Liberty Quotes

Quotes on the subject of Liberty.

See also: Freedom

  • Our history has shown us that insecurity threatens liberty. Yet, if our liberties are curtailed, we lose the values that we are struggling to defend.
    o The 9/11 Commission Report by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States

  • Liberty is not a means to a higher political end. It is itself the highest political end.
    o Lord Acton

  • If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.
    o Samuel Adams, in a speech at the Philadelphia State House, August 1, 1776

  • Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the Government’s purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well meaning but without understanding.
    o Louis Brandeis

  • Whenever a separation is made between liberty and justice, neither, in my opinion, is safe.
    o Edmund Burke

  • Indeed nations, in general, are not apt to think until they feel; and therefore nations in general have lost their liberty: For as violations of the rights of the governed, are commonly…but small at the beginning, they spread over the multitude in such a manner, as to touch individuals but slightly. Thus they are disregarded…They regularly increase the first injuries, till at length the inattentive people are compelled to perceive the heaviness of their burdens – They begin to complain and inquire – but too late. They find their oppressors so strengthened by success, and themselves so entangled in examples of express authority on the part of their rulers, and of tacit recognition on their own part, that they are quite confounded.
    o John Dickenson

  • The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims have been born of earnest struggle. If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.
    o Frederick Douglass

  • Liberty is a word which, according as it is used, comprehends the most good and the most evil of any in the world.
    o Oliver Ellsworth, A Landholder III, in ESSAYS ON THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES, PUBLISHED DURING ITS DISCUSSION BY THE PEOPLE, 1787-1788, at 146 (Paul Leicester Ford ed., 1892).

  • Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.
    o Benjamin Franklin. This has been paraphrased in various ways including: They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

  • Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it.
    o Learned Hand

  • We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.
    o Thomas Jefferson, in the US Declaration of Independence

  • It is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren, till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst and provide for it…. 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!
    o Patrick Henry

  • I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.
    o Thomas Jefferson, to Archibald Stewart, 1791

  • The British ministry have so long hired their gazetteers to repeat and model into every form lies about our being in anarchy, that the world has at length believed them, the English nation has believed them, the ministers themselves have come to believe them, & what is more wonderful, we have believed them ourselves. Yet where does this anarchy exist? Where did it ever exist, except in the single instance of Massachusetts? And can history produce an instance of a rebellion so honourably conducted? I say nothing of it’s motives. They were founded in ignorance, not wickedness. God forbid we should ever be 20 years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, & always, well informed. The past which is wrong will be discontented in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive; if they remain quiet under such misconceptions it is a lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. We have had 13 states independant 11 years. There has been one rebellion. That comes to one rebellion in a century & a half for each state. What country before ever existed a century & half without a rebellion? & What country can preserve it’s liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon & pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants. It is its natural manure.
    o Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to William S. Smith

  • The God who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time: the hand of force may destroy, but cannot disjoin them.
    o Thomas Jefferson

  • The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.
    o Thomas Jefferson

  • Of liberty I would say that, in the whole plenitude of its extent, it is unobstructed action according to our will. But rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law’ because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.
    o Thomas Jefferson

  • It behooves every man who values liberty of conscience for himself, to resist invasions of it in the case of others: or their case may, by change of circumstances, become his own.
    o Thomas Jefferson

  • That principle is, that the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant.
    o John Stuart Mill, On Liberty

  • He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.
    o Thomas Paine

  • It is incorrect to think of liberty as synonymous with unrestrained action. Liberty does not and cannot include any action, regardless of sponsorship, which lessens the liberty of a single human being. To argue contrarily is to claim that liberty can be composed of liberty negations, patently absurd. Unrestraint carried to the point of impairing the liberty of others is the exercise of license, not liberty. To minimize the exercise of license is to maximize the area of liberty. Ideally, government would restrain license, not indulge in it; make it difficult, not easy; disgraceful, not popular. A government that does otherwise is licentious, not liberal.
    o Leonard E. Read, The Freeman.

  • Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.
    o Ronald Reagan

  • Information is the oxygen of the modern age. It seeps through the walls topped by barbed wire, it wafts across the electrified borders.…The Goliath of totalitarianism will be brought down by the David of the microchip.
    o Ronald Reagan

  • Liberty is not a cruise ship full of pampered passengers. Liberty is a man-of-war, and we are all crew.
    o Kenneth W. Royce, Boston’s Gun Bible

  • Few men desire liberty; most men wish only for a just master.
    o Sallust (Gaius Sallustius Crispus)

  • The saddest epitaph which can be carved in memory of a vanished liberty is that it was lost because its possessors failed to stretch forth a saving hand while yet there was time.
    o George Sutherland

  • No man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session.
    o Gideon J. Tucker (1866)

  • It would indeed be ironic if, in the name of national defense, we would sanction the subversion of one of those liberties which make the defense of our nation worthwhile.
    o Earl Warren

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