Power Is Ever Stealing From the Many to the Few

by
Abby Zimet

Seen painted – not a bumper sticker, but PAINTED in large and graceful font – on a contractor's pick-up: "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty." An ever-incisive reminder of hard reality, and one of many reasons I love living in Maine.

Turns out, though, that the quote often attributed to Thomas Jefferson, and less often to Patrick Henry, is in fact the work of abolitionist and orator Wendell Phillips (1811-1884) in an 1852 speech before the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society. The part that follows is just as eloquent about vigilance toward power. 

Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty – power is ever stealing from the many to the few...The hand entrusted with power becomes...the necessary enemy of the people. Only by continual oversight can the democrat in office be prevented from hardening into a despot; only by unintermitted Agitation can a people be kept sufficiently awake to principle not to let liberty be smothered in material prosperity.

Vigilance, oversight, agitation. Not bad words to live by.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Share This Article

More in: