Liberty

I’m currently reading and enjoying Alexis de Tocqueville’s classic, Democracy in America. Yesterday morning was a good a time as any to continue on this quest, seeming how I had some hours to burn at the DPS.

In Chapter 2 (“Origin of the Anglo-Americans, and its Importance in Relation to their Future Condition”) Tocqueville quotes John Winthrop’s (below) “fine definition of liberty”

Winthrop
Liberty is being secure enough to wear a ‘roided up doily around my neck.

Concerning liberty, I observe a great mistake in the country about that. There is a twofold liberty, natural (I mean as our nature is now corrupt) and civil or federal.

The first is common to man with beasts and other creatures. By this, man, as he stands in relation to man simply, hath liberty to do what he lists; it is a liberty to evil as well as to good. This liberty is incompatible and inconsistent with authority, and cannot endure the least restraint of the most just authority. The exercise and maintaining of this liberty makes men grow more evil, and in time to be worse than brute beasts: omnes sumus licentia deteriores. This is that great enemy of truth and peace, that wild beast, which all the ordinances of God are bent against, to restrain and subdue it.

The other kind of liberty I call civil or federal; it may also be termed moral, in reference to the covenant between God and man, in the moral law, and the politic covenants and constitutions, among men themselves. This liberty is the proper end and object of authority, and cannot subsist without it; and it is a liberty to that only which is good, just, and honest. This liberty you are to stand for, with the hazard not only of your goods, but of your lives, if need be.

Whatsoever crosseth this, is not authority, but a distemper thereof. This liberty is maintained and exercised in a way of subjection to . authority; it is of the same kind of liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free.

Indeed.

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