I am hoping to find someone that can take this quote and help me understand it better. The quote is:“Liberty has never come from the government. Liberty has always come from the subjects of the...

I am hoping to find someone that can take this quote and help me understand it better. 

The quote is:

“Liberty has never come from the government. Liberty has always come from the subjects of the government. The history of liberty is a history of resistance. The history of liberty is a history of the limitation of governmental power, not the increase of it.”
Woodrow Wilson 
The papers of Woodrow Wilson, 25:124

Regarding his “New Freedom,” Woodrow Wilson said "the history of liberty is a history of the limitations of governmental power?"*

What does it mean?! I am so lost.

 

Thank you!

 

Skylar

Expert Answers
pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Although Woodrow Wilson was a Democrat, and although conservatives today think he was a terrible president, this quote goes perfectly with what conservatives or Republicans believe today. It is saying that the government is not what guarantees our freedom.  Instead, it says, we get our freedom when we limit the power of the government.

Today, Democrats and liberals tend to believe that things are better when the government has more power.  When we give the government more power, it can protect us from environmental dangers.  When we give the government more power, it can protect the weak from the strong, who try to abuse them.  When the government has more power, it can create more economic justice.  For all of these reasons, more government is seen as a good thing

Conservatives, though, think that this is dangerous. They think that a stronger and bigger government is a grave danger because it will take away our liberties. Instead, what we need is a more limited government.  They say that the way to protect our liberty is to take away the power of the government. If the government is limited, it cannot take away our right to freedom of speech or religion. If the government is limited, it cannot take away our right to do as we wish with our private property. This is why the Framers of the Constitution were so eager to make government weak.  The Constitution tells us all sorts of things that government cannot do and it creates an awkward system of separation of powers and checks and balances that makes it still harder for the government to act. This is meant to protect our freedom.

Think about it this way: if you were afraid someone was inclined to want to steal from you, wouldn’t you want them to be weaker? Wouldn’t you want to be sure they didn’t have weapons or other things that would make it easier for them to take your things?  This is what Wilson is saying.  The government is likely to steal our freedom so the best way to protect our freedom is to keep the government from getting too strong.

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question