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Freedom

  • Alone, no one wins freedom.

  • Absolute freedom is absolute responsibility.

  • ... total freedom is never what one imagines and, in fact, hardly exists. It comes as a shock in life to learn that we usually only exchange one set of restrictions for another. The second set, however, is self-chosen, and therefore easier to accept.

  • You may impose silence upon me, but you can not prevent me from thinking.

  • While any one is base, none can be entirely free and noble.

  • If I can let you go as trees let go / ... Lose what I lose to keep what I can keep, / The strong root still alive under the snow, / Love will endure — if I can let you go.

    • May Sarton,
    • "The Autumn Sonnets," A Durable Fire ()
  • There's one thing about freedom ... each generation of people begins by thinking they've got it for the first time in history, and ends by being sure the generation younger than themselves have too much of it. It can't really always have been increasing at the rate people suppose, or there would be more of it by now.

  • The only thing that can free you is the belief that you can be free.

    • Oprah Winfrey,
    • in Nellie Bly, Oprah: Up Close and Down Home ()
  • ... the touchstone of a free act — from the decision to get out of bed in the morning or take a walk in the afternoon to the highest resolutions by which we bind ourselves for the future — is always that we know that we could also have left undone what we actually did.

  • It is not the fact of liberty but the way in which liberty is exercised that ultimately determines whether liberty itself survives.

  • The most dangerous illusion from which free men suffer is the widely held idea that freedom maintains itself by the mere fact of its being.

  • When liberty is taken away by force it can be restored by force. When it is relinquished voluntarily by default it can never be recovered.

  • Here is all straight and narrow as a tomb / Oh shut me not within a little room.

  • Liberty ... consists in the ability to choose.

  • [After her release as a political prisoner:] The taste of coffee turned out to be quite different from the way I remembered it. It was strange to feel the strap of my old watch on my wrist. The second hand scurried round, tapping out the moments, like a chicken trying to find its way out of an eggshell that stubbornly refuses to crack. What's the time? What's the season? An eternity has passed since I came home, but the clock says that it is only five hours. Should I try on those of my clothes which Igor couldn't bring himself to give away because I had made them myself, feeling that it would be like giving away a kitten to a stranger? Should we put on a cassette with our favourite songs? Should we just light a candle and sit together in silence, our arms around each other, watching October sliding down the other side of the window?

  • Freedom, remember, is not the same as liberty.

  • Freedom is a dangerous intoxicant and very few people can tolerate it in any quantity ...

  • ... none who have always been free can understand the terrible fascinating power of the hope of freedom to those who are not free.

  • Men would rather be starving and free than fed in bonds.

  • There are only two kinds of freedom in the world: the freedom of the rich and powerful, and the freedom of the artist and the monk who renounce possessions.

    • Anaïs Nin,
    • 1940, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, vol. 3 ()
  • ... it was while helping others to be free that I gained my own freedom.

    • Anaïs Nin,
    • in Judy Oringer, "Anaïs Nin on Women," Ramparts Magazine ()
  • 'Freedom' is the most expensive possession there is; it has to be paid for with loneliness.

    • Martha Gellhorn,
    • in Caroline Moorehead, ed., Selected Letters of Martha Gellhorn ()
  • Liberty, as it is conceived by current opinion, has nothing inherent about it; it is a sort of gift or trust bestowed on the individual by the state pending good behavior.

    • Mary McCarthy,
    • "The Contagion of Ideas" (1952), On the Contrary ()
  • Freedom is not worth fighting for if it means no more than license for everyone to get as much as he can for himself.

  • The free expression of the hopes and aspirations of a people is the greatest and only safety in a sane society.

  • We know that the road to freedom has always been stalked by death.

    • Angela Davis,
    • "Tribute to George Jackson," Daily World ()
  • Intellectual freedom, of course, implies intellectual diversity.

  • Freedom is much more complicated than servitude.

  • Freedom to think requires not only freedom of expression but also freedom from the threat of orthodoxy and being outcast and ostracized.

  • In every human breast, God has implanted a principle, which we call love of freedom; it is impatient of oppression and pants for deliverance.

  • The very forces that liberty has set free work against the dangerous consequences of liberty.

  • My people had used music to soothe slavery's torment or to propitiate God, or to describe the sweetness of love and the distress of lovelessness, but I knew no race could sing and dance its way to freedom.

  • I saw a woman sleeping. In her sleep she dreamt Life stood before her, and held in each hand a gift — in the one Love, in the other Freedom. And she said to the woman, 'Choose!' And the woman waited long: and she said, 'Freedom!' And Life said, 'Thou hast well chosen. If thou hadst said, "Love," I would have given thee that thou didst ask for; and I would have gone from thee, and returned to thee no more. Now, the day will come when I shall return. In that day I shall bear both gifts in one hand.' I heard the woman laugh in her sleep.

  • That is the truly beautiful and encouraging aspect of freedom; no one struggles for it just for himself.

    • Fanny Lewald,
    • in Hanna Ballin Lewis, trans., The Education of Fanny Lewald ()
  • ... allowing freedom to others brings freedom to ourselves.

  • I lay down on a camp bed in the farmyard under the open sky. The stars twinkled and I wanted to weep from joy at being alive and breathing those sweet-smelling grasses and seeing those stars above me.

  • It is impossible for a sex or a class to have economic freedom until everybody has it, and until economic freedom is attained for everybody, there can be no real freedom for anybody.

  • ... real freedom is not a matter of the shifting of advantage from one sex to the other or from one class to another. Real freedom means the disappearance of advantage, and primarily of economic advantage.

  • Liberty is the only idea which circulates with the human blood, in all ages, in all countries, and in all literature — liberty that is, and what cannot be separated from liberty, a love of country.

  • I can come when I please / I can go when I please / I can flit, fly, and flutter, like the birds in the trees.

    • Ethel Waters,
    • in Ethel Waters with Charles Samuels, His Eye Is on the Sparrow ()
  • The cause of freedom is not the cause of a race or a sect, a party or a class — it is the cause of humankind, the very birthright of humanity.

  • Anything that you strive to hold captive will hold you captive, and if you desire freedom you must give freedom.

  • A society is only as free as its most oppressed and afflicted members.

  • If we do not die for liberty, we shall soon have nothing left to do but weep for her.

    • Marie-Jeanne Roland,
    • 1791, in Lydia Maria Child, Memoirs of Madame de Staël and of Madame Roland ()
  • Freedom breeds freedom. Nothing else does.

  • Freedom, like charity, begins at home.

  • [On her way to the guillotine:] O Liberty! O Liberty! How many crimes are committed in thy name!

  • Fetters of gold are still fetters, and the softest lining can never make them so easy as liberty.

  • I was born, have lived, and will die free.

    • Queen Christina,
    • motto on a medal she had struck in 1689, in Mrs. Jameson, Memoirs of Celebrated Female Sovereigns ()
  • At last free, / at last I am a woman free! / No more tied to the kitchen, stained amid the stained pots, / no more bound to the husband / who thought me less / than the shade he wove with his hands.

    • Sumangalamata,
    • 6th cent. BCE, in Susan Murcott, The First Buddhist Women ()
  • I had to learn that there is more to the human being than material comfort, more than success, more even than national spirit or patriotism. That in any being worthy of being human there is also a demand for justice, for liberty, and that justice needs the evidence of all our lives, liberty is one and indivisible and collective, and no one can talk of justice solely for expediency's sake, nor of liberty while human beings, anywhere else on earth, are still in bondage.

  • Who ever walked behind anyone to freedom? If we can't go hand in hand, I don't want to go.

    • Hazel Scott,
    • in Margo Jefferson, "Great (Hazel) Scott!" Ms. ()
  • ... after the prison of Troyes, it seemed the height of luxury. I even reveled in the wall-paper, of that curious purple violence found only in low-priced French hotels.

  • ... liberty is the one thing no man can have unless he grants it to others.

    • Ruth Benedict,
    • 1942, in Margaret Mead, An Anthropologist at Work: Writings of Ruth Benedict ()
  • Too much freedom is its own kind of cage.

  • What is the essence of our America? Finding and maintaining that perfect, delicate balance between freedom 'to' and freedom 'from.'

  • Freedom only for the supporters of the government, only for the members of one party — however numerous they may be — is no freedom at all. Freedom is always and exclusively freedom for the one who thinks differently. Not because of any fanatical concept of 'justice' but because all that is instructive, wholesome and purifying in political freedom depends on this essential characteristic, and its effectiveness vanishes when 'freedom' becomes a special privilege.

  • Free thought, free speech and a free press.

    • Anne Newport Royall,
    • motto (c. 1825), in Annie Laurie Gaylor, ed., Women Without Superstition "No Gods--No Masters": The Collected Writings of Women Freethinkers of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries ()
  • You never win freedom permanently. You have to win it time after time ... whether it's union rights, civil rights or equality for women. We have to keep at it and at it.

  • I've come this far to freedom and I won't turn back. / I'm climbing to the highway from my old dirt track.

  • I like to go to Marshall Field's in Chicago just to see how many things there are in the world that I do not want.

  • I had reasoned this out in my mind; there was one of two things I had a right to, liberty, or death; if I could not have one, I would have the other; for no man should take me alive ...

    • Harriet Tubman,
    • in Sarah H. Bradford, Harriet, The Moses of Her People ()
  • I have a million nightingales on the branches of my heart singing freedom.

  • All the freedom enjoyed in America, beyond what is enjoyed in England, is enjoyed solely by the disorderly at the expense of the orderly ...

  • ... freedom / Is dearer than bread or joy.

  • There is a word sweeter than Mother, Home, or Heaven — that word is Liberty.

  • Freedom is fragile and must be protected. To sacrifice it, even as a temporary measure, is to betray it.

  • ... it is by the exercise of political freedom men become qualified to use it.

  • How can we call ourselves free when we cannot choose our own parents, or the temperaments bestowed on us at birth?

  • There's something contagious about demanding freedom ...

  • Freeing yourself was one thing; claiming ownership of that freed self was another.

  • ... the function of freedom is to free somebody else.

  • Freedom is never really won. You earn it and win it in every generation.

  • Freedom works.

  • Freedom is no guarantee of anything. It is only defined today by what it is not. What it is takes forms strange and of infinite variety — bizarre as in a masquerade.

  • Freedom is not won on the battlefields. The chance for freedom is won there. The final battle is won or lost in our hearts and minds.

  • ... to be free you must afford freedom to your neighbor, regardless of race, color, creed or national origin, and that, sometimes, for some, is very difficult.

  • There is nothing inevitable. The actions of the past operate at every instant and so, at every instant, does freedom.

  • Where there is no freedom there can be no morality.

    • Alison Neilans,
    • "Changes in Sex Morality," in Ray Strachey, ed., Our Freedom and Its Results ()
  • While we are not free you are not free.

  • There's no freedom won without fighting. I never knew liberty to come without bloodshed.

  • ... absolute liberty may also corrupt absolutely.

  • ... absolute liberty ... tends to corrupt absolutely.

  • Any community seriously concerned with its own freedom has to be concerned about other people's freedom as well. The victory of oppressed people anywhere in the world is a victory for Black people. Each time one of imperialism's tentacles is cut off we are closer to liberation.

  • ... if I fall, I will fall five-feet four-inches forward in the fight for freedom.

  • ... nobody's free until everybody's free.

  • ... when I liberate myself, I'm liberating other people.

  • ... when the freedom they wished most for was freedom from responsibility, then Athens ceased to be free and was never free again.

    • Edith Hamilton,
    • "The Lessons of the Past," in Richard Thruelsen and John Kobler, eds., Adventures of the Mind, 1st series ()
  • Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.

  • Freedom is indivisible, and either we are working for freedom or you are working for the sake of your self-interests and I am working for mine.

    • June Jordan,
    • "A New Politics of Sexuality," in Progressive ()
  • Freedom is not a natural, consistent, or inevitable state of being; it's a construct, a cooperative effort, an ongoing work of art that we must all contribute to and safeguard, lest it be dismantled and erased.

  • ... the people who earn liberty are not those who live to enjoy that liberty; the inheritors ease into the hard-won liberty without knowing the anguish that was paid for it.

  • ... when a government talks about 'fighting for Freedom' almost every Freedom you can imagine disappears for ordinary people and expands limitlessly for a handful of people in power.

  • Liberty is the Right of doing whatsoever the Laws allow. And if any one Citizen could do what the Laws forbid, there would be no more Liberty; because others would have an equal Power of doing the same.

    • Catherine the Great,
    • in W.F. Reddaway, trans., Documents of Catherine the Great: The Correspondence with Voltaire and the Instruction of 1767 in the English Text of 1768 ()
  • The political Liberty of a Citizen is the Peace of Mind arising from the Consciousness, that every individual enjoys his peculiar Safety; and in order that the People might attain this Liberty, the Laws ought to be so framed, that no one Citizen should stand in Fear of another; but that all of them should stand in Fear of the same Laws ...

    • Catherine the Great,
    • in W.F. Reddaway, trans., Documents of Catherine the Great: The Correspondence with Voltaire and the Instruction of 1767 in the English Text of 1768 ()