There can be no lasting progress without liberty

There can be no lasting progress without liberty

For six thousand years men have struggled upward toward light and liberty; for freedom from the regulations and restraints of kings and princes; for the overthrow of their discretionary, their prerogative powers. With the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the establishment of our Federal Constitution, the day star of individual liberty rose to its zenith, its highest point. Under that liberty, unregulated and unrestrained, our rich men grew to be the richest and the largest in number, our poor men the best off and the fewest in number, our workingmen the best paid, housed, clothed and fed of any in all the history of the world. And yet, here in this country, we have politicians who would confer these discretionary powers, these prerogatives that regulate and restrain, upon commissioners. And they call themselves reformers!

The rights of the citizen in a Democracy must be crystallized into positive laws. He must be independent. He must be able to stand up and demand his rights, while the subject of the Monarch can only beg for a privilege.

When we clothe commissioners with discretionary powers we confer upon them the prerogatives of a king. The shadowy form of democracy remains; but the substance is gone. It is not an answer to say that our various commissioners have performed their duties with marked ability. Perhaps some of them have. Many of them have not. Many despotisms have been well conducted for a time. The king’s favorites have always been loud in his defense and those who feared him also rendered the tribute of praise. Nor is it an answer to say that their work has been beneficial. This may all be truthfully said of the Emperor of Germany. His reign has been described as a benevolent despotism. German efficiency under his reign has everywhere been recognized. A despotic government with kingly prerogatives is always efficient under the guidance of an able despot, but it closes the door of independent opportunity to the individual and the people have no assurance that the succeeding despot will be as good.

I, for one, prefer American liberty to German efficiency. Let us have commissioners to enforce the law, but let us, as far as practicable, strip them of their prerogatives, their discretionary powers.

All inspiration to progress finds its chief incentive in the liberty of the individual. There can be no lasting progress without liberty. There can be no liberty without independence. The independence of democracy is its very soul.

Civil and religious liberty, freedom of speech and of the press are now engrafted into the very genius of our institutions. They dare not be assailed. Industrial freedom must be made equally secure from unnecessary political control.

Heal the breach that ought never to have existed between labor and capital, remove the shackles that politics has placed upon the limbs of industry, and the blue dome of heaven will shelter a land without an idle dollar, or an idle man.

I love the freedom of the old America. The freedom that made our country’s flag the beacon light toward which the oppressed of all the nations of the earth could look for hope and inspiration. The freedom that enabled the young man to look with confidence into the future, knowing that the only limitations to his achievements were the boundaries of his intellect and the measure of his energy.
-G. W. Cartwright, 1918

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2 thoughts on “There can be no lasting progress without liberty

  1. I can’t believe this guy isn’t better known and/or read. This should be required reading for every high school history/economics/poly sci class in the US! I learn (or have a reaffirmation of) something every time I read his work.

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