Quote of the Day - November 2, 2011

by FSM: QUOTE OF THE DAY, THE EDITOR November 2, 2011
 
“I prefer dangerous freedom over peaceful slavery.”
(Malo periculosam, libertatem quam quietam servitutem)
 
-  Thomas Jefferson (1743 – 1826), written in Latin in a letter to James Madison, dated January 30, 1787.
 
The story behind the quote
 
Jefferson had been in France between 1784 and 1789 as US Minister, and it is widely believed that, as main author of the United States Declaration of Independence (July 4, 1776) he had a major influence upon the French document “Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen,” originally adopted by the French National Constituent Assembly in 1789. 
 
Though historians have argued that the ideas of French political philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712 – 1788) did not directly influence Jefferson, he would have been aware of his writings. In 1762, Rousseau had published a work called “The Social Contract, Principles of Political Right” (Du Contrat Social, Principes du droit politique). In Book III, Section 4 of this work, Rousseau wrote the words: “Malo periculosam libertatem quam quietum servitium.”
 
Rousseau himself had not invented this quote. He attributed it to a “virtuous Count Palatine” who had used the words in the Polish parliament. The footnotes to the printed editions named this man as “The Palatine of Posen, father of the King of Poland, Duke of Lorraine (Lothingren).”
 
The King of Poland at the time of the Social Contract’s publication was StanisÅ‚aw I LeszczyÅ„ski, who was Duke of Lorraine. His father had been RafaÅ‚ LeszczyÅ„ski (1650–1703), a count of the Holy Roman Empire who had been made the “Voivode” of Posen (Poznan) in 1687. Those whom RafaÅ‚ LeszczyÅ„ski had seen as offering “peaceful slavery” were almost certainly the Russians who were trying to annexe Poznan. They later succeeded.
 
So this quote could be attributed to either Rafał Leszczyński, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Thomas Jefferson.
 
The quote is sometimes translated from the Latin as “I prefer the tumult of liberty to the quiet of servitude."
 
 

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