Founding Fathers Quote Friday: Liberty

Favorite Founding Father's Quote Day

The fundamental article of my political creed is that despotism, or unlimited sovereignty, or absolute power, is the same in a majority of a popular assembly, an aristocratical council, an oligarchical junto, and a single emperor. Equally arbitrary, cruel, bloody, and in every respect diabolical. –John Adams, Letter to Thomas Jefferson (November 13, 1815)

For reasons that I am not wholly sympathetic to, most people don’t get this. Most people are content to submit to injustices and abuses as long as a majority of society, or a majority of society’s appointed representatives, decide that it is OK. They are ready to give in to the verdict of the crowd because they have no principles. Likewise, if the crowd doesn’t approve of their ideas, they conclude that their ideas must be wrong.

Democracy is their idol, the only god they will bow down to. They don’t accept democracy as a decisionmaking process, a method of arriving at general conclusions about the group as a whole in a way that a majority of people will accept peacefully. Instead, the weak-willed want to hand over their personal responsibility and their personal liberty to something bigger than themselves, something mindless and hopeless, something that they both fear and love: a crowd of self-righteous meddlers.

Søren Kierkegaard  wrote that “the way of the crowd is always broad.” He was referring to the command by Jesus: “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.” [Matthew 7:13]

The way of the crowd is the way to destruction, and it begins before they take away your legal liberties. It begins when you give up your liberty of conscience by asking the crowd to take responsibility for your decisions and your actions.

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2 thoughts on “Founding Fathers Quote Friday: Liberty

  1. “They are ready to give in to the verdict of the crowd because they have no principles.” This is, of course, the root of the problem, but I don’t know as we can blame it all on “the weak-willed.” I think conditioning and the oxymoron of public education play a role, as well. People can’t give up their “liberty of conscience” if they never had it, and don’t know that it exists.

    I recently came across an excellent little book you might be interested in, called “The Politics of Obedience: The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude” by Etienne de la Boetie. Written in the 1500’s, he specifically examines the willingness of the masses to submit to tyrannical rule, but his thoughts can be applied universally.

    Excellent post. I’m so glad you’ve joined us.

  2. Wow, Dave! Glad to see you participate!

    And what a fantastic quote! I think your comments on it hit the nail right on the head. These have been the same thoughts that have crossed my mind as I examined freedom and the Founding Era. Right on! The only way we can truly be free is to follow the law of Christ, and sometimes that will mean choosing not to run off the edge of the cliff with the rest of the herd. Pretty good suggestion, don’t you think?

    Thanks again! Have a great weekend!

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