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Lindsay Perigo: Eternal Insolence

There was some discussion yesterday about the origin of the statement, "The price of liberty is eternal vigilance." I mused that, though Jefferson said it, he wasn't the first, & that I thought it had originally been stated by an Irishman. Quick as a flash, a couple of callers phoned in with John Curran's "The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime, & the punishment of his guilt." That was in 1790, which left open the possibility that Jefferson might have beaten him to it. Looking through my library at home, though, I found Mr Jefferson saying it in a letter to a correspondent in 1814. The exact form in which he did so was, "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty." The rest of the letter is instructive as well. It says, in part:

"Error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it ...

"That government is best which governs least.

"All eyes are opened or opening to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already opened to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind have not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favoured few booted & spurred, ready to ride them legitimately by the grace of God."

Jefferson had already served his two terms as President of the United States when he wrote these words. Reading them, I couldn't help but wonder, why don't we hear them today? George Bush's weasel-words don't begin to compare, & his Democratic opponents, of course, have no comprehension of what the Founding Fathers were on about. Such backsliding over a mere two & a quarter centuries is difficult to fathom. Well, not so difficult perhaps when you consider that many of the Founding Fathers repaired to Christianity to validate their beliefs - the same Christianity that furnished an ethical underpinning for the opposite beliefs.

Here, it has long been accepted that most of us are born with saddles on our backs, that the spurred & booted Clarks & Andertons have an unassailable right - indeed, duty - to ride us, not so much in the name of God as in the name of society. It's time we did some serious bucking! Perhaps we could best extrapolate Mr Jefferson's dictum to the New Zealand context by saying, the price of liberty is infernal insolence!

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For Lindsay Perigo's daily "Politically Incorrect Show" editorials, visit: http://www.freeradical.co.nz or listen to Radio Pacific from noon to 2pm weekdays.

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