiance to the United States of America”
      • “allegiance” is Latin for “bound to it”
        • no man can bind another to service
        • the constitution does not bind all persons born in the territory of the United States to allegiance to the government
        • the only difference between foreigners and natives is that natives have the right, as opposed to the (declinable) opportunity, to swear allegiance to the government


only individuals can be convicted of crimes, and therefore only as an individual could you enter into an agreement that, breached, could qualify one as a traitor


“Treason” in the constitution means treason as determinable by our native tongue, and not some foreign interpretation we inherited


free governments rest on voluntary support

  • coercing subjects into support is tyranny


there is no middle ground; people voluntarily pay taxes or they are forced to pay taxes


these principles apply to both the national and state governments


the strong are always free; liberty is what is provided to the weak


most of those administering government within the United States maintain on some level that the Constitution did not say all that it really meant, and have therefore subjected natives to the wills of the administers and all crimes of government


the consent of the weaker party is merely presumed as the powerful usurp their rights


No Treason: No. VI: The Constitution of no Authority.


the constitution has no inherent authority

  • unless as a contract between a man and a man
  • it cannot be construed to be a contract between people living in Spooner’s day, but only amongst people “living eighty years ago”
  • even at that time, only a small fraction of people were asked to consent or dissent
    • of those who did consent, all are “dead now”
    • the Constitution, as their contract, died with them
      • they had no natural right to bind others to the contract
      • “We, the people” implies a contract between the people in the United States then existing
        • it would, otherwise, need also specify “and our posterity”
        • if it were to specify the posterity of the founding fathers, it would also need to change “to secure to them the blessings of liberty” to something like “bind them into slavery”
        • if the Constitution were even meant to bind “the people of the United States” into a corporation, as opposed to merely represent a collection of individuals, it would have been written in a singular rather than plural tense
        • if the Constitution does not inherently bind the posterity of those who signed it, the question of whether the posterity have also ratified the constitution needs to be addressed


does voting or paying taxes qualify as consent to the government?

of voting:

  • voting does not pledge the whole people to support the Constitution
    • the act of voting could bind nobody but the actual voters
      • only a fraction of the population actually votes, by choice or right
  • voting could only pledge allegiance for the time period specified for the vote
  • voting could only pledge allegiance to the Constitution if it were entirely voluntary
    • men vote because they are forced into a situation where they submit as slaves or attempt to become master
    • one could never legally determine who votes entirely voluntarily and who votes out of this necessity
    • since taxes are compulsory whether one votes or not, many may feel forced to vote as an attempt to prevent their property being seized
  • those voting for the unsuccessful candidates may be said to be voting against the Constitution as so far as it may be used as a tool of tyranny by the successful candidate
  • those who vote for a candidate with no chance of success may have attempted to obstruct the execution of the Constitution
  • since voting is anonymous, there is no evidence of whether someone’s vote may be construed as for or against the Constitution
  • with no legal proof of any voter’s intentions, they can only be conjectured, and likely any given voter supports or dissents from the Constitution depending on whether their candidate is in power
  • one could never legally support the Constitution as a contract unless they did so publicly
    • as all voting is secret, all government is established in secret, and government is a band of robbers, tyrants, and murderers


of taxes:

  • In theory, per the Constitution, all taxes are paid voluntarily, like payments to an insurance company
    • in practice, the government demands tax payments or threatens your life
    • no agreements can be made between man and government because the idea of government is an abstraction, and all individuals composed of “the government” cannot be known
    • man cannot pay taxes to individuals comprising the government, but only agents threatening the man with jail or explicit violence
      • taxes cannot be said to be voluntary
      • the government cannot and does not protect you
        • governments are established by money and steal money so they can stay in power; you are not buying security with taxes


the Constitution never bound anyone to anything

  • law and reason dictates that all written instruments of binding must be signed to be valid
    • it must be signed after being written, or else the signor would not actually know the legal meaning
    • a legal contract written by someone else would need to be delivered to those who it purports to represent


since 1677, there has been a statute in England that all contract must be in writing and signed by all parties to be held chargeable upon them

  • no one would think of repealing this law because of how easy it become to commit fraud


the Constitution puts lawmakers above questioning and enables them to secure the execution of all their laws by withholding salaries and impeachment

  • this is an irresponsible amount of power allotted to just a few citizens
  • it creates moral hazard
  • a man is no less a slave because he can choose a new master every few years
  • if the lawmakers have these rights of dominion, we are merely their property subject to their will
  • no man can be a public servant yet also have full control over the public
    • the so-called public servants must be the masters, as that is where the power lies
    • if the politicians were actually servants, we would be held accountable for their acts

since Congressional members are merely agents of themselves, we have the right to resist their attempts to trespass against us


if the Constitution is not a valid contract, those currently acting in power resting on the power of the Constitution are illegitimate


if the Constitution is invalid, on what authority does the current government rest?

  • a plurality of the populace probably has a tacit understanding that the government acts on their behalf via the Constitution if they vote
    • this still gives no authority to seize the property of those who do not agree to the Constitution
    • since voting is secret and the identity of the government is unclear, the government is a secret band of robbers and murders, far worse than an open despot

IX. – X.

ballots are secret because, in casting ballots, men are plotting to steal from and murder each other

there is no openly, honestly formed government of the United States resting on the consent of the people, but only a tacit understanding that you will be imprisoned or hanged by opposing those who claim to be agents of the state


pledges to support the Constitution are not valid because there is no two-sided, mutual recognition of the pledge between accountable individuals

  • all one needs to say to an alleged agent of the government is: “I never knew you.”  To each individual within the United States, the purported agents of the government are strangers, and could hold no agency as servants


even agents of the government such as taxpayers never made any oath to any real individuals, and could cease carrying out their duties at any time


foreigners cannot actually come to the United States and become naturalized because there’s no one to pledge to; white males cannot claim to be “the people of the United States” nor can they claim to have implicit agency over women, children, and other races


all pledges by Southern men to obey the government have been invalid

  • such pledges were extorted by threat of violence and theft
  • it would violate natural rights to do as they please about supporting government
  • the pledges were not given to any individuals or defined corporation


oaths of soldiers hold no obligation because they are oaths to kill without conscience and are given to no one


because the government is illegitimate, so are all treaties

  • all other governments are founded on illegitimate means
  • no nations exist.


debts incurred in the name of the United States and its people are invalid.

  • no individuals contracted to pay these debts
  • no formal entity exists known as the People of the United States
  • a debt not owned by an individual could not be owned by all individuals collectively
  • debt incurred by the government is intrinsically void, as it was incurred to rob and to murder
  • the government is pretend and only pretends to own land; it was bankrupt from the beginning and incurred the debts under false pretenses; it was not honest about the fact that it could only ever use the debts to rob and murder and could only ever pay the debts by robbing and murdering


the real rulers in the United States are those who are willing to shoot and kill their follow men

  • plus certain bankers, such the Rothschilds, who are willing to loan out money so that others may be killed or enslaved
    • such loans are considered better investments than loans to honest industry
    • government will grant certain monopolies, such as those to the Bank of England, in exchange for providing the money to keep a band of murders known as soldiers employed at all times
    • because these blood-money loan-mongers keep the band of murders afloat, they hold the real power


no country in history has been as shamelessly run by blood-money mercenaries than the United States

  • “Nearly a hundred years ago” we claimed to have gotten rid of the priest class from Europe that claimed to have authority from Heaven, we claimed to have learned that governments can only exist by voluntary support, we claimed to know that all people are equal, we claimed to have known that the bankers supported slavery and the pro-slavery government for their own profit
  • because the South did not want its farms and industry monopolized by Northerners, Northern merchants and manufactures lent the money required to wage war against the South
    • Now that the North has won, they demand peace, and demand that all people, Northern and Southern, be forced to repay the money loaned
    • the claim that the North wanted to abolish slavery was only made to gain support for the war, and to hurt the South if the South would not use slavery for the North’s benefit
    • if the North cared only about slavery, they could have abolished slavery and offered protection to anyone that consented to be governed by the North, without carrying out a full-scale invasion
      • the current government established by the Civil War uses this principle: “one to which everybody must consent, or be shot”


Posted in Barely Interesting Non-Fiction, Matt

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