From 1776 to 1935, the idea of “liberty” was a term that symbolized the essence of what it meant to be an American. Then in 1936, President Franklin Roosevelt (D) delivered a speech that redefined America forever.
It’s not a conspiracy theory to say that terms are extremely important and that the word “freedom” has forever changed America’s culture and what it means to be an American.
What Was Liberty and Why Was It Important?
Every year, Americans celebrate the 4th of July and millions visit Philadelphia to see the Liberty Bell near Independence Hall.
The Declaration of Independence states that all men have the right to “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.”
But, what does that mean?
The American colonists experienced a brutal and tyrannical government under the leadership of King George III.
After the 7-Years War, England was going bankrupt protecting the colonies from the French on their western boundaries. Parliament began imposing heavy taxes on the colonists to pay reimbursement for their protection. After virtual autonomy for 100 years, the colonists felt they were being penalized unfairly. Furthermore, they had no representation in parliament as required by British law which stoked the flames even more.
In 1765, Parliament passed the Stamp Act and then the Sugar and Tea Acts. After uprisings occurred, 10,000 British soldiers were sent to the colonies and the practice of quartering began — soldiers occupied private housing and required the colonists to provide them with not only housing but also food and clean laundry.
The Revolutionary War began and John Adams declared that “Liberty will reign in America!”
Liberty by the Founding Fathers was defined as a restraint on government. They wrote a Constitution that would protect the people from the government in the event a government ever grew into tyranny again.
What Is Freedom?
In a speech to the Democratic National Convention in 1936, President Roosevelt redefined liberty and introduced the concept of freedom:
“…Liberty requires opportunity to make a living – a living decent according to the standard of the time, a living which gives man not only enough to live by, but something to live for.”
He would go on to say, “Against economic tyranny such as this, the American citizen could appeal only to the organized power of government.”
Roosevelt was explaining why reform and the new deal was important for the nation in the context of the Great Recession. He claimed that big business was the cause for the economic collapse and that they were the enemy — not the government as in the case of the Revolutionary War.
The problem for Roosevelt and big government proponents of his reforms was that their movement was antithetical to liberty. Liberty calls for restraint on government and minimal government involvement in people’s lives.
FDR was calling for a more intervening, more powerful and more intrusive form of government. Freedom meant that a bigger government could ensure people are free to live as they desire because the government will protect the people by ensuring economic fairness.
Liberty and Freedom Are Not Synonymous Terms
By the time of the Cold War in the 1950s, presidents were using freedom in other broad contexts to justify military actions in Korea and Vietnam and to justify military growth to fight against Soviet Union aggression.
Freedom has also become a propaganda tool to justify the expansion of social welfare programs as well as other liberal social justice agendas. Unfortunately, many of these “freedoms” come at the expense of someone else’s “freedom.”
Ronald Reagan once said,
“Freedom is never more than one generation from extinction.”
In his context, what he could have said was “Liberty” is never more than one generation from extinction. But, he couldn’t say that because it wasn’t true. Liberty as a concept was already dead.
Freedom is a term that’s now used to justify an ever-growing expansion of government that is more intrusive and less responsible. Consider how the Trump campaign was spied on by its own government and how Carter Page was lied about in a FISA application and did time in jail as a result.
Freedom has given the government unbridled power without accountability to do whatever it wants.
Liberty would NEVER stand for that… Liberty is about constraints on government power and holding government accountable for bad behavior. Liberty is a term that empowers the people and protects them from the government.
George Washington once said,
“The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the republican model of government, are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.”
By Don Purdum, Freelance Contributor
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