No Treason #2
It is perhaps unnecessary to say that the principles of this argument are as applicable to the State governments, as to the national one. The opinions of the South, on the subjects of allegiance and treason, have been equally erroneous with those of the North. The only difference between them, has been, that the South has held that a man was (primarily) under involuntary allegiance to the State government; while the North held that he was (primarily) under a similar allegiance to the United States government; whereas, in truth, he was under no involuntary allegiance to either.
Obviously there can be no law of treason more stringent than has now been stated, consistently with political liberty. In the very nature of things there can never be any liberty for the weaker party, on any other principle; and political liberty always means liberty for the weaker party. It is only the weaker party that is ever oppressed. The strong are always free by virtue of their superior strength. So long as government is a mere contest as to which of two parties shall rule the other, the weaker must always succumb. And whether the contest be carried on with ballots or bullets, the principle is the same; for under the theory of government now prevailing, the ballot either signifies a bullet, or it signifies nothing. And no one can consistently use a ballot, unless he intends to use a bullet, if the latter should be needed to insure submission to the former.
The practical difficulty with our government has been, that most of those who have administered it, have taken it for granted that the Constitution, as it is written, was a thing of no importance; that it neither said what it meant, nor meant what it said; that it was gotten up by swindlers, (as many of its authors doubtless were,) who said a great many good things, which they did not mean, and meant a great many bad things, which they dared not say; that these men, under the false pretence of a government resting on the consent of the whole people, designed to entrap them into a government of a part, who should be powerful and fraudulent enough to cheat the weaker portion out of all the good things that were said, but not meant, and subject them to all the bad things that were meant, but not said. And most of those who have administered the government, have assumed that all these swindling intentions were to be carried into effect, in place of the written Constitution. Of all these swindles, the treason swindle is the most flagitious. It is the most flagitious, because it is equally flagitious, in principle, with any; and it includes all the others. It is the instrumentality by which all the others are made effective. 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. The result---and a natural one---has been that we have had governments, State and national, devoted to nearly every grade and species of crime that governments have ever practised upon their victims; and these crimes have culminated in a war that has cost a million of lives; a war carried on, upon one side, for chattel slavery, and on the other for political slavery; upon neither for liberty, justice, or truth. And these crimes have been committed, and this war waged, by men, and the descendants of men, who, less than a hundred years ago, said that all men were equal, and could owe neither service to individuals, nor allegiance to governments, except with their own consent.
No attempt or pretence, that was ever carried into practical operation amongst civilized men---unless possibly the pretence of a "Divine Right," on the part of some, to govern and enslave others---embodied so much of shameless absurdity, falsehood, impudence, robbery, usurpation, tyranny, and villainy of every kind, as the attempt or pretence of establishing a government by consent, and getting the actual consent of only so many as may be necessary to keep the rest in subjection by force. Such a government is a mere conspiracy of the strong against the weak. It no more rests on consent than does the worst government on earth. What substitute for their consent is offered to the weaker party, whose rights are thus annihilated, struck out of existence, by the stronger? Only this: their consent is presumed! That is, these usurpers condescendingly and graciously presume that those whom they enslave, consent to surrender their all of life, liberty, and property into the hands of those who thus usurp dominion over them! And it is pretended that this presumption of their consent---when no actual consent has been given---is sufficient to save the rights of the victims, and to justify the usurpers! As well might the highwayman pretend to justify himself by presuming that the traveller consents to part with his money. As well might the assassin justify himself by simply presuming that his victim consents to part with his life. As well might the holder of chattel slaves attempt to justify himself by presuming that they consent to his authority, and to the whips and the robbery which he practizes upon them. The presumption is simply a presumption that the weaker party consent to be slaves.
Such is the presumption on which alone our government relies to justify the power it maintains over its unwilling subjects. And it was to establish that presumption as the inexorable and perpetual law of this country, that so much money and blood have been expended.
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