Happy Fourth of July!
Here is a picture of a mug that belonged to my great, great grandfather Marcus Manuel Jeffords. Marcus’ father was born in 1813 and was named Liberty Jefferds. In 1815 Liberty’s younger brother was born and was named Freedom.
Naming one’s sons Liberty and Freedom was not uncommon after the American Revolution and highlights the importance the Country placed on these values and the liberty and freedom from Great Britain gained at great sacrifice.
Once secured, liberty and freedom brought us the Constitution, and our unique form of self-governance. American self-governance is based on the social compact. The earliest form of social compact in America is the Mayflower Compact.
Of the 102 who travelled on the Mayflower, only 41 were true Pilgrims. The remainder were merchants, hired hands, and indentured servants. The male members of this diverse group signed the Mayflower Compact whereby they agreed that they would collectively create laws to govern the colony and that once enacted, they would all obey those laws. Here is the exact language to which they agreed and which remained in effect until the late 1600’s when the colony was incorporated into the larger Massachusetts Bay Colony.
The signatories pledged to “covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil Body Politick, for our better Ordering and Preservation, and Furtherance of the Ends aforesaid: And by Virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions and Offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the General good of the Colony; unto which we promise all due submission and obedience.’
There has long been tension between individual liberty and freedom and the need for collective governance and laws to which “we promise all due submission and obedience”. We see this play out regularly at the local level through zoning laws. Few things are more personal than one’s property. Some (and they often refer to themselves as libertarians) believe that they should be able to do whatever they wish with their property regardless what others in the community including their adjacent neighbors think.
Some argue that zoning laws should simply not exist because they represent a diminishment of liberty and freedom. But that argument misses the point of liberty and freedom.
This Fourth of July we once again celebrate the Liberty and Freedom that have allowed us to self-govern. Our laws have come from a long history of self-government. And all our laws (including zoning laws), derived from liberty and freedom, are the promises we make with each other with “all due submission and obedience.”