Saturday, October 2, 2021

Even the best laws could not relieve us of our responsibilities....

“Many subjects, however, though useful or necessary to some, are not so to every one.  Political ethics may form a very proper branch for a leading statesman, or the citizen who makes a profession of politics, yet ought they to be well understood by every body?  Is it, in particular, necessary to instruct the young in them?  I believe they are most emphatically so.  It is every man’s business to know his duty, and his duties as citizen are among the most sacred and important, especially so in countries which enjoy civil liberty, and have what is commonly, though inaptly called a free government.  The success of the whole, depends upon the whole; and there is no subject connected with the state, which does not vitally affect the interests of every one.  Laws and institutions are nothing more than dead forms of words, unless they operate.  Constitutions do not create liberty; political welfare cannot be decreed or effected by an edict or statute.  Liberty must grow and live, live in the heart of every one, not only as an ardent desire, or an indefinite though exciting notion, but as a knowledge of our political obligations and a profound reverence for political morality.”


“The wisest statesman is in this respect but like the poet.  He cannot delight, elevate or inspire, unless the elements to act upon are in the hearts of the hearers.  He cannot make new truths, and if he could, how could he gain entrance for them into the hearts of the people, who were wanting in the very sense to perceive them?  But he can boldly and strikingly pronounce what until then was but dimly felt in the soul of the hearer, or latent though unperceived in his heart.  So can the statesman clearly pronounce and boldly act out or gradually cultivate what was but vaguely felt by the masses, he can concentrate what was scattered, awaken what was dormant, impel, regulate, restrain, but he cannot create his elements.”

-Francis Lieber, Manual of Political Ethics

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