Have you ever stopped to ask yourself what principle this country was founded upon; I mean really think hard and ask yourself what is it that made America different? I have, quite a bit actually. Unfortunately, aside from a few friends I have I don’t think most people have given it much thought.
What makes, or I should say, made America different can be summed up in one word…well two actually; individual liberty. But let’s just boil it down to the basic premise…liberty. That one word, more than any other, is found throughout the writings of our nation’s Founders and its founding documents. In the Declaration of Independence Jefferson wrote that our Creator grants us Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. In the Preamble to the Constitution the delegates to the Constitutional Convention declared that one of the purposes the Constitution was to serve was to secure the Blessings of Liberty to them and their Posterity. The Pledge of Allegiance ends by saying with liberty and justice for all.
Then of course there is My Country, Tis of Thee, or simply America, written by Samuel Francis Smith, which says, ” My country tis of thee, Sweet land of liberty, Of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died! Land of the Pilgrim’s pride! From every mountain side, Let freedom ring!”
Still, I doubt that many people have given liberty much thought over the courses of their lives. I have, or to be more accurate, I have given the LOSS of Liberty a great deal of thought. What is liberty you say? Well, according to Merriam Webster’s dictionary, Liberty is defined as: the state or condition of people who are able to act and speak freely; the power to do or choose what you want to.
In an 1816 letter written to Francis Gilmer, Thomas Jefferson defines liberty as, “Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law’ because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.”
There are those two words again…liberty and individual. Jefferson, as well as many of the other Founding Fathers, were schooled in the writings of men who wrote during the Age of Enlightenment. The Age of Enlightenment was a period of history from the 1650’s to around the late 1700’s were cultural and intellectual minds in Western Europe emphasized reason, analysis, and individualism over more traditional thought. They questioned traditional thinking like the power and authority of monarchs over their subjects and spoke frequently of the rights and liberty of individuals.
At one point during the era which gave birth to our nation, Alexander Hamilton visited the quarters where Thomas Jefferson was staying. Upon the wall hung 3 portraits and Hamilton asked Jefferson who the men were. Jefferson replied, “They are my trinity of the 3 greatest men the world has ever produced, Sir Francis Bacon, Sir Isaac Newton and John Locke.”
Although I have not yet read any of the writings of Newton or Bacon, I have read Locke and can see much similarity between what Locke wrote and what our Founders believed and wrote themselves. For instance, in Locke’s Second Treatise he writes, “TO understand political power right, and derive it from its original, we must consider, what state all men are naturally in, and that is, a state of perfect freedom to order their actions, and dispose of their possessions and persons, as they think fit, within the bounds of the law of nature, without asking leave, or depending upon the will of any other man.” That sounds strikingly similar to how Jefferson defined liberty, doesn’t it?
Although most people have not given the concept of Liberty much conscious thought, subconsciously they probably fear real liberty. You see real unbridled liberty carries with it the responsibility of living with the consequences of the choices you make, and people hate that. People fear being held accountable for their own actions, for being held RESPONSIBLE. They claim they want to be free to make choices, but then when they screw up and make a bad choice they want others to shoulder the burden of their choices instead of accepting responsibility for them themselves. What that does though is deprive another of their liberty. Remember, Jefferson said that liberty was …” unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. ” The moment you begin burdening others with the consequences of the choices YOU make, you are invading their equal rights, and that is not what liberty is all about.
I’ll give you a perfect example of how government has restricted your liberty…and NO, it is not about guns. One simple word…marijuana. If rightful liberty is our right to do and say as we please, why is it a crime in most states to possess or consume marijuana? If we were truly free, if we truly had liberty in this country, then the people should be free to consume whatever substance they choose. I’m not justifying getting stoned out of your mind and going to work, but if a person wants to smoke a joint while sitting in the comfort of their home it should not be a crime. They aren’t hurting anyone by doing so, no more so than those who sit at home and drink a few beers. So again, why is it a crime to possess or use marijuana?
A free people should be entitled to do whatever they want as long as by doing so they do not interfere with the rights of others. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said it best when he said, “The right to swing my fist ends where the other man’s nose begins.”
But you see, in society today people want to be free to use drugs, but then if they screw up their lives by abusing them they want society to carry the burden of supporting them. We have a friend whose daughter uses meth. She can’t pass a drug test so she can’t find a job. So according to the State of California drug use is considered a…are you ready for this…a disability! So she gets free rent, food stamps, and funds to pay her bills. All because of a choice SHE consciously makes. She wants the freedom to use drugs but she doesn’t want to accept the responsibility for her choices. That is wrong and goes against all that America stood for.
Our country has changed so much in regards to how it views liberty. Today people see liberty as being able to work where you want, live where you want, watch whatever you want, listen to whatever you want, and all the other things associated with day to day life. They don’t even think about the basic rights that they have allowed government to trample upon so that they can be free to enjoy these other rights. Well it will come back to bite them in the ass one of these days, of that I’m certain.
But just to give you an idea of how far we have shifted in our way of thinking, let me provide two quotes, both from former presidents, regarding rights and liberty. In 1791 Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter to Archibald Stewart in which he stated, “I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than those attending too small a degree of it.” Then in a 1993 article in USA Today, Bill Clinton was quoted as saying, “We can’t be so fixated on our desire to preserve the rights of ordinary Americans.”
I can’t believe that he said that and that most Americans didn’t call for him to be lynched for saying it. After all, one of the very purposes for government is to secure our liberty, which is just another way of saying our ability to freely exercise all our rights.
I would be willing to bet that if you asked most Americans to make a list of the ten most important things in their lives that liberty would not be on that list. I bet that you could extend that list to twenty…to fifty items and STILL liberty would not be on it. That is sad when it should be at the very top of every person’s list.
You see, if you draw a line and put liberty at one end, the other end of the line would be slavery…the complete loss of all your rights. If that line was graded from one to ten, with 10 being the full freedom that comes with liberty, and 1 being complete servitude, I’d put America somewhere around 3. THAT is how much liberty we have lost over the course of our existence as a nation.
Any student of history can tell you that although people may live upon a certain geographic area over the course of thousands of years, the type of government and the freedoms they enjoy have changed as time goes by. As Thomas Jefferson said, “Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.”
America is no different. Even though our system was built upon the concept of individual liberty, it will eventual fail and the people who occupy this land will be anything but free. You can’t change that. However if the people were to pull their heads out of their asses, start reading, and start holding those whom they elect accountable to their oath to the Constitution, then the end result could be postponed.
But as long as there are so many ways for Americans to be entertained; be it social media, reality TV, sporting events, they will be far too busy keeping themselves entertained to even begin to think about what is happening to their liberty. Therefore the slow, but steady descent into tyranny and oppression will continue unabated until the people can no longer hide from it. It will be then that another revolution will occur and the outcome may not be as good as it was 200 plus years ago.
In closing I would like to just toss a few quotes at you for you to think about. I won’t comment, just read them and try to think for yourselves without my help.
I am commonly opposed to those who modestly assume the rank of champions of liberty, and make a very patriotic noise about the people. It is the stale artifice which has duped the world a thousand times, and yet, though detected, it is still successful. I love liberty as well as anybody. I am proud of it, as the true title of our people to distinction above others; but…I would guard it by making the laws strong enough to protect it. ~Fischer Ames~ 1789
The fundamental source of all your errors, sophisms and false reasonings is a total ignorance of the natural rights of mankind. Were you once to become acquainted with these, you could never entertain a thought, that all men are not, by nature, entitled to a parity of privileges. You would be convinced, that natural liberty is a gift of the beneficent Creator to the whole human race, and that civil liberty is founded in that; and cannot be wrested from any people, without the most manifest violation of justice. ~Alexander Hamilton~ 1775
And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever. ~Thomas Jefferson~ 1781
No people will tamely surrender their Liberties, nor can any be easily subdued, when knowledge is diffusd and Virtue is preservd. On the Contrary, when People are universally ignorant, and debauchd in their Manners, they will sink under their own weight without the Aid of foreign Invaders. ~Samuel Adams~ 1775
[W]hereas, to preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms, and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them; nor does it follow from this, that all promiscuously must go into actual service on every occasion. ~Richard Henry Lee~ 1788
Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect every one who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are inevitably ruined. ~Patrick Henry~ 1788