Francis (Franz) Lieber 1800 – 1872: Early ally in the fight against America’s Progressive Movement


By Lee Cary

Prelude to the current relevance of Francis Lieber

Go back to July 23, 2007, and the Democrat presidential candidates’ debate to recall this exchange:

“Early on in the CNN/YouTube-sponsored, debate, a California resident posed these questions on his video: ‘Mrs. Clinton, how would you define the word ‘liberal’’? And would you use this word to describe yourself?’

Hillary answered: ‘You know, it is a word that originally meant that you were for freedom, that you were for the freedom to achieve, that you were willing to stand against big power and on behalf of the individual.’

‘Unfortunately, in the last 30, 40 years, it has been turned up on its head and it’s been made to seem as though it is a word that describes big government, totally contrary to what its meaning was in the 19th and early 20th century.’ [Note her timeframe for the change is 1977-1987.]

I prefer the word ‘progressive,’ which has a real American meaning, going back to the progressive era at the beginning of the 20th century.’

I consider myself a modern progressive, someone who believes strongly in individual rights and freedoms, who believes that we are better as a society when we’re working together and when we find ways to help those who may not have all the advantages in life get the tools they need to lead a more productive life for themselves and their family.’

‘So I consider myself a proud modern American progressive, and I think that’s the kind of philosophy and practice that we need to bring back to American politics.’” Source  (highlighting added)

Hillary Clinton is, like her husband (“It all depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.”), a clever manipulator of language.

It was the progressive movement that “turned up on its head” the meaning of “liberal” in the 20th Century, and the consequential “unfortunate” ones were the original liberals of the 19th Century who lost their moniker, forever.

The progressive movement stole the “liberal” label and left the original liberals wearing nametags reading “conservative.” Even since the switch, conservatives have been accused by liberals of having an intransigent, old-fashioned, regressive bias against progress.  And being against progress is like being against…America.

“Liberal” is a word that has been “made to seem as though it is a word that describes big government” because that’s what it means – “big government.”

Hillary’s use of “unfortunate” is cleverly duplicitous.  In fact, the “modern American progressive” is to 20th Century “liberal” as “canine” is to “dog.”

Various political movements have claimed to represent progress in global history, long before the “modern American progressive” movement.  But within Mrs. Clinton’s timeframe, in the 20th Century, we’ve had communism, fascism, and the spread of the welfare state throughout Europe that began with Bismarck. (Go to this Social Security website page and find Otto von Bismarck, German Chancellor 1862-1890, heralded, complete with his photo wearing a pointed helmet, as the father of America’s Social Security program.)

In some of its 20th Century forms, progressive socialism was benign, particularly in the Scandinavian countries. In others places, it was malignant and led to the deaths of millions.

Hillary prefers the “American meaning” of “progressive” because, worldwide, other 20th Century progressives brought the Nazi gas chambers, the U.S.S.R. staged-famines and gulags, and the Chinese Red Guards. Hitler, Stalin and Mao were all 20th Century progressives, but not of the “modern American” variety, of course.

So, in the debate, Hillary ran away from “liberal” and claimed “progressive,” not wanting to be associated with big government.  It’d be like Bonnie & Clyde saying, “We’re not bank robbers; we’re committed to a more effective reallocation of community-based resources.”

What are Hillary’s word games all about? This:

The political philosophy of today’s “modern American progressives” is more closely aligned with the 18th Century French Revolution of 1789, than with the American Revolution of 1776.

Too few American know the differences between the two revolutions because the ideological leaders of 20th Century American public education were (and still are) progressives, and made (and still make) the same misalignment.

Enter Francis (Franz) Lieber who differentiated between the two 18th Century revolutions

Franz Lieber was born in the capital of late 18th Century Prussia – Berlin. He lied about his age to join the Prussian Army and was wounded at the Battle of Waterloo fighting Napoleon.

Denied entry into the University of Berlin because he opposed the Prussian monarchy, he studied mathematics at the University of Jena.

Lieber migrated to England in 1825, and then to Boston in 1827 where he established a swimming school that lasted two years.

Next he edited an Encyclopaedia Americana in Boston and translated several French authors.

He eventually became, for 20 years, professor of history and political economics at what is now the University of South Carolina. In 1851 he warned South Carolina against succession.

From 1856-1865, he was professor of history and political science at what is now Columbia University.

One of his three sons became a Confederate soldier and died in battle. Two other sons joined the Union Army and survived the war.

Lieber defined the difference between the American and French Revolutions’ understanding of liberty.

Here are his words, excerpted from “Anglican and Gallican Liberty,” that apply to the American Revolution:

“Anglican liberty distinguishes itself above all by a decided tendency to fortify individual independence, and by a feeling of self-reliance.”

“Independence in the highest degree, compatible with safety and broad national guarantees of liberty, is the great aim of Anglican liberty, and self-reliance is the chief source from which it draws its strength.”

“Everywhere is liberty considered by the Anglican nation to consist, in a very high degree, in a proper limitation of public power. Anglican liberty may be said to consist, essentially, in a proper restriction of government, on the one hand, and a proper amount of power on the other, sufficient to prevent mutual interference with the personal independence among the people themselves, so that order and a law-abiding spirit becomes another of its distinctive features. No people of the past or present have ever made use of the right of association, even where it fully existed, equal to the vast and at times gigantic application of this right to great practical purposes of a social, as well as political, character among the English and Americans. Public interference is odious to them. Government, to them, is not considered the educator, leader, or organizer of society. On the contrary, in reading the many constitutions which this race has produced, and the object of which is to define the spheres of the various public powers and to fix the rights of the individual, we almost fancy to read over all of them the motto, ‘Hands off.’”

Lieber then addressed the meaning of Gallican, i.e., French, liberty:

“Gallican liberty, then, is sought in the government, and, according to an Anglican point of view, it is looked for in a wrong place, where it cannot be found. Necessary consequences of the Gallican view are that the French look for the highest degree of political civilization in organization, that is, in the highest degree of interference by public power. The question whether this interference be despotism or liberty is decided solely by the fact who interferes, and for the benefit of which class the interference takes place, while according to Anglican views this interference would always be either absolutism or aristocracy, and the present dictatorship of the ouvriers would appear to us an uncompromising aristocracy of the ouvriers.”

“The universal acknowledgment of organization makes the Frenchmen look for every improvement at once to government. Self-reliance does not exist in detail.”

“In Anglican liberty the movement not only begins with the people, but also the practical carrying out. In France, liberty is expected to begin practically with government organization and to descend to the people.”

“The fact that Gallican liberty expects everything from organization, while Anglican liberty inclines to development, explains why we see in France so little improvement and expansion of institutions; but when improvement is attempted, a total abolition of the preceding state of things—a beginning ab ovo—a re-discussion of the first elementary principles.”

“In England and America, the principle of liberty dictates that all that can be done by private enterprise ought to be left to it, and that the people ought to enjoy the fruits of competition in the highest possible degree. In France, on the other hand, the provisional government made arrangements to buy up all the railways soon as the king had been expelled.”

“All political changes, according to Anglican liberty, are intended more efficiently to protect the changes which society has worked for itself; according to Gallican liberty, the great changes are intended to be, not political, but social, organized by government: that is, according to Anglican liberty, forced upon society by the successful party, which, nevertheless, may be a very small minority owing to the peculiar power which, in the great system of concentration, Paris exercises over France, and which all movable masses exercise over populous cities—an influence considered salutary according to Gallican views of liberty, and disastrous according to Anglican.”

(Text from Miscellaneous Writings of Francis Lieber, Vol. II, Contributions to Political Science, 1881. Italics in source.)

The core language of the two revolutions illustrates the difference.

For the American Revolution, the key words were these:  “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. “

For the French Revolution, the three-part motto was: Liberté, égalité, fraternité, or Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.

Interpreting “equality” and “fraternity” variously, the concepts of some French political philosophers, writing in support of the French Revolution, are reflected in Marx’s Communist Manifesto of 1848.

Today’s American progressive movement is a hybrid derivative of both 18th Century revolutions. But concerning the role of government, the progressive movement is down-the-line Gallican.

It is this hybrid, political philosophy that the Tea Party movement is up against.

Today’s progressives push for government’s relentless progress, across an ever broadening front, to advance its power and control over its subjects, We The People. They are statists.

Often clothed in the language of benevolent altruism, the progressive movement is an exercise in the self-aggrandizement of an elitist ruling class, where most are Democrats, but some are Republicans.