Friday, May 31, 2013

Where does freedom come from? One answer from a Founding Father

"The right to freedom being the gift of God Almighty, it is not in the power of man to alienate this gift and voluntarily become a slave ... These may be best understood by reading and carefully studying the institutes of the great Law Giver and Head of the Christian Church, which are to be found clearly written and promulgated in the New Testament."

- Samuel Adams (1722-1803), American revolutionary and Founding Father, in The Rights of the Colonists, November 20, 1772.

One of the points that almost all of the American Founders agreed upon is that the key rights of human beings come not from the hand of the State but from the hand of God. While political, legal and social forms are necessary to properly incarnate those rights within a stable and enduring political order, the rights themselves have their origins in a source beyond the power of government


Tom Van Dyke said...

And my fave James Otis in 1764:

"Government is founded not on force, as was the theory of Hobbes; nor on compact, as was the theory of Locke and of the revolution of 1688; nor on property, as was the assertion of Harrington. It springs from the necessities of our nature, and has an everlasting foundation in the unchangeable will of God."

Unfortunately, the great James Otis rather lost his faculties as the Revolution approached, but as co-Founder of the Sons of Liberty [along with Sam Adams] helped frame the language of liberty for the Revolution.

Mark in Spokane said...

Thanks for the additional information, Tom. I don't know much about James Otis, you have sparked my curiosity!

wsforten said...

Here's one of my favorites:

"The acknowledgment of the unalienable right of man to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, is at the same time an acknowledgment of the omnipotence, the omniscience, and the all-pervading goodness of God."

[John Quincy Adams, An Oration Delivered Before the Cincinnati Astronomical Society, On the Occasion of Laying the Corner Stone of An Astronomical Observatory, On the 10th of November, 1843, at 12-15 (Cincinnati: Shepard & Co., 1843)]

Of course, John Quincy Adams wasn't one of the founders themselves, but his statement shows that the ideology of Samuel Adams and James Otis was inherited by the leaders of the next generation.

Mark in Spokane said...

That is a good one! One finds all sorts of that kind of stuff in the Founders.

JMS said...

Man - I'm confused. Does freedom come from God or "those who died for it"?

wsforten said...

Those who died for our freedoms did so to secure them not to grant them.

Mark in Spokane said...

Well put!