Freedom and Liberty
The two concepts of Freedom and liberty have occupied the minds of Americans for a very long time. America is always touted as the land of freedom. The declaration of independence illustrated the kinds of freedom all Americans ought to enjoy. It defined freedom in a simple and concise way. The desire for freedom was strong, and Americans desired to be free from the British colonialists. This freedom was expressed in the American Declaration of independence.
Some aspects of freedom were however overlooked; Elizabeth Cady Stanton in her Declaration of Sentiments created awareness on these neglected freedoms. Universal freedom in American society was still a farfetched dream. People’s desire to be free is affected by many factors. Society and government dictate the kinds of freedom people enjoy. The rights and freedoms that people enjoy, depend on how the government approaches these fundamental issues.
Freedom is the ability of individuals to gain control over their lives and their actions.
It consists of the power of individuals to choose that which they deem best without any form of restraint. Free individuals are not restricted from expressing their rights and freedoms. Free individuals usually have the opportunity to exercise their rights, thoughts, authorities and aspirations. Freedom allows the individual to pursue their interests without any restrictions whatsoever. A free society is a society where individuals can freely exercise their rights and freedoms. In addition, such societies do not have restrictions on the rights of individuals. In a free society, all the fundamental rights and freedoms of individuals are upheld.
Such a society upholds and promotes the independence of individuals in their actions, speech and the way of thinking.
Different forms of government affect the freedom of individuals in many different ways. Democracies and republics affect the ways through which individuals express their freedoms and rights in diverse ways. Governments invade many aspects of human life and institute laws that govern the way people live. There are rules governing how people should be taught in schools, the way they should treat the environment, how they used their possessions and rules on what individuals are supposed to own and what they are not supposed to own. The actions of many government agencies impinge on the rights and freedoms of the citizens and society. Freedom consists of being free from any constraints or restrictions. The government however limits our actions and places restraints on the choices we make. One may argue that government restrictive action is meant to protect us, however, some government restrictions that are not protective in any way.
The government has violated societal freedoms in several ways. It controls the schooling system and dictates the way schools are run a decision that should be left solely to parents. Republican governments score highly when it comes to restrictions on the rights and freedoms of individuals. In republics, citizen participation is limited; furthermore, republican policy and laws are skewed towards conservative values that are usually against the majority. Freedom is still not enjoyed by everyone. Women especially have encountered many challenges in their pursuit of freedom. Women are still discriminated upon in many respects. They are looked upon as lesser beings compared to men. The United States has made enormous strides in the elimination of women oppression; it however still exists in varied forms as inequality and gender discrimination.
In addition to the declaration of independence, Thomas Jefferson also authored the Virginia statute of religious freedom. Jefferson advocated for the freedom of individuals to exercise their religious rights without interference. Jefferson was able to describe freedom and democracy in a universal way. He opposed the tyranny of the colonists and the oppression Americans faced under the rule of the British colonial powers (Jefferson & Fink 10). His works on freedom and government triggered a global struggle for freedom. He called for an abolishment of slavery and instituted the struggle for religious freedom. He called for universal rights and the emancipation of slaves. He insisted on the need for equal rights for people of all races. The declaration of Independence defined freedom as political fairness and freedom from political oppression.
Elizabeth Caid Stanton, on the other hand, is concerned with the oppression women undergo at the hands of men. She proceeds to write her own declaration on the equality between men and women. This declaration was known as the declaration of sentiments. In her Declaration, she cites the oppression of women in society (Stanton 1). Stanton acknowledges the fact that even after independence had been declared there were sections of the population that were still oppressed and discriminated. Women still struggled against discrimination and inequality. She refined Jefferson’s declaration of independence and used it to convey her sentiments on the issue of discrimination against women. She advocated for marital freedom and that men should treat their wives as equal partners within the marriage union. In addition, the Declaration of sentiments campaigned for the recognition of women as equal to men not only in marriage but also in intelligence.
In my opinion, for people to enjoy their rights and freedoms, there must be respect among them. The government must respect the rights of its citizens and acknowledge that they too possess inalienable rights. Citizens must also respect their fellow citizens. Jefferson and Stanton agree that integrity of parties and respect within unions were the key to the freedom and liberty of persons (Stanton 1). Gathering from the views of these two distinguished historians, freedom is aided by recognition and respect. Jefferson called for the recognition of the American people as people who were worthy of their own independent existence, while Stanton campaigned for the recognition of the woman as an equal being to the man and who deserved to be treated with respect.
Carl Becker in his analysis of the Declaration of Independence chooses to tackle the issue of freedom and liberty in American society. Becker examines the Declaration of Independence and then proceeds to equate freedom with government (Becker 47). He says that there exists natural law and that there are inherent natural rights for every human being that must be recognized. He asserts that governments have a role to enforce the natural rights of individuals. Government actions in the enforcement of these rights must be driven by the interests of the majority. Becker reinforces my stance on the need for respect between government and citizens. The existence of respect ensures that other people are treated with the dignity they deserve.
Power is a tool through which rights are enforced it is also a tool which authorities can use to trample on the freedoms of the powerless. In the fight for independence, Americans had to use their strength and power against the British to force them into submission. The Declaration of Sentiments relied upon the numbers of men and women in support of gender equality for its success. Power therefore rests with the people; the citizens are the one with the powers to push the government or society into recognizing their inherent rights and freedoms. Today, those who have more power and authority enjoy more freedoms and expression of their rights. The government is the supreme authority through which individuals rights and freedoms are enforced. It passes legislation and laws that may restrict the freedoms of its citizens or promote them. The role of the government in modern society is to protect the rights and freedoms of its citizens. It should ensure that citizens respect each other’s rights and that government legislation does not infringe on the rights of citizens.
Becker, Carl L. The Declaration of Independence: A Study in the History of Political Ideas. New York: A. A. Knopf, 1942. Print.
Jefferson, Thomas, and Sam Fink. The Declaration of Independence. New York: Scholastic Reference, 2002. Print.
Stanton, Elizabeth C. Declaration of Sentiments: Seneca Falls Convention, July 1848. Tucson: Kore Press, 2004. Print.