If I go upon Boston Common, and in the presence of a hundred thousand people, men, women and children, with whom I have no contract on the subject, take an oath that I will enforce upon them the laws of Moses, of Lycurgus, of Solon, of Justinian, or of Alfred, that oath is, on general principles of law and reason, of no obligation. It is of no obligation, not merely because it is intrinsically a criminal one, but also because it is given to nobody, and consequently pledges my faith to nobody. It is merely given to the winds.
It would not alter the case at all to say that, among these hundred thousand persons, in whose presence the oath was taken, there were two, three, or five thousand male adults, who had secretly--by secret ballot, and in a way to avoid making themselves individually known to me, or to the remainder of the hundred thousand--designated me as their agent to rule, control, plunder, and, if need be, murder, these hundred thousand people. The fact that they had designated me secretly, and in a manner to prevent my knowing them individually, prevents all privity between them and me; and consequently makes it impossible that there can be any contract, or pledge of faith, on my part towards them; for it is impossible that I can pledge my faith, in any legal sense, to a man whom I neither know, nor have any means of knowing, individually.
So far as I am concerned, then, these two, three, or five thousand persons are a secret band of robbers and murderers, who have secretly, and in a way to save themselves from all responsibility for my acts, designated me as their agent; and have, through some other agent, or pretended agent, made their wishes known to me. But being, nevertheless, individually unknown to me, and having no open, authentic contract with me, my oath is, on general principles of law and reason, of no validity as a pledge of faith to them. And being no pledge of faith to them, it is no pledge of faith to anybody. It is mere idle wind. At most, it is only a pledge of faith to an unknown band of robbers and murderers, whose instrument for plundering and murdering other people, I thus publicly confess myself to be. And it has no other obligation than a similar oath given to any other unknown body of pirates, robbers, and murderers.
For these reasons the oaths taken by members of Congress, "to support the Constitution," are, on general principles of law and reason, of no validity. They are not only criminal in themselves, and therefore void; but they are also void for the further reason that they are given to nobody.
It cannot be said that, in any legitimate or legal sense, they are given to "the people of the United States"; because neither the whole, nor any large proportion of the whole, people of the United States ever, either openly or secretly, appointed or designated these men as their agents to carry the Constitution into effect. The great body of the people--that is, men, women and children--were never asked, or even permitted, to signify, in any formal manner, either openly or secretly, their choice or wish on the subject. The most that these members of Congress can say, in favor of their appointment, is simply this: Each one can say for himself:
I have evidence satisfactory to myself, that there exists, scattered throughout the country, a band of men, having a tacit understanding with each other, and calling themselves "the people of the United States," whose general purposes are to control and plunder each other, and all other persons in the country, and, so far as they can, even in neighboring countries; and to kill every man who shall attempt to defend his person and property against their schemes of plunder and dominion. Who these men are, individually I have no certain means of knowing, for they sign no papers, and give no open, authentic evidence of their individual membership. They are not known individually even to each other. They are apparently as much afraid of being individually known to each other, as of being known to other persons. Hence they ordinarily have no mode either of exercising, or of making known, their individual membership, otherwise than by giving their votes secretly for certain agents to do their will. But although these men are individually unknown, both to each other and to other persons, it is generally understood in the country that none but male persons, of the age of twenty-one years and upwards, can be members. It is also generally understood that all male persons, born in the country, having certain complexions, and (in some localities) certain amounts of property, and (in certain cases) even persons of foreign birth, are permitted to be members. But it appears that usually not more than one half, two-thirds, or, in some cases, three-fourths, of all who are thus permitted to become members of the band, ever exercise, or consequently prove, their actual membership, in the only mode in which they ordinarily can exercise or prove it, viz., by giving their votes secretly for the officers or agents of the band. The number of these secret votes, so far as we have any account of them, varies greatly from year to year, thus tending to prove that the band, instead of being a permanent organization, is a merely pro tempore affair with those who choose to act with it for the time being. The gross number of these secret votes, or what purports to be their gross number, in different localities, is occasionally published. Whether these reports are accurate or not, we have no means of knowing. It is generally supposed that great frauds are often committed in depositing them. They are understood to be received and counted by certain men, who are themselves appointed for that purpose by the same secret process by which all other officers and agents of the band are selected. According to the reports of these receivers of votes (for whose accuracy or honesty, however, I cannot vouch), and according to my best knowledge of the whole number of male persons "in my district," who (it is supposed) were permitted to vote, it would appear that one-half, two-thirds or three-fourths actually did vote. Who the men were, individually, who cast these votes, I have no knowledge, for the whole thing was done secretly. But of the secret votes thus given for what they call a "member of Congress," the receivers reported that I had a majority, or at least a larger number than any other one person. And it is only by virtue of such a designation that I am now here to act in concert with other persons similarly selected in other parts of the country. It is understood among those who sent me here, that all the persons so selected, will, on coming together at the City of Washington, take an oath in each other's presence "to support the Constitution of the United States." By this is meant a certain paper that was drawn up eighty years ago. It was never signed by anybody, and apparently has no obligation, and never had any obligation, as a contract. In fact, few persons ever read it, and doubtless much the largest number of those who voted for me and the others, never even saw it, or now pretend to know what it means. Nevertheless, it is often spoken of in the country as "the Constitution of the United States"; and for some reason or another, the men who sent me here, seem to expect that I, and all with whom I act, will swear to carry this Constitution into effect. I am therefore ready to take this oath, and to co-operate with all others, similarly selected, who are ready to take the same oath
This is the most that any member of Congress can say in proof that he has any constituency; that he represents anybody; that his oath "to support the Constitution," is given to anybody, or pledges his faith to anybody. He has no open, written, or other authentic evidence, such as is required in all other cases, that he was ever appointed the agent or representative of anybody. He has no written power of attorney from any single individual. He has no such legal knowledge as is required in all other cases, by which he can identify a single one of those who pretend to have appointed him to represent them.
Of course his oath, professedly given to them, "to support the Constitution," is, on general principles of law and reason, an oath given to nobody. It pledges his faith to nobody. If he fails to fulfill his oath, not a single person can come forward, and say to him, you have betrayed me, or broken faith with me.
No one can come forward and say to him: I appointed you my attorney to act for me. I required you to swear that, as my attorney, you would support the Constitution. You promised me that you would do so; and now you have forfeited the oath you gave to me. No single individual can say this.
No open, avowed, or responsible association, or body of men, can come forward and say to him: We appointed you our attorney, to act for us. We required you to swear that, as our attorney, you would support the Constitution. You promised us that you would do so; and now you have forfeited the oath you gave to us.
No open, avowed, or responsible association, or body of men, can say this to him; because there is no such association or body of men in existence. If any one should assert that there is such an association, let him prove, if he can, who compose it. Let him produce, if he can, any open, written, or other authentic contract, signed or agreed to by these men; forming themselves into an association; making themselves known as such to the world; appointing him as their agent; and making themselves individually, or as an association, responsible for his acts, done by their authority. Until all this can be shown, no one can say that, in any legitimate sense, there is any such association; or that he is their agent; or that he ever gave his oath to them; or ever pledged his faith to them.
On general principles of law and reason, it would be a sufficient answer for him to say, to all individuals, and all pretended associations of individuals, who should accuse him of a breach of faith to them:
I never knew you. Where is your evidence that you, either individually or collectively, ever appointed me your attorney? that you ever required me to swear to you, that, as your attorney, I would support the Constitution? or that I have now broken any faith I ever pledged to you? You may, or you may not, be members of that secret band of robbers and murderers, who act in secret; appoint their agents by a secret ballot; who keep themselves individually unknown even to the agents they thus appoint; and who, therefore, cannot claim that they have any agents; or that any of their pretended agents ever gave his oath, or pledged his faith, to them. I repudiate you altogether. My oath was given to others, with whom you have nothing to do; or it was idle wind, given only to the idle winds. Begone!