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THE MEANING OF CIVIL LIBERTY.
LIBERTY, in its absolute sense, means the faculty of willing, and the power of doing what has been willed, without influence from any other source, or from without. It means self-determination, unrestrainedness of action.
In this absolute meaning, there is but one free Being, because there is but one Being whose will is absolutely independent upon any influence, but that which he wills himself, and whose power is adequate to his absolute will—who is Almighty. Liberty, self-determination, unrestrainedness of action, ascribed to any other being, or applied to any other sphere of action, has necessarily a relative and limited, therefore an approximative sense only. With this modification, however, we may apply the idea of freedom to all spheres of action and reflection.
It will be observed that the terms Liberty and Freedom are used here as synonymes. Originally they meant the same. The German Freiheit (literally Freehood) is still the term for our Liberty and Freedom; but as it happened in so many cases in our language where a Saxon and Latin term existed for the same idea, each acquired in the course of time a different shade of the original meaning, either permanently so, or at least under certain circumstances. Liberty and Freedom are still used in many cases as synonymous. We speak of the freedom as well as the liberty of human agency. It cannot be otherwise, since we have but one adjective, namely Free, although we have two nouns. When these are used as distinctive terms, freedom means the general, liberty the specific. We say: The slave was restored to freedom; and we speak of the liberty of the press, of civil liberty. Still, no orator or poet would hesitate to say, freedom of the press, if rhetorically or metrically it should suit better. As in almost all cases in
If we apply the idea of self-determination to the sphere of politics, or to the state, and the relations which subsist between it and the individual, and between different which we have a Saxon and a Latin term for the same main idea, so in this; the first, because the older and original term, has a fuller, more compact, and more positive meaning, the latter a more pointed, abstract, or scientifie sense. This appears still more in the verbs to free, and to liberate. The German language has but one word for our freedom and liberty, namely Freiheit; and Freithum (literally freedom) means in some portions of Germany an estate of a Freiherr (baron). In Dutch, the word Vryheid (literally freehold) is freedom, liberty, while Vrydom (literally freedom) means a privilege, an exemption from burdens. This shows still more that these words meant originally the same.
The subject of liberty will occupy us throughout this work, and is of itself a subject of such magnitude, that we may well allow ourselves the time of reflecting for a moment on the terms which man has employed to designate this great concept.
The Greek word eleutheros, free, properly means, he who can walk where he likes. See Passow ad verbum, 'Elevepos and 'Epxouar. The Latin liber is believed to be derived from the same root with the Gothic Lib (in German Leib, body, connected with the Gothic Liban, our live, the German leben), so that liber would have meant originally, he who has his own body, whose body does not belong to some one else. It is natural that freedom appeared to the ancients, first of all, as a contradistinction to slavery, or as its negation. This is not quite dissimilar to the fact that most languages designate the state of purity by an adjective, which indicates a negation of the state of guilt. We say innocent, the negation of nocent, guilty; as if we were calling light undarkness. The guilt, the crime strikes first, and from it are abstracted the negations unguilt, innocence. If all were free, and if freedom had never been violated, we should probably have no word for freedom.
That body is taken in this instance to designate independence, with which the ideas of individuality and humanity are closely connected, is in conformity with the history of all terms of abstraction. The sensuous world furnishes man with the original term and idea, which the advancing intellect refines and distils. Nor can it surprise us who to this day say somebody, everybody, for some person, every man. Who does not think at once of Burns's lovely, “ Gif a body meet a body," where body is used for human individual ? At the time of writing this note, I met with this question, in a Scottish penal trial : Was that arsenic for a beast or a body ?-Burton's Criminal Trials, vol. ii. page 59.
Here, then, body is taken so distinctly for man, that it is contradistinguished to beast. In the same natural manner, it may come to signify man, not with reference to his intellect, but in connexion with liberty, as contradistinguished to a man-thing, i. e. slave.
At a later period, the soul comes to designate individuals, as we say in statistical accounts, so many souls, for so many persons.
The word Free is one of the oldest words with which we are acquainted.
states, we must remember that the following points are necessarily involved in the comprehensive idea of the state :
The state is a society, or union of men—a sovereign society and a society of human beings, with an indelible character of individuality. The state is moreover an institution which acts through government, a contrivance which holds the power of the whole, opposite to the individual. Since the state, then, implies a society which acknowledges no superior, the idea of self-determination applied to it means that, as a unit and opposite to other states, it be independent, not dictated to by foreign governments, nor dependent upon them any more than itself has freely assented to be, by treaty and upon the principles of common justice and morality, and that it be allowed to rule itself, or that it have what the Greeks chiefly meant by the word autonomy. The term state, We find free, fry, fryg, vry, in many languages, and Hesychius gives as a Lydian word Bpiya—Tòve evőepóv, from which the name of the Phrygians was probably derived. It is probably connected with several prepositions and verbs which we find in many languages; but this is not the place to carry the etymological inquiry any farther. It may be added, however, that through all the ancient Teutonic languages there is running a root Fr and Pr, with words derived from it, which indicate protection, pax, fædus. Frihals or Frijhals is the ancient High German for a protected man, a free-man, a non-slave man. How this root again is connected with the Gothic frijan, frion, for loving, kissing (hence our word friend), and the Sanscrit pri, which means exhilarare, amare, cannot be settled here. I would refer the reader for more information on this subject to L. Diefenbach's Comparative Dictionary of the Gothic Language, a German work, and to Grimm's German Dictionary, which, indeed, I have not yet been able to see; but the name of Grimm is so well known to the world as that of the undisputed highest authority on all questions of Teutonic etymology, that the author does not besitate to direct his readers to a work which he himself bas not yet examined.
It is a curious fact that the Armenians use, for liberty, a compound of ink’n, self, and ishkhanootzoon, dominion, sovereignty; so that the Armenians actually have our noble word self-government. My learned friend, the Rev. J. W. Miles, of Charleston, to whom I owe this contribution and much information on the Asiatic terms for liberty, adds, “I think a work of similar composition is used in the Georgian for liberty."
* Atonomeia is literally translated self-government, and undoubtedly sug. at the same time, means a society of men, that is, of beings with individual destinies and responsibilities, from which arise individual rights, that show themselves the clearer and become more important as man advances in political civilization. Since, then, he is obliged and destined to live in society, it is necessary to prevent these rights from being encroached upon by his associates. Since, however, not only the individual rights of man become more distinctly developed with advancing civilization, but also his social character and all mutual dependence, this necessity of protecting each individual in his most important rights, or, which is the same, of checking each from interfering with each, becomes more important with every progress he makes.
Lastly, the idea of the state involving the idea of government, that is, of a certain contrivance with coercing power superior to the power of the individual, the idea of self-determination necessarily implies protection of the individual against encroaching power of the government, or checks against government interference. And again, society as a unit having its objects, ends, and duties, liberty includes a proper protection of government, as well as an efficient contrivance to coerce it to carry out the views of society, and to obtain its objects. gested the English word to our early divines. Donaldson, in his Greek Dictionary, gives self-government as the English equivalent for the Greek autonomy; but as it has been stated above, it meant in reality independence upon other states, a non-colonial, non-provincial state of things. I beg the reader to remember this fact ; for it is significant that the term autonomy retained with the Greeks this meaning, facing as it were foreign states, and that self-government, the same word, has acquired with ourselves, chiefly or exclusively, a domestic meaning, facing the relations in which the individual and home institutions stand to the state which comprehends them.
3 The fact that man is in his very essence at once a social being and an individual, that the two poles of sociality and individualism must for ever determine his political being, and that he cannot give up either the one or the other, with the many relations flowing from this fundamental point, form the main subject of the first volume of my Political Ethics, to which I would refer the reader.
We come thus to the conclusion, that liberty applied to political man practically means, in the main, protection or checks against undue interference, whether this be from individuals, from masses, or from government. The highest amount of liberty comes to signify the safest guarantees of undisturbed legitimate action, and the most efficient checks against undue interference. Men, however, do not occupy themselves with that which is unnecessary. Breathing is unquestionably a right of each individual, proved by his existence; but, since no power has yet interfered with the undoubted right of respiration, no one has ever thought it necessary to guarantee this elementary right. We advance, then, a step farther in practically considering civil liberty, and find that it chiefly consists in guarantees (and corresponding checks) of those rights which experience has proved to be most exposed to interference, and which men hold dearest and most important.
This latter consideration adds a new element. Freemen protect their most important rights, or those rights and those attributes of self-determination, which they hold to be most essential to their idea of humanity; and as this very idea of humanity comprehends partly, some ideas common to men of all ages, when once conscious,
* It is interesting, with reference to the above subject, that the Teutonic frei and free comes from the same root fi, with fridu and frida (in modern German friede), that is peace, to which allusion has been made in the preceding note. Fridon, in old Saxon, meant to protect, to make secure. The old Norse his frído (fridho), which the lexicographer renders by tutus, fortis, mansuetus, formosus. In some parts of Germany and Switzerland, friede (peace) still means fence, that is protection. In the middle ages, fredus and freda meant the legal protection within a certain district. The word goes through the Franconian, Alemannian, Longobardian, and other laws, and reminds us of the English term, the king's peace. Frieburg meant originally a town and district, within which certain protection and security was to be found. Without multiplying the instances, which miglit be done ad infinitum, the fact that in the Teutonic languages the term freedom is of the same root with that for legal security and protection, or rather that the latter has passed over to that of liberty, is well established and full of meaning.