Front Page Titles (by Subject) Section VIII. - A Letter to Grover Cleveland, on his false Inaugural Address, the Usurpations and Crimes of Lawmakers and Judges, and the consequent Poverty, Ignorance, and Servitude of the People
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Section VIII. - Lysander Spooner, A Letter to Grover Cleveland, on his false Inaugural Address, the Usurpations and Crimes of Lawmakers and Judges, and the consequent Poverty, Ignorance, and Servitude of the People 
A Letter to Grover Cleveland, on his false Inaugural Address, the Usurpations and Crimes of Lawmakers and Judges, and the consequent Poverty, Ignorance, and Servitude of the People (Boston: Benjamin R. Tucker Publisher, 1886).
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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.*
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 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 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 he 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?
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.
[* ] The irresponsibility of the senators and representatives is guaranteed to them in this wise:
For any speech or debate [or vote] in either house, they [the senators and representatives] shall not be questioned [held to any legal responsibility] in any other place.—Constitution, Art. 1, Sec. 6.
The judicial and executive officers are all equally guaranteed against all responsibility to the people. They are made responsible only to the senators and representatives, whose laws they are to administer and execute. So long as they sanction and execute all these laws, to the satisfaction of the lawmakers, they are safe against all responsibility. In no case can the people, whose rights they are continually denying and trampling upon, hold them to any accountability whatever.
Thus it will be seen that all departments of the government, legislative, judicial, and executive, are placed entirely beyond any responsibility to the people, whose agents they profess to be, and whose rights they assume to dispose of at pleasure.
Was a more absolute, irresponsible government than that ever invented?