SOMETHING TO PIN ON YOUR WALL
Free people, remember this maxim: We may acquire liberty, but it is never recovered if it is once lost.1 This was written in 1772 by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, a Swiss philosopher whose political philosophy influenced the Enlightenment movement in France and throughout Europe.
Rousseau’s words certainly made it across the ocean to the Colonies in the New World because in a letter from John Adams to his wife Abigail on July 7, 1775, Adams wrote: “Our consolation must be this, my dear, that cities may be rebuilt, and a people reduced to poverty may acquire fresh property: But a Constitution of Government once changed from freedom, can never be restored. Liberty once lost is lost forever. When the people once surrender their share in the legislature, and their right of defending the limitations upon the Government, and of resisting every encroachment upon them, they can never regain it.”
What makes these words of Rousseau so pertinent and apropos to our modern day, is what he wrote before stating this maxim. He said: “I’m not denying that there are times in the history of states when. . . .violence and revolutions jolt the populace into remembering the past, so that the state, set on fire by civil wars, is so to speak born again from its ashes, and with a renewed vigor of youth springs from the jaws of death… But such events are rare; they are exceptions, always to be explained in terms of the particular constitution of the exceptional state. They can’t even happen twice to the same people… when the civic spring has wound down. Then disturbances can destroy it, but revolutions can’t rebuild it: it needs a master, not a liberator. Free people, remember this maxim: We may acquire liberty, but it is never recovered if it is once lost.”
This should give us all something to seriously think about. – Dr. Robert R Seyda
1 Jean-Jacques Rousseau: The Social Contract or Principles of Political Right (1762), Translated by G. D. H. Cole, Bk. II, Ch. 8, pp. 33-34