What's More Important: Liberty Or The Entity That Protects It?
By Chuck Baldwin
April 27, 2010
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Let me ask readers a question. What's more important: freedom and its
undergirding principles, or the entity meant to protect it? A word of
caution: be careful how you answer that question, because the way you
answer marks your understanding (or lack thereof) of both freedom and
the purpose of government.
Thomas Jefferson--and the rest of America's founders--believed that
freedom was the principal possession, because liberty is a divine--not
human--gift. Listen to Jefferson:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created
equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable
Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of
Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among
Men." (Declaration of Independence)
Jefferson could not be clearer: America's founders desired a land in
which men might live in liberty. By declaring independence from the
government of Great Britain (and instituting new government), Jefferson,
et al., did not intend to erect an idol (government) that men would
worship. They created a mechanism designed to protect that which they
considered to be their most precious possession: liberty. In other
words, the government they created by the Constitution of 1787 was not
the object; freedom's protection was the object.
Again, listen to Jefferson: "That to secure these rights, Governments
are instituted among Men." In other words, government is not the end; it
is the means. Government is not the goal; it is the vehicle used to
reach the goal. Nowhere did Jefferson (and the rest of America's
founders) express the sentiment that government, itself, was the
objective. Listen to Jefferson once more:
"That whenever ANY FORM OF GOVERNMENT becomes destructive of these ends,
it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to
institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and
organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to
effect their Safety and Happiness." (Declaration) (Emphasis added.)
Jefferson is clear: people have a right to alter or abolish ANY FORM OF
GOVERNMENT that becomes destructive to liberty. To America's founders,
there was no such thing as a sacred cow when it came to government.
Government had but one purpose: "to secure these rights." When ANY FORM
of government stops protecting sacred, God-given liberties, it is the
right and duty of people to do whatever they deem appropriate to secure
their liberties--even to abolishing the government.
To America's founders, patriotism had everything to do with the love of
liberty, not the love of government!
Today's brand of patriotism (at least as expressed by many) is totally
foreign to the fundamental principles of liberty upon which America was
built. I'm talking about the idea that government is an end and aim in
itself; the idea that government must be protected from the people; the
idea that bigger government equals better government; the idea that
criticism of the government makes one unpatriotic; the idea that
government is a panacea for all our ills; and the idea that loyalty to
the nation equals loyalty to the government. All of this is a bunch of
When government--ANY GOVERNMENT--stops protecting the liberties of its
citizens, and especially when it begins trampling those liberties, it
has become a "destructive" power, and needs to be altered or abolished.
Can any honest, objective citizen not readily recognize that the current
central government in Washington, D.C., long ago stopped protecting the
God-given rights of free men, and has become a usurper of those rights?
Is there the slightest doubt in the heart of any lover of liberty that
the biggest threat to our liberties is not to be found in any foreign
capital, but in that putrid province by the Potomac?
Therefore, we must cast off this phony idea that we owe some kind of
devotion to the "system." Away with the notion that vowing to protect
and prolong the "powers that be" makes us "good" Americans. The truth
is, there is very little in Washington, D.C., that is worthy of
protecting or prolonging. The "system" is a ravenous BEAST that is
gorging itself on our liberties!
Patriotism has nothing to do with supporting a President, or being loyal
to a political party, or anything of the sort.
Is it patriotic to support our country (which almost always means our
government), "right or wrong"? This is one of the most misquoted clichés
in American history, by the way. Big Government zealots (on both the
right and the left) use this phrase often to try to stifle opposition by
making people who would fight for smaller government appear
The cliché, "My country, right or wrong," comes from a short address
delivered on the floor of the US Senate by Missouri Senator Carl Schurz.
Taking a strong anti-imperialist position and having his patriotism
questioned because of it (what's new, right?), Schurz, on February 29,
1872, said, "The senator from Wisconsin cannot frighten me by
exclaiming, 'My country, right or wrong.' In one sense I say so, too. My
country--and my country is the great American Republic. My country,
right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set
right." (Source: The Congressional Globe, vol. 45, p. 1287)
Schurz then later expanded on this short statement in a speech delivered
at the Anti-Imperialistic Conference in Chicago, Illinois, on October
17, 1899. He said, "I confidently trust that the American people will
prove themselves . . . too wise not to detect the false pride or the
dangerous ambitions or the selfish schemes which so often hide
themselves under that deceptive cry of mock patriotism: 'Our country,
right or wrong!' They will not fail to recognize that our dignity, our
free institutions and the peace and welfare of this and coming
generations of Americans will be secure only as we cling to the
watchword of TRUE patriotism: 'Our country--when right to be kept right;
when wrong to be put right.'" (Source: Speeches, Correspondence and
Political Papers of Carl Schurz, vol. 6, 1913, p. 119) (Emphasis in
Amen! In a free society, genuine patriotism demands that our country be
RIGHT, as our nation's policies and practices reflect the values and
principles of its citizens. To feign some kind of robotic devotion to a
nation without regard to sacred principle or constitutional fidelity is
to become a mindless creature: at best, to be manipulated by any and
every Machiavellian that comes along, or, at worst, to be a willing
participant in tyranny.
As to loyalty to a President merely because he is President, Theodore
Roosevelt may have said it best:
"Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by
the President or any other public official save exactly to the degree in
which he himself stands by the country. It is patriotic to support him
insofar as he efficiently serves the country. It is unpatriotic not to
oppose him to the exact extent that by inefficiency or otherwise he
fails in his duty to stand by the country. In either event, it is
unpatriotic not to tell the truth--whether about the President or anyone
Hence, freedom-loving Americans cannot afford to become infatuated with
Washington, D.C. We cannot allow these propagandists on network
television to distort the meaning of true patriotism in our hearts.
Patriotism means we love freedom. It means we understand that freedom is
a gift of God. It means we understand that government has only one
legitimate function: to protect freedom. It means that our love of
liberty demands that we oppose, alter, or even abolish ANY FORM of
government that becomes destructive to these ends. And it means that we
will never allow government to steal liberty from our hearts.
As I asked at the beginning of this column, What's more important:
freedom and its undergirding principles, or the entity meant to protect
it? The right answer is, freedom and its undergirding principles. If you
understand that, then you rightly understand that the current
government we find ourselves under is in desperate need of replacement.
And whatever, however, and whenever that replacement reveals itself is
not nearly as important as that liberty is preserved.
On the other hand, if you mistakenly believe that government (the entity
meant to protect liberty) is more important than liberty, you are both
tragically deceived and pathetically impotent to preserving freedom. You
may also have identified yourself as an enemy of freedom.
As for me and my house, we will stand with Jefferson's Declaration of
Independence--in whatever form it may present itself in a modern world
bent on dismantling our liberties. In other words, I pledge no loyalty
to any government that seeks to destroy our freedom--including the
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(c) Chuck Baldwin