"Individuality is the aim of political liberty.
By leaving to the citizen as much freedom of action
and of being as comports with order and the rights of others,
the institutions render him truly a free man.
He is left to pursue his means of happiness in his own manner."
James Fenimore Cooper
(1789-1851) American Novelist
The American Democrat, 1838
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Reader comments about this quote:
I like the overall intended meaning but, governments have no inherent rights, passive only, and can render nothing to a free man that he already does not possess
 -- Mike, Norwalk     
    Perhaps the institutions themselves do not 'render the citizen truly a free man' but certainly by "leaving to the citizen freedom of action" government can manage rather than rule. The essense of political liberty is to be let alone by the government.
     -- E Archer, NYC     
  • 2
    Cooper is one of my 19th c Heroes. And he's right here too.
     -- Dougmcr8, Springfield, VA     
    As usual the devil is in the details. And the details here are "as comports with order and the rights of others". Who decides what is order and what are the rights of others. I find every one I know has something to say or an opinon about what I do or how I do it. Of course I don't give a damn (as long as I stay out of jail) so thus there is my freeedom.
     -- Waffler, Smith, Arkansas     
    Our problem today is that the line between public and private has become so blurred that everything has become everybody else's business and is subject to regulation for the "common good". Where is the outrage when government regulates your property to the point that it is no longer any benefit to you? Where is the outrage when your personal conduct in your own home is controlled by some bureaucrat intent on "protecting" someone or something or other? In fact it has come to the point when we no longer own our property, we rent it via property taxes. We almost no longer even own ourselves or even our own thoughts.
     -- Ken, Allyn, WA     
  • 1
    I agree wholeheartedly. If we would cater more to the rights of the individual, then maybe our politicians would be more resilient to the bondage these lobbyists and special interest groups hold over them and ultimately us too.
     -- Paula, Michigan     
     -- warren, olathe      
    i love this
     -- ben, eag oth     
    James Fenimore Cooper was a romanticist. He wrote romance - AKA 'make believe'.
     -- anonymous     
    I need to clarify and modify my above statement. Governments have NO rights but duties only. The use of passive here leaves an unintended understanding of what I was trying to say. In a free republican form or representation, the servants are hired to secure or enhance the rights of the individual. The quote's entire perspective is from an independent government which is superior to the individual. In the de jure representative republic that was America's States united (U.S.A.) the individual was the government, united with other individual governments, forming levels of representation - the servants (the government was inferior with no ability to leave to the citizen anything) could do nothing for their masters (the individual of We The People), the masters could not do for themselves.
     -- Mike, Norwalk     
    30c3: To Protect And Infect, Part 2 on youtube
     -- abby     
    Well said Mike.
     -- watchman 13, USA     
     -- Mary, MI      
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