Freeman on the land
Freeman on the land, also known as simply freeman, is a form of pseudo-legal woo in various English-speaking countries. Freemen believe they can opt out of being governed, and that what normal people understand to be "laws" are merely a form of "contract" that applies only if people consent to it.
Freemen hold that we are all subject to a massive international legal conspiracy perpetrated for the profit of the elites, but you can hack the system if you just use the right form of words.
They believe only in their version of natural law, which they call "common law." In practical terms, they believe this means they do not have to pay taxes, debts, mortgages, etc. because we were all deceived and if you say the right form of words this fact will be accepted.
Freemen believe they can declare themselves independent of government jurisdiction using the concept of "lawful rebellion": that all statute law is contractual and therefore only applicable if an individual consents to it. They assert that what everyone else regards as "the law" doesn't apply to them as they have not consented to a contract with the state, even going so far as to claim they have a lawful right to refuse arrest if they do not consent. They insist that the government is a corporation, are obsessed with maritime law, and call themselves things like "John of the family Smith." Essentially, they're hilarious and somewhat less threatening sovereign citizens.
No freeman arguments have ever succeeded in court; some have even explicitly ruled that the term "freeman on the land" has no legal significance when the argument is raised. Actually using the arguments gets people into worse trouble, including fines, asset seizures, contempt convictions and criminal records. However, this doesn't stop freemen from claiming that it works.
The "Freeman on the Land" movement inherited various indefensible legal concepts from the older tax protester and sovereign citizen movements in the US such as Posse Comitatus in the 1970s and 1980s, the redemption movement in the 1980s and 1990s and the Montana Freemen in the 1990s. Freeman concepts of admiralty law and common law, their obsession with capitalization of words and various theories on finance can be traced back to almost identical theories from these earlier movements.
The freeman movement itself appears to have originated in Canada with "Mary Elizabeth: Croft"(sic) and her 2005 book How I clobbered every bureaucratic cash-confiscatory agency known to man ... a Spiritual Economics Book on $$$ and Remembering Who You Are . This evolved into a Canadian movement, with advocates such as Robert Menard— who appears to have actually coined the phrase "Freeman on the land," with the phrase achieving currency some time around mid-2008.
It then crossed over to the UK with organizations such as the British Constitution Group and people such as John Harris, Brian Gerrish, the Anti-terrorist, Raymond St Clair and Dominic Lohan. Freeman arguments came to UK public attention when they tried recruiting amongst the more anarchist-leaning protesters at the Occupy London protests in late 2011, and even got two articles in the Guardian. These were promptly slapped down by actual lawyers who detailed how this was dangerous idiocy that would send you directly to jail.Freeman ideas are now an object of amusement for the British legal profession. Freemen have also shown up in Ireland, causing similar concern amongst the legal profession there and a similar lack of success in practice.
Freeman ideas are closer to libertarianism than anarchism, with some libertarians considering them a very positive sign (e.g.the Libertarian Alliance in the UK). Although many of the ideas originated amongst backwoods white supremacist groups, it must be noted that current freemen thankfully do not commonly espouse any such racism as part of their thinking.
How it's marketed
As Legal Week noted, "These ideas are most attractive to desperate, vulnerable people who are going through terrible times in their lives." If someone is selling a simple explanation of why your life is messed up, the false hope it offers is extremely attractive — even if the explanation is complete rubbish and the suggested actions consistently just don't work.
Robert Menard in particular sells his DVD and book packs for C$250, but notably doesn't use freeman legal tactics himself— he leaves that to his victims.
Canadian Associate Chief Justice John D. Rooke wrote a 185-page judgment rejecting what he called "Organized Pseudolegal Commercial Arguments" (OPCA), specifically defendant Dennis Meads' Freeman on the Land claims,saying:
“”These persons employ a collection of techniques and arguments promoted and sold by ‘gurus’ to disrupt court operations and to attempt to frustrate the legal rights of governments, corporations and individuals. The persons who advance these schemes, and particularly those who market and sell these concepts as commercial products, are parasites that must be stopped.
“”The bluntly idiotic substance of Mr. Mead’s argument explains the unnecessarily complicated manner in which it was presented. OPCA arguments are never sold to their customers as simple ideas, but instead are byzantine schemes which more closely resemble the plot of a dark fantasy novel than anything else. Latin maxims and powerful sounding language are often used. Documents are often ornamented with many strange marking and seals. Litigants engage in peculiar, ritual‑like in court conduct. All these features appear necessary for gurus to market OPCA schemes to their often desperate, ill‑informed, mentally disturbed, or legally abusive customers. This is crucial to understand the non-substance of any OPCA concept or strategy. The story and process of a OPCA scheme is not intended to impress or convince the Courts, but rather to impress the guru’s customer.
How it works (or not)
The freeman position is not entirely lacking in moral force: considering government-created law to be a damnable imposition is a defensible stance with a long and respectable history. But their theory of the world is utterly spurious, and their practical approach is made entirely of magic beans and crack.
A lot of freeman ideas revolve around bizarre interpretations of entries in Black's Law Dictionary—favorite reference for freemen — and inventing or seeing distinctions where there are none to support their beliefs (such as common versus statute law, "policeman" versus "police officer," "understand" versus "stand under," words in CAPITALS having a different legal meaning to those in lower-case, etc.). A lot of pareidolia with words and concepts is used to derive and justify ideas in freeman theory.
Freemen are typically members of the green ink brigade and often indulge in various other conspiracy theories, as well as holding strong anti-government and anti-corporate sentiments. Freemen often try to escape tax and debt repayment by arguing that they are not required to pay tax, or even to argue that borrowed money was theirs to start with. Freeman ideas are so far-out that even arch-crackpot Alex Jones thinks they're "quackery," and agrees that using them will probably get you sent to prison.
Freeman methods fail to understand that the law derives its authority from the fact that the state has the means and the will to use force to impose it. You can argue that the authorities have no jurisdiction over you, and you can choose not to recognise their authority, but as long as the authorities have force to back up their rules they can enforce sanctions against you. Freemen would argue that this would be unlawful imprisonment — but at the end of the day you'd still be in jail.
Freemen have an obsession with common law, which normally refers to what is known as case law:
“”As distinguished from statutory law created by the enactment of legislatures, the common law comprises the body of those principles and rules of action, relating to the government and security [rights] of persons and property, which derive their authority solely from usages and customs of immemorial antiquity, or from the judgements and decrees of the courts recognizing, affirming, and enforcing such usages and customs; and in this sense, particularly the ancient unwritten law of England.
—Black's law dictionary, 6th edition, 1991
They use this entry to justify a different definition, one which is heavily reliant on the concept of natural law. They see common law as applicable to everyone or, as they put it, "applicable to men and women, flesh and blood human beings," but statutory law as dependent on choice, an offer of contract, only applicable to their "person" (their "legal person") and not enforceable except by consent.
Freeman definitions of common law include "you do not cause harm or loss to another, while you never breach the peace, and never employ any mischief in your promises & agreements" (Veronica: of the chapman family) and "There are only three ways to break the law: harm another human being, damage someone else's property, use fraud or mischief in your contracts" (Robert Menard).
Legal person or strawman
Freemen believe that an individual has two personas. One of them is a physical, tangible human being, and the other is their legal person,personality or strawman: a legal fiction created when a birth certificate is filed with what would normally be considered someone's name (e.g., JOHN SMITH), capitalization being a particular obsession. They believe their birth certificate is their legal person, and will attempt to present it in court when said person is called for, rather than identifying themselves as that person.
Freemen believe that all legal actions, restrictions and statutes can only be applied to their legal personality, and that, by separating themselves from their legal person, they can free themselves of having to abide by statute laws they don't like (or acts, as they would insist they are not laws). They typically use a slightly different spelling of their name, usually "John of the family Smith" (variations include "John of Smith" or even "John: Smith"), entering into what is referred to as Lawful Rebellion, or by filing a Notice of Understanding and Intent and Claim of Right. They also believe that use of titles such as Mr/Mrs refer to their legal fiction as opposed to themselves, and will therefore refuse to be identified using them, in case this creates "joinder" (see below).
Because of their obsession with admiralty law and all things maritime, freemen believe that their legal person is required to operate in commerce. It is therefore defined as a vessel or ship in the legal realm, floating on the sea of commerce.
Notice of understanding and intent and claim of right
A notice of understanding and intent and claim of right is a made-up pseudo-legal document freemen use in an attempt to declare sovereignty. They will sign such a document, sometimes with a notary, and then send it to the Queen and sometimes various other figures such as the Prime Minister and police chiefs.
It usually consists of a series of lines beginning "Whereas it is my understanding" followed by an assertion which is untrue or completely illogical. Various parts will state their bizarre interpretation of the law and their understanding that they do not consent to it. They are typically much like this example:
“”I, Veronica: of the Chapman family, hereinafter known as Veronica: Chapman, a flesh and blood human being in possession of a sovereign and individual spirit, a living soul, do hereby make Oath and state the following is My Truth and My Law:
Whereas it is my understanding that in terms of earthly existence there is no species more supreme than a living, breathing, imaginative human being blessed with a living soul, and
Whereas it is my understanding a living soul who chooses by free will not to be a member of any society can be referred to as a Freeman-on-the-land, and
Whereas it is my understanding a Freeman-on-the-land remains entirely and solely under Common Law jurisdiction, andWhereas I Veronica: Chapman am a Freeman-on-the-land, and ...
The notice of understanding is typically followed by a "fee schedule" or "penalty schedules," listing a series of acts and associated penalties the freeman will attempt to levy against the government for perceived transgressions. If the state arrests or incarcerates a freeman against their will, they will then attempt to charge the state a fee for this action. This does not work out in practice and has attracted penalties in return.
Lawful rebellion and the Magna Carta
Lawful rebellion in British freeman theory holds that one can lawfully choose to cease abiding by the laws, rules and statutes of a country by simply opting out of society. Lawful rebellion is often used as an alternative to the Notice of Understanding and Intent and Claim of Right method, although they are sometimes used together. This claim supposedly stems from clause 61 of the Magna Carta. It fails when used in court.
Clause 61 is an historically and constitutionally significant clause. It gave twenty-five barons the right to meet and overrule the will of the king and seize his assets, essentially usurping his authority, should this be considered necessary. This was based on distraint (the seizure of someone’s property in order to obtain payment of rent or other money owed), but it was the first time it had been applied to a monarch. It was one of the first times that there had been any kind of restriction on a king's power from below, and arguably it was one of the first checks and balances on the monarch and furthermore the first step toward a constitutional government. Nevertheless, clause 61 was only in effect for three months, as King John later renounced it and Pope Innocent III released King John from his oath to obey it. This led to the First Barons' War between the king and his barons.
Freemen claim that clause 61 allows them to cease obeying the state. This sometimes involves sending an affidavit direct to the Queen declaring one's intent to become a freeman and removing their consent to be governed. Some freemen believe that the Queen represents the highest authority in the land as the sovereign, but that she derives her authority from the people. This then makes them sovereign, such that there is no higher authority than themselves.
The actual text of Magna Carta's clause 61 explicitly refers to the King and the Barons (25 of them being required to invoke the clause) — nowhere is there any mention of the people, free or otherwise; nor would there be, given the feudal system in place at the time. The phrase "Lawful Rebellion" appears nowhere in clause 61, being an invention of freeman mythology.
Freemen claim that the Magna Carta cannot be repealed, but this simply is not true. It was, in fact replaced by the Magna Carta of 1297, passed by Edward I in return for new taxes. It is this 1297 version (without any clause 61 or anything resembling it) which is now "in force", although by 1969, all but sections 1 (freedom of the church), 9 (freedom of the city of London) and 29 (right to due process) had been repealed or superseded.
Contracts and statutes
Because of their conception of common law as the only true law, freemen believe that any laws made by the government are not "laws," but are instead invitations to contract, or "acts," giving rise to the freeman maxim, "Acts nor laws." They do not believe that statute law applies without an individual's consent, and that we are merely conditioned and deceived by the authorities to believe that they do. Freemen claim that statutes can have the force of law as a binding contract under the correct conditions.
Freemen believe that the government has to establish what they refer to as joinder to link yourself and your legal person. When they ask you whether you are "John Smith" and you confirm that you are, then you are establishing joinder. You have then connected your physical and human persons. (In real law, joinder means joining related cases together, not establishing identity.)
The next step is to obtain consent. Statutes are seen as invitations to enter a contract, which are only legally enforceable if one enters into the contract consensually. If one does not enter into a contract, statute laws are not applicable. Freemen believe that the government is therefore constantly trying to trick people into entering into a contract with them. They often return bills, notices, summons and so on with the message "No contract—return to sender".
Notices (e.g., those issued by courts, the police or some government agencies) are supposedly written in "legalese," the deliberately deceptive technical jargon language of "a company called the Law Society." The claim is that legalese looks like English and uses English words, but is not English. For instance, freemen assert that the word "must" in legalese is synonymous with "may" in English, "summons" means "invitation," "demand" means "offer," and "understand" (as in "do you understand?") means "stand under," as in "do you stand under these words?" (i.e., accept the terms of our contract). They claim that all these terms are sneaky ways of getting you to contract with the government without realizing. No source is provided for this use of language; and some of it is demonstrably incorrect. The English word "understand" derives from an Old English word meaning stand in the midst of-under deriving from the Proto-Indo-Europeanroot*nter-, meaning "between" or "among", from where the modern English prefix "inter-" also derives.
For a worked example, see this freeman analysis of a leaflet about the UK TV license: The DECEPTION of: INCLUDE(S) used by TV LICENSING oop's sorry! CONSIGNIA (CUSTOMER MANAGEMENT) LTD also Traded as TV LICENSING.
Admiralty law and court appearance techniques
Freemen see a distinction between (what they call) common law and statute law, which they refer to as "admiralty law," "law of the sea," "maritime law" or the "universal commercial code" (a distortion of the US-only Uniform Commercial Code) — something that only applies to corporations,e.g.legal persons, not flesh-and-blood humans. They see admiralty law as being the law of commerce, the law of ownership, citizenship, and indeed anything else ending in "-ship." They see evidence of this in various nautical-sounding terms used in court, such as "dock," "birth (berth) certificate," "-ship" suffixes and any other fancy word they think might have a vaguely naval sound.Freemen will take this further by referring to the court as a "ship", its occupants as "passengers" and claiming that anyone leaving are "men overboard." This gives their legal arguments a hilarious nautical theme.
They see courts as being a place of business intended to make profit for the government corporation. They sometimes refer to these courts as "de facto courts." When they receive a summons to appear in court, they insist that this is not a summons but, in fact, an invitation to a place of business to discuss the matter at hand. When one initially enters a court they are then operating under "admiralty law" rather than (their version of) "common law." American freemen will sometimes try to argue that if the flag in the court has a gold fringe, this signifies that it is an admiralty court. British courts tend not to have flags of any type, so the claim has largely failed to cross the Atlantic.
Freemen believe that a victim must exist for a common law crime to have been committed. One attempt at defense will be to demand to see evidence of a victim. They may also complain that the trial is unfair because the judge and prosecution are on the same team, both being employed by the state. If a freeman has had their property confiscated, they will request that it be returned to them.
They will try to claim common law (rather than admiralty law) jurisdiction by asking "do you have a claim against me?" which supposedly removes their consent to be governed by admiralty law and turns the court into a common law court, forcing the court to proceed according to their version of common law. (This has never worked.) Any cooperation with the court is seen as accepting their terms of contract, and freemen will therefore refuse to do anything asked of them. When asked to stand or approach the bench, they will often refuse to do so, or only do so as long as their "inalienable God-given rights remain intact," in order to prevent them inadvertently entering into a contract.
Freemen will also attempt to "put the judge on their oath" to force them to to act in accordance with common law, which entails asking to see evidence of this oath. Judges typically give short shrift to this kind of request, and either adjourn the hearing or threaten the freeman with contempt of court. The freeman might then ask whether the judge means civil or criminal contempt; this is because freemen believe that civil contempt would come under admiralty law, and therefore require a consensual contract, and that criminal contempt would require a victim. When judges leave the courtroom, Freemen will attempt to claim common law authority and then attempt to dismiss the charges themselves, often with a cry of "ship abandoned" or "man overboard."
They will never accept legal representation, as to do so might entail contracting with the state. They also believe that professional lawyers and solicitors owe a duty to the crown before their client due to their oath, and therefore cannot represent them effectively. Professional lawyers are all part of the legal system and therefore not to be trusted.
Court appearances are by far the most hysterical part of the freeman delusion, as various YouTube videos will attest. Watching freemen trying to apply their delusions to reality is like watching a video of a slow-motion train wreck onto which someone has dubbed delusional gibberish. The fact that freemen put these videos — and note that most filming in court is illegal in the UK— on YouTube at all suggests powerful cognitive dissonance, since they typically make the protagonist look very foolish. Techniques used to overcome the manifest failure of freeman logic in court include editing out key moments in favour of voice-overs and mistaking adjournments for acquittals.
Cestui Que Vie Act
Many freemen are big on the Cestui Que Vie Act of 1666. They claim that this act declared all English citizens dead and lost beyond the seas unless they objected within seven years of their birth, after which they would be declared dead without reasonable doubt. The state would then claim all the property of its citizens in trust. The relevant part of this rather short act reads:
“”Whereas diverse Lords of Mannours and others have granted Estates by Lease for one or more life or lives, or else for yeares determinable upon one or more life or lives And it hath often happened that such person or persons for whose life or lives such Estates have beene granted have gone beyond the Seas or soe absented themselves for many yeares that the Lessors and Reversioners cannot finde out whether such person or persons be alive or dead by reason whereof such Lessors and Reversioners have beene held out of possession of their Tenements for many yeares after all the lives upon which such Estates depend are dead in regard that the Lessors and Reversioners when they have brought Actions for the recovery of their Tenements have beene putt upon it to prove the death of their Tennants when it is almost impossible for them to discover the same, For remedy of which mischeife soe frequently happening to such Lessors or Reversioners. If such person or persons for whose life or lives such Estates have beene or shall be granted as aforesaid shall remaine beyond the Seas or elsewhere absent themselves in this Realme by the space of seaven yeares together and noe sufficient and evident proofe be made of the lives of such person or persons respectively in any Action commenced for recovery of such Tenements by the Lessors or Reversioners in every such case the person or persons upon whose life or lives such Estate depended shall be accounted as naturally dead, And in every Action brought for the recovery of the said Tenements by the Lessors or Reversioners their Heires or Assignes, the Judges before whom such Action shall be brought shall direct the Jury to give their Verdict as if the person soe remaining beyond the Seas or otherwise absenting himselfe were dead.
The intent of this act is obvious: that anyone lost at sea for more than seven years can be declared legally dead for the purpose of redistributing their estate. How anyone can arrive at a different conclusion is bizarre.
Freemen are typically strongly anti-government and believe that the government is a "corporation" (number uc2279443). Their proof is that the government and various parts of it were listed on the website of credit agency Dunn and Bradstreet under "corporations" as having a credit record.
In reality, any entity (corporation, government, individual person, charity or whatever) that borrows money or works on credit will have a credit record so that creditors can assess the risk of lending. Nor are credit agencies the arbiters of what is and isn't a corporation. The idiosyncrasies of how a credit rating organization's website lists entities are not evidence for outrageous claims.
Freemen believe that the UK and Canada are now operating in bankruptcy and are therefore under admiralty law. Since the abolition of the gold standard in 1917, UK currency is now backed not by gold but rather by the people, or rather the legal fiction of their persons. They describe persons as creditors of the UK corporation.
They also claim that when we vote, we are in fact electing directors of a company for profit, that MPs are directors and the voters are employees of the "corporation". Indeed, having a Social Security number (in the US), Social Insurance Number (in Canada), or National Insurance number (in the UK) makes you an employee of the corporation. Exactly who is supposed to get the profit from this "corporation" is unclear.
There are three main beliefs about birth certificates in freeman mythology:
- The government uses them to create your strawman and legal person to which all your legal responsibilities, debts and liabilities belong.
- As a form of registration, they transfer ownership of an individual to the state. This is what allows the state to seize your children if you don't play by their rules.
- They are financial instruments or birth-tracking bonds (a.k.a.live birth bonds) that are sold by the government and then traded on the sea of international commerce, using you as security (an idea taken from the redemption movement).
Freemen claim the government secures the value of its fiat currency using its own citizens' birth certificate "bonds." It is claimed that the value of an individual's "bond" may reach into the millions. This can supposedly be proved by entering the numbers on one's birth certificate into various stock-tracking sites to show the current value of one's "bond" on the market. In reality, of course, any "bonds" found matching these numbers will be real financial instruments which match by complete coincidence.
Notwithstanding this, freemen believe that one can access the money represented by one's own "bond" though various pseudo-legal methods and by filing forms with government agencies. There are plenty of con men, fraudsters and snake-oil salesmen selling methods on how to achieve this to gullible fools. Naturally, none have ever been shown to work.
The value of one's birth certificate "bond" can also supposedly be used to discharge one's debts and financial liabilities through a process known as "acceptance for value" or "A4V", without the freeman having to gain direct access to the funds himself. The UK Treasury has stated that the existence of these bonds, as well as various other freeman financial concepts, are myths.
Despite the numerous failed attempts to use freeman legal methods, freemen will always insist that they do work, even clinging to this delusion when arrested and thrown in the cells. Below are some examples.
- 2012 October 3rd - State of Tennessee v. Anthony Troy Williams "we determine that Appellant was properly convicted of driving on a canceled, suspended, or revoked license. Accordingly, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed."
- Judge challenged to produce oath by man disputing summons. Full panoply of Freeman delusion on display here, down to Black's Legal Dictionary being produced in court. End result: conviction, and when The Freeman Bobby of the Family Sludds wanted to appeal—"I can’t accept a bail bond from someone whose signature can’t be verified," the Judge said, remanding Mr Sludds to Cloverhill prison.
- Two men are arrested and charged with growing cannabis.They claim to be "freemen on the land", but the courts state that they have "no personal circumstances applying to them which affords immunity to prosecution", that there was "no legal significance" to the term "freeman on the land" and that they would be tried anyway.
- Freeman Mark of the family Bond gets arrested(more) after refusing to recognize the court and giving police his notice of intent. He gets a suspended 3 month jail sentence anyway, on condition that he pays off his debt Freeman "Brian-arthur: alexander" tries to get out of speeding by telling a judge the law doesn't apply to him. The judge disagrees and the police suggest further charges of obstruction and mischief for his freeman shenanigans.
- Freeman Darren Pollard gets arrested despite telling the police officer he doesn't consent or contract. Not surprisingly it fails and they take him into custody anyway Darren Pollard gets arrested again after refusing to appear in court despite trying to claim that he was "Darren of the family Pollard" and not the legal fiction of Darren Pollard they were looking for.
- Freeman Ben Lowrey is arrested for driving a motorcycle without registration, insurance, MOT or a crash helmet. Subsequently fined £500.
- Mika Rasila gets stopped by the police for not having a license plate.He tells them that he doesn't consent to their laws and that he isn't an employee of the "corporation of Canada". It doesn't work and they arrest him and impound his van. A judge later gives him a fine of $1,250.
- Freewoman Mary Gye recollects her account of being arrested for not having road tax or car insurance and having her "conveyance" impounded. This in spite of all the freeman woo she tried. She was later sentenced to 14 days in HMP Styal women's prison for criminal contempt when she brought a tape recorder into a court hearing over nonpayment of council tax.
- New Hampshire resident Ian Freeman (AKA Ian Bernard) arrested, tried and jailed for 93 days for dumping a couch. Within seconds of his trial commencing, he was rearrested and hand-cuffed for refusing to sit down when asked.He has since attempted using the freeman woo while defending a parking ticket.
- James-Michael: Tesi arrested.After refusing to pay a fine for not wearing a seat belt, he flooded the court with woo-woo documents basically refusing to pay. The court ignored this, and issued an arrest warrant. A police officer pulled him over, which resulted in gunfire and Tesi being wounded.
- A Freewoman attempts to use the entire panoply of freeman woo to deny a court's jurisdiction in child custody proceedings. She was sentenced to nine months for contempt.
- A person is a "person", a Canadian judge rules, after freeman David Kevin Lindsay tries to get out of paying tax by asserting otherwise. Lindsay has also been designated a vexatious litigant.(Whether entering into litigation counts as consent to said laws is not clarified.)
- Star: Hills' house is foreclosed upon when her attempts to just stop paying her mortgage fail, and even her fee schedules don't work. Despite having bought the entire $250 package from Robert Menard.