Liberty

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Liberty is not a means to a higher political end. It is itself the highest political end. ~ Lord Acton

Liberty is a concept of political philosophy and identifies the condition in which an individual has the right to act according to his or her own will.

See also: Freedom

Quotes[edit]

Alphabetized by author
The basis of a democratic state is liberty. ~ Aristotle
I am a fanatic lover of liberty, considering it as the unique condition under which intelligence, dignity and human happiness can develop and grow... ~ Mikhail Bakunin
Whenever a separation is made between liberty and justice, neither, in my opinion, is safe. ~ Edmund Burke
They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety. ~ Benjamin Franklin
Liberty is the condition of progress. Without Liberty, there remains only barbarism. Without Liberty, there can be no civilization. ~ Robert G. Ingersoll
Suspicion is a virtue as long as its object is the public good, and as long as it stays within proper bounds. … Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect every one who approaches that jewel. ~ Patrick Henry
Liberty is not merely a privilege to be conferred; it is a habit to be acquired. ~ David Lloyd George
Liberty has restraints but no frontiers. ~ David Lloyd George
Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it. ~ Learned Hand
The argument for liberty is not an argument against organization, which is one of the most powerful tools human reason can employ, but an argument against all exclusive, privileged, monopolistic organization, against the use of coercion to prevent others from doing better. ~ Friedrich Hayek
The greatest danger to liberty today comes from the men who are most needed and most powerful in modern government, namely, the efficient expert administrators exclusively concerned with what they regards as the public good.~ Friedrich Hayek
The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which seeks to understand the minds of other men and women… ~ Learned Hand
I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it. ~ Thomas Jefferson
Observance of the law is the eternal safeguard of liberty and defiance of the law is the surest road to tyranny. ~ John F. Kennedy
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. For time and the world do not stand still. Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future. ~ John F. Kennedy
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
Liberty hath a sharp and double edge, fit only to be handled by just and virtuous men. ~ John Milton
Liberty cannot depend on the good intentions of those in power; it depends on the law to constrain those in power. ~ Barack Obama
If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear. ~ George Orwell
The real disturbers of the peace are those who, in a free state, seek to curtail the liberty of judgment which they are unable to tyrannize over. ~ Baruch Spinoza
The ultimate aim of government is not to rule, or restrain, by fear, nor to exact obedience, but contrariwise, to free every man from fear, that he may live in all possible security; in other words, to strengthen his natural right to exist and work without injury to himself or others. [...] In fact, the true aim of government is liberty. ~ Baruch Spinoza
If there is one subject in this world worthy of being discussed, worthy of being understood, it is the question of intellectual liberty. Without that, we are simply painted clay; without that, we are poor, miserable serfs and slaves. ~ Robert G. Ingersoll
The most important thing in this world is liberty. More important than food or clothes — more important than gold or houses or lands — more important than art or science — more important than all religions, is the liberty of man. ~ Robert G. Ingersoll
The liberty of man is of far more importance than any book; the rights of man, more sacred than any religion — than any Scriptures, whether inspired or not. ~ Robert G. Ingersoll
What light is to the eyes, what love is to the heart, Liberty is to the soul of man. Without it, there come suffocation, degradation and death. ~ Robert G. Ingersoll
Liberty is the condition of progress. Without Liberty, there remains only barbarism. Without Liberty, there can be no civilization.. ~ Robert G. Ingersoll
Take the word Liberty from human speech and all the other words become poor, withered, meaningless sounds — but with that word realized — with that word understood, the world becomes a paradise. ~ Robert G. Ingersoll
Wait until the world is free before you write a creed.
In this creed there will be but one word — Liberty. ~ Robert G. Ingersoll
Justice is the end of Government. It is the end of civil society. It ever has been, and ever will be pursued, until it be obtained, or until liberty be lost in the pursuit. ~ James Madison
Man loves liberty, even if he does not know that he loves it. He is driven by it and flees from where it does not exist. ~ José Martí
He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself. ~ Thomas Paine
The history of liberty is a history of resistance. The history of liberty is a history of the limitation of governmental power, not the increase of it. ~ Woodrow Wilson
Liberty sets the mind free, fosters independence and unorthodox thinking and ideas. But it does not offer instant prosperity or happiness and wealth to everyone. ~ Boris Yeltsin
Let us not commit ourselves to the absurd and senseless dogma that the color of the skin shall be the basis of suffrage, the talisman of liberty. ~James A. Garfield
  • Liberty, next to religion has been the motive of good deeds and the common pretext of crime, from the sowing of the seed at Athens, 2,460 years ago, until the ripened harvest was gathered by men of our race. It is the delicate fruit of a mature civilization; and scarcely a century has passed since nations, that knew the meaning of the term, resolved to be free. In every age its progress has been beset by its natural enemies, by ignorance and superstition, by lust of conquest and by love of ease, by the strong man’s craving for power, and the poor man’s craving for food.
    • Lord Acton, in The History of Freedom in Antiquity (1877).
  • By liberty I mean the assurance that every man shall be protected in doing what he believes his duty against the influence of authority and majorities, custom and opinion.
    • Lord Acton, in The History of Freedom in Antiquity (1877).
  • Liberty and good government do not exclude each other; and there are excellent reasons why they should go together. Liberty is not a means to a higher political end. It is itself the highest political end. It is not for the sake of a good public administration that it is required, but for security in the pursuit of the highest objects of civil society, and of private life.
    • Lord Acton, in The History of Freedom in Antiquity (1877).
  • The basis of a democratic state is liberty.
  • What is liberty? The measure of dignity.
    • Giannina Braschi, on the independence of Puerto Rico, in the novel "Yo-Yo Boing!"
  • There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty.
    • John Adams, in notes for an oration at Braintree (Spring 1772).
  • Liberty, according to my metaphysics, is an intellectual quality, an attribute that belongs not to fate nor chance. Neither possesses it, neither is capable of it. There is nothing moral or immoral in the idea of it. The definition of it is a self-determining power in an intellectual agent. It implies thought and choice and power; it can elect between objects, indifferent in point of morality, neither morally good nor morally evil.
    • John Adams, in a letter to John Taylor (15 April 1814).
  • If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.
    • Samuel Adams, in a speech at the Philadelphia State House (1 August 1776).
  • Liberty
    A day, an hour, of virtuous liberty
    Is worth a whole eternity in bondage.
  • Ever since I arrived to a state of manhood, I have felt a sincere passion for liberty.
    • Ethan Allen, as quoted in "In the name of the Great Jehovah and the Continental Congress!" - American Heritage magazine Vol. 14, Issue 6 (October 1963).
  • I am a fanatic lover of liberty, considering it as the unique condition under which intelligence, dignity and human happiness can develop and grow; not the purely formal liberty conceded, measured out and regulated by the State, an eternal lie which in reality represents nothing more than the privilege of some founded on the slavery of the rest; not the individualistic, egoistic, shabby, and fictitious liberty extolled by the School of J.-J. Rousseau and other schools of bourgeois liberalism, which considers the would-be rights of all men, represented by the State which limits the rights of each — an idea that leads inevitably to the reduction of the rights of each to zero. No, I mean the only kind of liberty that is worthy of the name, liberty that consists in the full development of all the material, intellectual and moral powers that are latent in each person; liberty that recognizes no restrictions other than those determined by the laws of our own individual nature, which cannot properly be regarded as restrictions since these laws are not imposed by any outside legislator beside or above us, but are immanent and inherent, forming the very basis of our material, intellectual and moral being — they do not limit us but are the real and immediate conditions of our freedom.
  • Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the Government's purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well meaning but without understanding.
  • Whenever a separation is made between liberty and justice, neither, in my opinion, is safe.
    • Edmund Burke, in a letter to M. de Menonville (October 1789).
  • No form and no degree of alleged liberty can justify calumny or the publication of calumnious material.
    • Fausto Cercignani in: Brian Morris, Simply Transcribed. Quotations from Writings by Fausto Cercignani, 2014, quote 39.
  • To those who can hear me, I say — do not despair. The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed — the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress. The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people and so long as men die, liberty will never perish.
  • 'Tis liberty alone that gives the flower
    Of fleeting life its lustre and perfume;
    And we are weeds without it.
  • Then liberty, like day,
    Breaks on the soul, and by a flash from Heaven
    Fires all the faculties with glorious joy.


  • It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.
    • John Philpot Curran, "Speech On the Right of Election" (July 10, 1790) in Speeches of John Philpot Curran (1811) "Speech of Mr. Curran, On the Right of Election of Lord Mayor of the City of Dublin, Delivered Before the Lord Lieutenant and Privy Council of Ireland, 1790". Speeches of John Philpot Curran, Esq: With a Brief Sketch of the History of Ireland a Biographical Account of Mr. Curran. 2. New York: I. Riley. 1811. pp. 235–236. 
    • Curran's speech is the original source for the association between "eternal vigilance" and "liberty", but it's not clear where and when the quote evolved to the more familiar form we know today: "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty." Already by 1817, a toast to "Republicans" is recorded at a Fourth of July celebration in Bennington, Vt.: "To preserve your government you must be active, preserve yourselves you must be incessant—let your motto be 'eternal vigilance is the price we pay for liberty.'" (Vermont Gazette, July 8, 1817, p. 2.) Eight years later, another toast is made at a commemoration of the Battle of Bennington, this time to "The Freemen of Vermont", which gives the quote: "Let them remember that the 'price of Liberty is eternal vigilance,' and when they are called upon to give their suffrages, may they have judgment to select such man as will not bend the knee to power, or sacrifice principle on the altar of ambition." (Vermont Gazette, August 30, 1825, p. 2.)

      By 1833, a magazine calls it a "truth so often repeated" (Atkinson's Casket, Sept. 1833, 8:403). While Thomas Jefferson has sometimes been credited with this saying, there's no evidence he ever said it. US President Andrew Jackson, however, did repeat it in his farewell address (4 March 1837):

But you must remember, my fellow-citizens, that eternal vigilance by the people is the price of liberty, and that you must pay the price if you wish to secure the blessing.
  • Indeed nations, in general, are not apt to think until they feel; and therefore nations in general have lost their liberty: For as violations of the rights of the governed, are commonly not only specious, but small at the beginning, they spread over the multitude in such a manner, as to touch individuals but slightly. Thus they are disregarded. The power or profit that arises from these violations centering in few persons, is to them considerable. For this reason the governors having in view their particular purposes, successively preserve an uniformity of conduct for attaining them. They regularly increase the first injuries, till at length the inattentive people are compelled to perceive the heaviness of their burthens — They begin to complain and inquire — but too late. They find their oppressors so strengthened by success, and themselves so entangled in examples of express authority on the part of their rulers, and of tacit recognition on their own part, that they are quite confounded: for millions entertain no other idea of the legality of power, than it is founded on the exercise of power.
    • John Dickenson, in The Political Writings of John Dickinson, Esquire Vol. I (1801), Letter XI
  • The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims have been born of earnest struggle. If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet deprecate 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.
  • Liberty is a word which, according as it is used, comprehends the most good and the most evil of any in the world.
    • Oliver Ellsworth, in "A Landholder, III" in The Connecticut Courant No. 1191, (19 November 1787), also in Essays On The Constitution Of The United States, Published During Its Discussion By The People, 1787-1788 (1892) edited by Paul Leicester Ford, p. 146.
  • They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.
  • Those who would give up EssentialLibertyto purchase a little TemporarySafety, deserve neither Libertynor Safety.
  • Liberty has restraints but no frontiers.
  • 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.
    What then is the spirit of liberty? I cannot define it; I can only tell you my own faith. The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which seeks to understand the minds of other men and women; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which weighs their interests alongside its own without bias; the spirit of liberty remembers that not even a sparrow falls to earth unheeded; the spirit of liberty is the spirit of Him who, near two thousand years ago, taught mankind that lesson it has never learned, but has never quite forgotten; that there may be a kingdom where the least shall be heard and considered side by side with the greatest.
    • Learned Hand, in "The Spirit of Liberty" - a speech at "I Am an American Day" ceremony, Central Park, New York City (21 May 1944).
  • All political theories assume, of course, that most individuals are very ignorant. Those who plead for liberty differ from the rest in that they include among the ignorant themselves as well as the wisest.
  • The argument for liberty is not an argument against organization, which is one of the most powerful tools human reason can employ, but an argument against all exclusive, privileged, monopolistic organization, against the use of coercion to prevent others from doing better.
  • Justice, like liberty and coercion, is a concept which, for the sake of clarity, ought to be confined to the deliberate treatment of men by other men.
  • It would scarcely be an exaggeration to say that the greatest danger to liberty today comes from the men who are most needed and most powerful in modern government, namely, the efficient expert administrators exclusively concerned with what they regards as the public good.
  • The great aim of the struggle for liberty has been equality before the law.
  • Liberty not only means that the individual has both the opportunity and the burden of choice; it also means that he must bear the consequences of his actions … Liberty and responsibility are inseparable.
  • "Emergencies" have always been the pretext on which the safeguards of individual liberty have been eroded.
    • Friedrich Hayek, Law, Legislation and Liberty, Vol. 2 : The Mirage of Social Justice (1976)
  • Suspicion is a virtue as long as its object is the public good, and as long as it stays within proper bounds. … Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect every one who approaches that jewel.
  • It is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren, till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst and provide for it.... It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace — but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!
    • Patrick Henry, speech at the Second Virginia Convention at St. John's Church in Richmond, Virginia (23 March 1775); first published in Life and Character of Patrick Henry (1817) by William Wirt
  • There is no slavery but ignorance. Liberty is the child of intelligence.
    The history of man is simply the history of slavery, of injustice and brutality, together with the means by which he has, through the dead and desolate years, slowly and painfully advanced.
  • There has never been upon the earth a generation of free men and women. It is not yet time to write a creed. Wait until the chains are broken — until dungeons are not regarded as temples. Wait until solemnity is not mistaken for wisdom — until mental cowardice ceases to be known as reverence. Wait until the living are considered the equals of the dead — until the cradle takes precedence of the coffin. Wait until what we know can be spoken without regard to what others may believe. Wait until teachers take the place of preachers — until followers become investigators. Wait until the world is free before you write a creed.
    In this creed there will be but one word — Liberty.
  • I am a believer in liberty. That is my religion — to give to every other human being every right that I claim for myself, and I grant to every other human being, not the right — because it is his right — but instead of granting I declare that it is his right, to attack every doctrine that I maintain, to answer every argument that I may urge — in other words, he must have absolute freedom of speech.
  • If there is one subject in this world worthy of being discussed, worthy of being understood, it is the question of intellectual liberty. Without that, we are simply painted clay; without that, we are poor, miserable serfs and slaves.
  • The liberty of man is of far more importance than any book; the rights of man, more sacred than any religion — than any Scriptures, whether inspired or not.
  • What light is to the eyes, what love is to the heart, Liberty is to the soul of man. Without it, there come suffocation, degradation and death.
  • Liberty is the condition of progress. Without Liberty, there remains only barbarism. Without Liberty, there can be no civilization.
    If another man has not the right to think, you have not even the right to think that he thinks wrong. If every man has not the right to think, the people of New Jersey had no right to make a statute, or to adopt a constitution — no jury has the right to render a verdict, and no court to pass its sentence.
    In other words, without liberty of thought, no human being has the right to form a judgment. It is impossible that there should be such a thing as real religion without liberty. Without liberty there can be no such thing as conscience, no such word as justice. All human actions — all good, all bad — have for a foundation the idea of human liberty, and without Liberty there can be no vice, and there can be no virtue.
    Without Liberty there can be no worship, no blasphemy — no love, no hatred, no justice, no progress.
    Take the word Liberty from human speech and all the other words become poor, withered, meaningless sounds — but with that word realized — with that word understood, the world becomes a paradise.
  • The God who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time: the hand of force may destroy, but cannot disjoin them.
  • 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.
  • The British ministry have so long hired their gazetteers to repeat and model into every form lies about our being in anarchy, that the world has at length believed them, the English nation has believed them, the ministers themselves have come to believe them, & what is more wonderful, we have believed them ourselves. Yet where does this anarchy exist? Where did it ever exist, except in the single instance of Massachusetts? And can history produce an instance of a rebellion so honourably conducted? I say nothing of its motives. They were founded in ignorance, not wickedness. God forbid we should ever be 20 years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, & always, well informed. The past which is wrong will be discontented in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive; if they remain quiet under such misconceptions it is a lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. We have had 13 states independent 11 years. There has been one rebellion. That comes to one rebellion in a century & a half for each state. What country before ever existed a century & half without a rebellion? & What country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon & pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants. It is its natural manure.
  • The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground. As yet our spirits are free.
  • I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.
  • It behooves every man who values liberty of conscience for himself, to resist invasions of it in the case of others: or their case may, by change of circumstances, become his own.
  • Of liberty I would say that, in the whole plenitude of its extent, it is unobstructed action according to our will. But 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past are certain to miss the future.
    • Speech at Paulskirche in Frankfurt, West Germany, 25 June 1963; as printed in John Fitzgerald Kennedy, The Burden and the Glory (1964), p. 115
    • Variant: Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future.
      • Documents on International Affairs, 1963, Royal Institute of International Affairs, ed. Sir John Wheeler Wheeler-Bennett, p. 36
    • Variant: 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. For time and the world do not stand still. Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future.
  • And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof
  • Justice is the end of Government. It is the end of civil society. It ever has been, and ever will be pursued, until it be obtained, or until liberty be lost in the pursuit.
  • Humanity has gained its suit; Liberty will nevermore be without an asylum.
  • Liberty consists in the freedom to do everything which injures no one else; hence the exercise of the natural rights of each man has no limits except those which assure to the other members of the society the enjoyment of the same rights.
  • Malo periculosam libertatem quam quietum servitium.
    • I prefer liberty with danger to slavery with security.
    • Alt. translation: I prefer liberty with danger to peace with slavery.
    • Alt. translation: I prefer the tumult of liberty to the quiet of servitude.
    • Alt. translation: I prefer dangerous freedom over peaceful slavery.
    • Rafał Leszczyński in the Polish Senate, according to his son, Stanisław Leszczyński (King Stanislas of Poland) in La voix libre du citoyen, ou Observations sur le gouvernement de Pologne (1749), p. 135
  • 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.
  • Man loves liberty, even if he does not know that he loves it. He is driven by it and flees from where it does not exist.
  • Perhaps the enemies of liberty are such only because they judge it by its loud voice. If they knew its charms, the dignity that accompanies it, how much a free man feels like a king, the perpetual inner light that is produced by decorous self-awareness and realization, perhaps there would be no greater friends of freedom than those who are its worst enemies.
  • The degree of our worthiness to become a free people shall be determined by our ability to respect a lawful leader, to agree to the existence of an opposition, to listen to its arguments, and especially to put the nation's good above all party prejudices and private interest. Liberty is not one of man's inalienable rights' it is a desirable but difficult acquisition, and must be contended for constantly.
  • 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.
  • The great writers to whom the world owes what religious liberty it possesses, have mostly asserted freedom of conscience as an indefeasible right, and denied absolutely that a human being is accountable to others for his religious belief. Yet so natural to mankind is intolerance in whatever they really care about, that religious freedom has hardly anywhere been practically realised, except where religious indifference, which dislikes to have its peace disturbed by theological quarrels, has added its weight to the scale.
  • That principle is, that the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant.
  • Justly thou abhorr'st
    That son, who on the quiet state of men
    Such trouble brought, affecting to subdue
    Rational liberty; yet know withal,
    Since thy original lapse, true liberty
    Is lost.
  • 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.
  • There is no word that has admitted of more various significations, and has made more different impressions on human minds, than that of Liberty. Some have taken it for a facility of deposing a person on whom they had conferred a tyrannical authority; others for the power of choosing a person whom they are obliged to obey; others for the right of bearing arms, and of being thereby enabled to use violence, others in fine for the privilege of being governed by a native of their own country or by their own laws.
    Some have annexed this name to one form of government, in exclusion of others: Those who had a republican taste, applied it to this government; those who liked a monarchical state, gave it to monarchies. Thus they all have applied the name of liberty to the government most conformable to their own customs and inclinations: and as in a republic people have not so constant and so present a view of the instruments of the evils they complain of, and likewise as the laws seem there to speak more, and the executors of the laws less, it is generally attributed to republics, and denied to monarchies. In fine as in democracies the people seem to do very near whatever they please, liberty has been placed in this sort of government, and the power of the people has been confounded with their liberty.
  • Oh! if there be, on this earthly sphere,
    A boon, an offering Heaven holds dear,
    'Tis the last libation Liberty draws
    From the heart that bleeds and breaks in her cause!
    • Thomas Moore, Lalla Rookh (1817), Paradise and the Peri, Stanza 11.
  • Liberty is too priceless to be forfeited through the zeal of an administrative agent.
    • Frank Murphy, Oklahoma Press Publishing Co. v. Walling, 327 U.S. 186, 219 (1946).
  • Sacrificing anonymity may be the next generation's price for keeping precious liberty, as prior generations paid in blood.
    • Harl Noby, the Transparent Society, p. 3. Perseus Books Group, 1998.
  • Jesus wanted to liberate everyone from the law — from all laws. But this could not be achieved by abolishing or changing the law. He had to dethrone the law. He had to ensure that the law be man’s servant and not his master (Mark 2:27-28). Man must therefore take responsibility for his servant, the law, and use it to serve the needs of mankind.
    • Albert Nolan, in Jesus Before Christianity: The Gospel of Liberation (1976), p. 72
  • There was a recognition by all who participated in these reviews that the challenges to our privacy do not come from government alone. Corporations of all shapes and sizes track what you buy, store and analyze our data, and use it for commercial purposes; that’s how those targeted ads pop up on your computer and your smartphone periodically. But all of us understand that the standards for government surveillance must be higher. Given the unique power of the state, it is not enough for leaders to say: Trust us, we won’t abuse the data we collect. For history has too many examples when that trust has been breached. Our system of government is built on the premise that our liberty cannot depend on the good intentions of those in power; it depends on the law to constrain those in power.
  • If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.
    • George Orwell, Original preface to Animal Farm; as published in George Orwell : Some Materials for a Bibliography (1953) by Ian R. Willison
  • He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.
  • The philosophy of anarchism is included in the word "Liberty"; yet it is comprehensive enough to include all things else that are conducive to progress. No barriers whatever to human progression, to thought, or investigation are placed by anarchism; nothing is considered so true or so certain, that future discoveries may not prove it false; therefore, it has but one infallible, unchangeable motto, "Freedom." Freedom to discover any truth, freedom to develop, to live naturally and fully.
  • Most anarchists believe the coming change can only come through a revolution, because the possessing class will not allow a peaceful change to take place; still we are willing to work for peace at any price, except at the price of liberty.
  • Less glory is more liberty. When the drum is silent, reason sometimes speaks.
    • Albert Pike, in Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry (1871), Ch. I : Apprentice, The Twelve-Inch Rule and Common Gavel, p. 1
  • It is incorrect to think of liberty as synonymous with unrestrained action. Liberty does not and cannot include any action, regardless of sponsorship, which lessens the liberty of a single human being. To argue contrarily is to claim that liberty can be composed of liberty negations, patently absurd. Unrestraint carried to the point of impairing the liberty of others is the exercise of license, not liberty. To minimize the exercise of license is to maximize the area of liberty. Ideally, government would restrain license, not indulge in it; make it difficult, not easy; disgraceful, not popular. A government that does otherwise is licentious, not liberal.
  • Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.
    • Ronald Reagan, in an address to the annual meeting of the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce (30 March 1961).
  • Information is the oxygen of the modern age. It seeps through the walls topped by barbed wire, it wafts across the electrified borders.…The Goliath of totalitarianism will be brought down by the David of the microchip.
  • Liberty is not a cruise ship full of pampered passengers. Liberty is a man-of-war, and we are all crew.
  • Advocates of capitalism are very apt to appeal to the sacred principles of liberty, which are embodied in one maxim: The fortunate must not be restrained in the exercise of tyranny over the unfortunate.
  • Too little liberty brings stagnation, and too much brings chaos.
  • Few men desire liberty; most men wish only for a just master.
    • Sallust (Gaius Sallustius Crispus) in Histories.
  • Why, headstrong liberty is lash'd with woe;
    There's nothing, situate under heaven's eye
    But hath his bound, in earth, in sea, in sky.
  • What matters for individual liberty is not the source of law but its extent.
  • The ultimate aim of government is not to rule, or restrain, by fear, nor to exact obedience, but contrariwise, to free every man from fear, that he may live in all possible security; in other words, to strengthen his natural right to exist and work without injury to himself or others.
    No, the object of government is not to change men from rational beings into beasts or puppets, but to enable them to develop their minds and bodies in security, and to employ their reason unshackled; neither showing hatred, anger, or deceit, nor watched with the eyes of jealousy and injustice. In fact, the true aim of government is liberty.
    • Baruch Spinoza, in Theological-Political Treatise (1670), Ch. 20, That In a Free State Every Man May Think What He Likes, and Say What He Thinks
    • Variant translation: The last end of the state is not to dominate men, nor to restrain them by fear; rather it is so to free each man from fear that he may live and act with full security and without injury to himself or his neighbor. The end of the state, I repeat, is not to make rational beings into brute beasts and machines. It is to enable their bodies and their minds to function safely. It is to lead men to live by, and to exercise, a free reason; that they may not waste their strength in hatred, anger and guile, nor act unfairly toward one another. Thus the end of the state is really liberty.
  • The real disturbers of the peace are those who, in a free state, seek to curtail the liberty of judgment which they are unable to tyrannize over.
  • The saddest epitaph which can be carved in memory of a vanished liberty is that it was lost because its possessors failed to stretch forth a saving hand while yet there was time.
    • Justice George Sutherland, in his dissenting opinion on Associated Press v. National Labor Relations Board, 301 US 141 (1938).
  • Of course, there are dangers in religious freedom and freedom of opinion. But to deny these rights is worse than dangerous, it is absolutely fatal to liberty. The external threat to liberty should not drive us into suppressing liberty at home. Those who want the Government to regulate matters of the mind and spirit are like men who are so afraid of being murdered that they commit suicide to avoid assassination.
  • No man's life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session.
  • It would indeed be ironic if, in the name of national defense, we would sanction the subversion of one of those liberties which make the defense of our nation worthwhile.
  • Liberty is its own reward.
  • Liberty has never come from the government. Liberty has always come from the subjects of the government. The history of liberty is a history of resistance. The history of liberty is a history of the limitation of governmental power, not the increase of it.
    • Woodrow Wilson, Speech at New York Press Club (9 September 1912), in The papers of Woodrow Wilson, 25:124
  • Liberty sets the mind free, fosters independence and unorthodox thinking and ideas. But it does not offer instant prosperity or happiness and wealth to everyone. This is something that politicians in particular must keep in mind.
    • Boris Yeltsin, As quoted in Russia and the Independent States (1993) by Daniel C. Diller, p. 446

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

  • This liberty will look easy by and by when nobody dies to get it.
    • Maxwell Anderson, Valley Forge (1937), act III, final sentence, p. 110. George Washington is speaking.
  • Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.
    • The Bible, Leviticus 25:10. "In a letter written by a committee of the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly, 1 Nov., 1751, ordering a bell for the tower of the new State House, it was directed that this quotation from the Bible should be inscribed around it 'well-shaped in large letters.'" The Home Book of Quotations, 10th ed., ed. Burton Stevenson, p. 1104–5 (1967). The bell was ordered to celebrate fifty years of William Penn's Charter of Privileges. Penn left England in 1699 to return to America, where he drew up a document known as the Charter of Privileges, which was confirmed by the Assembly on October 28, 1701, and "remained substantially the fundamental law of Pennsylvania until 1776." [Federal] Writer's Program, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania: A Guide to the Keystone State, p. 30 (1940). The verse above is more fitting for a fiftieth anniversary than it appears, for it begins: And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year …" This bell, known as the Liberty Bell since about 1839, was rung July 8, 1776, with other church bells, announcing the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. The bell may be seen in Liberty Bell Pavilion, just north of Independence Hall in Philadelphia. These words are also inscribed on a plaque in the stairwell of the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty.
  • The United States appear to be destined by Providence to plague America with misery in the name of liberty.
    • Attributed to Simón Bolívar; reported as unverified in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989).
  • The defendants' objections to the evidence obtained by wire-tapping must, in my opinion, be sustained. It is, of course, immaterial where the physical connection with the telephone wires leading into the defendants' premises was made. And it is also immaterial that the intrusion was in aid of law enforcement. Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the Government's purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.
    • Louis D. Brandeis, dissenting, Olmstead v. United States, 277 U.S. 479 (1928). The last sentence is one of many quotations inscribed on Cox Corridor II, a first floor House corridor, U.S. Capitol.
  • Those who won our independence believed that the final end of the state was to make men free to develop their faculties, and that in its government the deliberative forces should prevail over the arbitrary. They valued liberty both as an end and as a means. They believed liberty to be the secret of happiness and courage to be the secret of liberty. They believed that freedom to think as you will and to speak as you think are means indispensable to the discovery and spread of political truth; that without free speech and assembly discussion would be futile; that with them, discussion affords ordinarily adequate protection against the dissemination of noxious doctrine; that the greatest menace to freedom is an inert people; that public discussion is a political duty; and that this should be a fundamental principle of the American government.
    • Concurring, Whitney v. California, 274 U.S. 357, 375 (1927), at 375. In this case, in which the Court upheld a California anti-Communist statute, Brandeis, writing in a concurrence joined by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., concurred in the judgment but not in the reasoning. Whitney was later overruled (with the later Court adopting Brandeis's reasoning) in Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444 (1969).
  • The distinguishing part of our Constitution is its liberty. To preserve that liberty inviolate seems the particular duty and proper trust of a member of the House of Commons. But the liberty, the only liberty, I mean is a liberty connected with order: that not only exists along with order and virtue, but which cannot exist at all without them. It inheres in good and steady government, as in its substance and vital principle.
    • Edmund Burke, speech at his arrival at Bristol (October 13, 1774). The Works of the Right Honorable Edmund Burke, vol. 2, p. 87 (1899).
  • Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites,—in proportion as their love to justice is above their rapacity,—in proportion as their soundness and sobriety of understanding is above their vanity and presumption,—in proportion as they are more disposed to listen to the counsels of the wise and good, in preference to the flattery of knaves. Society cannot exist, unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.
    • Edmund Burke, "Letter to a Member of the National Assembly," 1791. The Works of the Right Honorable Edmund Burke, vol. 4, p. 51–52 (1899).
  • That the greatest security of the people, against the encroachments and usurpations of their superiors, is to keep the Spirit of Liberty constantly awake, is an undeniable truth.
    • Edmund Burke, "A Free Briton's Advice to the Free Citizens of Dublin," no. 2, 1748. The Early Life, Correspondence and Writings of the Rt. Hon. Edmund Burke, p. 338 (1923).
  • The true danger is when liberty is nibbled away, for expedients, and by parts.
    • Edmund Burke, letter to the Sheriffs of Bristol, April 3, 1777. The Works of the Right Honorable Edmund Burke, vol. 2, p. 199 (1899).
  • True liberty consists only in the power of doing what we ought to will, and in not being constrained to do what we ought not to will.
    • Attributed to Jonathan Edwards. George Seldes, The Great Quotations, p. 220 (1966). Reported as unverified in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989). In the editor's introduction to Edwards's Freedom of the Will, ed. Paul Ramsey, p. 12 (1957), is a succinct summary of a portion of Edwards's definition of terms, part 1, section 5 (p. 164): "In other words, a man is free to do what he wills, but not to do what he does not will."
  • Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.
    • Benjamin Franklin, Pennsylvania Assembly: Reply to the Governor, November 11, 1755. The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, ed. Leonard W. Labaree, vol. 6, p. 242 (1963). This quotation, slightly altered, is inscribed on a plaque in the stairwell of the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty: "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
  • Where liberty is, there is my country.
    • Attributed to Benjamin Franklin. H. L. Mencken, A New Dictionary of Quotations, p. 682 (1942) gives "Where liberty dwells, there is my country," with a note that this was in a Franklin letter to Benjamin Vaughan, March 14, 1783, but the on-going project, Papers of Benjamin Franklin, has been unable to identify this letter. Alfred Owen Aldridge, Man of Reason, p. 169 (1959) says, "According to a tradition repeated by many biographers of Paine, Franklin at one time remarked in his hearing: 'Where liberty is, there is my country….'" Aldridge adds, "the story must be written off as apocryphal." Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 15th ed., p. 367 (1982), attributes this to James Otis, as his motto (Ubi libertas, ibi patria), but this has not been verified in either his speeches or biographical sources. It has also been attributed to Algernon Sidney, but has not been verified in any source.
  • 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. Civil liberty is only natural liberty, modified and secured by the sanctions of civil society. It is not a thing, in its own nature, precarious and dependent on human will and caprice; but it is conformable to the constitution of man, as well as necessary to the well-being of society.
    • Alexander Hamilton, "The Farmer Refuted," The Works of Alexander Hamilton, ed. John C. Hamilton, vol. 2, p. 61 (1850).
  • 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…. The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which seeks to understand the minds of other men and women; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which weighs their interests alongside its own without bias; the spirit of liberty remembers that not even a sparrow falls to earth unheeded; the spirit of liberty is the spirit of Him who, near two thousand years ago, taught mankind that lesson it has never learned, but has never quite forgotten; that there may be a kingdom where the least shall be heard and considered side by side with the greatest.
    • Learned Hand, "The Spirit of Liberty," speech at an "I Am an American Day" ceremony, Central Park, New York City, May 21, 1944. Hand, The Spirit of Liberty, 3d ed., enl., ed. Irving Dilliard, p. 190 (1960).
  • Is the relinquishment of the trial by jury and the liberty of the press necessary for your liberty? Will the abandonment of your most sacred rights tend to the security of your liberty? Liberty, the greatest of all earthly blessings—give us that precious jewel, and you may take every thing else!… Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect every one who approaches that jewel.
    • Patrick Henry, speech to the Virginia Convention, Richmond, Virginia, June 5, 1788. The Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution, ed. Jonathan Elliot, vol. 3, p. 45 (1836, reprinted 1937).
  • There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave…. It is vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, peace, peace—but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God!—I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!
    • Patrick Henry, speech to the Virginia Convention, Richmond, Virginia, March 23, 1775. William Wirt, Sketches of the Life and Character of Patrick Henry, 9th ed., p. 141–42 (1836, reprinted 1970). The Biblical allusion is from Jeremiah 6:14. "While there is no doubt as to the general effect of Henry's speech, questions as to its actual wording are not so easily disposed of. Not only is there no manuscript copy of the oration, there is no stenographic report…. It was not until some forty years later that William Wirt first reprinted a reconstruction of Henry's oration. In the absence of contemporary written information" there was much criticism of Wirt's text. Wirt collected much of the information for his biography of Patrick Henry "when many of Henry's auditors at St. John's [church] were still in their clear-minded fifties or sixties." Wirt collected information from "intelligent and reliable" auditors, including John Tyler, Judge St. George Tucker, and Edmund Randolph. "Wirt's text was based on a few very helpful sources plus many bits of information. He had ample proof for certain burning phrases … a remarkable resemblance to Henry's other speeches during that period," the fact that the speech conforms to others in "oratorical style and technique, even in the use of Biblical quotations or analogies. Of course, Wirt may have used fragments" from earlier speeches for the reconstruction. "Yet the information on the text as a whole is more precise than for many other great speeches in history." Robert Douthat Meade, Patrick Henry, Practical Revolutionary, vol. 2, p. 38–40 (1969). "I can find no evidence that Patrick Henry's 'Give me liberty, or give me death' went ringing round the country in 1775, when he thus burst forth to the Virginia delegates, or in fact that it was quoted at all until after William Wirt's official life in 1817." Carroll A. Wilson, "Familiar 'Small College' Quotations, II: Mark Hopkins and the Log," The Colophon, spring 1938, p. 204.
  • God who gave us life gave us liberty.1 Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever.2 Commerce between master and slave is despotism.3 Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate than that these people are to be free.4 Establish the law for educating the common people.5 This it is the business of the State to effect and on a general plan.6
    • Thomas Jefferson. Inscription on the northeast quadrant of the Jefferson Memorial, Washington, D.C., selected by the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Commission, from several writings of Jefferson's. The inscription omits words without ellipses. Note 1. "Draft of Instructions to the Virginia Delegates in the Continental Congress," The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Julian P. Boyd, vol. 1, p. 135 (1950). Note 2. "Notes on the State of Virginia," query 18, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Paul L. Ford, vol. 3, p. 267 (1894). Note 3. Ibid., p. 266. Note 4. "Autobiography," in The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Andrew A. Lipscomb, vol. 1, p. 72 (1903). Note 5. Letter to George Wythe, August 13, 1786. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Julian P. Boyd, vol. 10, p. 245 (1954). Note 6. Letter to George Washington, January 4, 1785 (i.e., 1786). The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Julian P. Boyd, vol. 9, p. 151 (1954).
  • I would rather be exposed to the inconveniencies attending too much liberty than those attending too small a degree of it.
    • Thomas Jefferson, letter to Archibald Stuart, December 23, 1791. The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Paul L. Ford, vol. 5, p. 409 (1895).
  • It behoves every man who values liberty of conscience for himself, to resist invasions of it in the case of others; or their case may, by change of circumstances, become his own.
    • President Thomas Jefferson, letter to Benjamin Rush, April 21, 1803. The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Paul L. Ford, vol. 8, p. 224, footnote 1 (1897).
  • The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is it's natural manure.
    • Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Stephens Smith, November 13, 1787. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Julian P. Boyd, vol. 12, p. 356 (1955). A related idea was later expressed by Bertrand Barère de Vieuzac in a speech to the French national assembly, January 16, 1793: "L'arbre de la liberté… croît lorsqu'il est arrosé du sang de toute espèce de tyrans (The tree of liberty grows only when watered by the blood of tyrants)," Archives Parliamentaires de 1787 à 1860, vol. 57, p. 368 (1900). Much earlier Tertullian had said: "Plures efficimur quotiens metimur a vobis; semen est sanguis Christianorum (We multiply whenever we are mown down by you; the blood of Christians is seed)," Apology, trans. T. R. Glover, p. 226–27 (1931).
  • To one however who adores liberty, and the noble virtues of which it is the parent, there is some consolation in seeing, while we lament the fall of British liberty, the rise of that of America. Yes, my friend, like a young phoenix she will rise full plumed and glorious from her mother's ashes.
    • Arthur Lee, letter to Samuel Adams, December 24, 1772. Richard Henry Lee, Life of Arthur Lee, vol. 1, p. 225 (1829, reprinted 1969). Adams repeated the striking phrase in a letter to Lee, April 9, 1773: "But America 'shall rise full plumed and glorious from her Mothers Ashes.'" The Writings of Samuel Adams, ed. Harry A. Cushing, vol. 3, p. 21 (1907, reprinted 1968).
  • The Democracy of to-day hold the liberty of one man to be absolutely nothing, when in conflict with another man's right of property. Republicans, on the contrary, are for both the man and the dollar; but in cases of conflict, the man before the dollar.
    • Abraham Lincoln, letter to Henry L. Pierce and others, April 6, 1859. The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, ed. Roy P. Basler, vol. 3, p. 375 (1953).
  • 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 of our gallant and disciplined army. These are not our reliance against a resumption of tyranny in our fair land. All of them may be turned against our liberties, without making us stronger or weaker 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, every where. Destroy this spirit, and you have planted the seeds of despotism around your own doors.
    • Abraham Lincoln, speech at Edwardsville, Illinois, September 11, 1858. The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, ed. Roy P. Basler, vol. 3, p. 95 (1953). The last two sentences appear in slightly varying form inscribed on a plaque in the stairwell of the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty: "Our defense is in the spirit which prized 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."
  • The world has never had a good definition of the word liberty, and the American people, just now, are much in want of one. We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing. With some the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor; while with others the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men's labor. Here are two, not only different, but incompatable things, called by the same name—liberty. And it follows that each of the things is, by the respective parties, called by two different and incompatable names—liberty and tyranny.
    • President Abraham Lincoln, address at sanitary fair, Baltimore, Maryland, April 18, 1864. The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, ed. Roy P. Basler, vol. 7, p. 301–2 (1953).
  • The struggle between Liberty and Authority is the most conspicuous feature in the portions of history with which we are earliest familiar, particularly in that of Greece, Rome, and England.
    • [[John Stuart Mill], On Liberty, ed. David Spitz, chapter 1, p. 3 (1975). Originally published in 1859.
  • He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.
    • Thomas Paine, "Dissertation on First Principles of Government," The Writings of Thomas Paine, ed. Moncure D. Conway, vol. 3, p. 277 (1895). Originally published in 1795.
  • Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty—power is ever stealing from the many to the few…. The hand entrusted with power becomes … the necessary enemy of the people. Only by continual oversight can the democrat in office be prevented from hardening into a despot: only by unintermitted Agitation can a people be kept sufficiently awake to principle not to let liberty be smothered in material prosperity.
    • Wendell Phillips, speech in Boston, Massachusetts, January 28, 1852. Speeches Before the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, p. 13 (1853). The memorable and oft-quoted phrase, "eternal vigilance is the price of liberty," was not in quotation marks in the printed edition of this speech. The Home Book of Quotations, ed. Burton Stevenson, 9th ed., p. 1106 (1964), notes that "It has been said that Mr. Phillips was quoting Thomas Jefferson, but in a letter dated 14 April, 1879, Mr. Phillips wrote: '"Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty" has been attributed to Jefferson, but no one has yet found it in his works or elsewhere.' It has also been attributed to Patrick Henry."
  • Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.
    • George Bernard Shaw, "Maxims for Revolutionists," appendix 2 to Man and Superman, in The Collected Works of Bernard Shaw, vol. 10, p. 218 (1930).
  • Liberty—precious boon of Heaven—is meek and reasonable. She admits, that she belongs to all—to the high and the low; the rich and the poor; the black and the white—and, that she belongs to them all equally…. But true liberty acknowledges and defends the equal rights of all men, and all nations.
    • Gerrit Smith, remarks in the House, June 27, 1854, Congressional Globe, vol. 23, Appendix, p. 1016.
  • The men of the future will yet fight their way to many a liberty that we do not even miss.
    • Max Stirner ([Johann] Kaspar Schmidt), The Ego and His Own, trans. Steven T. Byington, ed. James J. Martin, part 1, chapter 2, p. 127 (1973). Originally published in 1845.
  • For the saddest epitaph which can be carved in memory of a vanished liberty is that it was lost because its possessors failed to stretch forth a saving hand while yet there was time.
    • George Sutherland, dissenting, Associated Press v. National Labor Relations Board, 301 U.S. 141 (1938).
  • The contest, for ages, has been to rescue Liberty from the grasp of executive power.
    • Daniel Webster, speech in the Senate, May 27, 1834, on President Andrew Jackson's protest. The Works of Daniel Webster, 10th ed., vol. 4, p. 133 (1857).
  • God grants liberty only to those who love it, and are always ready to guard and defend it.
    • Daniel Webster, remarks in the Senate, June 3, 1834. The Writings and Speeches of Daniel Webster, vol. 7, p. 47 (1903).
  • The history of liberty is a history of resistance. The history of liberty is a history of the limitation of governmental power, not the increase of it.
    • Woodrow Wilson, governor of New Jersey, address to the New York Press Club, New York City, September 9, 1912. The Papers of Woodrow Wilson, ed. Arthur S. Link, vol. 25, p. 124 (1978).
  • I would rather belong to a poor nation that was free than to a rich nation that had ceased to be in love with liberty. But we shall not be poor if we love liberty, because the nation that loves liberty truly sets every man free to do his best and be his best, and that means the release of all the splendid energies of a great people who think for themselves. A nation of employees cannot be free any more than a nation of employers can be.
    • Woodrow Wilson, address on Latin American policy to the fifth annual convention of the Southern Commercial Congress, Mobile, Alabama, October 27, 1913. The Papers of Woodrow Wilson, ed. Arthur S. Link, vol. 28, p. 451 (1978). The first sentence is inscribed on a plaque in the stairwell of the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty.

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations[edit]

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 437-39.
  • L'arbre de la liberté ne croit qu'arrosé par le sang des tyrans.
    • The tree of liberty grows only when watered by the blood of tyrants.
    • Bertrand Barère de Vieuzac, speech in the Convention Nationale (1792).
  • But what is liberty without wisdom, and without virtue? It is the greatest of all possible evils; for it is folly, vice, and madness, without tuition or restraint.
  • My vigour relents. I pardon something to the spirit of liberty.
    • Edmund Burke, Speech on the Conciliation of America, Volume II, p. 118.
  • The people never give up their liberties but under some delusion.
  • Liberty's in every blow!
    Let us do or die.
  • Eternal Spirit of the chainless Mind!
    Brightest in dungeons, Liberty! thou art,
    For there thy habitation is the heart—
    The heart which love of thee alone can bind;
    And when thy sons to fetters are consign'd—
    To fetters and damp vault's dayless gloom,
    Their country conquers with their martyrdom.
    • Lord Byron, Sonnet, introductory to Prisoner of Chillon.
  • When Liberty from Greece withdrew,
    And o'er the Adriatic flew,
    To where the Tiber pours his urn,
    She struck the rude Tarpeian rock;
    Sparks were kindled by the shock—
    Again thy fires began to burn.
  • Yes, while I stood and gazed, my temples bare,
    And shot my being through earth, sea, and air,
    Possessing all things with intensest love,
    O Liberty! my spirit felt thee there.
  • Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is Liberty.
    • II Corinthians, III. 17.
  • Rendre l'homme infâme, et le laisser libre, est une absurdité qui peuple nos forêts d'assassins.
    • To brand man with infamy, and let him free, is an absurdity that peoples our forests with assassins.
    • Diderot.
  • The love of liberty with life is given,
    And life itself the inferior gift of Heaven.
  • The sun of liberty is set; you must light up the candle of industry and economy.
  • Give me liberty, or give me death.
  • The God who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time.
  • As so often before, liberty has been wounded in the house of its friends. Liberty in the wild and freakish hands of fanatics has once more, as frequently in the past, proved the effective helpmate of autocracy and the twin-brother of tyranny.
    • Otto Kahn, speech at University of Wisconsin (January 14, 1918).
  • The deadliest foe of democracy is not autocracy but liberty frenzied. Liberty is not foolproof. For its beneficent working it demands self-restraint, a sane and clear recognition of the practical and attainable, and of the fact that there are laws of nature which are beyond our power to change.
    • Otto Kahn, speech at University of Wisconsin (Jan. 14, 1918).
  • Libertas, inquit, populi quem regna coercent,
    Libertate perit.
    • The liberty of the people, he says, whom power restrains unduly, perishes through liberty.
    • Lucanus, Pharsalia, Book III. 146.
  • License they mean when they cry, Liberty!
    For who loves that, must first be wise and good.
    • John Milton, On the Detraction which followed upon my Writing Certain Treatises.
  • Give me again my hollow tree
    A crust of bread, and liberty!
  • O liberté! que de crimes on commêt dans ton nom!
    • O liberty! how many crimes are committed in thy name!
    • Madame Roland, Memoirs, Appendix. The actual expression used is said to have been "O liberté, comme on t'a jouée!"—"O Liberty, how thou hast been played with!" Spoken as she stood before a statue of Liberty.
  • That treacherous phantom which men call Liberty.
    • John Ruskin, Seven Lamps of Architecture, Chapter VIII. Section XXI.
  • Deep in the frozen regions of the north,
    A goddess violated brought thee forth,
    Immortal Liberty!
  • Behold! in Liberty's unclouded blaze
    We lift our heads, a race of other days.
  • Libertatem natura etiam mutis animalibus datam.
    • Liberty is given by nature even to mute animals.
    • Tacitus, Annales (AD 117), IV. 17.
  • Eloquentia, alumna licentiæ, quam stulti libertatem vocabant.
    • [That form of] eloquence, the foster-child of licence, which fools call liberty.
    • Tacitus, Dialogus de Oratoribus, 46.
  • If the true spark of religious and civil liberty be kindled, it will burn.
    • Daniel Webster, address in Charlestown, Massachusetts (June 17, 1825). Bunker Hill Monument.
  • On the light of Liberty you saw arise the light of Peace, like
    "another morn,
    Risen on mid-noon;"
    and the sky on which you closed your eye was cloudless.
  • God grants liberty only to those who love it, and are always ready to guard and defend it.
  • Liberty exists in proportion to wholesome restraint.
  • I shall defer my visit to Faneuil Hall, the cradle of American liberty, until its doors shall fly open, on golden hinges, to lovers of Union as well as of Liberty.
    • Daniel Webster, letter (April, 1851). When refused the use of the Hall after his speech on the Compromise Measures (March 7, 1850). The Aldermen reversed their decision. Mr. Webster began his speech: "This is Faneuil Hall—Open!"

The Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904)[edit]

Quotes reported in James William Norton-Kyshe, The Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904), p. 161-162.
  • The Judge is intrusted with the liberties of the people, and his saying is the Law.
    • Twisden, J., King v. Wagstaffe (1665), Sir Thomas Ray. Rep. 138.
  • I should be as unwilling as any man to concur in anything injurious to the rights of the subject. The Habeas Corpus is a very wise and beneficial statute: and the Judges have always been disposed to put such a construction upon it as will favour the real liberty of the subject. But we must be careful that those Acts which have been made for the benefit of the subject are not turned into engines of oppression: nor must we, under the idea of promoting general liberty, withhold that degree of favour from individuals which is consistent with the security of the public.
    • Rooke, J., Huntley v. Luscombe (1801), 1 Bos. and Pull. Rep. 538.
  • The last end that can happen to any man, never comes too soon, if he falls in support of the law and liberty of his country: for liberty is synonymous to law and government.
  • Whatever restraint is larger than the necessary protection of the party, can be of no benefit to either, it can only be oppressive; and if oppressive, it is, in the eye of the law unreasonable.
    • Tindal, C.J., Horner v. Graves (1831), 7 Bing. 743.
  • It does not seem to admit of doubt that the general policy of the law is opposed to all restraints upon liberty of individual action which are injurious to the interests of the State or community.
    • Lord Watson, Nordenfelt v. Maxim Nordenfelt, &c. Co. (1894), L. R. App. Ca. [1894], p. 552; also per Lord Macnaghten, id., p. 565. See also E. Underwood & Son, Ltd. v. Barker, L. R. 1 C. D. [1899], p. 311 et seq.

Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895)[edit]

Quotes reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895).
  • Conquer thyself. Till thou hast done that, thou art a slave; for it is almost as well to be in subjection to another's appetite as thine own.
  • Not until right is founded upon reverence, will it be secure; not until duty is based upon love, will it be complete; not until liberty is based on eternal principles, will it be full, equal, lofty, and universal.
  • O, we all long for the day, the blessed day, when freedom shall at least be co-extensive with Christendom; when a slave political or domestic, shall not tread on an atom upon which the cross of Calvary has cast its shadow; when the baptism of the crucified shall be on every brow, the seal of a heavenly sonship; when the fire of a new Pentecost shall melt asunder, by its divine heat of charity, the bond which wrong or prejudice has fastened; when, to touch any spot over the wide sweep of God's Christianized earth, any spot which the gospel of the Saviour has ever visited, which the name of the Saviour has ever sanctified, shall be, in itself, the spell of a complete deliverance, the magic of a perfect franchise.
  • It is a question not often considered, whether we are not just as independent when we choose an upright and godly course, even if our fathers did walk in it, as when we follow somebody's example in sin. Indeed the highest and truest independence is that which always elects to do right.
  • There are two freedoms — the false, where a man is free to do what he likes; the true, where a man is free to do what he ought.
  • The Spirit of God first imparts love; He next inspires hope, and then gives liberty; and that is about the last thing we have in a good many of our churches at the present time.
  • True liberty can exist only when justice is equally administered to all.
  • The great comprehensive truths, written on every page of our history, are these: Human happiness has no perfect security but freedom; freedom none but virtue; virtue none but knowledge; and neither freedom nor virtue has any vigor or immortal hope,except in the principles of the Christian faith, and in the sanctions of the Christian religion.
  • This is the true liberty of Christ, when a free man binds himself in love to duty. Not in shrinking from our distasteful occupations, but in fulfilling them, do we realize our high origin.
  • Do you wish to be free? Then above all things, love God, love your neighbor, love one another, love the common weal; then you will have true liberty.
  • The only rational liberty is that which is born of subjection, reared in the fear of God and the love of man, and made courageous in the defense of a trust and the prosecution of duty.
  • The moment you accept God's ordering, that moment your work ceases to be a task, and becomes your calling; you pass from bondage to freedom, from the shadow-land of life into life itself.
  • That religion which holds that all men are equal in the sight of the great Father will not refuse to acknowledge that all citizens are equal in the sight of the law.
  • Christianity is the companion of liberty in all its conflicts — the cradle of its infancy, and the Divine source of its claims.
  • Illustrious confessors of Jesus Christ, a Christian finds in prison the same joys as the prophets tasted in the desert. Call it not a dungeon, but a solitude. When the soul is in heaven, the body feels not the weight of fetters; it carries the whole man along with it.
  • He is the freeman whom the truth makes free.
    • Author not cited; reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895), p. 377.

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