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Our Inalienable Rights

The people of these United States are the rightful masters of both congresses and courts, not to overthrow the Constitution, but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution.-Abraham Lincoln (1861).1

The duty of the State is to secure the happiness of the citizens. This end can be attained only by allowing the just liberty whereby each may work for his own interest and well-being providing he does not injure the well-being of his fellow citizens.-Paul Heinrich von Holbach (1783).

All we have of freedom, all we use or know-
This our Fathers bought for us long and long ago.
Ancient right unnoticed as the breath we draw—
Leave to live by no man's leave, underneath the law.
Lance and torch and tumult, steel and grey goosewing
Wrenched it, inch and ell and all, slowly from the King.

-Rudyard Kipling (1899).

Every age and generation must be free to act for itself in all cases as the ages and generations which preceded it. The vanity and presumption of governing beyond the grave is the most ridiculous and insolent of all tyrannies . . . Every generation is, and must be, competent to all the purposes which its occasions require. It is the living, and not the dead, that are to be accommodated.Thomas Paine (1800).

The freedom and happiness of man are the sole objects of all legitimate government.-Thomas Jefferson (1810).

I fear you do not fully comprehend the danger of abridging the liberties of the people. A government had better go to the very extreme of toleration than to do aught that could be construed into an interference with or jeopardize in any degree the rights of the people.-Abraham Lincoln (1863).

Natural Right is common to all nations because it rests upon the instinct of nature, not upon ordinance, as the union of male and female; the succession and education of children; the common possession of all things and the equal liberty of all men; the acquisition of whatever is taken in the sky, on land or sea; the restitution of everything given in trust or of money committed to charge; the repulsion of force by force. For these and similar things were never held to be unjust, but to be natural and equal.-Henry Gratian (1150).

There should be only one rule of justice for rich and poor, for the favorite at court and the countryman at the plow . . . When men enter into society it is by voluntary consent, and in case of intolerable oppression, civil or religious,

1 The dates given indicate the time at which the passages were expressed. In a few instances, however, exact dates are not available, or the person quoted is reported to have written or spoken the same words at several periods of his life. The span of life of each person quoted is given under the heading, Those Who Lifted Their Voices, page 55.

they have a right to leave the society they belong to and enter into another.Samuel Adams (1765).

All men are by nature equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights, namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.

Government is, or ought to be, instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security of the people, nation, or community!

When any government shall be found inadequate or contrary to these purposes, a majority of the community hath an indubitable, unalienable right to reform, alter, or abolish it, in such a manner as shall be judged most conducive to the public weal.-George Mason (1775)

It is the right of our people to organize to oppose any law and any part of the Constitution with which they are not in sympathy-Alfred E. Smith (1928).

The people have a right to petition, but not to use that right to cover calumniating insinuations.-Thomas Jefferson (1808).

A bill of rights is what the people are entitled to against every government on earth, general or particular; and what no just government should refuse or rest on inferences.-Thomas Jefferson (1787).

The community hath an indubitable, inalienable, and indefeasible right to reform, alter or abolish government, in such manner as shall be by that community judged most conducive to the public weal.-Pennsylvania Declaration of Rights (1874).

A man only moderately versed in statesmanship, and with only a small degree of sportsmanship, is bound to admit that in a free republic, in a government such as ours, it is the undoubted right of the people to change their servants, and to remove one and displace him with another at any time they choose, for a good reason, for a bad reason, for no reason at all.

It is the duty of the public servants not grumpily and sourly to accept the verdict of the majority but joyously to accept the verdict of the majority if we are to have a free people.-Henry F. Ashurst (1940).

And this is Liberty-that one grow after the law of his own life, hindering not another; and this is Opportunity; and the fruit thereof is Variation; and from the glad growing and the fruit-feasting comes Sympathy, which is appreciative and helpful goodfellowship.-John W. Lloyd (1900).


Few nations have attained the blessings of liberty, because few have had energy, courage, and virtue to deserve them.-Charles Joseph Bonaparte (1920).

'Tis liberty alone that gives the flower
Of fleeting life its lustre and perfume;
And we are weeds without it.

-William Cowper (1783).

Liberty, such as deserves the name, is an honest, equitable, diffusive, and impartial principle. It is a great and enlarged virtue, and not a sordid, selfish, and illiberal vice. It is the portion of the mass of the citizens, and not the

haughty license of some potent individual or some predominant faction.Edmund Burke (1793).

Take, Freedom, take thy radiant round;

When dimmed, revive: when lost, return;
Till not a shrine through earth be found
On which thy glories shall not burn!

-Thomas Moore (1812).

Freedom exists only where the people take care of the government.-Woodrow Wilson (1912).

Liberty exists in proportion to wholesome restraint.-Daniel Webster (1847).

In a chariot of light from the regions of day,

The Goddess of Liberty came;

Ten thousand celestials directed the way

And hither conducted the dame.

-Thomas Paine (1776).

I intend no modification of my oft-expressed wish that all men everywhere could be free.-Abraham Lincoln (1862).

We must be free or die, who spake the tongue

That Shakespeare spake; the faith and morals hold
Which Milton held.

-William Wordsworth (1802).

Only free peoples can hold their purpose and their honor steady to a common end, and prefer the interests of mankind to any narrow interest of their own.— Woodrow Wilson (1917).

Liberty is an old fact. It has had its heroes and its martyrs in almost every age. As I look back through the vista of centuries, I can see no end of the ranks of those who have toiled and suffered in its cause, and who wear upon their breasts its stars of the legion of honor.-Edwin Hubbell Chapin (1868).

A day, an hour, of virtuous liberty

Is worth a whole eternity in bondage.

-Joseph Addison (1713).

Liberty will not descend to a people, a people must raise themselves to liberty; it is a blessing that must be earned before it can be enjoyed.-Charles Caleb Colton (1821).

Liberty is to the collective body what health is to every individual body. Without health no pleasure can be tasted by man; without liberty, no happiness can be enjoyed by society.-Henry St. John Bolingbroke (1735).

When Freedom from her mountain-height
Unfurled her standard to the air,

She tore the azure robe of night,

And set the stars of glory there.

She mingled with its gorgeous dyes
The milky baldric of the skies,

And striped its pure, celestial white

With streakings of the morning light.

Flag of the free heart's hope and home!
By angel hands to valour given!
Thy stars have lit the welkin dome,

And all thy hues were born in heaven.
Forever float that standard sheet!

Where breathes the foe but falls before us,
With Freedom's soil beneath our feet,

And Freedom's banner streaming o'er us?

-Joseph Rodman Drake (1817).

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.—Henry Giles (1875).

When will the world shake off such yokes? Oh, when

Will that redeeming day shine out on men

That shall behold them rise, erect and free,

As heav'n and nature meant mankind should be?

Thomas Moore (1849).

Who may define Liberty? It is far more than Independence of a nation. It is not a catalogue of political “rights.” Liberty is a thing of the spirit—to be free to worship, to think, to hold opinions, and to speak without fear-free to challenge wrong and oppression with surety of justice. Liberty conceives that the mind and spirit of men can be free only if the individual is free to choose his own calling, to develop his talents, to win and to keep a home sacred from intrusion, to rear children in ordered security. It holds he must be free to earn, to spend, to save, to accumulate property that may give protection in old age and to loved ones.-Herbert Hoover (1934).

Freedom has a thousand charms to show,
That slaves, howe'er contented, never know.

William Cowper (1780).

Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered, yet we have this consolation within us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly. It would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated.-Thomas Paine (1776).


All the arts of pleasure grow when suckled by freedom..-Johann von Schiller.

My angel-his name is Freedom-
Choose him to be your king;

He shall cut pathways east and west,

And fend you with his wing.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson (1872).

The cause of freedom is identified with the destinies of humanity, and in whatever part of the world it gains ground by and by, it will be a common gain to all those who desire it.-Louis Kossuth (1850).

The political and civil liberties guaranteed the American people by the Bill of Rights are their most precious heritage. Without personal liberty, economic justice is unattainable and meaningless.—Burton K. Wheeler (1937).

Freedom is necessary to the scientist and inventor more even than to other men. Great ideas cannot be properly developed in an atmosphere of fear and coercion.-Igor Sikorsky (1940).

Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubile unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family.—Leviticus 25: 10.

This is the word that came unto Jeremiah from the Lord . . . to proclaim liberty unto them; that every man should let his manservant, and every man his maidservant . . . go free..—Jeremiah 34: 8–9.

And ye were now turned, and had done right in my sight, in proclaiming liberty every man to his neighbor.―Jeremiah 34: 15.

For, brethern, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.-Galatians 5: 13.

But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. James 1: 25.

Defending Liberty

Four-score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate-we can not hallow-this ground. The brave men living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain-that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedomand that government of the people by the people for the people shall not perish from the earth.—Abraham Lincoln (1863).

Remember that prosperity can be only for the free, and that freedom is the sure possession of those alone who have courage to defend it.—Pericles (469 B. C.).

The cause of civil liberty must not be surrendered at the end of one or even one hundred defeats.-Abraham Lincoln (1865).


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