Sunday, May 30, 2010

Liberty!


"Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto the inhabitants thereof."
[Inscription on the Liberty Bell; Leviticus 25:10]

Liberty! The very word evokes hope and stirs the inner soul of man. Throughout the course of time, individuals and nations oppressed by the yoke of tyranny or bondage have cried out for liberty's reprise and have sought for the comfort of its soothing rays. Revolution and war have oft been its price. Few nations have ever obtained it, let alone maintained it. Why so rare this prize for which so much blood and so many tears have been shed? Is its definition misunderstood? What is liberty and how is it secured, or more portentous, how is it lost?

First, we must understand that liberty is based upon fundamental principles and not philosophies or policies. Principles, which are based on truth, are constant and timeless; philosophies and policies are variable and changing and are based upon theories, circumstances and opinion. Second, we must recognize that liberty is not free. It must be both earned and guarded. Lastly, we must realize that liberty requires public morality or virtue. The greatest, and probably most generally unrecognized, threat to our liberty today results from the gradual erosion of virtue. This decay has resulted from negligence and apathy on the part of many and from calculated attacks on the part of a few. The invasive roots of its opposing influences have crept deeper into the soil of our communities while we have slept, and in some cases, while we have been thwarted in our efforts to eradicate their causes. James Madison stated: "I believe that there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachment of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations." When the policies and practices of the nation favor rights in exclusion of responsibility, and sanction vice at the expense of virtue, calamity is imminent. The impending consequences of the ruin of public virtue, which already cast a dark shadow across our nation, now loom on the horizon as a force destructive to our society, our government and our very peace and happiness.

I believe that except we become vigilant in understanding and upholding liberty's principles, we shall lose all which is attached to it: our national unity, our security, our peace and our prosperity. No person who loves liberty, can, in the face of the danger of its loss, stand idly by when life itself and the pursuit of happiness, hang so precipitously in the balance. A modern statesman, J. Reuben Clark, Jr., said: "We stand in danger of losing our liberties, and . . . once lost, only blood will bring them back . . ." In order to preserve liberty we must not only pledge allegiance, but prove loyal in deed to the standards upon which it is founded. Our Founding Fathers mutually pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to the cause of liberty. May we commit anything less and stand worthy of its benefaction?

"[T]he preservation of the sacred fire of liberty . . . [is] finally staked, on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American People." George Washington

By: J. David Gowdy

Sunday, May 23, 2010

George Washington's Seven Principles of Liberty

Derived from his First Inaugural Address, April 30, 1789, and from his Farewell Address, September 17, 1796, George Washington understood, lived, and taught these great maxims or principles of liberty:

I. Liberty is of Divine Origin "No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand, which conducts in the affairs of men more than the people of the United States. -- Every step, by which they have been advanced to the character of an independent nation, seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency." (First Inaugural Address)

 II. Liberty has a Price "The independence and liberty you possess are the work of . . . joint efforts, of common dangers, suffering and successes." (Farewell Address)

 III. Liberty is secured by Government "Liberty itself will find in such a government, with powers properly distributed and adjusted, its surest guardian." (Farewell Address)

 IV. Liberty requires Unity "[Y]our union ought to be considered as a main prop of your liberty, and that the love of the one ought to endear to you the preservation of the other." (Farewell Address)

 V. Liberty is maintained by Obedience to Law "Respect for [this Government's] authority, compliance with its laws, acquiescence in its measures, are duties enjoined by the fundamental maxims of true liberty." (Farewell Address)

 VI. Liberty is dependent upon Virtue "[V]irtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government." (Farewell Address)

 "Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim tribute to patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness." (Farewell Address)

 VII. Liberty affords the path to Happiness "[T]here is no truth more thoroughly established, than that there exists . . . an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness." (First Inaugural Address)

 "Can it be that Providence has not connected the permanent felicity of a nation with its virtue?" (Farewell Address)

Monday, May 17, 2010

James Madison's "Advice to My Country"

As this advice, if it ever see the light, will not do it till I am no more, it may be considered as issuing from the tomb, where truth alone can be respected, and the happiness of man alone consulted. It will be entitled therefore to whatever weight can be derived from good intentions, and from the experience of one who has served his country in various stations through a period of forty years; who espoused in his youth, and adhered through his life, to the cause of its liberty; and who has borne a part in most of the great transactions which will constitute epochs of its destiny.

The advice nearest to my heart and deepest in my convictions is, "That the Union of the States be cherished and perpetuated. Let the open enemy to it be regarded as a Pandora with her box opened, and the disguised one as the Serpent creeping with his deadly wiles into Paradise."
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Written by James Madison in 1834 and discovered sometime after his death (he died on June 28, 1836).

Monday, May 3, 2010

Liberty requires Unity

"[Y]our union ought to be considered as a main prop of your liberty, and that the love of the one ought to endear to you the preservation of the other." George Washington

Unity was indispensable to the formation of our nation and the establishment of the Constitution. George Washington, in his Farewell Address, said: "The unity of government . . . is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad, of your safety, of your prosperity, of that very liberty which you so highly prize. . . . it is of definite moment that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national union to your collective and individual happiness . . . accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as the palladium of your political safety and prosperity." All three authors of the Federalist Papers proclaimed the benefits of a strong union. James Madison stated: "[E]very man who loves liberty ought to have it ever before his eyes that he may cherish in his heart a due attachment to the Union of America and be able to set a due value on the means of preserving it." Madison also stated: "We have seen the necessity of the Union as our bulwark against foreign danger, as the conservator of peace among ourselves, as the guardian of our commerce and other common interests, as the only substitute for those military establishments which have subverted the liberties of the old world, and as the proper antidote for the diseases of faction, which have proved fatal to other popular governments." John Jay, stated: "[T]he prosperity of America depend[s] upon its Union." Finally, Alexander Hamilton said: "I have endeavored, my Fellow Citizens, to place before you in a clear and convincing light, the importance of Union to your political safety and happiness. I have unfolded to you a complication of dangers to which you would be exposed should you permit that sacred knot which binds the people of America together to be severed." Their messages instruct us that in unity, encompassing more than the mere union on paper of the states, there is mutual strength and safety.

Unity requires adherence to common principles -- a shared vision. Such principles include democratic standards of justice, fairness, equality, and individual freedom of religion and speech, among others. Thomas Jefferson eloquently stated in his Inaugural Address: "[E]very difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We have been called by different names brethren of the same principle. . . . Let us then pursue with courage and confidence . . . our attachment to union and representative government." In order to create and maintain unity, as evidenced by the very process by which the Constitution was forged, personal opinions must be tempered and often compromised for the benefit of the whole. Thus, the spirit of compromise is essential to the workings of our republican form of government; and the spirit of mutual commitment essential to democracy. In this regard, the Founding Fathers warned that "factions" are destructive to the spirit of unity. What are the prime causes of "the diseases of faction"? Pride, or selfishness, and greed. A proverb states: "Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall." (Proverbs 16:18). The central feature of pride is enmity (Benson). Enmity, or animosity, may be pitted against persons or groups in society. Through selfishness, greed and envy, the enmity of pride leads to contentions and strife, causing divisions and factions, thus destroying unity. Humility, gratitude and camaraderie serve as primary antidotes to dispel pride, shield principle and preserve the unity necessary to sustain liberty.

"'A house divided against itself cannot stand.'" Abraham Lincoln (quoting Mark 3:25).

By: J. David Gowdy