32 Powerful Quotes About Liberty

8 min read

Chief among the values Americans hold dear is liberty. Throughout history, the idea that people can live as they choose in a free society has been talked about, written about and fought for. Here is a collection of quotes about liberty.

Freedom and education are inextricably linked. Without education and the free flow of information and ideas, liberty cannot exist.

“I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves ; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power.”
-Thomas Jefferson

“A primary object should be the education of our youth in the science of government. In a republic, what species of knowledge can be equally important? And what duty more pressing than communicating it to those who are to be the future guardians of the liberties of the country?”
-George Washington

“People have only as much liberty as they have the intelligence to want and the courage to take.”
-Emma Goldman

“The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty.”
-James Madison

“If this nation is to be wise as well as strong, if we are to achieve our destiny, then we need more new ideas for more wise men reading more good books in more public libraries. These libraries should be open to all—except the censor. We must know all the facts and hear all the alternatives and listen to all the criticisms. Let us welcome controversial books and controversial authors. For the Bill of Rights is the guardian of our security as well as our liberty.”
-John F. Kennedy

“The Truth is found when men (and Women) are free to pursue it.”
-Franklin D. Roosevelt

“Liberty without Learning is always in peril and Learning without Liberty is always in vain.”
-John F. Kennedy

This next collection of quotes draws attention to the idea that freedom of thought, the ability of the individual not to conform, protects the freedoms of the whole of society.

“Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves.”
-Henry David Thoreau

“The man who does not do his own thinking is a slave, and is a traitor to himself and to his fellowmen.”
-Robert G. Ingersoll

“People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use.”
-Soren Kierkegaard

Throughout history, warnings have been given against squandering liberty and the consequences of giving up freedom.

“If ever a time should come, when vain and aspiring men shall possess the highest seats in Government, our country will stand in need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin.”
-Samuel Adams

“But what is liberty without wisdom and without virtue? It is the greatest of all possible evils; for it is folly, vice, and madness, without tuition or restraint. Those who know what virtuous liberty is, cannot bear to see it disgraced by incapable heads, on account of their having high-sounding words in their mouths.”
-Edmund Burke

“Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.”
-Benjamin Franklin

“If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.”
-Samuel Adams

“I hope we once again have reminded people that man is not free unless government is limited. There’s a clear cause and effect here that is as neat and predictable as a law of physics: As government expands, liberty contracts.”
-Ronald Reagan

“A Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever.”
-John Adams

“When the taste for physical gratifications among them has grown more rapidly than their education . . . the time will come when men are carried away and lose all self-restraint . . . . It is not necessary to do violence to such a people in order to strip them of the rights they enjoy; they themselves willingly loosen their hold. . . . they neglect their chief business which is to remain their own masters.”
-Alexis de Tocqueville

“Our natural, inalienable rights are now considered to be a dispensation from government, and freedom has never been so fragile, so close to slipping from our grasp as it is at this moment.”
-Ronald Reagan

These quotes are about the cost of liberty. We call it freedom, but it is certainly not free.

“Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”
-Patrick Henry

“Liberty is never unalienable; it must be redeemed regularly with the blood of patriots or it always vanishes. Of all the so-called natural human rights that have ever been invented, liberty is least likely to be cheap and is never free of cost.”
-Robert A. Heinlein

“Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.”
-George Bernard Shaw

“. . . The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it to be always kept alive. It will often be exercised when wrong, but better so than not to be exercised at all. I like a little rebellion now and then. It is like a storm in the atmosphere.”
-Thomas Jefferson

“Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigues of supporting it.”
-Thomas Paine

“Better to die fighting for freedom then be a prisoner all the days of your life.”
-Bob Marley

“I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.”
– Thomas Jefferson

For a society to be free, all members of that society must be free. These quotes are a reminder of that.

“Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves”
-Abraham Lincoln

“This is my doctrine: Give every other human being every right you claim for yourself.”
-Robert G. Ingersoll

“If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.
-John F. Kennedy

“A right delayed is a right denied.”
-Martin Luther King Jr.

“Someday, the realm of liberty and justice will encompass the planet. Freedom is not just the birthright of the few, it is the God-given right of all His children, in every country. It won’t come by conquest. It will come, because freedom is right and freedom works. It will come, because cooperation and good will among free people will carry the day.”
-Ronald Reagan

Another hallmark of liberty is the freedom to express views that are unpopular or that run in opposition to the party in power.

“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”
-George Orwell

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”
-Nelson Mandela

We the People” by “Caveman Chuck” Coker is licensed under CC BY-ND