Freedom

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Freedom of expression is the matrix, the indispensable condition, of nearly every other form of freedom. ~ Benjamin N. Cardozo

Freedom is the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved or of being unconstrained.

See also Liberty.

Quotes[edit]

He who has overcome his fears will truly be free. ~ Aristotle
The society that puts equality before freedom will end up with neither. The society that puts freedom before equality will end up with a great measure of both. ~ Milton Friedman
Our minds tell us, and history confirms, that the great threat to freedom is the concentration of power. Government is necessary to preserve our freedom, it is an instrument through which we can exercise our freedom; yet by concentrating power in political hands, it is also a threat to freedom. Even though the men who wield this power initially be of good will and even though they be not corrupted by the power they exercise, the power will both attract and form men of a different stamp. ~ Milton Friedman
A society in which men recognize no check on their freedom soon becomes a society where freedom is the possession of only a savage few. ~ Learned Hand
Unless we can make the philosophic foundations of a free society once more a living intellectual issue, and its implementation a task which challenges the ingenuity and imagination of our liveliest minds, the prospects of freedom are indeed dark. ~ Friedrich Hayek
A society that does not recognize that each individual has values of his own which he is entitled to follow can have no respect for the dignity of the individual and cannot really know freedom. ~ Friedrich Hayek
Our faith in freedom does not rest on the foreseeable results in particular circumstances, but on the belief that it will, on balance, release more forces for the good than for the bad. ~ Friedrich Hayek
People unfit for freedom — who cannot do much with it — are hungry for power. The desire for freedom is an attribute of a "have" type of self. It says: leave me alone and I shall grow, learn, and realize my capacities. … Freedom gives us a chance to realize our human and individual uniqueness. ~ Eric Hoffer
Freedom cannot be bestowed — it must be achieved. ~ Elbert Hubbard
Freedom stretches only as far as the limits of our consciousness. ~ Carl Jung
Freedom is the alone unoriginated birthright of man, and belongs to him by force of his humanity. ~ Immanuel Kant
The star dies, but the light never dies; such also is the cry of freedom. ~ Nikos Kazantzakis
While we shall never weary in the defense of freedom, neither shall we ever abandon the pursuit of peace. ~ John F. Kennedy
The great revolution in the history of man, past, present and future, is the revolution of those determined to be free. ~ John F. Kennedy
Our liberty … is endangered if we pause for the passing moment, if we rest on our achievements, if we resist the pace of progress. ~ John F. Kennedy
Freedom is indivisible, and when one man is enslaved, all are not free. ~ John F. Kennedy
Freedom is never really won. You earn it and win it in every generation. That is what we have not taught young people, or older ones for that matter. You finally win a state of freedom that is protected forever. It doesn't work that way. ~ Coretta Scott King
The absence of freedom is the presence of death. Any nation or government that deprives an individual of freedom is in that moment committing an act of moral and spiritual murder. Any individual who is not concerned about his freedom commits an act of moral and spiritual suicide. ~ Martin Luther King
What constitutes the bulwark of our own liberty and independence? … Our defense is in the preservation of the spirit which prizes liberty as the heritage of all men, in all lands, everywhere. Destroy this spirit, and you have planted the seeds of despotism around your own doors. ~ Abraham Lincoln
Freedom is always the freedom of dissenters. ~ Rosa Luxemburg
Without general elections, without freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, without the free battle of opinions, life in every public institution withers away, becomes a caricature of itself, and bureaucracy rises as the only deciding factor. ~ Rosa Luxemburg
You know, there are two good things in life, freedom of thought and freedom of action. ~ W. Somerset Maugham
If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom; and the irony of it is that if it is comfort or money that it values more, it will lose that too. ~ W. Somerset Maugham
Freedom is man's capacity to take a hand in his own development. It is our capacity to mold ourselves. ~ Rollo May
None can love freedom heartily, but good men; the rest love not freedom, but license. ~ John Milton
Good men may enjoy the freedom which they merit, and the bad the curb which they need. ~ John Milton
We must plan for freedom, and not only for security, if for no other reason than only freedom can make security more secure. ~ Karl Popper
We do not choose political freedom because it promises us this or that. We choose it because it makes possible the only dignified form of human coexistence, the only form in which we can be fully responsible for ourselves. ~ Karl Popper
Man's right to know, to learn, to inquire, to make bona fide errors, to investigate human emotions must, by all means, be safe, if the word FREEDOM should ever be more than an empty political slogan. ~ Wilhelm Reich
Freedom is the very essence of life, the impelling force in all intellectual and social development, the creator of every new outlook for the future of mankind. ~ Rudolf Rocker
My definition of a free society is a society where it is safe to be unpopular. ~ Adlai Stevenson
We don't appreciate what we have until it's gone. Freedom is like that. It's like air. When you have it, you don't notice it. ~ Boris Yeltsin
  • At all times sincere friends of freedom have been rare, and its triumphs have been due to minorities, that have prevailed by associating themselves with auxiliaries whose objects often differed from their own; and this association, which is always dangerous, has been sometimes disastrous, by giving to opponents just grounds of opposition, and by kindling dispute over the spoils in the hour of success. No obstacle has been so constant, or so difficult to overcome, as uncertainty and confusion touching the nature of true liberty. If hostile interests have wrought much injury, false ideas have wrought still more; and its advance is recorded in the increase of knowledge, as much as in the improvement of laws.
  • The most certain test by which we judge whether a country is really free is the amount of security enjoyed by minorities.
  • He who has overcome his fears will truly be free.
    • Variant: I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who overcomes his enemies.
    • Aristotle, Quoted in Florilegium by Joannes Stobaeus
  • [F]reedom, like any other virtue, does not exist in a vacuum. It must be worked and practiced to exist at all. And like any other virtue, it imposes upon those who would have it the unpleasant tasks of discipline and sacrifice. A materialistic people do not learn these tasks by reading posters or listening to pep talks, any more than you can learn to play the violin by the same methods.
  • We thought (the United States) could lead us to freedom, but they led us into feardom, not freedom.
  • Ambulances always come with clouds of smoke. And then they disappear in a whistle. But what they bring is fear. Not freedom. Feardom is what they bring. And they bring fire and smoke. Oh, my nerves are bad tonight, yes, bad. I fear freedom. I, above all, fear the freedom that is above all feardom.
  • For Freedom's battle once begun,
    Bequeath'd by bleeding sire to son,
    Though baffled oft is ever won.
  • Freedom of expression is the matrix, the indispensable condition, of nearly every other form of freedom.
  • [F]reedom, like any other virtue, does not exist in a vacuum. It must be worked and practiced to exist at all. And like any other virtue, it imposes upon those who would have it the unpleasant tasks of discipline and sacrifice. A materialistic people do not learn these tasks by reading posters or listening to pep talks, any more than you can learn to play the violin by the same methods.
  • Inner freedom demands the rejection of any imposition that injures our dignity.
    • Fausto Cercignani in: Brian Morris, Quotes we cherish. Quotations from Fausto Cercignani, 2013, p. 17.
  • Secret thoughts are only half free: they fly undisturbed in the skies of the inner freedom, but they can never leave them.
    • Fausto Cercignani in: Brian Morris, Simply Transcribed. Quotations from Fausto Cercignani,2013, p. 19.
  • I call that mind free, which jealously guards its intellectual rights and powers, which calls no man master, which does not content itself with a passive or hereditary faith, which opens itself to light whencesoever it may come, which receives new truth as an angel from heaven.
    I call that mind free, which sets no bounds to its love, which is not imprisoned in itself or in a sect, which recognises in all human beings the image of God and the rights of his children, which delights in virtue and sympathizes with suffering wherever they are seen, which conquers pride, anger, and sloth, and offers itself up a willing victim to the cause of mankind.
  • He is the freeman whom the truth makes free,
    And all are slaves besides.
  • For so long as but a hundred of us remain alive, we will in no way yield ourselves to the dominion of the English. For it is not for glory, nor riches, nor honour that we fight, but for Freedom, which no good man lays down but with his life.
  • Once a man has tasted freedom he will never be content to be a slave.
    • Walt Disney, Radio address "Our American Culture" broadcast during an intermission of the Metropolitan Opera. (1 March 1941).
  • Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.
  • Everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labor in freedom.
  • The society that puts equality before freedom will end up with neither. The society that puts freedom before equality will end up with a great measure of both.
  • The free man will ask neither what his country can do for him nor what he can do for his country. He will ask rather "What can I and my compatriots do through government" to help us discharge our individual responsibilities, to achieve our several goals and purposes, and above all, to protect our freedom? And he will accompany this question with another: How can we keep the government we create from becoming a Frankenstein that will destroy the very freedom we establish it to protect? Freedom is a rare and delicate plant. Our minds tell us, and history confirms, that the great threat to freedom is the concentration of power. Government is necessary to preserve our freedom, it is an instrument through which we can exercise our freedom; yet by concentrating power in political hands, it is also a threat to freedom. Even though the men who wield this power initially be of good will and even though they be not corrupted by the power they exercise, the power will both attract and form men of a different stamp.
  • Political freedom means the absence of coercion of a man by his fellow men. The fundamental threat to freedom is power to coerce, be it in the hands of a monarch, a dictator, an oligarchy, or a momentary majority. The preservation of freedom requires the elimination of such concentration of power to the fullest possible extent and the dispersal and distribution of whatever power cannot be eliminated — a system of checks and balances.
    • Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom (1962), Ch. 1 "The Relation Between Economic Freedom and Political Freedom".
  • What do we mean when we say that first of all we seek liberty? I often wonder whether we do not rest our hopes too much upon constitutions, upon laws and upon courts. These are false hopes; believe me, these are false hopes. Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it; no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it… What is this liberty that must lie in the hearts of men and women? It is not the ruthless, the unbridled will; it is not the freedom to do as one likes. That is the denial of liberty and leads straight to its overthrow. A society in which men recognize no check on their freedom soon becomes a society where freedom is the possession of only a savage few — as we have learned to our sorrow.
    • Learned Hand, in "The Spirit of Liberty" - a speech at "I Am an American Day" ceremony, Central Park, New York City (21 May 1944).
  • We must make the building of a free society once more an intellectual adventure, a deed of courage. What we lack is a liberal Utopia, a programme which seems neither a mere defence of things as they are nor a diluted kind of socialism, but a truly liberal radicalism which does not spare the susceptibilities of the mighty (including the trade unions), which is not too severely practical and which does not confine itself to what appears today as politically possible…Those who have concerned themselves exclusively with what seemed practicable in the existing state of opinion have constantly found that even this has rapidly become politically impossible as the result of changes in a public opinion which they have done nothing to guide. Unless we can make the philosophic foundations of a free society once more a living intellectual issue, and its implementation a task which challenges the ingenuity and imagination of our liveliest minds, the prospects of freedom are indeed dark. But if we can regain that belief in power of ideas which was the mark of liberalism at its best, the battle is not lost.
  • I am certain that nothing has done so much to destroy the juridical safeguards of individual freedom as the striving after this mirage of social justice.
  • A society that does not recognise that each individual has values of his own which he is entitled to follow can have no respect for the dignity of the individual and cannot really know freedom.
    • Friedrich Hayek, as quoted in The Market : Ethics, Knowledge, and Politics (1998) by John O'Neill, p. 68.
  • Our faith in freedom does not rest on the foreseeable results in particular circumstances, but on the belief that it will, on balance, release more forces for the good than for the bad … Freedom granted only when it is known beforehand that its effects will be beneficial is not freedom.
  • Perhaps the fact that we have seen millions voting themselves into complete dependence on a tyrant has made our generation understand that to choose one's government is not necessarily to secure freedom.
  • The case for individual freedom rests chiefly on the recognition of the inevitable and universal ignorance of all of us concerning a great many of the factors on which the achievement of our ends and welfare depend. It is because every individual knows so little and, in particular, because we rarely know which of us knows best that we trust the independent and competitive efforts of many to induce the emergence of what we shall want when we see it.
    Humiliating to human pride as it may be, we must recognize that the advance and even the preservation of civilization are dependent upon a maximum of opportunity for accidents to happen. These accidents occur in the combination of knowledge and attitudes, skills and habits, acquired by individual men and also when qualified men are confronted with the particular circumstances which they are equipped to deal with. Our necessary ignorance of so much means that we have to deal largely with probabilities and chances.
    Of course, it is true of social as of individual life that favorable accidents usually do not just happen. We must prepare for them.
  • You can have peace. Or you can have freedom. Don't ever count on having both at once.
  • The significant point is that people unfit for freedom — who cannot do much with it — are hungry for power. The desire for freedom is an attribute of a "have" type of self. It says: leave me alone and I shall grow, learn, and realize my capacities. The desire for power is basically an attribute of a "have-not" type of self. If Hitler had had the talents and the temperament of a genuine artist, if Stalin had had the capacity to become a first-rate theoretician, if Napoleon had had the makings of a great poet or philosopher they would hardly have developed the all-consuming lust for absolute power.
    Freedom gives us a chance to realize our human and individual uniqueness. Absolute power can also bestow uniqueness: to have absolute power is to have the power to reduce all the people around us to puppets, robots, toys, or animals, and be the only man in sight. Absolute power achieves uniqueness by dehumanizing others.
    To sum up: Those who lack the capacity to achieve much in an atmosphere of freedom will clamor for power.
    • Eric Hoffer, Working and Thinking on the Waterfront : A Journal: June 1958-May 1959 (1969), Journal entry (28 March 1959).
  • Freedom cannot be bestowed — it must be achieved.
    • Elbert Hubbard, in his essay on Booker T. Washington in Little Journeys For 1908, p. 21; Franklin D. Roosevelt later used this line on the occasion of the 74th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation: "In the truest sense, freedom cannot be bestowed; it must be achieved".
  • If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.
    • Jesus of Nazareth as quoted in John 8:31 (NIV)
    • Variant translation: Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
    • Jesus as quoted in John 8:31 (KJV).
  • No one can flatter himself that he is immune to the spirit of his own epoch, or even that he possesses a full understanding of it. Irrespective of our conscious convictions, each one of us, without exception, being a particle of the general mass, is somewhere attached to, colored by, or even undermined by the spirit which goes through the mass. Freedom stretches only as far as the limits of our consciousness.
  • How does the light of a star set out and plunge into black eternity in its immortal course? The star dies, but the light never dies; such also is the cry of freedom.
  • Without debate, without criticism, no Administration and no country can succeed--and no republic can survive. [...] And that is why our press was protected by the First Amendment-- the only business in America specifically protected by the Constitution- -not primarily to amuse and entertain, not to emphasize the trivial and the sentimental, not to simply "give the public what it wants"--but to inform, to arouse, to reflect, to state our dangers and our opportunities, to indicate our crises and our choices, to lead, mold, educate and sometimes even anger public opinion. This means greater coverage and analysis of international news--for it is no longer far away and foreign but close at hand and local. It means greater attention to improved understanding of the news as well as improved transmission. And it means, finally, that government at all levels, must meet its obligation to provide you with the fullest possible information outside the narrowest limits of national security [...]. [...] And so it is to the printing press — to the recorder of man's deeds, the keeper of his conscience, the courier of his news — that we look for strength and assistance, confident that with your help man will be what he was born to be: free and independent.
  • I come here today to look across this world of threats to a world of peace. In that search we cannot expect any final triumph — for new problems will always arise. We cannot expect that all nations will adopt like systems — for conformity is the jailor of freedom, and the enemy of growth.
  • Our goal is not victory of might but the vindication of right — not peace at the expense of freedom, but both peace and freedom, here in this hemisphere and, we hope, around the world. God willing, that goal will be achieved.
  • The essence of Vanderbilt is still learning, the essence of its outlook is still liberty, and liberty and learning will be and must be the touchstones of Vanderbilt University and of any free university in this country or the world. I say two touchstones, yet they are almost inseparable, inseparable if not indistinguishable, for liberty without learning is always in peril, and learning without liberty is always in vain.
  • And this Nation, for all its hopes and all its boasts, will not be fully free until all its citizens are free.
  • But Goethe tells us in his greatest poem that Faust lost the liberty of his soul when he said to the passing moment: "Stay, thou art so fair." And our liberty, too, is endangered if we pause for the passing moment, if we rest on our achievements, if we resist the pace of progress.
  • Once the truth is denied to human beings, it is pure illusion to try to set them free. Truth and freedom either go together hand in hand or together they perish in misery.
  • Tolstoy, the Russian writer, said in War and Peace: “I cannot conceive of a man not being free unless he is dead.” While this statement sounds a bit exaggerated, it gets at a basic truth. What Tolstoy is saying in substance is that the absence of freedom is the presence of death. Any nation or government that deprives an individual of freedom is in that moment committing an act of moral and spiritual murder. Any individual who is not concerned about his freedom commits an act of moral and spiritual suicide.
  • I say to you that our goal is freedom, and I believe we are going to get there because however much she strays away from it, the goal of America is freedom. Abused and scorned though we may be as a people, our destiny is tied up in the destiny of America.

Freedom is never really won. You earn it and win it in every generation. That is what we have not taught young people, or older ones for that matter. You finally win a state of freedom that is protected forever. It doesn't work that way.

  • What universities are saying by these codes, special protections, and double standards — to women, to blacks, to Hispanics, to gay and lesbian students — is, "You are too weak to live with freedom. You are too weak to live with the First Amendment." If someone tells you you are too weak to live with freedom, they have turned you into a child.
  • Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose.
    • Kris Kristofferson and Fred Foster, "Me and Bobby McGee" (1969); phrased as "Freedom is another word for having nothing else to lose" by Clint Eastwood in "Go ahead God Make My day", Interview by Martin Palmer for Live magazine, The Mail on Sunday (UK) newspaper (January 16 2011).
  • While the State exists, there can be no freedom. When there is freedom there will be no State.

Freedom in capitalist society always remains about the same as it was in the ancient Greek republics: freedom for the slave-owners.

  • If there breathe on earth a slave,
    Are ye truly free and brave?
    If ye do not feel the chain,
    When it works a brother's pain,
    Are ye not base slaves indeed,
    Slaves unworthy to be freed?
  • Is true Freedom but to break
    Fetters for our own dear sake,
    And, with leathern hearts, forget
    That we owe mankind a debt?

    No! true freedom is to share
    All the chains our brothers wear,
    And, with heart and hand, to be
    Earnest to make others free!

  • Freedom is a more complex and delicate thing than force. It is not as simple to live under as force is.
  • Non bene, crede mihi, servo servitur amico;
    Sit liber, dominus qui volet esse meus.
    • Service cannot be expected from a friend in service; let him be a freeman who wishes to be my master.
    • Martial, Epigrams (c. 80-104 AD), II. 32. 7.
  • If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom; and the irony of it is that if it is comfort or money that it values more, it will lose that too.
  • Freedom is man's capacity to take a hand in his own development. It is our capacity to mold ourselves.
    • Rollo May, Man's Search for Himself (1953), p. 138.
  • Coercion is natural; freedom is artificial. Freedoms are socially engineered spaces where parties engaged in specified pursuits enjoy protection from parties who would otherwise naturally seek to interfere in those pursuits. One person's freedom is therefore always another person's restriction: we would not have even the concept of freedom if the reality of coercion were not always present. We think of freedom as a right, and therefore the opposite of a rule, but a right is a rule. It is a prohibition against sanctions on certain types of behavior. We also think of rights as privileges retained by individuals against the rest of society, but rights are created not for the good of individuals, but for the good of society. Individual freedoms are manufactured to achieve group ends.
  • I believe in only one thing and that thing is human liberty. If ever a man is to achieve anything like dignity, it can happen only if superior men are given absolute freedom to think what they want to think and say what they want to say. I am against any man and any organization which seeks to limit or deny that freedom … the superior man can be sure of freedom only if it is given to all men.
    • H. L. Mencken, as quoted in Letters of H. L. Mencken (1961) edited by Guy J. Forgue, p. xiii.
  • None can love freedom heartily, but good men; the rest love not freedom, but license.
  • For stories teach us, that liberty sought out of season, in a corrupt and degenerate age, brought Rome itself to a farther slavery: for liberty hath a sharp and double edge, fit only to be handled by just and virtuous men; to bad and dissolute, it becomes a mischief unwieldy in their own hands: neither is it completely given, but by them who have the happy skill to know what is grievance and unjust to a people, and how to remove it wisely; what good laws are wanting, and how to frame them substantially, that good men may enjoy the freedom which they merit, and the bad the curb which they need.
  • The relative freedom which we enjoy depends of public opinion. The law is no protection. Governments make laws, but whether they are carried out, and how the police behave, depends on the general temper in the country. If large numbers of people are interested in freedom of speech, there will be freedom of speech, even if the law forbids it; if public opinion is sluggish, inconvenient minorities will be persecuted, even if laws exist to protect them.
    • George Orwell, "Freedom of the Park", Tribune (7 December 1945).
  • Threats to freedom of speech, writing and action, though often trivial in isolation, are cumulative in their effect and, unless checked, lead to a general disrespect for the rights of the citizen.
    • George Orwell, "The Freedom Defence Committee" in "The Socialist Leader (18 September 1948); also in The Collected Essays, Journalism, & Letters, George Orwell; Vol. IV : In front of your nose, 1945-1950 (2000), p. 447.
  • Since God could have created a freedom in which there could be no evil (i.e., a state when men were happy and free and certain not to sin), it follows that He wished evil to exist. But evil offends Him. A commonplace case of masochism.
  • Those in whom anger or desire or any other passion, or again any insidious vice holds sway, are entirely enslaved, while all whose life is regulated by law are free. And right reason is an infallible law engraved not by this mortal or that and, therefore, perishable as he, nor on parchment slabs, and, therefore, soulless as they, but by immortal nature on the immortal mind, never to perish.
    • Philo, Every Good Man is Free, 45.
  • Diogenes the cynic, seeing one of the so-called freedmen pluming himself, while many heartily congratulated him, marveled at the absence of reason and discernment. “A man might as well,” he said, “proclaim that one of his servants became a grammarian, a geometrician, or musician, when he has no idea whatever of the art.” For as the proclamation cannot make them men of knowledge, so neither can it make them free.
    • Philo, Every Good Man is Free, 157.
  • Although I consider our political world to be the best of which we have any historical knowledge, we should beware of attributing this fact to democracy or to freedom. Freedom is not a supplier who delivers goods to our door. Democracy does not ensure that anything is accomplished — certainly not an economic miracle. It is wrong and dangerous to extol freedom by telling people that they will certainly be all right once they are free. How someone fares in life is largely a matter of luck or grace, and to a comparatively small degree perhaps also of competence, diligence, and other virtues. The most we can say of democracy or freedom is that they give our personal abilities a little more influence on our well-being.
  • It is wrong to think that belief in freedom always leads to victory; we must always be prepared for it to lead to defeat. If we choose freedom, then we must be prepared to perish along with it. Poland fought for freedom as no other country did. The Czech nation was prepared to fight for its freedom in 1938; it was not lack of courage that sealed its fate. The Hungarian Revolution of 1956 — the work of young people with nothing to lose but their chains — triumphed and then ended in failure. … Democracy and freedom do not guarantee the millennium. No, we do not choose political freedom because it promises us this or that. We choose it because it makes possible the only dignified form of human coexistence, the only form in which we can be fully responsible for ourselves. Whether we realize its possibilities depends on all kinds of things — and above all on ourselves.
  • We must plan for freedom, and not only for security, if for no other reason than only freedom can make security more secure.

Only freedom can inspire men to great things and bring about social and political transformations. The art of ruling men has never been the art of educating men and inspiring them to a new shaping of their lives. Dreary compulsion has at its command only lifeless drill, which smothers any vital initiative at its birth and can bring forth only subjects, not free men. Freedom is the very essence of life, the impelling force in all intellectual and social development, the creator of every new outlook for the future of mankind., Ch. 1 "Anarchism: Its Aims and Purposes"

  • "Anxiety," Kierkegaard said, "is the dizziness of freedom." This freedom of which men speak, for which they fight, seems to some people a perilous thing. It has to be earned at the bitter cost and then — it has to be live with. For freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility. For the person who is unwilling to grow up, the person who does not want to carry his own weight, this is a frightening prospect.
  • Those who think themselves the masters of others are indeed greater slaves than they.
  • My definition of a free society is a society where it is safe to be unpopular.
  • Without security, civilization is cramped and dwarfed. Without security, there can be no freedom. Nor shall I say too much, when I declare that security, guarded of course by its offspring, freedom, is the true end and aim of government.
  • Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
    Where knowledge is free
    Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
    By narrow domestic walls
    Where words come out from the depth of truth
    Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
    Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
    Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
    Where the mind is led forward by thee:Into ever-widening thought and action
    Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

  • Any form of orthodoxy is just not part of a poet's province … A poet must be able to claim … freedom to follow the vision of poetry, the imaginative vision of poetry … And in any case, poetry is religion, religion is poetry. The message of the New Testament is poetry.
    • R. S. Thomas, in "R. S. Thomas : Priest and Poet" (BBC TV, 2 April 1972).
  • Pro libertate"
  • Give a man a free hand and he'll try to put it all over you.
    • Mae West, as "Frisco Doll" in Klondike Annie.
  • True freedom is not a freedom of choice made from a safe distance, like choosing between a strawberry cake or a chocolate cake; true freedom overlaps with necessity, one makes a truly free choice when one's choice puts at stake one's very existence — one does it because one simply "cannot do it otherwise."
  • "You know, there are some words I've known since I was a schoolboy: 'With the first link, the chain is forged. The first speech censured, the first thought forbidden, the first freedom denied, chains us all irrevocably.' Those words were uttered by Judge Aaron Satie as wisdom and warning. The first time any man's freedom is trodden on, we're all damaged. I fear that today..."
  • We don't appreciate what we have until it's gone. Freedom is like that. It's like air. When you have it, you don't notice it.
    • Boris Yeltsin, as quoted in The 100 Greatest Heroes (2003) p. 60 by Harry Paul Jeffers.
  • You get freedom by letting your enemy know that you'll do anything to get your freedom; then you'll get it. It's the only way you'll get it.
    • Malcolm X, Advice to the Youth of Mississippi (31 December 1964).
  • Nobody can give you freedom. Nobody can give you equality or justice or anything. If you're a man, you take it
    • Malcolm X, Malcolm X Speaks, (1965), p. 111.
  • You can't separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.
    • Malcolm X, Malcolm X Speaks, (1965), p. 148.
  • Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.

Lyrics[edit]

  • Find the cost of freedom, buried in the ground
    Mother earth will swallow you
    Lay your body down
  • I'M FREE! — I'm free,
    And freedom tastes of reality,
    I'm free — I'm free,
    An' I'm waiting for you to follow me.
  • Take my love, take my land
    Take me where I cannot stand
    I don't care, I'm still free
    You can't take the sky from me
  • Believe in all the good things you keep inside
    There is no freedom in life without freedom of mind.

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations[edit]

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 294-96.
  • Freedom all solace to man gives:
    He lives at ease that freely lives.
  • Whose service is perfect freedom.
    • Book of Common Prayer, Collect for Peace.
  • …for righteous monarchs,
    Justly to judge, with their own eyes should see;
    To rule o'er freemen, should themselves be free.
  • Here the free spirit of mankind, at length,
    Throws its last fetters off; and who shall place
    A limit to the giant's unchained strength,
    Or curb his swiftness in the forward race?
  • Sound the loud timbrel o'er Egypt's dark sea!
    Jehovah hath triumphed—his people are free.
    • Lord Byron, Sacred Songs, Sound the loud Timbrel.
  • Hope for a season bade the world farewell,
    And Freedom shrieked as Kosciusko fell!
    * * * * * *
    O'er Prague's proud arch the fires of ruin glow.
  • England may as well dam up the waters of the Nile with bulrushes as to fetter the step of Freedom, more proud and firm in this youthful land than where she treads the sequestered glens of Scotland, or couches herself among the magnificent mountains of Switzerland.
  • Nulla enim minantis auctoritas apud liberos est.
    • To freemen, threats are impotent.
    • Cicero, Epistles, XI. 3.
  • O what a loud and fearful shriek was there!

    Ah me! they view'd beneath an hireling's sword
    Fallen Kosciusco.
  • No, Freedom has a thousand charms to show
    That slaves, howe'er contented, never know.
  • I want free life, and I want fresh air;
    And I sigh for the canter after the cattle,
    The crack of the whip like shots in battle,
    The medley of horns, and hoofs, and heads
    That wars, and wrangles, and scatters and spreads;
    The green beneath and the blue above,
    And dash, and danger, and life and love.
  • I am as free as nature first made man,
    Ere the base laws of servitude began,
    When wild in woods the noble savage ran.
  • My angel,—his name is Freedom,—
    Choose him to be your king;
    He shall cut pathways east and west,
    And fend you with his wing.
  • We grant no dukedoms to the few,
    We hold like rights and shall;
    Equal on Sunday in the pew,
    On Monday in the mall.
    For what avail the plough or sail,
    Or land, or life, if freedom fail?
  • I gave my life for freedom—This I know;
    For those who bade me fight had told me so.
  • Bred in the lap of Republican Freedom.
    • Godwin, Enquirer, II, XII. 402.
  • Yes! to this thought I hold with firm persistence;
    The last result of wisdom stamps it true;
    He only earns his freedom and existence
    Who daily conquers them anew.
  • Frei athmen macht das Leben nicht allein.
  • Ay, call it holy ground,
    The soil where first they trod,
    They have left unstained, what there they found,—
    Freedom to worship God.
  • Quisnam igitur liber? Sapiens, sibi qui imperiosus;
    Quem neque pauperies, neque mors, neque vincula terrent
    Responsare cupidinibus, contemnere honores
    Fortis; et in se ipso totus, teres atque rotundus.
    • Who then is free? the wise man who is lord over himself;
      Whom neither poverty nor death, nor chains alarm; strong to withstand his passions and despise honors, and who is completely finished and rounded off in himself.
    • Horace, Satires, Book II, VII. 83.
  • In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
    With a glory in his bosom that transfigures you and me;
    As he died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
    While God is marching on.
  • One should never put on one's best trousers to go out to fight for freedom.
  • All we have of freedom—all we use or know—
    This our fathers bought for us, long and long ago.
  • What constitutes the bulwark of our own liberty and independence? It is not our frowning battlements, our bristling sea coasts, the guns of our war steamers, or the strength our gallant and disciplined army? These are not our reliance against a resumption of tyranny in our fair land. All of those may be turned against our liberties, without making us weaker or stronger for the struggle. Our reliance is in the love of liberty which God has planted in our bosoms. Our defense is in the preservation of the spirit which prizes liberty as the heritage of all men, in all lands, everywhere. Destroy this spirit, and you have planted the seeds of despotism around your own doors. Familiarize yourselves with the chains of bondage and you are preparing your own limbs to wear them. Accustomed to trample on the rights of those around you, you have lost the genius of your own independence, and become the fit subjects of the first cunning tyrant who rises.
    • Abraham Lincoln's speech at Edwardsville, Illinois (September 11, 1858); quoted in Lincoln, Abraham; Mario Matthew Cuomo, Harold Holzer, G. S. Boritt, Lincoln on Democracy (Fordham University Press, September 1, 2004), 128. ISBN 978-0823223459.
      • Variant of the above quote: What constitutes the bulwark of our own liberty and independence? It is not our frowning battlements, our bristling sea coasts, our army and our navy. These are not our reliance against tyranny All of those may be turned against us without making us weaker for the struggle. Our reliance is in the love of liberty which God has planted in us. Our defense is in the spirit which prizes liberty as the heritage of all men, in all lands everywhere. Destroy this spirit and you have planted the seeds of despotism at your own doors. Familiarize yourselves with the chains of bondage and you prepare your own limbs to wear them. Accustomed to trample on the rights of others, you have lost the genius of your own independence and become the fit subjects of the first cunning tyrant who rises among you.
  • …That this nation, under God shall have a new birth of freedom.
  • I intend no modification of my oft-expressed wish that all men everywhere could be free.
    • Abraham Lincoln, letter to Horace Greeley. Aug. 22, 1862. See Raymond's History of Lincoln's Administration.
  • Freedom needs all her poets; it is they
    Who give her aspirations wings,
    And to the wiser law of music sway
    Her wild imaginings.
  • Freiheit ist immer Freiheit der Andersdenkenden
    • Translated as Freedom is always the freedom of dissenters.
      Variant: Freedom is always and exclusively freedom for the one who thinks differently.
    • Rosa Luxemburg, Sources: Die russische Revolution. Eine kritische Würdigung, Berlin 1920 p. 109 and in Rosa Luxemburg - Gesammelte Werke Vol. 4, p. 359, Footnote 3, Dietz Verlag Berlin (Ost), 1983.
  • Without general elections, without freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, without the free battle of opinions, life in every public institution withers away, becomes a caricature of itself, and bureaucracy rises as the only deciding factor.
    • Rosa Luxemburg, Reported in Paul Froelich, Die Russiche Revolution (1940).
  • Quicquid multis peccatur, inultum est.
  • Libertas ultima mundi
    Quo steterit ferienda loco.
    • The remaining liberty of the world was to be destroyed in the place where it stood.
    • Marcus Annaeus Lucanus, Pharsalia, VII. 580.
  • They can only set free men free…
    And there is no need of that:
    Free men set themselves free.
  • An quisquam est alius liber, nisi ducere vitam
    Cui licet, ut voluit?
    • Is any man free except the one who can pass his life as he pleases?
    • Persius, Satires, V. 83.
  • Oh! let me live my own, and die so too!
    (To live and die is all I have to do:)
    Maintain a poet's dignity and ease,
    And see what friends, and read what books I please.
  • Blandishments will not fascinate us, nor will threats of a "halter" intimidate. For, under God, we are determined that wheresoever, whensoever, or howsoever we shall be called to make our exit, we will die free men.
  • Free soil, free men, free speech, Fremont.
    • Republican Rallying Cry (1856).
  • O, nur eine freie Seele wird nicht alt.
  • Freiheit ist nur in dem Reich der Träume
    Und das Schöne blüht nur im Gesang.
    • Freedom is only in the land of dreams, and the beautiful only blooms in song.
    • Friedrich Schiller, The Beginning of the New Century, Stanza 9.
  • Der Mensch ist frei geschaffen, ist frei
    Und würd' er in Ketten geboren.
    • Man is created free, and is free, even though born in chains.
    • Friedrich Schiller, Die Worte des Glaubens, Stanza 2.
  • Nemo liber est, qui corpori servit.
    • No man is free who is a slave to the flesh.
    • Seneca the Younger, Epistolæ Ad Lucilium, XCII.
  • The last link is broken
    That bound me to thee,
    And the words thou hast spoken
    Have render'd me free.
  • Rara temporum felicitate, ubi sentire quæ velis, et quæ sentias dicere licet.
    • Such being the happiness of the times, that you may think as you wish, and speak as you think.
    • Tacitus, Annales, I. 1.
  • Of old sat Freedom on the heights
    The thunders breaking at her feet:
    Above her shook the starry lights;
    She heard the torrents meet.
  • Red of the Dawn
    Is it turning a fainter red? so be it, but when shall we lay
    The ghost of the Brute that is walking and hammering us yet and be free?
  • Freedom exists only where the people take care of the government.
  • Our object now, as then, is to vindicate the principles of peace and justice in the life of the world as against selfish and autocratic power, and to set up among the really free and self-governed peoples of the world such a concert of purpose and of action as will henceforth insure the observance of those principles.
    • Woodrow Wilson, address to Congress. (War with Germany being declared.) April 2, 1917.
  • Only free peoples can hold their purpose and their honor steady to a common end, and prefer the interests of mankind to any narrow interest of their own.
    • Woodrow Wilson, address to Congress. (War with Germany being declared.) April 2, 1917.
  • How does the Meadow flower its bloom unfold?
    Because the lovely little flower is free
    Down to its root, and in that freedom, bold.
  • We must be free or die, who speak the tongue
    That Shakespeare spake; the faith and morals hold
    Which Milton held.

Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989)[edit]

  • Modern life means democracy, democracy means freeing intelligence for independent effectiveness—the emancipation of mind as an individual organ to do its own work. We naturally associate democracy, to be sure, with freedom of action, but freedom of action without freed capacity of thought behind it is only chaos.
    • John Dewey, "Democracy in Education," John Dewey, The Middle Works, 1899–1924, ed. Jo Ann Boydston, vol. 3, p. 229 (1977). First published in The Elementary School Teacher, December 1903.
  • But we know that freedom cannot be served by the devices of the tyrant. As it is an ancient truth that freedom cannot be legislated into existence, so it is no less obvious that freedom cannot be censored into existence. And any who act as if freedom's defenses are to be found in suppression and suspicion and fear confess a doctrine that is alien to America.
    • Dwight D. Eisenhower, letter on intellectual freedom to Dr. Robert B. Downs, president of the American Library Association, June 24, 1953. Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1953, p. 456.
  • For what avail the plough or sail,
    Or land or life, if freedom fail?
    • Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Boston," stanza 15, The Complete Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson, vol. 2, p. 897 (1929). These words were also inscribed on a plaque in the stairwell of the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty.
  • You can muffle the drum, and you can loosen the strings of the lyre, but who shall command the skylark not to sing?
    • Khalil Gibran, "On Laws," final sentence, The Prophet, p. 46 (1968).
  • What the people wanted was a government which would provide a comfortable life for them, and with this as the foremost object ideas of freedom and self-reliance and service to the community were obscured to the point of disappearing. Athens was more and more looked on as a co-operative business possessed of great wealth in which all citizens had a right to share…. Athens had reached the point of rejecting independence, and the freedom she now wanted was freedom from responsibility. There could be only one result…. If men insisted on being free from the burden of a life that was self-dependent and also responsible for the common good, they would cease to be free at all. Responsibility was the price every man must pay for freedom. It was to be had on no other terms.
  • The greatest Glory of a free-born People,Is to transmit that Freedom to their Children.
    • William Harvard, "Regulus, a Tragedy," act IV, scene iv. Francis Longe, Collection of Plays, vol. 35, no. 2, p. 59 (1744). Regulus is speaking.
  • When we lose the right to be different, we lose the privilege to be free.
    • Charles Evans Hughes, address at Faneuil Hall, Boston, Massachusetts, on the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Bunker Hill, June 17, 1925. Hughes Papers, Library of Congress.
  • A man's worst difficulties begin when he is able to do as he likes.
    • Thomas Henry Huxley, address on university education, delivered at the formal opening of The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, September 12, 1876. Science and Education (vol. 3 of Collected Essays), p. 236 (1898, reprinted 1968).
  • This is a world of compensation; and he who would be no slave must consent to have no slave. Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves, and, under a just God, cannot long retain it.
    • Abraham Lincoln, letter to H. L. Pierce and others, April 6, 1859. The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, ed. Roy P. Basler, vol. 3, p. 375 (1953).
  • The maxims are, first, that the individual is not accountable to society for his actions, in so far as these concern the interests of no person but himself. Advice, instruction, persuasion, and avoidance by other people if thought necessary by them for their own good, are the only measures by which society can justifiably express its dislike or disapprobation of his conduct. Secondly, that for such actions as are prejudicial to the interests of others, the individual is accountable, and may be subjected either to social or to legal punishment, if society is of opinion that the one or the other is requisite for its protection.
    • John Stuart Mill, On Liberty (1859); republished in David Spitz, ed. (1975), chapter 5, p. 87.
  • The only freedom which deserves the name, is that of pursuing our own good in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it.
    • John Stuart Mill, On Liberty (1859); republished in David Spitz, ed. (1975), chapter 1, p. 14.
  • The only part of the conduct of any one, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence, is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.
    • John Stuart Mill, On Liberty (1859); republished in David Spitz, ed. (1975), chapter 1, p. 11.
  • There is a limit to the legitimate interference of collective opinion with individual independence: and to find that limit, and maintain it against encroachment, is as indispensable to a good condition of human affairs, as protection against political despotism.
    • John Stuart Mill, On Liberty (1859); republished in David Spitz, ed. (1975), chapter 1, p. 6.
  • Yet we can maintain a free society only if we recognize that in a free society no one can win all the time. No one can have his own way all the time, and no one is right all the time.
    • Richard Nixon, Alfred M. Landon lecture, Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas, September 16, 1970. Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Richard Nixon, 1970, p. 758.
  • If the fires of freedom and civil liberties burn low in other lands, they must be made brighter in our own. If in other lands the press and books and literature of all kinds are censored, we must redouble our efforts here to keep them free. If in other lands the eternal truths of the past are threatened by intolerance we must provide a safe place for their perpetuation.
    • Franklin D. Roosevelt, address to the National Education Association, New York City, June 30, 1938. The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1938, p. 418 (1941).
  • In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms. The first is freedom of speech and expression—everywhere in the world. The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way—everywhere in the world. The third is freedom from want—which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants—everywhere in the world. The fourth is freedom from fear—which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor—anywhere in the world.
    • Franklin D. Roosevelt, State of the Union message to the Congress, January 6, 1941. The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1940, p. 672 (1941). A plaque in the stairwell of the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty is inscribed: "Liberty is the air America breathes…. In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential freedoms … freedom of speech and expression … freedom of worship … freedom from want … freedom from fear."
  • What would you have me do?
    Search out some powerful patronage, and be
    Like crawling ivy clinging to a tree?
    No thank you. Dedicate, like all the others,
    Verses to plutocrats, while caution smothers
    Whatever might offend my lord and master?
    No thank you. Kneel until my knee-caps fester,
    Bend my back until I crack my spine,
    And scratch another's back if he'll scratch mine?
    No thank you. Dining out to curry favour,
    Meeting the influential till I slaver,
    Suiting my style to what the critics want
    With slavish copy of the latest cant?
    No thanks! Ready to jump through any hoop
    To be the great man of a little group?
    Be blown off course, with madrigals for sails,
    By the old women sighing through their veils?
    Labouring to write a line of such good breeding
    Its only fault is—that it's not worth reading?
    To ingratiate myself, abject with fear,
    And fawn and flatter to avoid a sneer?
    No thanks, no thanks, no thanks! But … just to sing,
    Dream, laugh, and take my tilt of wing,
    To cock a snook whenever I shall choose,
    To fight for "yes" and "no", come win or lose,
    To travel without thought of fame or fortune
    Wherever I care to go to under the moon!
    Never to write a line that hasn't come
    Directly from my heart: and so, with some
    Modesty, to tell myself: "My boy,
    Be satisfied with a flower, a fruit, the joy
    Of a single leaf, so long as it was grown
    In your own garden. Then, if success is won
    By any chance, you have nothing to render to
    hollow Caesar: the merit belongs to you."
    In short, I won't be a parasite; I'll be
    My own intention, stand alone and free,
    And suit my voice to what my own eyes see!
    • Edmond Rostand, Cyrano de Bergerac, act II, trans. Christopher Fry (1975), p. 56–57. Originally published in 1897. This is Cyrano's declaration of independence.
  • Eastward I go only by force; but westward I go free.
    • Henry David Thoreau, "Walking," Excursions, p. 266 (1894). The essay on walking was first published after Thoreau's death, in Atlantic Monthly, June 1862.
  • I must walk toward Oregon, and not toward Europe. And that way the nation is moving, and I may say that mankind progress from east to west…. We go eastward to realize history and study the works of art and literature, retracing the steps of the race; we go westward as into the future, with a spirit of enterprise and adventure.
  • To be what no one ever was,
    To be what everyone has been:
    Freedom is the mean of those

Extremes that fence all effort in.

    • Mark Van Doren, "Freedom," Morning Worship and Other Poems (1960), p. 124.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

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