Thanks for stopping by to read. I appreciate it. I want to share with you something I’ve been thinking about as of late. You see, I spend a fair amount of time on the road. And, as I drive, besides looking at the scenery and listening to music on the radio, one thing I really enjoy doing is listening to Great Courses lectures on CD put out by The Teaching Company. The other day while I was driving, I was listening to a lecture entitled “American Ideals” given by Professor Daniel Robinson of Oxford University and Columbia University. One of the concepts that Professor Robinson talked about was liberty. As I listened, I pondered what an amazing concept liberty is. I thought to myself, “I want to unpack that word, for it is a very important word and an even more important idea.” After all, it is what Patrick Henry said he would rather have than life itself when he declared these famous words: “Give me liberty or give me death!” And so, to begin with, I’d like to share with you the context in which Patrick Henry made that famous statement. It was part of a speech he made to the Second Virginian Convention, which was held March 20, 1775 in Richmond, VA. The speech was an attempt to garner support for a volunteer military within the state of Virginia. Some Convention delegates thought they should wait for a reply from the King of England following their latest attempt at reconciliation. However, Patrick Henry believed the time had come for the revolutionaries to bear arms against England.
The following is the closing paragraph of Patrick Henry’s speech, addressing Peyton Randolph, the Convention’s president:
“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!”
If you were to search for a definition of the word “liberty” you would find a variety of answers. Some are as follows:
-freedom from arbitrary or despotic government or control
-freedom from external foreign rule; independence.
-freedom from control, interference, obligation, restriction, hampering conditions, etc.; power of right of doing, thinking, speaking, etc., according to choice.
-freedom from captivity, confinement, or physical restraint.
For my purposes today I am considering liberty in two ways – #1 – freedom from arbitrary or despotic government or control; and #2 – power of right of doing, thinking, speaking, etc., according to choice.
The first definition I highlighted reminds us that liberty protects our lives from being disrupted by arbitrary acts of power by the government or some other group or organization. The second definition I highlighted reminds us that liberty allows us to have, own, and express our ideas without fear of some sort of punishment or repercussion.
The reason I bring this subject up today is I want us to realize what a gift we have been given by our Founding Fathers when they fought for liberty. Many people throughout the world have to live in fear of unstable and capricious governments, or rebel groups that stand poised to topple existing governments.
I find an interesting subject to explore is why some nations more than others remain in a state of need of assistance of varying kinds from people or groups outside their borders. And, as I have tried diligently, I have come up with this as part of my answer to a very complex question. That the concept of liberty has not been embraced by many of these nations, either by design of the leaders of those nations or for simply the pace of the political development of those nations. Think how different the lives of people in many nations would be if the concept of liberty was held in as high esteem as it is in America. We don’t often stop to think just how much we owe to the wisdom of our Founding Fathers, men like Patrick Henry, who understood so deeply the value of liberty; that he knew if he didn’t have liberty, he wouldn’t have a life worth living.
I encourage you today to consider the value of liberty in your life, that regardless of the debates between democrats and republicans we hear on the evening news, that we can rest knowing that in the morning, a new power will not have come in and wrest it out of the hands of our current leaders. That whether or not we agree with all policy, our Founding Fathers put in place a series of checks and balances so that our government could be protected from capricious attempts at usurping its power, and in so doing, has given us access to liberty, which is a greater gift than many of us probably realize.
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