Liberty ACTUALLY Defined

In light of Dr. Ron Paul’s Liberty Defined, I thought it was time to see how Liberty was ACTUALLY defined. The following are from Ballantine’s Law Dictionary, Bouvier’s Law Dictionary, and Black’s Law Dictionary:


(Ballantine’s, 3rd ed.)

Absence of servitude and restraint. A most broad and extensive concept, embracing every form and phase of individual right that is not necessarily taken away by some valid law for the common good (Wright v Hart, 12 NY 330, 75 NE 404). The right to do such acts as one may judge best for his interest, not inconsistent with the rights of others (Ex parte Drexel, 147 Cal 763, 82 P 429). The right to protection from violation of any of the fundamental conceptions of justice which lie at the base of our civil and political institutions (16 Am J2d Const L § 358).

As the word is used in the United States Constitution, it means not only freedom of the citizen from servitude and restraint, but is deemed to embrace the right of every man to be free in the use of his powers and faculties, and to adopt and pursue such avocation or calling as he may choose, subject only to the restraints necessary to secure the common welfare. There can be no liberty, protected by government, that is not regulated by such laws as will preserve the right of each citizen to pursue his own advancement and happiness in his own way, subject only to the restraints necessary to secure the same right to others. The fundamental principle upon which liberty is based, in free and enlightened government, is equality under the law of the land (Braceville Coal Co. v People, 147 111 66, 35 NE 62).


(Bouvier’s, 6th ed.)

Freedom from restraint. The power of acting as one thinks fit, without any restraint or control, except from the laws of nature.

2. Liberty is divided into civil, natural, personal, and political.

3. Civil liberty is the power to do whatever is permitted by the constitution of the state and the laws of the land. It is no other than natural lib-erty, so far restrained by human laws, and no further, operating equally upon all the citizens, as is necessary and expedient for the general advantage of the public (1 Black. Com. 125; Paley’s Mor. Phil. B. 6, c.5; Swifts Syst. 12).

4. That system of laws is alone calculated to maintain civil liberty, which leaves the citizen entirely master of his own conduct, except in those points in which the public good requires some direction and restraint. When a man is restrained in his natural liberty by no municipal laws but those which are requisite to prevent his violating the natural law, and to promote the greatest moral and physical welfare of the community, he is legally possessed of the fullest enjoyment of his civil rights of individual liberty. But it must not be inferred that individuals are to judge for themselves how far the law may justifiably restrict their individual liberty; for it is necessary to-the welfare of the commonwealth, that the law should be obeyed; and thence is derived the legal maxim, that no man may be wiser than the law.

5. Natural liberty is the right which nature gives to all mankind, of disposing of their persons and property after the manner they judge most consonant to their happiness, on condition of their acting within the limits of the law of nature, and that they do not in any way abuse it to the prejudice of other men (Burlamaqui, c. 3, s. 15; 1 Bl. Com. 125).

6. Personal liberty is the independence of our actions of all other will than our own. Wolff, Ins. Nat. 77. It consists in the power of locomotion, of changing situation, or removing one’s person to whatever place one’s inclination may direct, without imprisonment or restraint, unless by due course of law (1 Bl. Com. 134).

7. Political liberty may be defined to be, the security by which, from the constitution, form and nature of the established government, the citizens enjoy civil liberty. No ideas or definitions are more distinguishable than those of civil and political liberty, yet they are generally confounded (1 Bl. Com. 6, 125). The political liberty of a state is based upon those fundamental laws which establish the distribution of legislative and executive powers. The political liberty of a citizen is that tranquility of mind, which is the effect of an opinion that he is in perfect security; and to insure this security, the government must be such that one citizen shall not fear another.

8. In the English law, by liberty is meant a privilege held by grant or prescription, by which some men enjoy greater benefits than ordinary subjects. A liberty is also a territory, with some extraordinary privilege.

9. By liberty or liberties, is understood a part of a town or city, as the Northern Liberties of the city of Philadelphia (The same as Faubourg. [q. V.]).


(Black’s, 2nd ed.)

  1. Freedom; exemption from extraneous control. The power of the will, in its moral freedom, to follow the dictates of its unrestricted choice, and to direct the external acts of the individual without restraint, coercion, or control from other persons. “Liberty,” as used in the provision of the fourteenth amendment to the federal constitution, forbidding the states to deprive any person of life, liberty, and property without due process of law, includes, it seems, not merely the right of a person to be free from physical restraint, but to be free in the enjoyment of all his faculties in all lawful ways; to live and work where he will; to earn his livelihood by any lawful calling; to pursue any livelihood or avocation; and for that purpose to enter into all contracts which may be proper, necessary, and essential to carrying out the purposes above mentioned.
  2. The word also means a franchise or personal privilege, being some part of the sovereign power, vested in an individual, either by grant or prescription.
  3. In a derivative sense, the term denotes the place, district, or boundaries within which a special franchise is enjoyed, an immunity claimed, or a jurisdiction exercised. In this sense, the term is commonly used in the plural; as the “liberties of the city,” “the northern liberties of Philadelphia:”
      • Civil liberty: The liberty of a member of society, being man’s natural liberty, so far restrained by human laws (and no further) as is necessary and expedient for the general advantage of the public. The power of doing whatever the laws permit. The greatest amount of absolute liberty which can, in the nature of things, be equally possessed by every citizen in a state. Guarantied protection against interference with the interests and rights held dear and important by large classes of civilized men, or by all the members of a state, together with an effectual share in the making and administration of the laws, as the best apparatus to secure that protection.
      • Liberty of a port: In maine insurance; A license or permission incorporated in a marine policy allowing the vessel to touch and trade at a designated port other than the principle port of destination.
      • Liberty of conscience: Religious liberty, as defined below.
      • Liberty of speech: Freedom accorded by the constitution or laws of a state to express opinions and facts by word of mouth, uncontrolled by any censorship or restrictions of government.
      • Liberty of the globe: In marine insurance; A license or permission incorporated in a marine policy authorizing the vessel to go to any part of the world, instead of being confined to a particular part of destination.
      • Liberty of the press: The right to print and publish the truth, from good motives and for justifiable ends. The right freely to publish whatever the citizen may please, and to be protected against any responsibility for so doing except so far as such publications, from their blasphemy, obscenity, or scandalous character, may be a public offense, or as by their falsehood and malice they may injuriously affect the standing, reputation, or pecuniary interests of individuals. It is said to consist in this: “That neither courts of justice, nor any judges whatsoever, are authorized to take notice of writings intended for the press, but are confined to those which are actually printed.”
      • Liberty of the rules: A privilege to go out of the Fleet and Marshal sea prisons within certain limits, and there reside.
      • Liberty to hold pleas: The liberty of having a court of one’s own. This certain lords had the privilege of holding pleas within their own manors.
      • Natural liberty: The power of acting as one thinks fit, without any restraint or control, unless by the law of nature. The right which nature gives to all mankind of disposing of their persons and property after the manner they judge most consistent with their happiness, on condition of their acting within the limits of the law of nature, and so as not to interfere with an equal exercise of the same rights by other men.
      • Personal liberty: The right or power of locomotion; of changing situation, or moving one’s person to whatsoever place one’s own inclination may direct, without imprisonment or restraint, unless by due course of law.
      • Political liberty: Liberty of the citizen to participate in the operations of government, and particularly in the making and administration of the laws.
      • Religious liberty: Freedom from dictation, constraint, or control in matters affecting the conscience, religious beliefs, and the practice of religion; freedom to entertain and express any or no system of religious opinions, and to engage in or refrain from any form of religious observance or public or private religious worship, not inconsistent with the peace and good order of society and the general welfare.



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