Freedom/Libertygreenspun.com : LUSENET : U of C General Studies 500 : One Thread
Hi all. It's quiet out there these days!!
The H-Ideas listserve has had quite a back and forth going this past week or so on the difference between Freedom and Liberty. Given the anarchists in the crowd talk about Freedom a lot (right Richard??), I thought you all might find this last post of interest. Margo ******************
FROM: Brad Hall, < bhal1602@BELLSOUTH.NET > DATE: 11 January 2001, TIME: 2:10 PM
I think you might be onto a historical peculiarity of the English language here.
English has absorbed both German and French words, and whenever there are German and French equivalents for the same meaning, the French is almost always considered POLITE, and the German is almost always considered less polite, if not downright vulgar.
As noted before, the definitions of liberty and freedom are for all practical purposes identical. Their origins, however, as also pointed out, are different -- LIBERTY is French/Latin. FREEDOM is Teutonic/German/Old English.
French was the language of diplomats, royal courts (even English ones), and the socially learned for centuries before anyone asked for liberty rather than death.
Ergo, Mr. Henry may have demanded LIBERTY rather than FREEDOM for the same reason he would have asked for PORK rather than SWINE, or BEEF rather than COW.
The current preference for FREEDOM rather than LIBERTY indicates a similar understanding, but a different inclination -- LIBERTY, like beef, is considered domesticated and under control, if not actually served up on a plate. FREEDOM, on the other hand, might still be on the hoof.
For this reason, I am going to hypothesize that the shift away from the word LIBERTY to the word FREEDOM occurred not in the last few years (FDR, after all, spoke of the Four Freedoms, not the Four Liberties, and the Bill of rights itself guarantees not of liberty but freedom of speech), but almost immediately after our independence as a nation became a reality.
Lewis and Clark, Manifest Destiny, and Westward Expansion are signs that a nation is searching for genuine FREEDOM, (Lebensraum, anyone?) not a contractual, legal liberty. Americans were FREE to explore and subdue a whole continent. This was much more in keeping with the mindset of those who sacked Rome than those who inherited its language.
-- Anonymous, January 11, 2001