“It cannot be too often repeated that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”

Few people have the leisure to undertake a systematic and thorough study of history, but every one ought to find time to learn theprincipal features of the governments under which we live, and to getsome inkling of the way in which these governments have come into existence and of the causes which have made them what they are. Some such knowledge is necessary to the proper discharge of the duties of citizenship. Political questions, great and small, are perpetually arising, to be discussed in the newspapers and voted on at the polls; and it is the duty of every man and woman, young or old, to try to understand them. That is a duty which we owe, each and all of us, to ourselves and to our fellow-countrymen. For if such questions are not settled in accordance with knowledge, they will be settled in accordance with ignorance; and that is a kind of settlement likely to be fraught with results disastrous to everybody. It cannot be too often repeated that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. People sometimes argue as if they supposed that because our national government is called a republic and not a monarchy, and because we have free schools and universal suffrage, therefore our liberties are forever secure. Our government is, indeed, in most respects, a marvel of political skill; and in ordinary times it runs so smoothly that now and then, absorbed as most of us are in domestic cares, we are apt to forget that it will not run of itself. To insure that the government of the nation or the state, of the city or the township, shall be properly administered, requires from every citizen the utmost watchfulness and intelligence of which he is capable.

John Fiske, Civil Government in the United States Considered with Some Reference to its Origins (1890).

We consulted this book when drafting the historical section of our book, America 3.0 which concerned the establishment of English cultural, legal and political practices in North America.

Cross-posted at America 3.0.

8 thoughts on ““It cannot be too often repeated that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.””

  1. What good is vigilance when the government has super small, super quiet drones armed with poison darts guided by all seeing electronic eyes and ears everywhere. Vigilance is an outdated 20th century idea. Its time has passed.

  2. Grey Eagle, I won’t try to convince you that you are not beaten yet. That is up to you.

    Do you know this poem?

    We Are Those People

    I have abhorred the wars and despised the liars, laughed at the frightened
    And forecast victory; never one moment’s doubt.
    But now not far, over the backs of some crawling years, the next
    Great war’s column of dust and fire writhes
    Up the sides of the sky: it becomes clear that we too may suffer
    What others have, the brutal horror of defeat—
    Or if not in the next, then in the next—therefore watch Germany
    And read the future. We wish, of course, that our women
    Would die like biting rats in the cellars, our men like wolves on the mountain:
    It will not be so. Our men will curse, cringe, obey;
    Our women uncover themselves to the grinning victors for bits of chocolate.

    Robinson Jeffers

    If you must be a pessimist, be more poetic about it.

    We are not beaten yet.

    Rats in the basement, wolves on the mountain, it’s never over.

  3. So, doing all that, and taking an interest as a citizen in the workings of our republic, and earnestly supporting those who (in sober personal judgement) one finds oneself winding up being a Tea Partier, and then being called all kinds of vile names by the intelligentsia, the mainstream news presstitutes, the entertainment elite and the established political nobility. Good to know.
    I am taking notes, of all the names of those public figures who have viciously disparaged the Tea Party and those who have supported it. And I will not inclined to be merciful, when the day comes for execution of public judgement.

  4. “…eternal vigilance…” I think a lot of credit must be given to Rand Paul for his efforts in being vigilant and reminding people about what the role of government should be. He raised people’s awareness (not least of all, Eric Holder’s consciousness seems to have been expanded since it only took him a day or two to craft the right answer to the question of US citizen-killing-drones). He reminded us that the federal government is, or should be, subject to the rule of law and that the federal government is not, or should not be, constitutionally, the arbiter of whether we live or die.

  5. Michael Totten came up with these 2 quotes

    “It is normal to give away a little of one’s life in order not to lose it all.” —Albert Camus

    “I had been, you know, held in the closet for two months and … abused in all manner of ways. I was very good at doing what I was told.” —Patty Hearst

    I hired a girl from Russia in 1990 (a year after the wall fell. The smart ones were the first to leave). I asked her why Russians put up with their government. She shrugged.

    She came here because America was better. She started up her own business in the US. When Obama was elected, she moved her business to Moscow. “Better place for entreprenuers”, she says, “You’ll do better here”.

  6. Harshing your mellow, is he? If your arguments fail to convince, maybe you should try to improve them?

  7. Grey Eagle – The whole nation is asleep, and that includes the tea partiers. The mechanics of exercising vigilance have grown so cumbersome for the amount needed that we all give up on it. But that is a variable, not a constant and a problem that I am working on. The solution to your specific conundrum is in orthogonal action. Asymmetric warfare can be conducted entirely legally. Do so. I’m looking to make it easier to do. If you cannot muster optimism, go down fighting. You might be surprised, as a whole generation of pessimistic communist camp survivors were, to outlast your tormentors. I wish you to have that joy and the wisdom to be able to process it, and be happy.

    Lexington Greene – I find it useful to have pessimists around, in moderation. It keeps you out of epistemic closure and on your toes.

    Sgt. Mom – If you want to be vigilant without being considered extreme, dive into the peculations and go Alinsky over them. The city of Los Angeles is going to spend $10M of the citizen’s hard earned dollars because streets and san didn’t bother keeping a sidewalk inventory over the past 20 years. How many others of our almost 39k general purpose governments are also doing the same thing? What if you could comparatively price out how much sidewalks cost across jurisdictions adjusted for inflation? I bet that you’d find a whole slew of cozy bribery arrangements hidden in the price of cement. And the politicians you bring down via that method happen to be important supports to other politicians who are creating bigger problems. Basically it’s the Giuliani approach to law enforcement translated to government oversight. Nobody does it because it is too much bother. It is too much bother because the already available tools to do it simply have not been configured.

    Fiona – Exactly

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