August 6, 2011
I hear bandied about these days words like Patriotism, Freedom, Unalienable Rights, and Liberty. The opposite of slavery is more than freedom. You can free a slave but does he have liberty? To me the basis of all our desires lies in the precepts of individual liberty. Or as my dear friend Dave Champion says on his radio show -- “the full measure of liberty.”
This is what our founders wanted for themselves and their posterity. They did not fight for unemployment payments, they did not wage war for a guaranteed old age pension, they fought for liberty – they fought for the right to decide their own destiny and bear the full consequence of the fruit of their labors, good or bad.
As a student of the Constitution I try, whenever possible, to use authoritative writings from that time in history of which I am writing as it more accurately reflect the common knowledge of the day.
To start I would like to define liberty based on a common law dictionary used during that time period called Bouvier’s Law Dictionary, 1856 Edition, which defines liberty as:
“LIBERTY. Freedom from restraint. The power of acting as one thinks fit, without any restraint or control, except from the laws of nature.”
Bouvier identifies a number of the “laws of nature” throughout his writings. They are based upon things one would find of natural consequence. As an example he states: "Man from his birth is wholly unable to provide for the least of his necessities; but the love of his parents supplies for this weakness. This is one of the most powerful laws of nature. The principal duties it imposes on the parents, are to bestow on the child all the care its weakness requires, to provide for its necessary food and clothing, to instruct it, to provide for its wants, and to use coercive means for its good, when requisite."
As you may have noticed, the natural laws are those things which we inherently identify as proper. The parental responsibility and duty to provide for and nourish a child is a prime example that also is the foundation for parental rights as well.
Bouvier goes on to further define liberty to have further divisions:
2. Liberty is divided into civil, natural, personal, and political.
3. Civil liberty is the power to do whatever is permitted by the constitution of the state and the laws of the land. It is no other than natural liberty, so far restrained by human laws, and no further, operating equally upon all the citizens, as is necessary and expedient for the general advantage of the public. 1 Black. Com. 125; Paley's Mor. Phil. B. 6, c.5; Swifts Syst. 12
4. That system of laws is alone calculated to maintain civil liberty, which leaves the citizen entirely master of his own conduct, except in those points in which the public good requires some direction and restraint. When a man is restrained in his natural liberty by no municipal laws but those which are requisite to prevent his violating the natural law, and to promote the greatest moral and physical welfare of the community, he is legally possessed of the fullest enjoyment of his civil rights of individual liberty. But it must not be inferred that individuals are to judge for themselves how far the law may justifiably restrict their individual liberty; for it is necessary to the welfare of the commonwealth, that the law should be obeyed; and thence is derived the legal maxim, that no man may be wiser than the law.
5. Natural liberty is the right which nature gives to all mankind, of disposing of their persons and property after the manner they judge most consonant to their happiness, on condition of their acting within the limits of the law of nature, and that they do not in any way abuse it to the prejudice of other men. Burlamaqui, c. 3, s. 15; 1 Bl. Com. 125.
6. Personal liberty is the independence of our actions of all other will than our own. Wolff, Ins. Nat. Sec. 77. It consists in the power of locomotion, of changing situation, or removing one's person to whatever place one's inclination may direct, without imprisonment or restraint, unless by due course of law. 1 Bl. Com. 134.
7. Political liberty may be defined to be, the security by which, from the constitution, form and nature of the established government, the citizens enjoy civil liberty. No ideas or definitions are more distinguishable than those of civil and political liberty, yet they are generally confounded. 1 Bl. Com. 6, 125. The political liberty of a state is based upon those fundamental laws which establish the distribution of legislative and executive powers. The political liberty of a citizen is that tranquility of mind, which is the effect of an opinion that he is in perfect security; and to insure this security, the government must be such that one citizen shall not fear another.
Each item detailed above is intertwined with each other with the basis of all in the security of personal liberty. Political Liberty exists for the express purpose of securing liberty to its citizens.
To highlight his point even further let’s look at the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence, which states: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. – That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men…”
As a basis for our Declaration we espoused that Liberty is a right of man and the primary reason for government to exist is to secure those rights, of which liberty is paramount.
Woodrow Wilson, our 28th President, stated: “Liberty has never come from Government. Liberty has always come from the subjects of it. The history of liberty is a history of resistance… The history of liberty is a history of limitations of government power, not the increase of it.”
When we look at America today where every action, other than what goes on between your ears, has some form of regulation or statute controlling it – do you really believe we are enjoying a “full measure of liberty,” as Mr. Champion would say? I think the obvious answer is NO.
The problem is not only with our over burdening governments, at all levels, it also resides with us. We have become soft from too many years of ease and plenty without the struggle to forge out our lives. Each generation living easier and easier and transferring more and more expectations upon government to solve our problems, till we have reached the point that we can no longer do it for ourselves.
Liberty is not easy; it requires personal responsibility and personal accountability. Thomas Paine said “Those who expect to reap the blessing of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.”
Liberty is not something that is given to you it is something you must maintain. There are too many power hungry people who will aggrandize themselves, quite willingly, to usurp your liberty and place themselves at sway of the people; they are called politicians.
D.H. Lawrence in 1922 penned – “Men fight for liberty and win it with hard knocks. Their children, brought up easy, let it slip away again, poor fools. And their grandchildren are once more slaves.”
I find we are now the adults who were the grandchildren D.H. Lawrence spoke of and one more we are slaves. We must ask permission to start a business, to marry, to hold a gathering or demonstration, to build a home, to make changes to our own home, to drive a car. We are told what kind of toilet we can have, what kind of light bulbs, how fast the water can come out my shower head, or even how many pets we can have. Though we may not be in chains the bondage of legislative tyranny is just as real and just as destructive. As Ronald Reagan said: “Concentrated power has always been the enemy of liberty.”
This did not happen overnight but slowly over time. Had we gone to bed on January 1 1800 with the very limited laws we had in America at that time and woke up the next day burdened with the laws of today we would have been up in arms and a revolution would have ensued. Baron de Montesquieu new this when he said: “A nation may lose it liberties in a day and not miss them in a century” and he was right.
Thomas Jefferson was a great proponent of Liberty and the concept of personal responsibility to hold it. But we cannot secure or even defend something we know nothing about so we must educate ourselves and then educate those around us. Do not wait for some teacher or History Channel program to indoctrinate you on the truth seek it out – then teach others.
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Do not be afraid and become a man striving to do what you know is right – defend Liberty and truth.
There are a couple of quotes that I hold dear to my heart, the first and foremost for me is from Joshua “But for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”
The other is by Jean-Jacques Rousseau which states: “I prefer liberty with danger than peace with slavery.” Which is akin to Franklin’s quote – “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” What do we deserve?