The Liberty Party of the United States,
to the People of the United States.

Adopted in Convention, 14–15 June 1848, Buffalo, N. Y.

This work may be cited as “The Liberty Party of the United States, to the People of the United States,” in Proceedings of the National Liberty Convention, Held at Buffalo, N. Y., June 14th & 15th, 1848; Including the Resolutions and Addresses Adopted by that Body, and Speeches of Beriah Green and Gerrit Smith on that Occasion (Utica, N. Y.: S. W. Green, 1848), pp. 13–32.

This proclamation is extremely interesting, in that it expounds views that are often principled, and others, that are often horribly confused.  On the one hand, the party sees fit to adopt the two great libertarian positions: viz., (1) opposition to slavery, and support for its immediate abolition; and (2) an opposition to war, as well as to the maintenance of standing armies, which the party claims is more likely to purpetuate, than to prevent, war.  Other issues of the left, adopted by this party, include: a support for universal suffrage, irrespective of gender or race; opposition to tariffs, and all other protectionist policies; opposition to all various indirect taxes; distaste for large governmental debts; opposition to government monopoly on land, and of the monopoly of the United States Post Office (USPS) on the delivery of first-class mail; advocacy of a strict separation between school and state; a general rejection of the view that its the government’s, rather than the people’s, job to build roads and canals; rejection of the view that government should actively organise labour, rather than to merely protect it; and a general advocacy of free trade.  But, the party also unfortunately adopts a variety of right-wing policies, including: promotion of a graduated income tax; condemnation of private trade in land; failure to support the complete abolition of the USPS; support for violent invasion by the state against the consumers, producers, and sellers of alcohol (as well as, one might presume, other mind-altering drugs) on the flimsiest of excuses; support for violent invasion by the state against the property of gamblers; support for violent invasion by the state against the bodies of prostitutes; the concession that governments may build roads or canals in certain circumstances, as well as provide for the erection of light-houses and other such things; and promotion of the view that the government should violently suppress any labourer who wishes to work for more than ten hours a week, and of any employer who would be willing to acquiesce in the wish of such a labourer.  All in all, while I regard the Liberty Party of 1844 to be a libertarian party, at least based on what I have seen regarding that party in that year, I cannot honour the Liberty Party of 1848 with the same label.  It appears that the party of 1848 was, at best, a liberal party, and at worst, yet another conservative party.  Or, perhaps more realistically, we might describe it as a middle-of-the-road party, one aiming to achieve many liberal ends, but through the conservative means of statism.

To best understand the cause of the manifest confusion of the Liberty Party circa ’48, I would recommend Murray N. Rothbard’s 1977 Introduction to Lysander Spooner’s Vices Are Not Crimes: A Vindication of Moral Liberty (1875).  For an essay concerning the proper precepts of equality, see Roderick T. Long’s “Equality: The Unknown Ideal” (2001).

Page numbers appear in blue: 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32

A Liberty Party National Convention was held, the last autumn.  That it should, so soon, be followed by another, is because the former, instead of faithfully representing the Liberty Party, virtually abandoned it.  It did so, in nominating for President of the United States, a man, who, so far from belonging, to the Liberty Party, holds not so much as one of its distinctive doctrines.  It did so, when, in order to let down its creed to the level of its nomination, and, thereby, catch for that anti-Liberty Party nomination votes from anti-Liberty Party men, it refused to express its convictions of the unconstitutionality of slavery; and, in such refusal, conveyed the untruth, that the Liberty Party believes slavery to be constitutional.  It did so, when shrinking from the responsibilities of a permanent political party, it refused to declare the Liberty Party to be such a party.

The present Convention is necessary, that it may undo what the other Convention did: that it may supplant with a Liberty Party nomination, the anti-Liberty Party nomination made by the other: and that, in opposition to the false and disgusting character, which the other sought to impress upon the Liberty Party, it may hold up the true and beautiful character of that Party.

Whether the Liberty Party was organized to be a temporary, or a permanent party, is a question which it is no longer necessary to discuss.  For all its members, excepting those who would have it disbanded, or reduced to a mere Wilmot Proviso party, or some other diluted and sham anti-slavery party, are, now, persuaded, that it is in vain to look for the redemption of the slave, or indeed, for any good whatever, at the hands of the other political parties; and that they must, therefore, regard the Liberty Party, as a permanent party.

The admission, that it is a permanent party, must, of course, be followed by the admission, that, the Liberty Party, instead of limiting its service to the obtainment of some particular measure, or present [14] relief, from Civil Government, is bound to inculcate, and identify itself with, all the duties of Civil Government; and to endeavor to have those administer it, who will, at no point, shrink from putting it to its true use.

What is the true use of Civil Government?  It is the protection of rights.  Civil Government creates no rights.  These all come from Him, who is the Author, both of Civil Government and of our being.  Nor can it destroy rights.  The doctrine, that it may destroy some rights, in consideration of its protecting others, is as false, as the theory of Civil Government, from which it springs.  Civil Government is a means for protecting—never for destroying—rights.  That it has, always, failed to afford protection—impartial, full, protection—should be ascribed in no small degree, to the fact, that, in every instance, a large share of its subjects, and very generally, all but a handful of them, have been excluded from any voice or influence in the Government.  Civil Government, in almost its whole history, has been the conspiracy of the few against the many.  Such, however, it would not have been, had the whole people, as should ever be the case, been allowed to influence, and give character to, it, and to participate in the choice of its administrators.  Compared with other countries, the right of suffrage is, indeed, greatly extended in our own.  But even here, how far is it from being universally enjoyed!  Multitudes, for no better reason, than the color of their skin, are excluded from it.  And neither here, nor in any other part of the world, is the right of suffrage allowed to extend beyond one of the sexes.  This universal exclusion of woman, still more than does the withholding of legal protection from her rights of property, and still more, even, than does the withholding of those rights themselves, argues, conclusively, that, not as yet, is there one nation so far emerged from barbarism, and so far practically Christian, as to permit woman to rise up to the one level of the human family.  It also argues, conclusively, that Civil Government, notwithstanding its intrinsic character is in the fullest harmony with the most honorable conceptions of female purity and delicacy, is, nevertheless, so unhappily confounded with those flagrant forms of injustice and brutality, to which it is perverted, as to make the thought of woman’s participation in it revolting and absurd.

Let us not be understood, as claiming for suffrage, what does not belong to it.  It is its (and herein comes to view the preciousness of a broad and genuine democracy—) to select, under the Divine guidance, the ruler.  But it is not its to control the ruler.  The ruler, once selected, is to rule in the fear, not of men, but of God—not as the tool of men, but as “the minister of God.”  Hence, the absurdity and atheism of the popular doctrine, that the ruler is bound by the will of his constituents.  He is to do right, whether they consent, or no; and he is never to take it for granted, that the voice of the people is the voice of God.

What is the protection due from Civil Government to its subjects?  It is, that it maintain their equal rights, and extend, impartially, over [15] their sacred persons, their innocent pursuits, and lawful professions, its protective shield.  It is, in the words of inspiration, that it “thoroughly execute judgement between a man and his neighbor.”

Government most protect religious freedom.  Hence it must impose no penalties for the neglect or rejection of religious observances.  Again, Government must protect the freedom of speech and of the press:—and we add, that there had better be no “law of libel,” thus such a law of libel, or, to speak more safely, than such interpretations of it as, oftentimes, restrain, and, oftentimes, punish, the honest and wholesome utterances of the press.

The most glaring instance, in which, in our own country, Government fails to afford protection to its subjects, is slavery.  It, not only, suffers one person to enslave another with impunity, but, in all its departments—legislative, executive, judicial, actually encourages, helps, and defends, the outrage.  One of its excuses for arraying itself on the side of the slaveholder, is, that they intended it should, who framed the Federal Constitution.  No such intentions, however, are expressed in that anti-slavery instrument: and it is the expressions of an instrument—not the intentions of its framers—which should govern the interpretation of it.  The intentions of the framers of the Constitution are entitled to no more weight in the ascertainment of its meaning, than are the intentions of the scrivener in determining the sense of the Deed, or Contract, which he had been employed to write.  We do not deny, that a few—it was only a very few—of the framers of the Constitution undertook to get slavery into it.  But the understanding, unanimous from the first, that if slavery were brought into it, it must be so brought in, as neither to be seen to be brought in, nor, ever afterwards to be seen to be in, had laid an insurmountable obstacle upon the very threshhold of their undertaking.  Slavery cannot be an invisible monarch.  It can exist nowhere, without being seen, as well as felt.  To suppose that the monster could, unseen, enter the Constitution, and unseen, lie coiled up in it, is as absurd, as the supposition, that Satan could, also, come among the sons of God, without being detected by the All-seeing eye.  To speak less figurative—the instrument, which is drawn up with the intelligent and steadfast purpose of having it serve, and, be, forever, fully and gloriously identified with, the cause of liberty, republicanism, and equal rights, must, of necessity, be shut against the claims and pretensions of slavery.

The Federal Government has power, under its Constitution, to abolish every part of American slavery; and is supremely guilty for refusing to exercise it.  But, why speak of the Constitution, or of any other paper, when the question raised is, whether the Government shall protect, or suppress, slaveholding?  Suppose, that the two hundred and fifty thousand pirates, whom this corrupt and bloody nation cherishes in her bosom, were to substitute for their claim to the black skins an equal claim to the blue eyes; or for their claim to enslave men, the more moderate one to kill them; would Government design so much, as a single glance, at the laws, statutory, organic, or what not, [16] which these pirates might hunt up, in support of their new claims?  Certainly not.  It would, in that case, feel, as it, always, should feel, that the sole end of Civil Government is to protect rights; and that it might, as well, be openly repudiating its functions, and destroying its very existence, as to be giving countenance to searches after authorities for destroying rights.  Laws, which interpret, define, secure, rights, Government is to respect: and laws, which, mistakingly, yet honestly, aim at this end, it is not to despise.  But laws, which are enacted to destroy rights, it should trample under foot,—for, to say nothing worse of them, they are a gross insult upon it, inasmuch as they are a shameless attempt to turn it from good to evil, and from its just and Heaven-intended uses to uses of a diametrically opposite character.  Moreover, Civil Government is to regard such laws, as utterly void, for the reason that, they are an outrage, and an open war, upon the inflexible and eternal justice, which underlies all obligatory laws.  Such laws, in a word, it is to regard, as no laws.  Should it follow them, it would cease to be Civil Government;—no less so than the physician would cease to be a physician, and would become a murderer, who should substitute, for the purpose and effort to save life, the purpose and effort to destroy it.  Whatever, then, may be said of the lawfulness of slavery, Government, instead, of strengthening the hand of the slaveholder, must punish him;—and, because murder itself does not surpass his crime, it is grossly inconsistent and partial, if it do not punish him with the severest punishment, which it inflicts—be that punishment confinement in the State Prison, or suspension from the gallows.  Again, whatever may be said of the lawfulness of slavery, Government must abolish it.  If it have a Constitution, under which it cannot abolish slavery, then it must override its Constitution, and abolish slavery.  But, whether under, or over, the Constitution, it must abolish slavery.

We are not unaware, that there may be persons, who will admit, that, whether with or against, the Constitution, the Federal Government is bound to abolish slavery within the limits of its exclusive jurisdiction, as, for instance, in the District of Columbia, or a Territory; but who, at the same time, will deny, that, beyond these limits, as, for instance, in Virginia, it has power over slavery.  A few words will suffice to show their error.

The powers of the Federal Government, as specified in the Constitution, are, confessedly, paramount to State authority; and the exercise of them is, confessedly, to be left unobstructed by State authority.  But, several of these powers may be made either partially nugatory, or entirely incapable of being carried out, if the States may set up, or maintain slavery.  The Federal Government has power to “guaranty to every State in this Union a republican form of government”—also to “protect each of them against invasion”—also “against domestic violence.”  It has, impliedly, if not, indeed, expressly, power to “provide for the common defence, and general welfare of the United States.”  But, to how very limited an extent can these powers be [17] exercised, amidst the influences and obstacles of slavery!  Now, if the States may thus counteract these powers, it is absurd to say, that the Federal Government possesses them: as absurd, as to say, that certain laws give a man power to drive his carriage through the streets, if, at the same time, other laws may be effectually pleaded for blocking its wheels.  The Federal Government is reduced to no Government at all, beyond the sphere of its exclusive jurisdiction, if the State Governments are permitted to sink themselves into more piracies, and to create, within their respective limits, an atmosphere, in which the Federal Government cannot “live and move and have its being.”

That the Federal Government has power to abolish the whole of American slavery is not anew doctrine.  At the time our Government came into being, slavery was regarded on all hands, as an expiring institution: and, hence, this doctrine, then, met with very little of that ferocious resistance, which it encounters, now that slavery has become the rampant and supreme power of the land.  Very distinguished opponents of the abolition of slavery, then, admitted this doctrine.  Said the celebrated Patrick Henry, when opposing, in the Virginia Convention, the adoption of the Federal Constitution:  “Have they (Congress) not power to provide for the general defence and welfare?  May they not think, that this calls for the abolition of slavery?  May they pronounce all slaves free, and will they not be warranted by that power?  There is no ambiguous implication, or logical deduction.  The paper (the Constitution) speaks to the point.  They have the power in clear, unequivocal terms; and will clearly and certainly exercise it.”

We need add nothing to make it plain, that the State Governments cannot interfere with, or deny the power of the Federal Government to abolish every part and parcel of American slavery.  But, it is claimed, that there are outside of the State Governments, two things, which deny this power.  One of these is in the Constitution, and the other is out of it.  That, which is in it, is the clause respecting fugitives from service.  It is enough to say of this clause, that, whilst it can not, by a proper use of language, be made to apply to slaves, it does, by such use, apply to others—such as apprentices and minor children.  The other of the two things we have already disposed of.  It is the intentions of the framers of the Constitution.  Being but that, it is, not only, out of the Constitution, but has nothing to do with it.

Whatever may be said of that part of the Constitution, which respects representation in Congress, no one pretends that it forbids the abolition of slavery by either the Federal or State Governments.  And whatever may be said of that part of it, which respects the importation of persons, all admit, that its force expired, forty years ago.

The admission is, often, made by those, who claim, that the Federal Government can abolish the whole system of American slavery, that it can do so, only through the Judiciary.  But, should even this much be admitted?  If the Constitution says, that Congress “shall have [18] power to make all laws, which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution its powers vested by the Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any department or offices thereof;” and if slavery, as we have seen, that it does, stand in the way of any of these powers, then have we not both the clearest and the fullest Constitutional authority, for taking the ground, that Congress may make laws to remove slavery, or any other obstacle, which is in the way of “carrying into execution its powers?”

Again, it is claimed by many, that slavery had a legal existence in the States, ere the Constitution came into being.  But, what if it had?  We have seen that Congress may enact laws for its abolition throughout the nation:—and does not the Constitution itself declare, that such laws would be part of the supreme law of the land, anything, in the Constitution or laws of any State, to the contrary notwithstanding?

How pernicious, how mortifying, that there are persons, who still claim to belong to the Liberty Party, and who, nevertheless, deny, that the Federal Government has power to abolish every part of American slavery!  What is far worse, some of these persons hold, that the Constitution actually creates slavery—actually creates it—wherever in New England, or New York, or New Jersey, or Pennsylvania, the hounds upon his track may overtake the panting fugitive from the horrors of the Southern Prison House.  What wonder that, Whilst the National Era, which even presumes to make half-way and indirect pretensions to being a Liberty Party paper, and which, thence, and from its location also, obtains a wide circulation among the Liberty Party men—what wonder, we say, that, whilst it advocates this abominable doctrine, and nine-tenths of the so-called Liberty Party papers, not only, leave this paper unrebuked, but cover it with praises—what wonder, we say, that the nominal Liberty Party should, this day, be a heap, and a disgusting heap, of ruins?  The wonder is, that the National Era and these other papers should affect indignation toward the scheme for dissolving the Uunion. [sic]  Go on, Garrison—go on, Phillips—go on, Quincy—with your denunciations of the Constitution as a “covenant with death and an agreement with hell,” so long, as you believe that these self-styled Liberty Party men are right, in claiming for that instrument power to create slavery.

We said, a little way back, that there are, in the Constitution, specific denials of the deprivation and violation of rights, which forbid slavery.  But, it is argued, that these denials are limitations upon the power of the Federal Government only.  It is so argued, on the ground that, when the Constitution does not point out, whether the limitations are on Federal or State power, it is to be inferred, that they are on Federal power, and on that only.

Whence, however, the justification of such inference?  From the fact, it is answered, that the Federal power is the subject matter of the Constitution—is that of which it treats—is that which it constitutes.  But, this is not a just view of the case.  The paper, called the Federal Constitution, is as distinctly a paper for fixing limits, within [19] which the States shall keep themselves, as it is for constituting the Federal Government;—and the one purpose is no less important, or necessary, than the other.  What, however, if the inference referred to were warrantable?  So far, certainly, as the original Constitution is concerned, it matters not—for nothing of the uncertainty in questions to be found in it.  The original Constitution shows too plainly to make a more frequent recurrence of the word “Congress” necessary, that the 8th and 9th sections of its 1st article were devoted, to the enumeration of the powers and disabilities of Congress.  It also shows plainly that the 10th section of the same article was devoted to the enumeration of the disabilities of the States.  All this is too plain ever to have been doubted.  We have lying before us an old copy of the Constitution, printed in Virginia, in which “Powers of Congress” is at the head of the 8th section, and “Restrictions upon Congress” is the head of the 9th section, and “Restrictions upon Respective States” is at the head of the 10th section.

Why, however, it is asked, was it necessary to have a repetition of the word “State” in the 10th section, any more than a repetition of the word “Congress” in the 9th section?  The ready answer is, that it would not have been necessary, had the negation of State powers been preceded by the enumeration of State powers, as is the negation of Federal powers by the enumeration of Federal powers.

So far as respects the sections we have referred to, the Constitution is, surely, not to be charged with making, room for the looseness of inference.  It had just devoted a section to limitations on the Federal power.  It proceeds to devote the next section to limitations, and some of them identical with limitations in the other section.  What, but upon State powers, could those limitations be upon?  And yet, to avoid the necessity of inference, the word “State” is repeated several times, in connection with these limitations.  We add, where, in the original Constitution, either before or after, the three sections spoken of, is it left to inference, whether the powers granted, or denied, be Federal or State powers?  No where.

The prohibition in the 9th section: “No ex post facto law, or bill of attainder shall be passed,” is that, which is relied on to prove, that any prohibition in the Constitution, which like this, does not, in terms, apply to any Government, is to be construed as applying to the Federal Government, and that only.  But we have shown, that the place and connection in the Constitution of this recited prohibition superseded the necessity of applying it, in terms, to the Federal Government, Were there a reasonable doubt, (which there is not,) that the place and connection of this prohibition determine the application, we, should be at liberty to look away from the Constitution to collateral testimonies.  And how quick would the doubt he dispelled!  For, not only did the draft of the Constitution, which was under discussion, when, near the close of the Convention, this prohibition was inserted—not only, we say, did this draft include in one chapter, both the powers and disabilities of Congress—and not only did the chapter, by [20] beginning with the words: “The Legislature of the United States,” determine, that every part of it is applicable to that Legislature, and that only—but the prohibition was moved and inserted in the following words: “The Legislature (Congress) shall pass no bill of attainder, nor any ex post facto law.”  “The Committee of style and arrangement” made their Report a few days afterwards, in which they slightly varied the phraseology of this and other parts of the Constitution.

We now pass on to the amendments of the Constitution: for it is in them that we find those specific denials of the deprivation and violation of rights, which, as we have said, forbid slavery.

Twelve articles of amendment were proposed by, the first Congress.  The first three, and the last two, do, in terms, refer to the Federal Government, and that only.  To what Government, or Governments, the other seven refer, is a matter of inference.  Whilst, however, it would be a total violation of the laws of inference to say, that they refer to the Federal Government only, it would be in full accordance with these laws to say, that, because the other five expressly refer to the Federal Governments, these seven refer to the State Governments, or to both the Federal and State Governments.

Many, there doubtless are, who, because the first one of the adopted amendments expresses its reference to the Federal Government, infer, that there is the like reference, in the case of all the other amendments.  But it must be borne in mind, that the first two of the proposed amendments were rejected—that for this reason, the third came to be numbered the first—and that all three of them refer expressly to the Federal Government.  To say that the 11th and 12th of the adopted amendments were proposed by Congress after the other ten were adopted, maybe to some persons, a necessary explanation.

We have given one reason, why a part of the amendments of the Constitution refer to the State Governments exclusively, or to both the Federal and State Governments.  Another reason is, that they are, in their nature and meaning, as applicable to a State Government, as to the Federal Government.  And another is, that, if there be only a reasonable doubt, whether they refer to the Federal Government exclusively, they should be construed, as referring to the State Governments also: for human liberty is entitled to the benefit of every reasonable doubt; and this is a case, in which human liberty is most vitally and extensively concerned.

We are not at liberty to go back, nor aside of the Constitution to inquire, whether the amendments in question, are, or are not, limitations on State power.  There they are, as suitably, in their terms, nature, and meaning, limitations on State, as on Federal power.  This being the fact, we are to believe, that the people, when adopting them by their Legislatures, interpreted them as having the two-fold application, which we claim for them.  This being the fact, the people now, whether their fathers did, or did not, may insist, and must insist, on this two-fold application.  In the name, then, of reason, and religion, [21] of humanity and God, we protest against the supplanting of our just interpretation with one, which shall minister to the diabolical purpose of holding millions of our countrymen and their posterity in the cruellest and foulest bondage.

Were, however, the Constitution obscure on the point under consideration, we should, nevertheless, not be without collateral testimony, in behalf of our interpretation.  It is an interesting and apposite historical fact, that almost all the amendments of the Constitution, and all of them, on which, on the present occasion, we are concerned, were taken from the Bill of Rights, which the Virginia Convention proposed to have incorporated with the Federal Constitution.  But this Bill of Rights speaks neither of Congress nor of the Federal Government: and it, evidently, contemplates absolute security:—security, as well from the invasion of State, as of Federal power.

Are we asked, whether we believe, that the Virginia Convention intended, that this Bill of Rights should, if adopted, work the abolition of slavery?  We answer, that the proceedings of the Convention do, indeed, abound in radical and glorious anti-slavery sentiments: but, that its use of the word “freeman,” where (see 4th and 5th, articles) the more anti-slavery Congress struck it out and substituted therefor “people” and “person,” argues somewhat against the supposition, that the Convention relied on the Bill of Rights to effectuate the overthrow of slavery.

And were we, in quest of further collateral testimony, to go to the proceedings of the Congress, which submitted the amendments, we should find, that Mr. Madison was the first person to move in the matter; that he proposed two series of amendments, one of them affecting Federal, and the other State powers; and that it was a part of his proposition to have them interwoven in the original Constitution—for instance, the negations of Federal power to be included is the 9th section of the 1st article, and the negations of State power to be included in the 10th section of that article.  We should also find, that several of the amendments, which he proposed to have included in the 10th section are, in substance, and well nigh to the very letter, identical with amendments, which are now a part of the Constitution.  We should also find Mr. Madison justifying himself, in the following words for his proposition to impose limitations on State power—“I think there is more danger of these powers being abused by the State Governments, than by the Government of the United States”—“It must be admitted, on all hands, that the State Governments are as liable to attack these invaluable privileges, as the General Government is, and therefore ought to be as cautiously guarded against”—“I should, therefore, wish to extend this interdiction, and add, that no State stall violate, &c.”—“If there was any reason to restrain the Government of the United States from infringing upon these essential rights, it was equally necessary that they should be secured against the State Governments.  He thought, that if they provided [22] against the one, it was as necessary to provide against the other, and was satisfied, that it would be equally grateful to the people.”

By looking into the Congressional proceedings referred to, we should also find, that the House of Representatives, instead of following Mr. Madison’s plan of distributing the amendments through the original Constitution, and so applying one to the Federal and another to the State Governments, made them a supplement to the original Constitution, and left a part of them, couched in such terms, as render them equally applicable to the Federal and State Governments.  It should, also, be borne in mind, that this plan of Mr. Madison, which was embodied in the Report of a Committee, was kept, a long time, before the attention of the House.  We should, moreover, find, that whatever may have been said by this or that speaker, respecting the application of this or that amendment, no vote was taken, declaring that all, or any, of the amendments apply to the Federal Government.  And whilst, on the other band, there was no vote taken, declaring the application of any of the amendments to the State Governments, there was a vote taken, which serves to show, that the House did not mean to have all the amendments apply to the Federal Government exclusively.  The vote was on the following proposed amendment: “No person shall be subject, in case of impeachment, to more than one trial, or one punishment for the same offence, nor shall be compelled to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law, &c.”  Mr. Partridge, of Massachusetts, moved to insert after “same offence” the words: “by any law of the United States.”  His motion was lost.  The House would restrain a State, as well as the Nation, from enacting such an unrighteous and oppressive law.

What, if any, were the proceedings of the Senate, respecting the amendments of the Constitution, except to concur with the House in recommending them, we do not know—for its first five sessions were with closed doors.

We cannot leave this topic of Governmental action with respect to slavery, without adding, that all States, or Nations, are entitled to a just civil government, and are bound to provide themselves with it; and that all States, or Nations, are entitled to have civil rulers, who, conscious, that they are unfettered by anything in the past, present, or future, will carry out the whole intent of Civil Government.  When God commanded the Israelites to choose their civil rulers, it would not have been competent for them to excuse themselves from the commanded duty by saying, that they, or their ancestors, had enacted certain unrighteous laws, the effect of which was to tie up the hands of civil rulers—to render the choosing of them needless, and not only needless, but, in the case of those of the rulers, who should disregard these unrighteous laws, a temptation to commit perjury.  It would not have been competent for them to say, that a Constitution, defeating the ends of civil government, had been laid in their way, and that, therefore, they were compelled to be non-voters, Garrisonians, Disunionists.  [23] For if such a Constitution were laid in their way, whether by themselves, or others, what had they to do, but to kick it out of the way?  A just civil government they must have.  Rulers who would faithfully administer it, they must choose.  The right was unconditional.  The duty was unavoidable.

We cannot bind our successors to do wrong.  We cannot bind ourselves to do wrong.  Our successors, in spite of what we have done, and ourselves also, in spite of what we have done, be it in the way of organic, or statutory, or judicial, or any other, laws, are to maintain, unabridged, all the powers of civil government and all the functions of the civil ruler.  As well may it be claimed, in respect to any other of our rights, as in respect to the rights of Civil Government, that we must continue to suffer them to be cramped and distorted in the mould, which ignorance, or wickedness, has constructed for them.  As well may it be claimed, in respect to any other gift of Heaven, as in respect to civil government, that we are obliged to yield it up on human authority.  And surely, no reasonable person will deny, that we yield up, and abandon, civil government, when we admit, that it may forego the duty of securing personal liberty to its innocent subjects:—for, when it foregoes this duty, it ceases to be civil government, as entirely, as a man ceases to be a man, after the vital spark within him is extinguished.

When, then, the American people—(and their admissions, that they are one people and are, therefore, bound to be under a common civil government, as well as under various local civil governments, are abundant)—when, then, we say, the American people are told, that they are bound to accept the civil government, however unjust it may be, which has come down to them from a former age; they are to reply, that every age has the right to choose, and is bound to choose, a civil government for itself.  And when they are told, that filial respect requires them to cherish and cling to whatever of good, or of evil, has been bequeathed to them; they are to reply, that no duties which they owe to their dead fathers can stand in the way of the infinitely more important duties, which they owe to their living selves, their living fellow men, and their living God.

We spoke of perjury.  Far are we from saying, that a person is at liberty to take an oath of office, which, in his esteem, involves perjury.  Most certainly, be is not.  But he is not, therefore, to give up his office.  He is to hold it, and insist on discharging its duties.  If resisted, let him make his appeal to the people who gave him his office.  A few such appeals would result in the determination of the people not to be deprived of the civil ruler of their choice, because he is too conscientious to swear to do wickedly.  A few such appeals would result in the determination of the people to abolish an oath, which exacts unrighteousness, and to substitute for it an obligation to uphold and honor an impartial and just civil government.

There are, here and there, persons, who, because of the oath of office agreed on by our fathers, refuse to vote for civil rulers.  What [24] less, is this, however, than to make it depend on a former age, whether we shall, in this age, have a civil government of our own choice, or, indeed, any civil government at all?  Let such persons join with us in choosing rulers; and let them insist with us, that if these rulers cannot consent to take the oath referred to, they shall, nevertheless, be rulers; and let them further insist with us, that, our fathers to the contrary notwithstanding, (if, indeed, they be to the contrary,) we will take the matter of civil government into our own hands, as boldly and fully, as they took it into theirs—deciding for ourselves, as they did for themselves, both what shall be its form and character, and, under what tests, persons shall be inducted into its offices.

The common impression, that American slavery must continue to be endured, because of the alleged guaranties of it in the Constitution, argues the no less common impression, that one age can prescribe the civil government for another.  But such guaranties, even if the Constitution were crowded with them, instead of being, as it is, utterly destitute of them, would, inasmuch as every generation has the perfect and absolute right to choose a civil government for itself, weigh nothing against our right to abolish slavery—nothing against our right to have a civil government, which would be fraught with instant and utter death to slavery.

Another instance, in which civil government, in this country, violates, instead of protecting and maintaining the equal rights of its subjects, is the sustaining of itself by taxes on consumption.  These are taxes on poverty, more than on property.  Under this inequitable system, it often happens, that the poorest family pays a greater tax than the richest family: and it is undoubtedly true, that under it, the owners of one-fifth of the wealth of the country pay more of the National taxes than do the owners of the other four-fifths.

That the taxation, under this system, is indirect, is, instead of a plea for the system, the weightiest objection against it.  It is such, because, owing to its indirectness, it is the more readily acquiesced in, and can be carried to so much greater extent, than if it were direct.  So long as the expenditures of government are defrayed by indirect taxes, the people, failing, for that reason, to hold it to a strict accountability, will leave it to plunge into boundless extravagance and corruption.  Neither economy, nor honesty, is to be looked for in the government, which provides for its expenditures by indirect taxes; or which, to obviate the necessity of a present pressure on the people, incurs debts.  Such debts, however, could rarely be incurred to any great extent, were it not, that the expectation of their being paid by indirect taxation, reconciles the people to them.

But, it is not enough to say, that Government should be sustained by direct taxes.  We utter the novel and startling doctrine, that these taxes should be imposed upon its subjects, in proportion to their ability to pay them, instead of in proportion to their property, or income.  To illustrate—the man, whose property, or whose income from his toil, or from whatever sources, is barely enough for his subsistence, [25] should not pay, as it is universally thought that he should, just one-half the amount of taxes, which, he should pay, whose property, or whose income, is just twice as great.  The taxes, which the former pays, he pays from the little stock, all of which he needs for his living.  But, the taxes, which the latter pays, are taken from the surplus, which he has, after the supply of his needs; and are, therefore, an inconceivably less burden than are the taxes paid by the former.  One of two courses should be adopted.  Either they, who have barely the means of subsistence, should be exempted from taxation, or they, who have more, should be assessed with a higher rate of taxation.

Another instance, in which Civil Government not only suffers, but sanctions, and even perpetrates, the invasion of the equal rights of its subjects, is land-monopoly.  Our Government encourages and protects its subjects in their land-monopoly, not only by its laws, but by its example—for it is itself the great land-monopolist.  How plain is it to such, as class the soil with those other elements of human subsistence—light, air, water—and look upon man’s relation to the soil to be as natural and indissoluble, as the relation of his limbs to his body:—how plain, we say, to such, that Government should cease from buying and selling land, and should, also, restrain its subjects from such traffic!  Its laws to restrain them should be as effectual, as should be the laws of every Government to restrain its subjects from the guiltier, but far less widely pernicious, traffic in the bodies and souls of men.  Because, however, of the essential relation of men to the soil, and their identification with it, the traffic in it is, itself, a traffic in their bodies and souls.  There is, moreover, a painful feature in this virtual traffic in man, which is not to be found, every where, in the literal traffic in him.  The serf is literally sold.  Nevertheless, there is a mercy, in selling him along with the soil, that feeds him, which there is not in selling the soil away from the poor.  There is a mercy in selling the babe along with its mother, which there is not, in leaving it unsold, if leaving it unsold, it be torn from the breast, that nourished it.

We have spoken of the duty of Government to restrain others, and to cease itself, from land-monopoly.  We would add as much in relation to the Post Office monopoly, and all monopolies.  What a hinderance [sic] to the enlightenment and happiness—to the more friendly and the closer connection with each other—of the different portions of the human family, and to the preservation of a world-wide peace, is high postage!  But, so far as our own country is concerned, this hinderance [sic] would quickly disappear, were our Government to concede to the people as perfect a right to transport letters and papers, as anything else.  In that event, the charge for carrying a half-ounce letter from one end of our land to the other would not exceed two cents.  Let us not be understood, as saying that Government should relinquish all concern in the Post Office.  It is, perhaps, true, that Government alone is competent to make the Post Office the great convenience and the great blessing which it should be.  We have referred to the Post Office, but for the purpose of giving emphasis to our condemnation of all monopoly.

[26] This reference to the Post Office monopoly gives us occasion for saying, that our Government will never be the emphatically republican and people’s Government, which it should be, until the people elect their postmasters, and strip the Executive of a large share of the remainder of its appointing power.

In suffering conspiracies, Civil Government suffers an invasion of the equal rights of its subjects.  Secret Societies, however laudable the spirit, in which they may originate, or the motives by which the mass of their members may be actuated, have, nevertheless, too many of the features, and are liable to produce too many of the effects, of conspiracies, not to be classed with them.  These, however it may be with other and technical conspiracies, would, doubtless, readily yield to indirect means for their overthrow.  All the action of Government, necessary to this result, would be the prohibition to administer extra judicial oaths, and the permission to every person to refuse to be tried, or have his cause tried, by a Secret Society Judge of Juror.

Civil Government is unfaithful to itself and the rights of its subjects, when it forbears to suppress those overt and mighty temptations to vice, which, if long unsuppressed, involve, in a common ruin, the social and political organizations.  Among the temptations referred to are drinking-houses, as well as gambling-houses and brothels.

We do not forget, that there are persons, who contend, that the suppression of the sale of intoxicating drinks by Government is an illegitimate use of its power.  But such sale is not only the most prolific source of crime and wretchedness.  It is also the most prolific source of peril to the Government, where the Government is of the republican form, and, therefore, dependent, for its continued existence, on the sobriety and virtue of its subjects.  To say, then, that Government may not exert its controlling power over this evil, is to say, that it may not protect either its subjects, or itself.

We have, now, adverted to several illustrations of Governmental protection.  But, however important it may be to say what such protection is, it is, scarcely, as important, as to say, what it is not:—scarcely as important to say what Government should do, as what it should not do.

Civil Government is relied on to protect its subjects from foreign aggressions.  Hence, their submission to those cruel and exhausting drains for means to build fortifications, and maintain standing armies and navies;—a submission to be certainly calculated on, when the drains are in the form of indirect taxes.  But such expenditures, instead of preventing war, serve only to provoke it.  They invite assaults, instead of protecting from there.

There is no need of providing for war.  The probability, or even the possibility of war is not to be calculated on.  Government has but to restrain its subjects from aggressions, and in all its administration, to honor and beautify justice; and it may then feel perfectly sure of the friendship of every other nation, as well as the confidence of its own.  We are not, because the experiment has never been made, to [27] doubt the power of a just nation to command and enjoy the friendship of every other nation.  But it is said, that an individual, however just, is exposed to the invasion of his rights.  This is true.  It, nevertheless, does not follow, that a nation will invade the rights of a just nation.  The false reasoning—the unwarrantable inference—at this paint, is deeply to be lamented, because it furnishes the advocates of war with their most plausible justification.

How is it, that a man can walk abroad, feeling that his person and purse are secure, and yet knowing, that there are individuals, who respect his right to neither.  It is, because he also knows, that such individuals are not one in a hundred of the community; and that the mass of his fellow citizens are his protectors.  Now, to argue, that, because there is, here and there, a reckless individual, a nation will make tear upon a just nation, is to be guilty of the folly of making the exception to the rule, instead of the rule itself, the basis of an argument.  Were the fact the reverse of what it is, and the masses, instead of the individual, reckless; then it would be reasonable for even the justest [sic] nation to apprehend assaults from foreign nations.  The advocates of the necessity of war are compelled, in order to make out their argument, to libel mankind most grossly.  They are compelled to stamp the people, at large, with the desperate character of rare individuals.  They tell us, that, should a nation disarm herself, other nations would take the advantage of her exposed condition.  No doubt, they would do so.  But, it would be such advantage, as the Indians took of the unarmed Pennsylvania Colonists—advantage to disarm themselves, and to reciprocate that love and confidence, by which the Colonists had subdued them.

We, scarcely, need add, that our argument against the necessity of preparing for war, is made all the stronger, by the cheering prospect, that the governments of Europe will, in quick succession, become republican.  A nation will be unspeakably slower to wage a war upon a just nation, when the consent of its people, instead of its despot, is necessary.

In some countries, Civil Government helps furnish the instructions both of the pulpit and the school.  But, however protective, indispensably protective, are the pulpit and the school, that people is wise, which does, itself, furnish all the instructions of them; and which believes that what the people can do, it, and, in no instance, the Government, should do.  The universal education of the youth of Prussia is often cited to reconcile us to the interference of Government with schools.  But, the fact, that the Prussian education is not only such, as the Government would have it, but that it is, or, at least, has been, until this year of revolutions, forbidden to be exercised upon political subjects, should serve to warn us against, rather than reconcile us to, such interference.  Let our jealousy of such interference be great and ceaseless: and let it never be allayed by the plea, that, but for such interference, the poor would go uneducated.  For, in addition to the fact, that the people, in their subdivisions and neighborhoods, will [28] see to the poor quite as effectually, as will the Government; there would, were it not for the abuses and oppressions of Government, be comparatively few poor.

The protection of manufacturing, or other labor against foreign competition, is another instance of the illegitimate exercise of Governmental power.  Such protection is unrighteous, because it invades the absolute right, which every person has to buy and sell freely in whatever market he may choose.  It is unrighteous, because it builds up barriers across the family of man; has the effect to foster a spirit of exclusiveness and selfishness; to alienate one people from another; and to postpone the happy day, when the sense of the brotherhood and unity of the human race shall be universal, and the nations of the earth shall flow together upon the tides of mutual love and mutual beneficence.  It is unrighteous, too, because the protection, such as it is, is afforded at the expense of the poor, rather than the rich.  If wisdom and justice (which they never can,) should ever demand this protection, then it should be afforded by an impartial assessment upon property; or, according to the better rule of taxation already suggested by us, upon ability.

To construct roads and canals for the people is another thing, which Government should not be permitted to do,—for the people can themselves do it:—and, as we have already said, what the people can themselves do, and should themselves do; and should, in no instance permit Government to do.  Whilst they should never contract the proper limits of Government, they should, nevertheless, be always vigilant to keep it within such limits.  Whilst they should do nothing to weaken its strong arm, they should, nevertheless, see to it, that this strong arm is never wielded, but for legitimate purposes.  The Government, which is suffered to build roads and canals for the people, obtains, thereby, an undue power, the strong tendency of which is to work the corruption both of the Government and the people.  There are commercial facilities, which, we admit, it is the duty of Government to provide—facilities, the providing of which should be an equal burden on the whole people—such, as the erection of light-houses, the improvement of harbors, and the removal of obstructions from streams, in the navigation of which the country at large is interested.  We admit, too, that, if, in any case of such obstructions, their removal would be less expedient than a canal or road around them, Government should feel at liberty to depart from the general rule against its building canals and roads.

Our closing remark under this head is, that, the roads and canals, built by Government, are, no small share of them, uncalled for by the interests of the country; and that all of them cost much more, both in the building and maintaining of them, than they would do, if built and maintained, under the vigilant eye of self interest.

The doctrine, that Government should organize labor, is not without advocates.  But, after what we have said, it is superfluous to add, that we could look with no favor on any attempt of Government to regulate [29] the industry, or direct the pursuits, of its subjects.  Would the British Government relieve the laboring classes in its dominions?  It has but to desist from oppressing, and crushing, them, with wars and tariffs, and to spare them from those abuses of Government power, by which they are harrassed [sic] and “killed, all the day long.”  It has, in a word, but to leave them (—though under its ever-afforded protection—) to promote their own fortunes.  The Government-chased and Government-worried masses of Great Britain no more need the help of Government, than does the poor, bleeding, panting deer need the help of the dogs, which hunt its life.

Let the people organize labor, if they please: and in such attempt to promote the equality and the comfort of their condition, let them lack no facility and no security, which Government can legitimately afford them.  Let them, if they please, gather themselves into communities, or, if they prefer, into associations or partnerships.  But, in all this, let them neither ask, nor suffer, the interference of Government.  Let them ever look to it as their protector: but let them never allow it to be anything else.  Its interference with their pursuits and enjoyments, once permitted, may, in the end, acknowledge no bounds.  The most sacred enclosures of private interest may not be exempt from it; and, ultimately, the presence of Government may, both in ubiquity and annoyance, rival the frogs, which came into “the house, and bed chamber, and bed, and oven, and kneeding [sic] troughs,” of the Egyptians.

Were the British Government but so far faithful to the duty of protection, as practically to recognise the God-given right of every human being to the soil, other measures of Governmental protection would quickly follow; and the British people would quickly see, that protection is all, which they need, at the hands of Government.

Let it not be thought, that, in what we have been saying, we mean a condemnation of the present measures of the French Government for the relief of the laboring classes.  As temporary measures, and for present relief, they are, perhaps, entirely justifiable.  The sympathising and fraternal spirit, in which they originate, is, certainly, most praiseworthy.  The new Government finds the laboring classes prostrated by the abuses and oppressions of the old.  In these circumstances, its interposition in their behalf, and the putting forth of its hand to lift them up, may be highly proper.  And we go farther in our admissions, and say, that, if Governments will persevere in wronging and oppressing their subjects, they can do no less than seek to minister alleviations to the distresses, which they produce.  If, with one hand, they will cast them down, they can do no less than seek to lift them up with the other.  What we mean is, that “a more excellent way” is for Government to deal so justly and impartially with its subjects, as never to afford an occasion, real or imagined, for calling on it to step beyond its province of simple protection.

Before leaving the subject of labor, we would mention two of the protective measures, which are due from Government to the laboring [30] classes—first saying, that the exemption of the homestead from the grasp of the creditor, and the exemption also of a small and necessary amount of personal property, (including, in the case of the laborer, his tools,) is due from Government to all its subjects.  The two protective measures to be mentioned are “a lien-law,” so framed, as to afford security to the rights of the builder, without invading the rights of others; and a law, limiting, to ten hours a day, the labor performed for Government and Corporations.  The example of the limitation in these cases, and the moral influence growing out of the example, would, soon, have the effect to make the limitation popular and common.  And when we reflect, that were all to labor with their hands, as all should do, three or four hours a day, the reasonable wants of the world would be amply supplied: and, when, we also reflect, that a much more protracted labor than this encroaches on time, for which our immortal nature has—not, indeed, higher, for there are no higher—but other uses; we, surely, are ready to admit, that quite enough injustice is done our poor brother and sister, from whom ten hours a day of labor are exacted.

We need say no more to indicate our views of the nature and duties of Civil Government.  These views the Liberty Party, this day, solemnly promises shall be realized, and be converted from theoretical into actual and enjoyed blessings, whenever the Nation shall Ball it into power.  We deeply regret, that its past course affords no better earnest of the fulfilment of its present promise.  We confess, with shame, its unfaithfulness to that principle, which, from the first, has been its professed principle of action—“the equal rights of all men.”  The desire to operate more effectively against slavery, having called the Liberty Party into existence, not a small share of its members slid into the error, that its principle of the “equal rights of all men” should be applied in the direction of slavery only; and that the Party itself should cease, when slavery had ceased.  Scarcely less pernicious was the error of another and greater share of its members:—for, notwithstanding that they had, always, regarded the Liberty Party as a permanent party, they, nevertheless, thought it right and politic to spare every other political wrong, until slavery was conquered.  It is only within the last two or three years, that many of them have begun to awake to the injustice and the criminal partiality of continuing to turn a deaf ear to the victims of one wrong, until the victims of another are delivered.  Another, and no less important lesson, which they have, within that time, begun to learn, is, that wrongs are so mutually sustaining, and so much parts of one whole, as to require the war to be against all of them, in order to be successful against any of them.  It is not denied, that victory may be achieved over a wrong, when destruction is aimed at it, singly.  But the victory will be only partial and temporary.  The life of the conquered wrong is not yet extinct.  It still lives in its associated wrongs.  It has a life in their life, and in the root, which is common to them all:—and whenever the Spirit of Evil shall, again, have need of its service, it will not invoke its reproduction, in vain.

[31] But whatever the mistakes of the Liberty Party, in its contest for the slaves, the earnestness and steadiness of its purpose, in that contest, cannot be impeached.  For its crime against all other classes of politically wronged and oppressed men, in shutting out, or postponing, their claims, it has, however, no excuse.  It would have had, could a man belong, simultaneously, to various political parties, as he can to various benevolent associations, such as the Bible, the Tract, the Temperance Society.  In that case, it might have said, that a man can labor in the Liberty Party for the slaves; and, at the same time, in some other political party for the tariff-oppressed; and, at the same time, in some other political party for the rum-murdered; and, again, in some other political party for the land-monopoly-robbed; and, yet again, at the same time, in some other political party, against all-devouring war.  But, as the case is, the Liberty Party is without excuse; for, as the case is, a than can cast but one vote at an election:—and, if that one vote be against any classes of his fellow-men, or be not, indeed, for them all, his wrong against them is irreparable, inasmuch as he has no other vote, by which to serve them, or even so much as neutralize the injury he has done them.  The upshot of his voting is, that he has stained his soul with the two-fold crime of omitting to do good, when it was in his power to do it, and in doing evil instead thereof.

The strongest assurance, which the Liberty Party can give of not repeating its errors, is, that its eyes are, at last, wide open to them; and that its heart is, at last, sick and ashamed of them.  The strongest assurance it can give, that it will never desert its principles for the sake of swelling its numbers, is, that those of its members, who prefer votes to truth, have, already, quit its ranks, to muster a party, in behalf of a candidate, who avows not, and probably cherishes not, a single one of the distinctive principles of the Liberty Party.  We do not mean, that all, who were carried away, in the flood of the recent defection from the Liberty Party, are willful deserters from it.  Most of them are not.  Time and truth will disabuse them of the errors, into which they were seduced:—and they will return to us with the tears of penitence upon their cheeks, and the invincible purpose in their hearts, that their disgraceful and painful experience shall have the happy effect to secure them from being misled hereafter.

We are often asked, whether we really do intend to carry out, in all directions, the principle of “the equal rights of all men.”  We answer, that we do.  If we are honest men, we must—for this is the great principle of that Party, to which we profess to adhere.  Hence, we shall withhold our votes from all such, as do not evince an honest and intelligent purpose to cling to, and faithfully and impartially apply, this great principle.  It is true, that we do not look for political any more than theological perfection, in our candidates.  It is true, that we expect to vote for candidates, whom we shall be far from agreeing with on all political points.  Nevertheless, we repeat, that the candidates, for whom we vote, must evince an honest and intelligent purpose to carry out, faithfully and impartially, the principle of “the equal rights [32] of all men.”  But, they, surely, can not evince such purpose, who are slaveholders, or apologists for slaveholders; or who are in political, or ecclesiastical, fellowship with slaveholders, or the apologists for slaveholders.  Nor, can they evince it, who, in their habits, or occupations, or sentiments, sanction the horrid and murderous traffic in intoxicating drinks.  Nor can they, who are members of secret societies.  Nor can they, who are advocates of standing armies and navies, or of any of those expenditures, which are, often, called securities against, as well as preparations for, war, but which might, always, be more properly called provocatives [sic] to war.  Nor can they, who, holding suffrage to be but a conventional, instead of a natural right, would have its enjoyment by one person turn on the consent of another.  Nor can they, who are not opposed to land monopoly, and who do not subscribe to the doctrine, that every human being is as absolutely the inheritor and owner of his needed portion of the soil, as of his needed portion of light, air, and water.  Nor can they, who, for whatever reasons, would debar the exercise of the universal and inherent right to buy and sell freely, in all the markets of the world.  Nor, in short, can they evince an honest and intelligent purpose to carry out, faithfully and impartially, the principle of “the equal rights of all men,” and so entitle themselves to our votes, who are the advocates of any monopoly, or class-legislation, or manifest violation of this great principle of the Liberty Party.

We have, now, made you acquainted with the future course of the Liberty Party.  That this Party will be popular, we do not claim.  That corrupt men—men, who are more for numbers than principles—for ballot-box victories than for truth—will approve of it, we do not expect.  But, that good men, who are also intelligent, will, as fast as they are brought to consider it, give it their approbation, we do not doubt.  That God will be on its side is our firm belief:—and, humbly and fervently, do we pray, that He will condescend to make it a means of hastening the time, when oppression and war shall be unknown; when every man, seeing in every other, a brother, aye, and another self, shall seek equal possessions, equal comforts, and equal blessedness for all; and when “the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.”