A Safe Depository: an Enlightened Citizenry

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Our founders knew that for a nation of free people to remain free, they had to be well educated on many levels. John Adams put it plainly when he said, “Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people.” imageThomas Jefferson was both merciful and hopeful when he offered his solution to imperiled Liberty, in the event that Americans failed in their duties to educate themselves. “I know of 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,” he said. Liberty in America was not only reliant on the general dissemination of good information, it is also conducive to it, we realized. Thomas Powell recently commented that “knowledge is one of the few things that can be distributed to people without reducing the amount held by others;” nothing else can be redistributed without expropriation from others. imageOur founding fathers also thought that information critical to the preservation of freedom should be taught to future generations. John Adams thought “wisdom and knowledge, as well as virtue, diffused generally among the body of the people, being necessary for the preservation of their rights and liberties, and as these depend on spreading the opportunities and advantages of education in the various parts of the country, and among the different orders of people, it shall be the duty of legislators and magistrates… to cherish the interest of literature and the sciences, and all seminaries of them.” imageGeorge Washington specifically mentioned political sciences as the tonic to tyranny. He said, “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?” Walter Cronkite more recently stated, “whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation.”  But Ayn Rand expected more from us when she said, “from the smallest necessity to the highest religious abstraction, from the wheel to the skyscraper, everything we are and everything we have comes from one attribute of man – the function of his reasoning mind.” The foundations of a public education system may have been in fact laid by our founders. And as such, one would expect Liberty to be as vibrant as the day the Bill of Rights left America on a ship bound to England. So what has happened? Perhaps the type of education the founders envisioned did not come to fruition…?

Doris Lessing

Doris Lessing

Whatever happened, we are now forced to acknowledge, in the words of Doris Lessing: “Ideally, what should be said to every child, repeatedly, throughout his or her school life is something like this: ‘You are in the process of being indoctrinated. We have not yet evolved a system of education that is not a system of indoctrination. We are sorry, but it is the best we can do. What you are being taught here is an amalgam of current prejudice and the choices of this particular culture. The slightest look at history will show how impermanent these must be. You are being taught by people who have been able to accommodate themselves to a regime of thought laid down by their predecessors. It is a self-perpetuating system. Those of you who are more robust and individual than others will be encouraged to leave and find ways of educating yourself — educating your own judgements. Those that stay must remember, always, and all the time, that they are being moulded and patterned to fit into the narrow and particular needs of this particular society.” More tonic is offered by Mark Twain when he said, “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education,” and Isaac Asimov when he added, “self-education is, I firmly believe, the only kind of education there is.” Ayn Rand gave us a way to imagedeal with our cognitive dissonance when she coached us that “contradictions do not exist. Whenever you think that you are facing a contradiction, check your premises. You will find that one of them is wrong.” She too seemed to be writing a user’s manual of sorts for the thinking person. She expected these glaring contradictions to occur frequently and she understood the natural emotional response, “if you don’t know, the thing to do is not to get scared, but to learn.” She expected you to think; she thought. She said simply, “I am, therefore I’ll think!” Rand purposefully played on the words of René Descartes to emphasize the active thinker, not the passive entity, when he said, “I think therefore, I am.” Perhaps it was this kind of classical education the founders envisioned for ourselves, because they studied Descartes, Plato and Socrates in their own classical training. They understood the wisdom when Socrates said, “I cannot teach anybody anything. I can only make them think,” and the value of intrinsic learning advocated by Plato, when he suggested, “Truth is its own reward.”

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Socrates

Here is Descartes once again: “If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.” This is the critical thinking and rational investigation of ideas that most likely was envisioned by the founders. Socrates was perhaps the best teacher in that he allowed the pupil to work out misconceptions. His Socratic method included, “[putting] walls up not to keep people out, but to see who cares enough to break them down.” “Devotion to the truth is the hallmark of morality; there is no greater, nobler, more heroic form of devotion than the act of a man who assumes the responsibility of thinking,” Ayn Rand wrote. You are not alone if you choose to seek truth, in fact, you are “noble.” And it is never too late to continue your pursuit of the truth. Robert E. Lee advised, “the education of a man is never completed until he dies.” Ayn Rand agreed because she instructed one to “live and act within the limit of your knowledge and keep expanding it to the limit of your life.” Perhaps Lee and Rand understood the corollary that a man has figuratively died if he does not seek truth. Lee invoked the very ideas of good and evil when considering man’s choice whether to pursue truth when he declared, “The devil’s name is dullness.” Robert Frost seemed to follow this spiritual line toward truth when he offered himself as a sort of resurrector: “I am not a teacher, but an awakener.” Where to go from here? We have provided the Liberty Library section of this website to help you begin your self-directed education. The links will direct you to the works indicated in green font. They are free, but subject to change if we can find better-quality representations on the web. Feel free to send us your recommended links in the comments section to add to our list. Remember the soothing advice of Robert E. Lee to “get correct views of life, and learn to see the world in its true light. It will enable you to live pleasantly, to do good, and, when summoned away, to leave without regret.” If, however, if it is already your natural tendency for your suspicions to become aroused, don’t forget that William Burroughs said, “a paranoid is someone who knows a little of what’s going on!”

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Your Time or Your Freedom

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You have been handed freedom. You have been granted Liberty.

You have inherited these things like someone might receive a broken-in sweater or a reliable family car. Many owners before you have been handed these same things, and more or less, have taken care of them so that you too could have them one day. Now, what kind of a steward will you be? Have you ever thought about the people who actually had to earn this freedom? Have you considered the risk they took to seize their Liberty from those who would crush them, if they failed?

Jefferson, Hamilton, and Washington

Jefferson, Hamilton, and Washington

Have you considered what they would ask of you to preserve it for future generations? Believe it or not, they wrote a manual of sorts for you and they have already asked you to protect your Liberty with your time, your property and, if necessary, your life.

Patrick Henry

Patrick Henry

George Washington answered the question before it was asked when he said “it may be laid down as a primary position, and the basis of our system, that every Citizen who enjoys the protection of a Free Government, owes not only a proportion of his property, but even of his personal services to the defense of it.” Thomas Jefferson asked “what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms!” and Patrick Henry directed to “guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect every one who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force.”

But instead, evidenced by the rapid erosion of our liberties, we have failed to take these prescient warnings seriously. We have become apathetic to the principles for which our founding fathers were willing to sacrifice an established life.

Montesquieu

Montesquieu

Charles de Montesquieu once said, “The tyranny of a prince in an oligarchy is not so dangerous to the public welfare as the apathy of a citizen in a democracy.” Additionally, Thomas Jefferson warned, “lethargy [is] the forerunner of death to the public liberty.” More recently, Ronald Reagan added, “freedom is a fragile thing and is never more than one generation away from extinction. It is ours by inheritance; it must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation, for it comes only once to a people. Those who have known freedom, and then lost it, have never known it again.” John Dewey knew this when he observed that “the trouble…is that we have taken our democracy for granted; we have thought and acted as if our forefathers had founded it once and for all. We have forgotten that it has to be enacted anew in every generation, in every year and day, in the living relations of person to person in all social forms and institutions.” And Justice Louis Brandeis added, “those who won our independence believed… that the greatest menace to freedom is an inert people; that public discussion is a political duty; and that this should be a fundamental principle of the American government.” This is not just a new concept, because over 2000 years ago Plato observed, “the punishment which the wise suffer who refuse to take part in the government, is to live under the government of worse men.” His own student, Aristotle wisely added, “what is common to many is taken least care of, for all men have greater regard for what is their own than for what they possess in common with others.”

Edward Gibbons

Edward Gibbons

Yet despite the sage guidance offered to their fellow Greeks, an English historian, Edward Gibbons, wrote the epitaph: “In the end, more than they wanted freedom, they wanted security. When the Athenians finally wanted not to give to society but for society to give to them, when the freedom they wished was freedom from responsibility, then Athens ceased to be free.” Frederick Douglass predicted the end of freedom to those who did not take an even more lively role in guarding their liberty. Not only does apathy represent a risk to Freedom, but possibly lack of action does as well.

Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass

He said, “those who profess to favor freedom, and yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle! Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did, and it never will. Find out just what people will submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue until they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.” More concisely, Edmund Burke stated, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Do you want freedom for your children without “plowing up the ground”? If the answer is yes, then you too will pass the way of the Athenians. What is worse is that you have failed to be a curator of Liberty for future generations. You have robbed future generations of the gift given to you. If your answer is to them, “Forget it, I’m busy right now,” or, “I can’t help, because I own my own business,” then, if Theodore Roosevelt were alive today, he would probably answer, “people who say that they have not time to attend to politics are simply saying that they are unfit to live in a free community.” Winston Churchill might add, “if you will not fight for the right when you can easily win without bloodshed; if you will not fight when your victory will be sure and not too costly; you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a small chance of survival. There may even be a worse case: you may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves.”

Author Cynthia Copeland Lewis wisely observed, “it’s easier to throw sticks on the campfire than to try to restart it when it goes out.” Our generation is witnessing the campfire coals dwindling. But because we still have coals, it may not be too late to throw on some sticks. An initial commitment by you might only require about two hours a month to attend your party’s meetings, about five minutes a day to read emails and educate yourself on current politics, and, most importantly, about one weekend day a year to attend a state conference. Is this too much to ask?

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LIBERTY TREE precinct project

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The original Liberty Tree was a Grand Elm that stood in Boston, Massachusetts prior to the American Revolution. From its branches, ten years before formal declaration of hostilities, American patriots hung an effigy of Andrew Oliver, a colonist chosen to impose the Stamp Act by King George the III. With this courageously defiant act, America was born.

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The tree immediately became the symbol and rallying point for American resistance. A period of building violence from both sides of this conflict ensued under the canopy of this great tree, culminating in the British felling the tree in an attempt to demoralize the American colonists. It was probably this very elm Jefferson had in mind when he said, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.

Astute observers may have noticed that we have chosen the olive, instead of the Elm, as our symbolic Liberty Tree. The olive tree is hearty.  She can be denuded of her branches, dug up and hauled to unfamiliar lands and will, if planted with care, still flower and bear fruit. Her branches symbolize peace. These trees are long lived. And they might be 100 years old before they bear quality fruit. The fruit they bear is full of essential nutrients.

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Is Liberty not like the precious fruit of the olive? Does the olive branch get broken and abused by those that would steal her fruit rather than grow it? Will it take some time to restore the tree to health and vigor? Will her roots suffer from negligence, and will she still need the blood of patriots? Can she grow from an infusion of new blood, rather than a drenching of spilt blood? What better tree is there to symbolize a peaceful return to our Founding Fathers’ vision of Liberty?

The Precinct system has been set up for almost 200 years, and it is perhaps the only peaceful and constitutional way to take back our country. For half of these years, our citizens have been lulled into complacency and away from a basic understanding of the Precinct system. Briefly, “people are policy.” Because our Founders set up this country as a representative democracy, or a Republic, the more involved you are with your party, the more weight your opinion carries.

As a precinct leader, you set policy for our elected officials. It turns out, therefore, that when you, dear reader, become the Precinct Executive of your party (the Executive Committeeman who helps set policy) you now hold the most powerful office in America. And, since many of these positions lie vacant, it is often a shockingly easy office to attain.

Jefferson said, “the natural process of things is for liberty to yield, and government to gain ground.” Will restoring Liberty take some effort? Yes! Because to resist a “natural process,” by definition, requires energy. The amount of energy required is determined by the force of the “process.” This “process” has likely been going on for 100 years, and is growing exponentially. So, simply put, this will take a steady application of effort for some time to come.

Like the long-lived olive, it may be decades before we see thriving fruit again. We cannot rely on one individual, or some “cult of personality” to rescue us; it is, very simply, UP TO US! But take solace in what Samuel Adams once said: “it does not take a majority to prevail… but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men.

In Liberty,

The Liberty Tree Precinct Project