On general principles of law and reason, all the oaths which since the
war, have been given by Southern men, that they will obey the laws of
Congress, support the Union, and the like, are of no validity. Such
oaths are invalid, not only because they were extorted by military
power, and threats of confiscation, and because they are in
contravention of men's natural right to do as they please about
supporting the government, but also because they were given to
. They were nominally given to "the United States." But being
nominally given to "the United States," they were necessarily given to
nobody, because, on general principles of law and reason, there were
no "United States," to whom the oaths could be given. That is to say,
there was no open, authentic, avowed, legitimate association,
corporation, or body of men, known as "the United States," or as "the
people of the United States," to whom the oaths could have been given.
If anybody says there was such a corporation, let him state who were
the individuals that composed it, and how and when they became a
corporation. Were Mr. A, Mr. B, and Mr. C members of it? If so,
where are their signatures? Where the evidence of their membership?
Where the record? Where the open, authentic proof? There is none.
Therefore, in law and reason, there was no such corporation.
On general principles of law and reason, every corporation,
association, or organized body of men, having a legitimate corporate
existence, and legitimate corporate rights, must consist of certain
known individuals, who can prove, by legitimate and reasonable
evidence, their membership. But nothing of this kind can be proved in
regard to the corporation, or body of men, who call themselves "the
United States." Not a man of them, in all the Northern States, can
prove by any legitimate evidence, such as is required to prove
membership in other legal corporations, that he himself, or any other
man whom he can name, is a member of any corporation or association
called "the United States," or "the people of the United States," or,
consequently, that there is any such corporation. And since no such
corporation can be proved to exist, it cannot of course be proved that
the oaths of Southern men were given to any such corporation. The
most that can be claimed is that the oaths were given to a secret band
of robbers and murderers, who called themselves "the United States,"
and extorted those oaths. But that certainly is not enough to prove
that the oaths are of any obligation.