…America is less a place than an idea… It is nothing but the inherent love of freedom in each one of us… It is simply the idea—the basis of this country and of our religion—the idea of the dignity of man, the idea that deep within the heart of each one of us is something so God-like and precious that no individual or group has a right to impose his or its will upon the people, that no group can decide for the people what is good for the people so well as they can decide for themselves.
—Ronald Reagan, Commencement Address at William Woods College, 2 June 1952
—Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, forward to the 1983 abridgement of Gulag Archipelago for the US market
If it were possible for any nation to fathom another people’s bitter experience through a book, how much easier its future fate would become and how many calamities and mistakes it could avoid. But it is very difficult. There always is this fallacious belief: “It would not be the same here; here such things are impossible.”
Alas, all the evil of the twentieth century is possible everywhere on earth.
—Justice David Davis, Ex parte Milligan (71 U.S. 2), 1866
Time has proven the discernment of our ancestors; for even these provisions, expressed in such plain English words, that it would seem the ingenuity of man could not evade them, are now, after the lapse of more than seventy years, sought to be avoided. Those great and good men foresaw that troublous times would arise, when rules and people would become restive under restraint, and seek by sharp and decisive measures to accomplish ends deemed just and proper; and that the principles of constitutional liberty would be in peril, unless established by irrepealable law. The history of the world had taught them that what was done in the past might be attempted in the future. The Constitution of the United States is a law for rulers and people, equally in war and in peace, and covers with the shield of its protection all classes of men, at all times, and under all circumstances. No doctrine, involving more pernicious consequences, was ever invented by the wit of man than that any of its provisions can be suspended during any of the great exigencies of government. Such a doctrine leads directly to anarchy or despotism, but the theory of necessity on which it is based is false; for the government, within the Constitution, has all the powers granted to it which are necessary to preserve its existence; as has been happily proved by the result of the great effort to throw off its just authority.
…All other persons, citizens of states where the courts are open, if charged with crime, are guaranteed the inestimable privilege of trial by jury. This privilege is a vital principle, underlying the whole administration of criminal justice; it is not held by sufferance, and cannot be frittered away on any plea of state or political necessity. When peace prevails, and the authority of the government is undisputed, there is no difficulty of preserving the safeguards of liberty; for the ordinary modes of trial are never neglected, and no one wishes it otherwise; but if society is disturbed by civil commotion—if the passions of men are aroused and the restraints of law weakened, if not disregarded—these safeguards need, and should receive, the watchful care of those intrusted with the guardianship of the Constitution and laws. In no other way can we transmit to posterity unimpaired the blessings of liberty, consecrated by the sacrifices of the Revolution.
[14:00] …We need to understand as individuals—as Americans—that freedom only exists within a framework of values…and that values only exist within the context of a religious structure and that comes from a true faith in Christ. We see it every day around the world as we try to establish…democracies in places where there’s not a faith in Christ, it becomes very, very difficult for people to control themselves and to live in a free society. Because they’re so used to being controlled from the outside by dictators and police force and armies, they’re not prepared to live free because they don’t have those inner constraints.…
[19:11] …If we allow faith and the freedom of our religion to be purged not just from our private lives but from our public lives we’ve taken away the underpinnings of freedom itself in this country.
—Congressman Jim DeMint, Chapel message, Bob Jones University, Greenville, South Carolina, 22 April 2004
partial transcript by me | full audio