Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Jefferson on the Right to Liberty

A portion of the following, from a letter from Thomas Jefferson to James Madison in 1782, is one of the best statements that I have ever seen of the rationale behind the right to freedom.

"... never been born." (That was the end of his sentence.)

The particular portion of this that I thought was important was this: "If we are made in some degree for others, yet in a greater, are we made for ourselves. It were contrary to feeling and, indeed, ridiculous to suppose that a man had less right in himself than one of his neighbors, or indeed, all of them put together. This would be slavery, and not that liberty which the bill of rights has made inviolable, and for the preservation of which our government has been charged. Nothing could so completely divest us of that liberty as the establishment of the opinion, that the State has a perpetual right to the services of all its members. This, to men of certain ways of thinking, would be to annihilate the blessing of existence, and to contradict the Giver of life, who gave it for happiness and not for wretchedness. And certainly, to such it were better that they had never been born."

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