A state of exemption from the power or control of another; liberty; exemption from slavery, servitude or confinement. Freedom is personal, civil, political, and religious. [See Liberty.] (Source: Webster’s 1828 Dictionary)
Having, and quite naively, taken freedom for granted for most of my life, lately I find myself thinking about it a lot — especially as to how to verbalize what it really means (and revisiting what it meant when the United States of America was a startup). I know what it means to me personally, but I haven’t actually looked up its definition for quite some time.
I just spent about half an hour reading through definitions offered up through a whole list of online dictionaries. I found myself surprised and disappointed by what I read. It turns out it’s not easy to find a succinct, definitive descriptor that captures the true essence of the word.
Every single contemporary definition I came across just about broke my heart. Each presents a completely nerveless, watered down interpretation of the word. All of them are devoid of any passion for what the word is supposed to represent. Freedom — this is a word for which many of our forefathers sacrificed their very lives.
Finally, I came across the definition you see above. I almost couldn’t believe my eyes. There it was, perfectly concise and brilliant in its passionate yet logical brevity.
As you can see, it was published in 1828. 1828, people. Was that the last time the word was truly understood and embraced?