Greetings, Gentle Reader,

In the 1700's and early 1800's, liberty was on the minds of the world's truly great people. John Curran said, "The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt." Those are strong words, but they are true, and they will never cease to be true.

When Benjamin Franklin was asked, "What have you given us, Mister Franklin?" He replied, "A republic, Ma'am, if you can keep it." He also said, "Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters." Herbert Spencer, an English philosopher, said it perfectly: "The republican form of government is the highest form of government, but because of this it requires the highest type of human nature - a type nowhere at present existing."

Edmund Burke was of like mind when he said, "Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their appetites... Society cannot exist , unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters."

In 1776 John Adams wrote, "The only foundation for a free Constitution is pure virtue, and if this cannot be inspired into our people in a greater measure than they have it now, they may change their rulers and the forms of government, but they will not obtain a lasting liberty."

Does that make you feel a little discouraged? We already have considerably less freedom than our grandparents had, but by and large, we are a considerably less virtuous people than our grandparents were, and if those who gave us our freedom knew what they were talking about, and they did, the two are closely connected.

They were convinced that we would not, that we could not, keep our freedom, unless we gained a level of virtue that the people of their day did not have. Not only have we not attained that level, we have abandoned our ancestors level of virtue, preferring instead to rate our pleasures by their degree of stimulation, rather than their virtue. We have embraced the notion that each of us has the right to define virtue for ourselves, using whatever standard we choose.

That concept presupposes that there is no such thing as absolute right or wrong, an idea that, from their writings, was anathema to those who created this nation. Most unnerving are these words, uttered by a man named William Sprague, "In the same proportion that ignorance and vice prevail in a republic, will the government partake of despotism." Unfortunately, the truth of that utterance is being borne out in every corner of our country.

Judges are legislating from the bench, when their appointed task is to interpret laws written by others and to judge whether those laws have or have not been broken. Our Congress has become a maze that is almost impossible for our lawmakers to negotiate, but even so, too many serve their own interests, rather than their constituents and their country. A man named John Hall left us this bit of priceless wisdom, which applies to this problem: "Men do things which their fathers would have deprecated, and then draw about themselves a flimsy cordon of sophistry, and talk about the advance of humanity and liberal thought, when it is nothing after all but a preference for individual license."

One of my earliest memories is of a young man saying, "Laws were made to be broken." And yet, Will Durant, historian, says, "man became free when he recognized that he was subject to law." The Romans refined that concept by creating a system in which both the people and the rulers were subject to the law, and that was a novel thought! Our own John Adams invoked the philosophies of the Greeks, Romans and even the British when he defined a republic as "a government of laws and not of men." That is the type of government our forefathers created for us.

Benjamin Franklin stated his philosophy concerning the rights of man in this manner, "Freedom is not a gift bestowed upon us by other men, but a right that belongs to us by the laws of God and nature." Since it is a right bestowed upon us, it is ours to use or abuse as we choose.

Unfortunately, the great men of our country have warned us that a depraved people cannot keep their freedom, and yet, moral and social depravity are the most visible driving forces in our country today. It seems that we have chosen to abuse our freedom.

How important is freedom to the people of this country? What price are we willing to pay to keep our freedom? We already know how important it was to our ancestors, because we know what price they paid to secure it and keep it. They knew the difference between freedom and a life of servitude, and they were determined to have freedom for themselves and their descendants. But is it important to us?

John Randolph said, "The principle of liberty and equality, if coupled with mere selfishness, will make men only devils, each trying to be independent that he may fight only for his own interest." Are we willing to bring more than selfishness to our desire to retain our liberty? If we have nothing more to offer than self interest, George Hillard's words apply to us: "If liberty with law is fire on the hearth, liberty without law is fire on the floor."

Though we have been playing with fire for more than half a century, where our liberty is concerned, it is not too late to accept that we will not enjoy our freedom much longer, unless we halt our slide into a moral sewer. In short, while fire on the hearth is great, few are so naive as to think that fire on the floor will be the same. But that is where it will be shortly, and unless we take action, it will burn our country down around our ears.

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