Our forefathers sang joyous songs about freedom ringing from every mountainside and wrote words about freedom’s holy light. Poets, statesmen, even philosophers assumed that godly faith was the companion of liberty in all its conflicts, the cradle of its infancy, and the divine source of its claims (Tocqueville). And a connection between freedom and law was commonly assumed, as in the words of one writer, “If liberty with law is fire in the hearth, liberty without law is fire on the floor.”

Today our countrymen are generally the inheritors of these freedoms gloriously spoken of—liberties of choice about ways of learning, working, speaking, worshiping, and so on. Yet our land is also confronted with an increasing tumult about lack of freedoms. This growing protest, with its sharpening profile of disillusionment and bitterness, hardly reflects a spirit of thanksgiving for freedoms inherited and possessed.

One way or another, the word freedom assumes preeminence in the modern vocabulary. Many of our countrymen are still singing psalms of thanksgiving for their freedoms while at the same time they are haunted by freedom’s cry for deliverance uttered by the alienated and dispossessed. The freedom theme may generate a feeling of exhilaration or of sadness and pity. There is also another kind of freedom shout that arouses a sense of foreboding and dismay, for it is a raucous and militant demand that radical changes must take place “now!” This revolutionary emphasis on “now-freedom” usually has utopian and perfectionist overtones. Strangely enough, it may arise from the soil of affluence and academic privilege. This impatient and aggressive stance is often heralded as a necessary prelude to substantial breakthroughs for a revised social ...

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