Freedom and Law


To you, O freedom, purport of all!
(You that elude me most, refusing to be caught in songs of mine,)
I offer all to you—
From this hour, freedom! Let everything be as free as possible.

I favor the widest opening of the doors,
Unscrew the locks from the doors!
Unscrew the doors themselves from their jambs!
We must be constantly pressing onward, every year throwing the doors wider and wider,
Doors that admit good news and bad news, giving many exits and entrances;
Let the ventilation and area be wide enough, and all is safe.

There is always danger in constipation,
Wickedness is most likely the absence of freedom and health in the soul—
If a man babe or woman babe of decent progenitors should grow up without restraint or starvation?

Let others promulge the laws—I will make no account of the laws,
Let me have my own way,
To be servile to none, to defer to none, not to any tyrant known or unknown.
The earth holds on her huge bosom not a creature more base and abject than that man who takes all that is dictated to him by a superior power, whatever it may be, and having no other text for his obedience than political laws, then obeys.

I am for those that have never been master’d,
For those whom laws, theories, conventions, can never master,
Those that go their own gait, erect, stepping with freedom and command, leading not following.
I announce uncompromising liberty,
Liberty is to be subserv’d whatever occurs.

Liberty is poorly served by the casual indifference or ingratitude of the people,
A quiet contented race sooner or later becomes a race of slaves,
Once unquestioning obedience, once fully enslaved,
Once fully enslaved, no nation, state, city of this earth, ever afterward resumes its liberty.
I say the land that has a place for slaves and the owners of slaves has no place for free men,
I say where liberty draws not the blood out of slavery, there slavery draws the blood out of liberty—
Freedom to every slave on the face of the earth!

Liberty is not the fruition but the dawn of the morning of a nation,
I see freedom, completely arm’d and victorious and very haughty,
With law on one side and peace on the other,
Freedom, pois’d by toleration, sway’d by law.

We first require that individuals and communities shall be free; then surely comes a time when it is requisite that they shall not be too free.
Freedom only opens entire activity and license under the law. We only attain to freedom by a knowledge of, and implicit obedience to, law.

Great is law.
Escaping from law, of course, is impossible. The whole universe is absolute law.
What has ever happened, what happens, and whatever may or shall happen,
Law is the unshakable order of the universe forever,
The vital laws inclose all, they are sufficient for any case and for all cases,
Nothing happens, or ever has happened, or ever can happen, but the vital laws are enough,
Whatever can possibly happen anywhere at any time is provided for in the nature of things.

What is independence? freedom from all laws or bonds except those of one’s own being, control’d by the universal ones.
We are from birth to death the subjects of irresistible law, enclosing every movement and minute,
Those laws can no more be baffled, or steer’d clear of, or vitiated, by chance, or any fortune or opposition, than the laws of winter and summer, or darkness and light.
We yet escape, by a paradox, into true free will.
Great—unspeakably great—is the will! the free soul of man!
At its greatest, understanding and obeying the laws, it can then, and then only, maintain true liberty.

The shallow consider liberty a release from all law, from every constraint.
The wise see in it, on the contrary, that law as absolute as any—more absolute than any—the potent law of law—the law of liberty;
Namely, the fusion and combination of the conscious will, or partial individual law, with those universal, eternal, unconscious ones, which run through all time, pervade history, prove immortality, give moral purpose to the entire objective world, and the last dignity to human life.
To be under the general law is great, for that is to correspond with it—
The new rule shall rule as the soul rules, and as the love, justice, equality in the soul rule.

Only that individual becomes truly great who understands well that, while complete in himself in a certain sense, he is but a part of the divine, eternal scheme, and whose special life and laws are adjusted to move in harmonious relations with the general laws of nature, and especially with the moral law, the deepest and highest of all.
Would you have in yourself the divine, vast, general law? Then merge yourself in it,
Always realizing the direct and indirect control of the divine laws through all and over all forever,
Touch all laws and tally all antecedents, for freest action form’d under the laws divine.

NEXT: Justice and Equality