A Tradition Called Freedom: The People, The Times, The Belief

A Moral Journey From Revealed Law, To the Constitution, To Capitalism

A Tradition Called Freedom: The People, The Times, The Belief
Left: (vlastas/Shutterstock); Right: (Image has been cropped and color corrected - DickClarkMises/CC BY-SA 3.0, Rich Koele/Shutterstock, Public Domain)
Michael Wing
3/31/2022
Updated:
6/26/2022
Few words have so many different meanings that are so incongruous with one another as the word freedom.
At first, the expectation is that freedom equates to no rules. It's a fallacious notion, for real freedom has rules -- ones that are necessarily fair, moral, even metaphysical -- and, like all time-honored traditions, they took eons for humans to extrapolate, to create civil order out of primal chaos.
“No rules” negatively (though accurately) connotes a "Mad Max"-like world of lawless, base immorality, where one may pursue selfish gain without restraint, rob and steal others’ property, engage in extramarital affairs, or wantonly harm our fellow man. Typically, people of conservative persuasion around the globe have found such acts repugnant; some even misjudge or malign Western freedom on such bases.
Yet, those who are well versed in Western traditions know that such repulsive acts as theft, adultery, and murder could never produce real freedom, but just the opposite. For in truth, as self-contradictory as it seems, freedom has rules.
People gather around the Robert E. Lee statue on Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia, on June 20, 2020. (Ryan M. Kelly/AFP via Getty Images)
People gather around the Robert E. Lee statue on Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia, on June 20, 2020. (Ryan M. Kelly/AFP via Getty Images)
If the idea of a “freedom with rules” sounds unreasonable, that’s because it is! As Scottish philosopher David Hume wrote: “The rules of morality are not the conclusions of our reason.” One may find it perfectly “reasonable” to steal to satiate hunger or feed one’s family, for example, yet theft is justifiably a crime. Somehow, though, these customs and traditions, irrational as they may be, whatever their form, prove important -- nay, indispensable -- to a free society. Thus, we unintentionally reap the blessings of freedom by following its customs and rules.
But what are these customs? Where are they to be found in Western tradition? And once found, how is freedom to be extrapolated from them? Exploring this is the chief aim of this article.

The Biblical Bedrock of Freedom

One of the earliest promulgations of this tradition was set down in one of the world's oldest books: The Bible. In "Genesis," God creates man in His own image, signifying the sanctity of human life -- that life is sacred. The purpose of life, too, is sacred: to love as God loves, offer salvation to our fellow humans, and return to Heaven. This sanctity of life clarifies why killing is a crime (and bequeaths a natural right to protect life), as we shall see.

Another biblical example is "Exodus," where the Israelites, enslaved under Pharaoh, are destined to be freed by divine intervention. Moses leads those who would follow him into the desert, pursued by Pharaoh, to the Red Sea where, seemingly trapped, their faith proves well placed; God parts the Red Sea and they cross to the other side, while Pharaoh's pursuing forces are swallowed up as the corridor of water closes behind their former slaves.

An illustration depicts God parting the Red Sea, allowing Moses and the Israelites to cross the corridor of water. (Illustration - vlastas/Shutterstock)
An illustration depicts God parting the Red Sea, allowing Moses and the Israelites to cross the corridor of water. (Illustration - vlastas/Shutterstock)

Exodus illustrates freedom from tyranny, but also another form of freedom -- one that addresses the "rules vs no rules" disparity. For, on the other shore, on Mount Sinai, God gives Moses the stone tablets known as the Ten Commandments, on which are inscribed such revelations as "Thou shalt not kill" and "Thou shalt not steal" -- expounding moral laws from above. In other words, freedom isn't absolute, but on condition of following moral laws. Such God-given laws came to be called "revealed laws."

The idea is thus: freedom from the tyranny of slavery, and freedom for obedience to moral laws.

A third example lies in what is oft called the "greatest story ever told": the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Charged with sedition by the Romans, He was tortured and crucified, which, the Bible says, atoned for the sins of all humanity (Jesus has been likened to the "sacrificial lamb" during Passover, which sanctioned the Israelites from disease and death in Egypt), so that man might live forever -- meaning return to the Kingdom of Heaven.

Though casting a slightly different light on the subject of freedom, the crucifixion mirrors Exodus: whereas the bondage of man's sins, the chains upon his eternal existence, are unfastened by Jesus, the slaves under Pharaoh were freed in Exodus. In both cases, the adherents are delivered so they may obey moral laws given them by their Lord.

Here, again: freedom from what is wrong and freedom to do what is right.

"Crucifixion of Saint Peter" (circa 1600) by Caravaggio. (Public Domain)
"Crucifixion of Saint Peter" (circa 1600) by Caravaggio. (Public Domain)

Speaking of Christianity, let's turn to the early Christians who followed in Jesus's footsteps and were persecuted by the Romans for 300 years. Some suffered the same fate as their Master -- crucifixion. This persecution grew more systematic as the centuries wore on: the religion was made illicit, with many Christians being made into martyrs by the Romans. Yet, "Love thy enemy" and "Turn the other cheek," as preached by Jesus, were shown by his followers, resulting in a redemption of sorts.

For Christianity was legalized in A.D. 313 by Constantine, the emperor famous for signing the Edict of Milan and converting to Christianity himself in 317. It's not hard to see the parallels here: As the Israelites, armed with faith, found deliverance, and as Jesus redeemed mankind, so did the early Christians atone; so were they delivered.

A Trend of Tolerance

Constantine's edict led to the formation of the Catholic Church, which opened its doors to the mainstream, including the powerful and elite. And so did the church increase in power across Europe. Yet the call for freedom would echo resoundingly from within -- against the very church from which it sprang. Various ecclesiastics, nobles, religious thinkers, and groups in Europe pushed against papal dominance, favoring a more pluralistic religious freedom.

Around the time of the signing of Magna Carta (1215) -- an historic contract between King John and his subjects, limiting the power of the monarchy -- the Church of England claimed that religious rights were being infringed upon by the papacy, and saw to it that protections were written into that agreement.

Three centuries later, a German priest named Martin Luther protested against corruption in the Catholic Church, and opposed its practice of selling indulgences (exchanging forgiveness like a common commodity). In 1517, he famously nailed his 95 Theses to the door of All Saints' Church in Wittenberg, airing his grievances. Luther would lead a movement that forever fractured the Church's monopolistic hold over Europe, in favor of a freer approach to religion — a more personal spirituality. Despite opposition from the Church, he found support, and, thanks to the advent of the printing press, which amplified free speech, his ideas took hold throughout Europe, inspiring church reform and the founding of Protestantism.

It wasn't "no rules" that Luther and his followers wanted, but the freedom to practice moral laws uninfringed.

"Luther Hammers His 95 Theses to the Door" (1872) by Ferdinan Pauwels. (Public Domain)
"Luther Hammers His 95 Theses to the Door" (1872) by Ferdinan Pauwels. (Public Domain)
This reformation would spark a religious war across the continent, The Thirty Years' War (1618–1648), which ended with the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, ushering in a novel religious toleration while diminishing papal dominance forevermore. Stemming from the movement Luther started, Protestant Puritans and Calvinists seeking religious freedom would, echoing Exodus, cross the Atlantic to become a mainstay in the colonies. The culture and morals they brought with them were cornerstones for what some call the greatest experiment in freedom the world has ever seen: the founding of America.

English Common Law: A Cornerstone for Freedom

In the centuries following Jesus's crucifixion, European civilizations came to call both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible the "revealed law" — or God-given law. Built on this bedrock legal foundation, various customs sprang up throughout Europe, which evolved over the centuries. Eventually, they were loosely compiled within the feudal system to form what is called the "common law" — which is congruous with revealed law. Together, they set a powerful precedent for freedom.

Distinct from civil (or municipal) laws, common laws weren't written as acts of parliament but germinated in the local customs of early Europe. In England, Anglo-Saxon King Alfred the Great (871 to 899) was one of the first to gather this hodge-podge of customs to form a common judicial system. His code of laws "Doom Book" contains the Ten Commandments and Christian code of ethics. Centuries later, Magna Carta, signed in 1215, strengthened this system; and 500 years later, it was systematized and taught by Sir William Blackstone (1723 to 1780), whose "Commentaries on the Laws of England" (1765) became the foundation for the American legal system.

Sir William Blackstone by an unknown painter (circa 1755). (Public Domain)
Sir William Blackstone by an unknown painter (circa 1755). (Public Domain)

Blackstone explains that English common law is rooted in "natural" and revealed laws, but emphasized revealed law as the most perfect and superior of all. He writes:

[I]f our reason were always, as in our first ancestor before his transgressions, clear and perfect, unruffled by passions, unclouded by prejudice, unimpaired by disease or intemperance, the talk would be pleasant an easy; we should need no other guide but this. But every man now finds the contrary in his own experience; that his reason is corrupt, and his understanding full of ignorance and error.
This has given manifold occasion for the benign interposition of divine providence; which, in compassion to the frailty, the imperfection, and the blindness of human reason hath been pleased, at sundry times and in divers manners, to discover and enforce it's laws by an immediate and direct revelation. ...
[U]ndoubtedly the revealed law is of infinitely more authenticity than that moral system, which is framed by ethical writers, and denominated the natural law. Because one is the law of nature, expressly declared so to be by God Himself; the other is only what, by the assistance of human reason, we imagine to be that law.
"Moses with the Tables of the Law" (1624) by Guido Reni. (Public Domain)
"Moses with the Tables of the Law" (1624) by Guido Reni. (Public Domain)

Blackstone further explicates the elevated, more superior jurisdiction of revealed and natural law over the more inferior civil law, as written in the legislature. He writes:

[T]he declaratory part of the municipal law … depends not so much upon the law of revelation or of nature, as upon the wisdom and will of the legislator. ... Those rights, then, which God and nature have established, and are therefore called natural rights, such as are life and liberty, need not the aid of human laws to be more effectually invested in every man than they are; neither do they receive any additional strength when declared by the municipal laws to be inviolable. On the contrary, no human legislature has power to abridge or destroy them, unless the owner shall himself commit some act that amounts to a forfeiture. Neither do divine or natural duties (such as, for instance, the worship of God, the maintenance of children, and the like) receive any stronger sanction from being also declared to be duties by the law of the land. ... For that legislature in all these cases acts only as was before observed, in subordination to the great lawgiver, transcribing and publishing his precepts. So that, upon the whole, the declaratory part of the municipal law has no force or operation at all, with regard to actions that are naturally and intrinsically right or wrong.
In addition to trumping legislation, this superiority of divine law extends over court rulings "... where the former determination is most evidently contrary to reason; much more if it be contrary to the divine law," Blackstone writes. "For if it be found that the former decision is manifestly absurd or unjust, it is declared, not that such a sentence was bad law, but that it was not law; that is, that it is not the established custom of the realm, as has been erroneously determined."
The front gate of Parliament of Canada is covered with banners, as demonstrators continue to protest the vaccine mandates implemented by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, on Feb. 7, 2022, in Ottawa, Canada. (Dave Chan/AFP via Getty Images)
The front gate of Parliament of Canada is covered with banners, as demonstrators continue to protest the vaccine mandates implemented by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, on Feb. 7, 2022, in Ottawa, Canada. (Dave Chan/AFP via Getty Images)

Thus, in our common law inheritance, our forebears impart to us a barometer for reading the fairness or unfairness of an act or rule, and the clairvoyance to see what is right, with recourse to follow our conscience to stand against what is wrong.

Nevertheless, civil laws ought to be followed, as is custom, as forfeiture in exchange for the benefits of living in a community (i.e. the social contract) — but only as far they do not transgress natural rights. Though powerfully enforced by governments they may be, edicts, civil laws, and rulings, we ought remember, are inferior, null, or not law at all when contrary to those higher laws.

Haven't we witnessed today such brazen violations as: government health mandates abridging the right to gather and worship freely? Edicts preventing protest against draconian mandates? Usurpation of people's rights to select their government freely? Suppression of free speech without remedy? And murder without penalty? As these infringements go unchecked, so does the solution — knowledge of customs — evaporate. With each generation, our traditions are exiled from schools and presses by those who would, for whatever reason, have us forget.

Left: (Public Domain); Right: (Image has been cropped and color corrected - DickClarkMises/CC BY-SA 3.0, Rich Koele/Shutterstock, Public Domain)
Left: (Public Domain); Right: (Image has been cropped and color corrected - DickClarkMises/CC BY-SA 3.0, Rich Koele/Shutterstock, Public Domain)

A Tradition Called Freedom: The People, The Times, The Belief Part II

Of Royalty, Revolution, and The United States Republic

Commentary

Rebellions sometimes serve two masters at the same time — righteousness and evil. It's not always simple telling them apart; while struggling for one, we may inadvertently find the other, despite the best of intentions, with woeful consequences. History is rife with examples of revolutions proclaiming freedom yet serving enslavement, usurpation, even genocide.

Legitimate freedom movements have sprung up in Western traditions in the past. Both Exodus and the resurrection of Jesus are examples attesting to emancipation from bondage while advocating freedom to follow God-given, revealed laws.

Dubious rebellions in the name of freedom, but achieving the opposite, also exist. Particularly in politics and power struggles, often motives are murky, evil is hidden, and words like liberty are easily abused.

People hold placards as they join a march at Trafalgar Square in support of the demonstrations in America on May 31, 2020, in London, England. (Hollie Adams/Getty Images)
People hold placards as they join a march at Trafalgar Square in support of the demonstrations in America on May 31, 2020, in London, England. (Hollie Adams/Getty Images)

A rebellion in the Middle Ages compelled King John of England to sign Magna Carta — widely celebrated as a milestone for freedom and common law today.

Centuries later, the English Civil War and subsequent "Glorious Revolution" erupted, which more resembled a proto-Bolshevik usurpation than a freedom movement, goading the people into tearing down an edifice while wolves waited in the wings.

America's revolution, like England's in some respects, in 1776 undoubtedly established a foothold for freedom. Yet little did we realize the efforts in the Great Experiment would be clandestinely undermined, leaving the question of liberty to hang in the balance to this day.

It will be useful to explore these revolts and how they played a role in our tradition called freedom — shedding light on just how complicated that word really is, while helping us exhume its inner meaning.

I. Of Kings, Contracts, and Magna Carta

Magna Carta was an early contract between a ruler and his subjects, a constitutional precursor limiting the king's powers. It introduced a proto-parliamentary system, a novel concept in the Middle Ages, to be echoed in later centuries.

Prior to Magna Carta, monarchs ruled by a tradition called "the divine right of kings," or absolutism, which holds that monarchical power is God-given and absolute (This robust license, interestingly, echoes in the extraordinary powers of America's executive branch, as established by the Founding Fathers, facilitating swift decision-making to protect the nation in war time). King John of England (1166 to 1216) wasn't the first monarch to follow this divine-right custom, nor the last to meet resistance for doing so.

A depiction of King John hunting a stag with hounds from the 14th century. (British Library/CC0 1.0)
A depiction of King John hunting a stag with hounds from the 14th century. (British Library/CC0 1.0)

John was beset by troubles in 1203; after losing much of his land in Normandy, he established his base in England, where he ran into further discord for refusing Pope Innocent III's demand to have Stephen Langton as the next Archbishop of Canterbury. This led to John's excommunication in 1209. The pope in those days crowned all the monarchs of Europe — such was his power — and just as easily could he strip their crowns away.

After his excommunication, John's power waned, while the nobles of England and King Philip II of France soon mounted opposition against him. Twenty-five rebellious barons stood up to oppose John's licentious tax collection on lands he didn't own, and his arbitrary confiscation of church property. The barons insisted the old feudal laws laid down by William the Conqueror be reinstated. They drew up Magna Carta and in 1215 forced John to sign it. This diplomatic dispute between King John and the barons became known as the First Barons' War, ending in 1217 after John's death.

In order to curb John's transgressions, the document barred the king from taxing his subjects. The barons, like parliament today and America's Legislature, would represent serfs on their land, collect taxes, and approve the king's funding — a tradition that came to be called the "power of the purse." In addition, it established rule of law and due process, so that subjects could not arbitrarily be detained or punished. There were other provisions as well.

Magna Carta was drafted in 1215. (Public Domain)
Magna Carta was drafted in 1215. (Public Domain)
Magna Carta set a powerful precedent for English common law and is still held in high esteem in America today. Though not everyone sang its praises; the contract was frequently ignored by kings who upheld the custom of divine right, whose contempt for Magna Carta became tradition in its own right — echoing in the adversarial system of checks and balances in America, where different branches are expected to tie each other up and duke it out!

In that vein, King Charles I would follow, some four centuries later, telling his parliament where to go with their demands.

And the result? Another revolution.

II. A Usurpation of British Crowns

Over 400 years later, King Charles I (1600 to 1649), like John before him, met resistance from his parliamentary members. The dispute ended in regicide — with a public beheading in London — followed by a revolution that would forever reshape the political landscape in England.
With parliament now a fixture in Britain, echoing Magna Carta, its members in 1628 wrote a "Petition of Right" to the king (its provisions strikingly similar to the barons' demands), which implied that Magna Carta hadn't been honored. The petition was cordial, yet with equal candor Charles's response was to remind them of another custom: parliament had always been an advisory institution (They couldn't issue laws yet). Charles, like John, followed the divine-right principle.

Despite this disharmony, Charles nevertheless hoped to unite a nation deeply divided. Amidst the Reformation, society was fractured into camps of religion — Catholic, Protestant, Anglican, Puritan, and Calvinist; there were national divisions — Irish, Scottish, English, and foreign interests; while some groups were more radical than others.

(Left) "King Charles I of England" after Anthony van Dyck (Public Domain); (Right) Oliver Cromwell. (Public Domain)
(Left) "King Charles I of England" after Anthony van Dyck (Public Domain); (Right) Oliver Cromwell. (Public Domain)
"Marston Moor" by John Barker. (Public Domain)
"Marston Moor" by John Barker. (Public Domain)

The king's discord with parliament led him to dissolve the house for 11 years (from 1629 to 1640) — until a Scottish uprising broke out and he needed funds. Reinstated, a now hostile parliament rebelliously proclaimed laws (which it still could not do; unlike the American Legislature, parliament then was basically a tax collection agency without the power to legislate) and they forbade Charles from dissolving it — amounting to open revolt.

So, Charles opted to arrest the rogue representatives for treason but was brazenly blocked from doing so. Fleeing London, he sought support from rural areas in the north, which were more loyal to the king, and he mustered an army, the Royalists. Audaciously, parliament mounted an armed force of its own, called the Roundheads, comprised of radicals called the Levellers — a proto-communist faction that wanted to abolish all property. The parliamentarian forces would be led by talented military commander Oliver Cromwell.

And so revolution erupted into civil war.

A "Glorious" Revolution

In 1642, the two armies clashed on the battlefield in what came to be called the First English Civil War. The conflict would not be resolved until the Second Civil War in 1648, however, when Charles was defeated and imprisoned. Cromwell wanted him tried and executed, while most of the parliament wanted to settle with the king. Those members who were noncompliant with Cromwell were purged, and of the 50 who remained, called the "Rump Parliament," two-thirds were the radical Levellers. They condemned the king; yet even still, no lawyer would draw up a criminal charge, until a revolutionary foreigner was found to do the deed.

So in March 1649, in front of the Banqueting House at Whitehall in London, King Charles I was publicly beheaded.

Just as King John had waned after his excommunication, so was monarchical power extinguished after Charles I, its royalty relegated to the role of figurehead to this day. Its power was handed to parliament, which henceforth would be administered through The Crown of England (not the monarch), subject to the same office that stripped John of his kingship centuries earlier.

Before his death in 1658, Oliver Cromwell went on to implement a dictatorial reign of terror throughout Britain and Ireland. Declaring himself Lord Protector of the Commonwealth, he instituted a policy of ethnic cleansing in Ireland, systematically starving some 500,000 men, women, and children by burning crops. What followed was a revolution that saw the loss of sovereignty itself.

"The Great Fire of London" by an unknown painter, 1675. (Public Domain)
"The Great Fire of London" by an unknown painter, 1675. (Public Domain)
A now powerless monarchy was "restored" in 1660, but the rules had clearly changed. In the decades that followed, the social order was overturned: the Great Fire of London devastated the city in 1666; the "Glorious Revolution" in 1688 saw another king (James II) overthrown (replaced by his daughter Mary II and her Dutch husband, William of Orange); the Bank of England was founded in 1694; and usury plunged the nation into eternal financial bondage.

Was this really about freedom? Or power and wealth?

Notably, the English Bill of Rights was signed in 1689, which besides giving monarchical power over to parliament also outlined provisions for religious freedom, freedom to bear arms, freedom of speech, and other items emulating Magna Carta. These would echo again in America's Bill of Rights a century later.

III. Of American Revolution and Roman Law

Charles I's father, King James I (1566 to 1625), held the throne when the first Puritan separatists set sail for the colonies and founded Jamestown in 1607 — showing their displeasure for the Scottish monarch who, like Charles, hoped to unite Britain under one religion. It wouldn't be until 1776 that the Founding Fathers would declare the nation's independence, citing unfair taxation from the mother country; as the French and Indian War had depleted England's coffers, the colonists were candidates to foot the bill. Eventually pushed to the precipice, they revolted, formed a militia, and prepared to meet the British regular army, the redcoats, on the battlefield.

Determined to start a new, free republic, the Founding Fathers formed a union trust for a federation of nation states — the 13 colonies would become the United States of America. By 1775, the war was on. George Washington's untrained militia was no match for the well-oiled British army; yet with support from French Brigadier General Marquis de Lafayette and France, who supplied arms and infantry, they defeated the British and won their liberty — or so they thought.

(Left) "George Washington" by Charles Willson Peale, 1776 (Courtesy ofBrooklyn Museum/Dick S. Ramsay Fund); (Right) The Constitution of the United States of America (Rich Koele/Shutterstock).
(Left) "George Washington" by Charles Willson Peale, 1776 (Courtesy ofBrooklyn Museum/Dick S. Ramsay Fund); (Right) The Constitution of the United States of America (Rich Koele/Shutterstock).
After the Peace of Paris Treaty ended the war in 1783, the Constitution in 1788 was finally ratified. The Founding Fathers decreed that the People were "endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights" to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness;" their nation was to be governed by American common law and a limited government with enumerated powers; they also formed a commercial trade union (a confederation of states) for commerce — but the People were to preside over all these institutions, not vice versa.

Yet the fight for freedom wasn't over after beating the British, for the monarchy and its army were just the administrators of the colonial enterprise — the property managers, so to speak; America still had to square its claim with the landowners, The Crown and the Lord Mayor of London under the Holy Seal, which wouldn't be so simple. The republic would have to reckon with Roman (or Justinian) law, as dealt by those offices, and the fact that ideas of freedom didn't jive well with everyone.

Roman law administration would eventually sneak in and assert a claim in the new nation.

"THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA INC."

The sneak began around the time of the American Civil War (1861 to 1865), which, although fought in the name of freedom — slavery was how it was sold — clearly served clandestine designs. The industrial revolution was on and both England and France wanted to break up the American South’s cotton monopoly during the textile boom — and put an end to this business of a republic once and for all. A civil war, if induced, would weaken the nation, leaving it ripe for the picking. Although this plan to carve up America failed, more intrigue followed.

Despite what men such as Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant have said, slavery was not the primary cause of the war.

Suffice it to say that the North bankrupted the Confederation (the trade union, not to be confused with the Federation binding the republic) and then tried to pull the South into a newly incorporated arrangement which was not in accord with the original contract — the Constitution. The South cried foul and refused, so Lincoln led the newly formed “Grand Army of the Republic” to force them into the deal. The resulting Civil War cost some 600,000 lives, and bankrupted the enterprise again, while foreign interests waited in the wings.

That might have been the plan all along.

The 16th American president, Abraham Lincoln, sitting and leafing through documents in Washington, D.C. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
The 16th American president, Abraham Lincoln, sitting and leafing through documents in Washington, D.C. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
A painting depicts the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863. (Excel23/CC0 1.0)
A painting depicts the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863. (Excel23/CC0 1.0)

No kings were beheaded after America's Civil War, unlike in Britain. But just as the monarchy had waned after the Glorious Revolution, so did America's Constitution decline after the Civil War; by around 1871, a new corporate constitution had been drafted, one that the Founding Fathers wouldn't have recognized.

All it took was the duplicitous language of Roman law to turn the nation on its head. "People," living souls with God-given rights, became "persons," legal fictions without rights; common law courts, administering natural and revealed laws, were replaced by civil law institutions without such constraints; the sovereign jurisdiction of land and soil was swapped for civil sea law (also called admiralty law or maritime law) jurisdiction where no such sovereignty existed; thusly, the new corporate government could rule over the people, not the reverse, and be administered offshore.

What came next? Further bankruptcies led to the founding of the Federal Reserve in 1913; the institution of monetary socialism extracted the people's wealth and plunged the nation into debt; the Great Depression led to mass starvation and the formation of a proto-socialist state; two world wars erupted, with many pointless wars following; the media and education system were infiltrated, the culture demoralized; and as morality declined, so did liberty.

Leaders of the civil rights movement marching from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial. (Public Domain)
Leaders of the civil rights movement marching from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial. (Public Domain)

Interestingly, America's civil rights movement followed the Civil War as the English Bill of Rights had followed the Glorious Revolution. Through legislation, the movement established protections from discrimination against race, religion, or other personal characteristics and is held in high esteem to this day.

Yet, civil acts are granted by government, not God. As we previously learned from Sir William Blackstone — it bears repeating — they have neither the "power to abridge or destroy" nor grant "stronger sanction" to rights "which God and nature have established."

So what became of this Great Experiment of freedom in the end?

One could say that the revolution continues today.

Conclusion

Humans inherently desire to live as nature and nature's Creator intended; wherever people suffer under tyranny and persecution, there's the temptation to throw off the yoke of oppression in the name of that precarious word, freedom. Yet, evil latches onto that temptation, playing revolutionaries and the radically minded like pawns in a game, forging vengeful anger into chains.

Yes, patriotism, courage, and loyalty are virtues of a free republic, whose sons and daughters swore an oath to protect her. Yes, there are times to boldly speak and to act. But pay heed! Though violence may satiate the momentary passion, our ancestors, in their wisdom, knew to play the long game: "Love thy enemy,” forgive, have faith. Tyrants would rather see fire and fury than noble spirits enduring with lasting grace and fortitude.

Only through grace shall we reap the blessings divine providence bestows.

Left: (Minghui.org); Right: (Image has been cropped and color corrected - DickClarkMises/CC BY-SA 3.0, Rich Koele/Shutterstock, Public Domain)
Left: (Minghui.org); Right: (Image has been cropped and color corrected - DickClarkMises/CC BY-SA 3.0, Rich Koele/Shutterstock, Public Domain)

A Tradition Called Freedom: The People, The Times, The Belief Part III

Modern Exodus from the CCP, Finding the Pursuit of Happiness

In the People's Republic of China, the idea of people owning property is just a dream; central planning runs everything from the economy to the number of kids in your family; religious persecution mercilessly shackles people's heavenly souls to the realm of earth.

Having met many Falun Dafa practitioners persecuted for their belief in China, who escaped to the West seeking freedom, this reporter knows that concepts such as property, capitalism, and spiritual freedom are alien to most inhabitants of the Middle Kingdom. Knowing only serfdom since birth, such persecuted peoples' absorbing Western traditions of freedom quenches thirst they never knew they had.

As we discovered in Part 1, Western biblical traditions established that freedom isn't limitless but bestowed on condition of moral laws. In Part 2, we learned how, in the name of freedom, rebellion may serve slavery as easily as emancipation — Both trends echoed in China over the last century.
Last, we delve into perhaps the greatest challenge freedom has faced in history: communism. It led to religious persecution in China and new exodus to the West, where spiritual practitioners found liberty, capitalism, and "the pursuit of happiness." These, too, we shall explore.

The Rise of Communism and Persecution of Falun Dafa

The Age of Enlightenment from the 1600s brought new ideas of rationalism, dismissed tradition as superstition, and established science and new political philosophies. Darwin’s atheistic theory of evolution spawned "social Darwinism," and Karl Marx strode onto the scene proposing theories of violent revolution. This would spark the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 in Russia and the later Chinese Communist Revolution from 1948, which overturned 5,000 years of ancient tradition and wisdom. Many cite the death toll of communism at some 100 million.

With devastation in China, emerging from the ashes of 50 years of revolutionary political campaigns, the Chinese people lost faith in goodness and God. Religion was demolished, group after group targeted, until people so feared the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) that many resigned to a banal, demoralized existence.

That changed in 1992 when a spiritual movement swept the Middle Kingdom, after the country's qigong (traditional, meditative exercises) upsurge around the Cultural Revolution in the 1970s. Many saw the true, ancient, and good things of China exhumed in the practice of Falun Dafa, fostering spiritual freedom from bondage via the principles of "Truth, Compassion, and Tolerance." Compared to the atheistic CCP, Falun Dafa stood out in marked contrast.

Falun Dafa practitioners perform standing exercises in a park in Guangzhou, China, prior to the persecution that began in 1999. (Nibbler869/CC-BY-SA-3.0)
Falun Dafa practitioners perform standing exercises in a park in Guangzhou, China, prior to the persecution that began in 1999. (Nibbler869/CC-BY-SA-3.0)
Falun Dafa protesters appeal at Tiananmen Square during the persecution, which began in 1999. (via Minghui.org)
Falun Dafa protesters appeal at Tiananmen Square during the persecution, which began in 1999. (via Minghui.org)

It was this contrast, and the movement's popularity (then with an estimated 70 million practitioners), that led then-Chairman Jiang Zemin to outlaw the practice in July 1999, and establish the gestapo-like 6-10 Office to target and eradicate it. Practitioners began disappearing; media campaigns spewed incessant propaganda and staged events to demonize Falun Dafa, pitting countrymen against one another; and mass arrests tore families apart.

Many practitioners, having experienced renewed faith and spiritual purpose from Falun Dafa, went to Beijing to peacefully appeal against the crackdown. But the persecution escalated. They were arbitrarily jailed, forced into slave labor, even tortured with electric cattle batons, and worse. Thousands died, while horrifying stories of organ harvesting began surfacing; several international investigators estimated that tens of thousands were killed "like cattle" this way.

Amidst onslaught of such merciless persecution, practitioners responded with tolerance and nonviolence, per their belief. Unlike other groups targeted by the CCP, practitioners refused to kowtow. Their strength, like the early Christians’, is deep-seated in the heart — no earthly tyrant can easily strip that away. The persecution continues today.

Escaping overseas, many were amazed by what freedom affords in the West. On gaining freedom, they realized they were hoodwinked by the CCP and denied their very birthright — their natural right — to prosper, own property, and pursue happiness itself.

It is not only for the benefit of escapees from the East but also our Western youth, even ourselves, reared and educated in our demoralized system, that we shall next delve into the rudiments of the said American traditions. Few have explicated their rock solid foundations, extracting the essence, from two very different standpoints, yet alike in many ways, as 18th century lawyer John Locke and Nobel Prize-winning economist Friedrich Hayek.

'The Pursuit of Happiness': The Natural Right of Property Ala John Locke

In the Enlightenment, lawyer John Locke (1632 to 1704) rationally justified freedom's traditions when all traditions were being questioned, and strongly influenced America’s Founding Fathers. Locke's "Life, Liberty, and Property" were echoed by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence, but, a skilled wordsmith, Jefferson's "Pursuit of Happiness" waxed poetic in place of Locke's "Property" — They meant the same thing.

Yet Jefferson and Locke were congruous that all men were endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. Appealing to trending sensibilities, Locke opted for "laws of nature" or "natural laws" over laws "God-given" or "revealed." Speaking of rights, he coined "natural rights."

Seeking a natural right of property, Locke harks back to primitive man before banding together to form societies. Men, Locke in a thought experiment reasoned, in a "state of nature" were "perfectly free to order their actions, and dispose of their possessions and themselves, in any way they like, without asking anyone’s permission — subject only to limits set by the law of nature … with no-one being subjected to or subordinate to anyone else.”

Left: "Portrait of John Locke" by Godfrey Kneller, 1697. (Public Domain); Right: The American Declaration of Independence. (Public Domain)
Left: "Portrait of John Locke" by Godfrey Kneller, 1697. (Public Domain); Right: The American Declaration of Independence. (Public Domain)

He invoked a conception of a world, and all its resources, bequeathed from above solely to man for sake of his survival and prosperity:

Whether we consider natural reason, which tells us, that men, being once born, have a right to their preservation, and consequently to meat and drink, and such other things as nature affords for their sustenance: or Revelation, which gives us an account of those grants God made of the world to Adam, and to Noah, and his sons, it is very clear, that God ... has given the earth to the children of men; given it to mankind in common. ... But I shall endeavor to shew, how men might come to have a property in several parts of that which God made to mankind in common, and that without any express compact of all the commoners. ...

Locke added:

God, who hath given the world to men in common, has also given them reason to make use of it to best advantage of life, and convenience. The earth, and all that is therein, is given to men for the support and comfort of their being.

This notion would look unkindly on the CCP's total usurpation of land in the country. The CCP, it seems, willed to supplant God to redistribute these resources as it sees fit.

Locke, in his thought experiment, spells out how one obtains a title of ownership, appropriate property, in a state of nature where all things began in common:

He that is nourished by the acorns he picked up under an oak, or the apples he gathered from the trees in the wood, has certainly to himself. No body can deny but the nourishment is his. I ask then, when did they begin to be his? when he digested? or when he eat? or when he boiled? or when he picked them? It is plain, if the first gathering made them not his, nothing else could. That labour put a distinction between them and common: that added something to them more than nature, the common mother of all, had done; and so they became his private right. And will anyone say, he had no right to those acorns or apples, he thus appropriated, because he had not the consent of all mankind to make them his?

He adds:

The labour of his body and the work of his hands, we may say, are strictly his. So when he takes something from the state that nature has provided and left it in, he mixes his labour with it, thus joining to it something that is his own; and in that way he makes it his property.

We own our labor. When mixed with resources, that entitles us to some ownership of what labor produces. This is not true in China, where products of labor are syphoned off by the CCP; only what subsistence it deems fit to relinquish trickle down to the people. This plunged the masses into dire poverty in many parts of the country, and fed corruption. Workers are paid pennies on the dollar by Western standards.

What Locke is getting at is land:

But the chief matter of property being now not the fruits of the earth, and the beasts that subsist on it, but the earth itself; as that which takes in it and carries with it much land as a man tills, plants, improves, cultivates, and can use the product of, so much is his property. He by his labour does, as it were, enclose it from the common. … He that in obedience to his command of God, subdued, tilled and sowed any part of it, thereby annexed to it something that was his property, which another man had no title to, nor could without injury take from him.
The Land Reform Movement in China. (Cococroach/CC-BY-SA-4.0)
The Land Reform Movement in China. (Cococroach/CC-BY-SA-4.0)
Left: Students protest on Tiananmen Square during the democracy demonstrations in 1989. (Jiří Tondl/CC-BY-SA-4.0); Right: Pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong in 2019. (Xaume Olleros/AFP via Getty Images)
Left: Students protest on Tiananmen Square during the democracy demonstrations in 1989. (Jiří Tondl/CC-BY-SA-4.0); Right: Pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong in 2019. (Xaume Olleros/AFP via Getty Images)

Thus, the CCP's annexation of all land, from 1953 onwards, caused serious injustice to landowners. As many as 2 million were killed in the expropriation. Having inflicted such grievous injury to the people, a hefty remediation is long overdue. Locke's thought experiment established a birthright for the impoverished serf under the jackboot of the CCP, that they might claim title to what is theirs rightfully.

In his book "The Second Treaties of Government," Locke also explicates the people's natural right to create, alter, or dissolve their government at will. Their initial compact founded government to protect their rights; failing in this capacity, it becomes null and void. That offers a little comfort to the students who shed their blood on Tiananmen Square for democracy in 1989, or the Hong Kong protesters who in 2019 resisted the CCP's flagrant usurpations of their liberty, and wielded umbrellas to shield themselves from tear gas and rubber bullets.
But that's a story for another day.

The American Dream: Capitalism Explained by Friedrich Hayek

Three centuries after Locke wrote his treatises, Austrian economist Friedrich Hayek (1899 to 1992) turned the tables on the Enlightenment "rationalists," whose legacy led to socialism and communism which so damaged traditional culture — and freedom itself. He championed liberty and capitalism — the very rudiments of the American Dream.

The scientific revolution called into question all prior traditions (particularly religion), forcing them to "rationally" justify themselves or be denounced as superstition. Descartes in 1637, with his "I think therefore I am," kicked off the movement; his Cartesian (dubbed after the French thinker), rationalist followers possessed what Hayek termed "the fatal conceit" in his book of the same title, and befell "the errors of socialism." Of this arrogance, he wrote:

Thus I confess that I always have to smile when books on evolution, even ones written by great scientists, end, as they often do, with exhortations which, while conceding that everything has hitherto developed by a process of spontaneous order, call on human reason - now that things have become so complex - to seize the reins and control future development. Such wishful thinking is encouraged by what I have elsewhere called the 'constructivist rationalism' …
Left: Friedrich Hayek. (DickClarkMises/CC-BY-SA-3.0); Right: The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 during the collapse of the Soviet Union. (Image color has been changed to black and white -Lear 21/CC-BY-SA-3.0)
Left: Friedrich Hayek. (DickClarkMises/CC-BY-SA-3.0); Right: The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 during the collapse of the Soviet Union. (Image color has been changed to black and white -Lear 21/CC-BY-SA-3.0)
These assumptions include the unscientific, even animistic, notion that at some stage the rational human mind or soul entered the evolving human body and became a new, active guide of further cultural development (rather than, as actually happened, that this body gradually acquired the capacity to absorb exceedingly complex principles that enabled it to move more successfully in its own environment).
Hayek, as Locke, looked to ancient man for answers. Swapping thought experiments for anthropology, he showed that civilization writ large was not rationally conceived, its yields not “fully known in advance" nor initial causes "fully observable and seen to be beneficial.” Just the contrary. He found “much to indicate that those who aimed simply at happiness would have been overwhelmed by those who just wanted to preserve their lives.

Early humans who lived in “small roving bands or troops,” clinging to tribal “instincts,” had to adapt behavior as trade networks expanded into larger orders of civilization — the rudiments of what today is called capitalism. The survival of small groups depended on adopting particular sets of “morals” and “traditions” suited to greater trade and interaction. As the world changed, so would they have to, or get left behind.

Echoing Locke, Hayek unearthed freedom and property's being foremost in these early adaptations:

So far as we know, the Mediterranean region was the first to see the acceptance of a person's right to dispose over a recognised private domain, thus allowing individuals to develop a dense network of commercial relations among different communities. Such a network worked independently of the views and desires of local chiefs, for the movements of naval traders could hardly be centrally directed in those days. …
[P]roperty is indispensable for the development of trading, and thereby for the formation of larger coherent and cooperating structures, and for the appearance of those signals we call prices.
An ancient prehistoric cave painting known as the White Lady of Brandberg dates back at least 2,000 years and is located in Namibia. (R.M. Nunes/Shutterstock)
An ancient prehistoric cave painting known as the White Lady of Brandberg dates back at least 2,000 years and is located in Namibia. (R.M. Nunes/Shutterstock)

Far from rationally conceived for "known beneficial ends," these "irrational" traits, he writes, "must have been accompanied by a substantial disruption of the early tribes." Recognizing property and other "previously unheard of practices" was essential for communities to "permit members to carry away for use by strangers ... desirable items held within the community that might otherwise have been available for local common use." That echoes David Hume's previous declaration: “The rules of morality are not the conclusions of our reason.”

Hayek affirms:

Protection of several property, not the direction of its use by government, laid the foundations for the growth of the dense network of exchange of services that shaped the extended order.
Nothing is more misleading, then, than the conventional formulae of historians who represent the achievement of a powerful state as the culmination of cultural evolution: it as often marked its end.

More traditions were needed for this macro-order: "hospitality, protection, and safe passage,” writes the author, and “honesty, contract, exchange, trade, competition, gain, and privacy."

"Seaport at Sunset" by Claude Lorrain, 1639. (Public Domain)
"Seaport at Sunset" by Claude Lorrain, 1639. (Public Domain)

The result of this macro-order? Unmatched prosperity and productivity; exponential increase in technological advancement and civilization ensured survival and prosperity. Hayek writes:

A chain reaction began: the greater density of population, leading to the discovery of opportunities for specialisation, or division of labour, led to yet further increases of population and per capita income that made possible another increase in the population. And so on.

The key to this growth, says Hayek, is the dispersion of information — meaning freedom; individuals are free to dispose over a set domain of self-determination and decision-making. Profit was the driver behind enhanced productivity and efficiency. Central planning of communist governments, meanwhile, destroys practically all that vital information; nor could it ever gather much. It was Adam Smith, Hayek noted, who identified individual freedom as key:

What is the species of domestic industry his capital can employ, and of which the produce is likely to be of the greatest value, every individual, it is evident, in his local situation, judges much better than any statesman or lawgiver can do for him.

Robbing people of both freedom and incentive, the CCP fails its civilization, but realizes its opposite, as Hayek points out:

Most defects and inefficiencies of such spontaneous orders result from attempting to interfere with or to prevent their mechanisms from operating, or to improve the details of their results. … Pretending to be lovers of freedom, they condemn several property, contract, competition, advertising, profit, and even money itself. Imagining that their reason can tell them how to arrange human efforts to serve their innate wishes better, they themselves pose a grave threat to civilisation. 
The Statue of Liberty, built in 1876, New York. (Mcj1800/CC BY-SA 4.0)
The Statue of Liberty, built in 1876, New York. (Mcj1800/CC BY-SA 4.0)

The economist adds:

I have also maintained that the extended order would collapse, and that much of our population would suffer and die, if such movements ever did truly succeed in displacing the market.

In that vein, communist countries like Venezuela and Cuba lately produced food shortages, facing uprisings; while we know some 3.9 million Ukrainians perished from famine under Stalin's centralized economic policies.

The beauty of freedom, and the American Dream, is that social benefit stems not from well-meaning tribal instincts — altruism, sharing, equal distribution, solidarity — but from simply observing traditions of freedom: rights to property; earnestly working for a living, for ourselves and our loved ones; we can use whatever extra is earned to gratify instinctual desires to do good. Our industry creates possibility for employment and wealth overall. The products of our labor serve all. Unintentionally, others benefit.

While we marvel at Western tradition, we mustn't miss the freedom Falun Dafa practitioners extrapolated from “Truth, Compassion, and Tolerance,” facing merciless persecution under the CCP. That practitioners displayed such love and forbearance speaks volumes of a tradition echoing the early Christians — that it shall endure far into the future.

Share your stories with us at emg.inspired@epochtimes.com, and continue to get your daily dose of inspiration by signing up for the Bright newsletter at TheEpochTimes.com/newsletter