In 1789, much of America recognized the need for presidential authority and energetic leadership despite the ever-present alarm over the potentially abusive power or weak corruptibility of the office. Nothing signaled these apprehensions over the presidency more than the unanimous election of universally trusted George Washington as the new nation’s first president. To his credit, Washington understood this. Although his celebrity encouraged an elite court-like atmosphere wherever he went, Washington counteracted these tendencies early on with his opposition to a regal title. During the title controversy, he brought to his leadership both a widely admired perspective of republican reserve and a willingness to take cues from the people. By consciously mirroring the views of the majority of his countrymen and women, who disdained regal titles as he did, he encouraged public acceptance of the presidency, which added political legitimacy to the office and the new national government.
Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.
Ben Franklin on trading liberty for security
This “quote” is actually a paraphrase from one of his speeches given on November 11, 1755.
- This was first written by Franklin for the Pennsylvania Assembly in its Reply to the Governor(11 Nov. 1755)
- This quote was used as a motto on the title page of An Historical Review of the Constitution and Government of Pennsylvania(1759); the book was published by Franklin; its author was Richard Jackson, but Franklin did claim responsibility for some small excerpts that were used in it.
- An earlier variant by Franklin in Poor Richard’s Almanack(1738): “Sell not virtue to purchase wealth, nor Liberty to purchase power.“
Even more interestingly, you may like to review the Reply to the Govenor, in its entirety, from the official Franklin Papers website.
As we approach the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, please consider which you would choose for you, your family…and your country.