Front Page Titles (by Subject) Section XXII. - 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 XXII. - 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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As if to place beyond controversy the fact, that the court may forever hereafter be relied on to sanction every usurpation and crime that congress will ever dare to put into the form of a statute, without the slightest color of authority from the constitution, necessity, utility, justice, or reason, it has, on three separate occasions, announced its sanction of the monopoly of money, as finally established by congress in 1866, and continued in force ever since.
This monopoly is established by a prohibitory tax—a tax of ten per cent.—on all notes issued for circulation as money, other than the notes of the United States and the national banks.
This ten per cent. is called a “tax,” but is really a penalty, and is intended as such, and as nothing else. Its whole purpose is—not to raise revenue—but solely to establish a monopoly of money, by prohibiting the issue of all notes intended for circulation as money, except those issued, or specially licensed, by the government itself.
This prohibition upon the issue of all notes, except those issued, or specially licensed, by the government, is a prohibition upon all freedom of industry and traffic. It is a prohibition upon the exercise of men’s natural right to lend and hire such money capital as all men need to enable them to create and distribute wealth, and supply their own wants, and provide for their own happiness. Its whole purpose is to reduce, as far as possible, the great body of the people to the condition of servants to a few—a condition but a single grade above that of chattel slavery—in which their labor, and the products of their labor, may be extorted from them at such prices only as the holders of the monopoly may choose to give.
This prohibitory tax—so-called—is therefore really a penalty imposed upon the exercise of men’s natural right to create and distribute wealth, and provide for their own and each other’s wants. And it is imposed solely for the purpose of establishing a practically omnipotent monopoly in the hands of a few.
Calling this penalty a “tax” is one of the dirty tricks, or rather downright lies—that of calling things by false names—to which congress and the courts resort, to hide their usurpations and crimes from the common eye.
Everybody—who believes in the government—says, of course, that congress has power to levy taxes; that it must do so to raise revenue for the support of the government. Therefore this lying congress call this penalty a “tax,” instead of calling it by its true name, a penalty.
It certainly is no tax, because no revenue is raised, or intended to be raised, by it. It is not levied upon property, or persons, as such, but only upon a certain act, or upon persons for doing a certain act; an act that is not only perfectly innocent and lawful in itself, but that is naturally and intrinsically useful, and even indispensable for the prosperity and welfare of the whole people. Its whole object is simply to deter everybody—except those specially licensed—from performing this innocent, useful, and necessary act. And this it has succeeded in doing for the last twenty years; to the destruction of the rights, and the impoverishment and immeasurable injury of all the people, except the few holders of the monopoly.
If congress had passed an act, in this form, to wit:
No person, nor any association of persons, incorporated or unincorporated—unless specially licensed by congress—shall issue their promissory notes for circulation as money; and a penalty of ten per cent. upon the amount of all such notes shall be imposed upon the persons issuing them,
the act would have been the same, in effect and intention, as is this act, that imposes what it calls a “tax.” The penalty would have been understood by everybody as a punishment for issuing the notes; and would have been applied to, and enforced against, those only who should have issued them. And it is the same with this so-called tax. It will never be collected, except for the same cause, and under the same circumstances, as the penalty would have been. It has no more to do with raising a revenue, than the penalty would have had. And all these lying lawmakers and courts know it.
But if congress had put this prohibition distinctly in the form of a penalty, the usurpation would have been so barefaced—so destitute of all color of constitutional authority—that congress dared not risk the consequences. And possibly the court might not have dared to sanction it; if, indeed, there be any crime or usurpation which the court dare not sanction. So these knavish lawmakers called this penalty a “tax”; and the court says that such a “tax” is clearly constitutional. And the monopoly has now been established for twenty years. And substantially all the industrial and financial troubles of that period have been the natural consequences of the monopoly.
If congress had laid a prohibitory tax upon all food—that is, had imposed a penalty upon the production and sale of all food—except such as it should have itself produced, or specially licensed; and should have reduced the amount of food, thus produced or licensed, to one tenth, twentieth, or fiftieth of what was really needed; the motive and the crime would have been the same, in character, if not in degree, as they are in this case, viz., to enable the few holders of the licensed food to extort, from everybody else, by the fear of starvation, all their (the latter’s) earnings and property, in exchange for this small quantity of privileged food.
Such a monopoly of food would have been no clearer violation of men’s natural rights, than is the present monopoly of money. And yet this colossal crime—like every other crime that congress chooses to commit—is sanctioned by its servile, rotten, and stinking court.
On what constitutional grounds—that is, on what provisions found in the constitution itself—does the court profess to give its sanction to such a crime?
On these three only:
Out of these simple, and apparently harmless provisions, the court manufactures an authority to grant, to a few persons, a monopoly that is practically omnipotent over all the industry and traffic of the country; that is fatal to all other men’s natural right to lend and hire capital for any or all their legitimate industries; and fatal absolutely to all their natural right to buy, sell, and exchange any, or all, the products of their labor at their true, just, and natural prices.
Let us look at these constitutional provisions, and see how much authority congress can really draw from them.
1. The constitution says:
The congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises, to pay the debts, and provide for the common defence and general welfare of the United States.
This provision plainly authorizes no taxation whatever, except for the raising of revenue to pay the debts and legitimate expenses of the government. It no more authorizes taxation for the purpose of establishing monopolies of any kind whatever, than it does for taking openly and boldly all the property of the many, and giving it outright to a few. And none but a congress of usurpers, robbers, and swindlers would ever think of using it for that purpose.
The court says, in effect, that this provision gives congress power to establish the present monopoly of money; that the power to tax all other money, is a power to prohibit all other money; and a power to prohibit all other money is a power to give the present money a monopoly.
How much is such an argument worth? Let us show by a parallel case, as follows.
Congress has the same power to tax all other property, that it has to tax money. And if the power to tax money is a power to prohibit money, then it follows that the power of congress to tax all other property than money, is a power to prohibit all other property than money; and a power to prohibit all other property than money, is a power to give monopolies to all such other property as congress may not choose to prohibit; or may choose to specially license.
On such reasoning as this, it would follow that the power of congress to tax money, and all other property, is a power to prohibit all money, and all other property; and thus to establish monopolies in favor of all such money, and all such other property, as it chooses not to prohibit; or chooses to specially license.
Thus, this reasoning would give congress power to establish all the monopolies, it may choose to establish, not only in money, but in agriculture, manufactures, and commerce; and protect these monopolies against infringement, by imposing prohibitory taxes upon all money and other property, except such as it should choose not to prohibit; or should choose to specially license.
Because the constitution says that “congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes,” etc., to raise the revenue necessary for paying the current expenses of the government, the court say that congress have power to levy prohibitory taxes—taxes that shall yield no revenue at all—but shall operate only as a penalty upon all industries and traffic, and upon the use of all the means of industry and traffic, that shall compete with such monopolies as congress shall choose to grant.
This is no more than an unvarnished statement of the argument, by which the court attempts to justify a prohibitory “tax” upon money; for the same reasoning would justify the levying of a prohibitory tax—that is, penalty—upon the use of any and all other means of industry and traffic, by which any other monopolies, granted by congress, might be infringed.
There is plainly no more connection between the “power to lay and collect taxes,” etc., for the necessary expenses of the government, and the power to establish this monopoly of money, than there is between such a power of taxation, and a power to punish, as a crime, any or all industry and traffic whatsoever, except such as the government may specially license.
This whole cheat lies in the use of the word “tax,” to describe what is really a penalty, upon the exercise of any or all men’s natural rights of providing for their subsistence and well-being. And none but corrupt and rotten congresses and courts would ever think of practising such a cheat.
2. The second provision of the constitution, relied on by the court to justify the monopoly of money, is this:
The congress shall have power to coin money, regulate the value thereof, and of foreign coins.
The only important part of this provision is that which says that “the congress shall have power to coin money, [and] regulate the value thereof.”
That part about regulating the value of foreign coins—if any one can tell how congress can regulate it—is of no appreciable importance to anybody; for the coins will circulate, or not, as men may, or may not, choose to buy and sell them as money, and at such value as they will bear in free and open market,—that is, in competition with all other coins, and all other money. This is their only true and natural market value; and there is no occasion for congress to do anything in regard to them.
The only thing, therefore, that we need to look at, is simply the power of congress “to coin money.”
So far as congress itself is authorized to coin money, this is simply a power to weigh and assay metals,—gold, silver, or any other,—stamp upon them marks indicating their weight and fineness, and then sell them to whomsoever may choose to buy them; and let them go in the market for whatever they may chance to bring, in competition with all other money that may chance to be offered there.
It is no power to impose any restrictions whatever upon any or all other honest money, that may be offered in the market, and bought and sold in competition with the coins weighed and assayed by the government.
The power itself is a frivolous one, of little or no utility; for the weighing and assaying of metals is a thing so easily done, and can be done by so many different persons, that there is certainly no necessity for its being done at all by a government. And it would undoubtedly have been far better if all coins—whether coined by governments or individuals—had all been made into pieces bearing simply the names of pounds, ounces, pennyweights, etc., and containing just the amounts of pure metal described by those weights. The coins would then have been regarded as only so much metal; and as having only the same value as the same amount of metal in any other form. Men would then have known exactly how much of certain metals they were buying, selling, and promising to pay. And all the jugglery, cheating, and robbery that governments have practised, and licensed individuals to practise—by coining pieces bearing the same names, but having different amounts of metal—would have been avoided.
And all excuses for establishing monopolies of money, by prohibiting all other money than the coins, would also have been avoided.
As it is, the constitution imposes no prohibition upon the coining of money by individuals, but only by State governments. Individuals are left perfectly free to coin it, except that they must not “counterfeit the securities and current coin of the United States.”
For quite a number of years after the discovery of gold in California—that is, until the establishment of a government mint there—a large part of the gold that was taken out of the earth, was coined by private persons and companies; and this coinage was perfectly legal. And I do not remember to have ever heard any complaint, or accusation, that it was not honest and reliable.
The true and only value, which the coins have as money, is that value which they have as metals, for uses in the arts,—that is, for plate, watches, jewelry, and the like. This value they will retain, whether they circulate as money, or not. At this value, they are so utterly inadequate to serve as bona fide equivalents for such other property as is to be bought and sold for money; and, after being minted, are so quickly taken out of circulation, and worked up into articles of use—plate, watches, jewelry, etc.—that they are practically of almost no importance at all as money.
But they can be so easily and cheaply carried from one part of the world to another, that they have substantially the same market value all over the world. They are also, in but a small degree, liable to great or sudden changes in value. For these reasons, they serve well as standards—are perhaps the best standards we can have—by which to measure the value of all other money, as well as other property. But to give them any monopoly as money, is to deny the natural right of all men to make their own contracts, and buy and sell, borrow and lend, give and receive, all such money as the parties to bargains may mutually agree upon; and also to license the few holders of the coins to rob all other men in the prices of the latter’s labor and property.
3. The third provision of the constitution, on which the court relies to justify the monopoly of money, is this:
The congress shall have power to borrow money.
Can any one see any connection between the power of congress “to borrow money,” and its power to establish a monopoly of money?
Certainly no such connection is visible to the legal eye. But it is distinctly visible to the political and financial eye; that is, to that class of men, for whom governments exist, and who own congresses and courts, and set in motion armies and navies, whenever they can promote their own interests by doing so.
To a government, whose usurpations and crimes have brought it to the verge of destruction, these men say:
Make bonds bearing six per cent. interest; sell them to us at half their face value; then give us a monopoly of money based upon these bonds—such a monopoly as will subject the great body of the people to a dependence upon us for the necessaries of life, and compel them to sell their labor and property to us at our own prices; then, under pretence of raising revenue to pay the interest and principal of the bonds, impose such a tariff upon imported commodities as will enable us to get fifty per cent. more for our own goods than they are worth; in short, pledge to us all the power of the government to extort for us, in the future, everything that can be extorted from the producers of wealth, and we will lend you all the money you need to maintain your power.
And the government has no alternative but to comply with this infamous proposal, or give up its infamous life.
This is the only real connection there is between the power of congress “to borrow money,” and its power to establish a monopoly of money. It was only by an outright sale of the rights of the whole people, for a long series of years, that the government could raise the money necessary to continue its villainous existence.
Congress had just as much constitutional power “to borrow money,” by the sale of any and all the other natural rights of the people at large, as it had “to borrow money” by the sale of the people’s natural rights to lend and hire money.
When the Supreme Court of the United States—assuming to be an oracle, empowered to define authoritatively the legal rights of every human being in the country—declares that congress has a constitutional power to prohibit the use of all that immense mass of money capital, in the shape of promissory notes, which the real property of the country is capable of supplying and sustaining, and which is sufficient to give to every laboring person, man or woman, the means of independence and wealth—when that court says that congress has power to prohibit the use of all this money capital, and grant to a few men a monopoly of money that shall condemn the great body of wealth-producers to hopeless poverty, dependence, and servitude—and when the court has the audacity to make these declarations on such nakedly false and senseless grounds as those that have now been stated, it is clearly time for the people of this country to inquire what constitutions and governments are good for, and whether they (the people) have any natural right, as human beings, to live for themselves, or only for a few conspirators, swindlers, usurpers, robbers, and tyrants, who employ lawmakers, judges, etc., to do their villainous work upon their fellow-men.
The court gave their sanction to the monopoly of money in these three separate cases, viz.: Veazie Bank vs. Fenno, 8 Wallace, 549 (1869). National Bank vs. United States, 101 U. S. Reports, 5 and 6 (1879). Juliard vs. Greenman, 110 U. S. Reports 445-6 (1884).