Essays By Lysander Spooner

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Suppose an agreement were entered into, in this form: We, the people of Boston, agree to maintain a fort on Governor’s Island, to protect ourselves and our posterity against invasion.

This agreement, as an agreement, would clearly bind nobody but the people then existing.

And it does not so much as even purport to be a contract between persons now existing.

It purports, at most, to be only a contract between persons living eighty years ago.

Secondly, it would assert no right, power, or disposition, on their part, to compel their “posterity” to maintain such a fort.

It would only indicate that the supposed welfare of their posterity was one of the motives that induced the original parties to enter into the agreement.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.” It supposes itself to have, and speaks of itself as having, perpetual existence, as a single individuality.But for this voluntary accession of new members, the corporation necessarily dies with the death of those who originally composed it.Legally speaking, therefore, there is, in the Constitution, nothing that professes or attempts to bind the “posterity” of those who established it.If they had intended to bind their posterity to live under it, they should have said that their objective was, not “to secure to them the blessings of liberty,” but to make slaves of them; for if their “posterity” are bound to live under it, they are nothing less than the slaves of their foolish, tyrannical, and dead grandfathers.It cannot be said that the Constitution formed “the people of the United States,” for all time, into a corporation.Let us consider these two matters, voting and tax paying, separately. All the voting that has ever taken place under the Constitution, has been of such a kind that it not only did not pledge the whole people to support the Constitution, but it did not even pledge any one of them to do so, as the following considerations show. In the very nature of things, the act of voting could bind nobody but the actual voters.But owing to the property qualifications required, it is probable that, during the first twenty or thirty years under the Constitution, not more than one-tenth, fifteenth, or perhaps twentieth of the whole population (black and white, men, women, and minors) were permitted to vote.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.So far as they are concerned, he only means to be understood as saying that his hopes and motives, in building it, are that they, or at least some of them, may find it for their happiness to live in it.


Comments Essays By Lysander Spooner

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