What do we mean when we say that first of all we seek liberty? I often wonder whether we do not rest our hopes too much upon constitutions, upon laws and upon courts. These are false hopes; believe me, these are false hopes. Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it; no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it… What is this liberty that must lie in the hearts of men and women? It is not the ruthless, the unbridled will; it is not the freedom to do as one likes. That is the denial of liberty and leads straight to its overthrow. A society in which men recognize no check on their freedom soon becomes a society where freedom is the possession of only a savage few — as we have learned to our sorrow. 
What then is the spirit of liberty? I cannot define it; I can only tell you my own faith. The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which seeks to understand the minds of other men and women; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which weighs their interests alongside its own without bias; the spirit of liberty remembers that not even a sparrow falls to earth unheeded; the spirit of liberty is the spirit of Him who, near two thousand years ago, taught mankind that lesson it has never learned, but has never quite forgotten; that there may be a kingdom where the least shall be heard and considered side by side with the greatest.

– Judge Learned Hand 1944


  1. Such words! I’m assuming that Judge Learned Hand is Native American. And I wonder about what is in the minds of Native Americans on holidays such as Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July. Yes, I know they come to the parks and do native dancing on the Fourth–but still they must have some private thoughts about celebrating. If only the politicians would speak of reparations to these people! If only it were possible to consider how!


  2. A quick Google search found a Wikipedia entry for Judge Learned Hand and there we see that he was born in Albany, New York in 1872 and died in New York City in 1961. “Hand has been quoted more often by legal scholars and by the Supreme Court of the United States than any other lower-court judge.” That’s quite a distinction.

    I like the quote Emily chose regarding the freedom that dwells in every heart….not the kind of freedom that has to be legislated or regulated but the kind of freedom that is willing to be responsible for our individual actions and accept the consequences for those same actions, whether they be good or whether they be bad.

    Good actions, wrought in the environment of freedom, have a lasting effect. We can all decide today to add to the good actions around us. Choose today to be kind and fair to all people. Choose today to look for the good in others. We are free to do that. Let’s all act honorably, in the highest sense of the word.


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