Quote of the Day – Boxes of Liberty

 

The liberties of the American people were dependent upon the ballot-box, the jury-box, and the cartridge-box; that without these no class of people could live and flourish in this country. – Frederick Douglass

Last week I alluded to the four boxes of liberty: the soap box, the ballot box, the jury box, and the cartridge box.  A modern version of the saying follows up the listing with the admonition, “Open them in that order.” Someone thought I had thought them up. Much as I would like to take credit, the concept of the four boxes of liberty emerged in the 19th century. Frederick Douglass (as in the quote above) frequently used the metaphor, so I thought it appropriate to use it in a discussion of a Douglass quote.

The soap box is a reference to freedom of speech, the power one has to convince others through the liberty to freely offer ones thoughts and opinions.  A soap box is a large crate-sized box used to transport bars of soap to stores. The modern equivalent is the cardboard carton, but in the 19th century the soap box was wood, and it was sturdy enough to stand on. Since it was discarded after use, it served as an impromptu rostrum for a street corner orator. This was a common sight in 19th century cities.

The ballot box represents the right to vote, to pick the individuals who lead the country. We take this for granted now. In the 19th century this was still a novel concept. Throughout most of the world one simply did not choose one’s leaders. Leadership was hereditary, imposed from above. Republics or even countries with parliamentary systems were rare. Many of those immigrating the the United States came from places where the powers of kings and ruling nobles were absolute.

The jury box represented trial by jury, the right to have one’s guilt determined by one’s peers. Again, this was revolutionary in the 19th century. Often, a trial meant having a judge appointed by the monarch pass judgement. Or even to have the lord be the judge.  Good luck to you if you got crosswise with that justiciar.  With trial by jury your fate was decided by six, twelve, or even 24 of your peers, chosen at random from disinterested persons. Since a guilty verdict in a  criminal case required a unanimous verdict, even one of the jurors could nullify a conviction. While it is fashionable to disparage trial by jury today, it beats the alternative.

Finally, the cartridge box symbolized the right to take arms against usurpations of our liberties. It is not a box to be turned to lightly, yet it is there as a last resort. The cartridge box founded this country. The United States emerged from a revolution, an armed rebellion against a monarch. The cartridge box created the Republic of Texas and allowed it to join the United States. The cartridge box settled the issue of slavery in the United States. It has been used to oppose tyranny throughout this country’s  history, as exampled by the Battle of Athens.

Freedom isn’t free. It has to be bought with the blood of patriots and tyrants. All representative government ultimately rests on the cartridge box; the willingness of a nation’s citizens to uphold the results of a free and fair election by force of arms if necessary. And to do so even if your party lost.  It is better to depend on the soap box, ballot box, and jury box before opening the cartridge box. When it is opened, the cartridge box often proves a Pandora’s box. Yet it has to be there. Liberty rests on the determination of individuals who would rather die on their feet than live on their knees.

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  1. David Foster Member
    David Foster
    @DavidFoster

    Was the soap box your own addition, or did Douglass reference it somewhere else?

    • #1
  2. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    David Foster (View Comment):

    Was the soap box your own addition, or did Douglass reference it somewhere else?

    It also came from the 19th century and was generally used with the other three. I could not find a Douglass quote where he used all four and used his due to my referencing the four boxes last week.

    • #2
  3. philo Member
    philo
    @philo

    Seawriter: Frederick Douglass frequently used the metaphor…

    And also the anecdote. A favorite:

    “In one of my antislavery campaigns in New York five and thirty years ago I had an appointment at Victor, a town in Ontario County. I was compelled to stop at the hotel. It was the custom at that time to seat the guests at a long table running the length of the dining-room. When I entered I was shown a little table off in the corner. I knew what it meant, but took my dinner all the same. When I went to the desk to pay my bill I said, ‘Now, landlord, be good enough to tell me just why you gave me my dinner at the little table in the corner by myself.’ He was equal to the occasion, and quickly replied, ‘Because, you see, I wished to give you something better than the others.’ The cool reply staggered me, and I gathered up my change, muttering only that I did not want to be treated better than other people, and bade him good morning.” – The Life and times of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass. Page 331.

    But best of all is the plain straight talk…regarding such things as selecting a presidential candidate:

    “Mr. Garfield, though a good man, was not my man for the presidency. For that place I wanted a man of sterner stuff. I was for General Grant, and for him with all the embarrassment and burden of a ‘third term’ attached to his candidacy. I held that even defeat with Grant was better than success with a temporizer.” – The Life and times of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass. Page 384.

    and

    “In the Senate Mr. Garfield was in his place. He was able in debate, amiable in disposition, and lovable in character, and when surrounded by the right influences would be sure to go right, but he did not, to my mind, have in his moral make-up sufficient ‘backbone’ to fit him for the chief magistracy of the nation at such a time as was then upon the country. In this place a clear head, quick decision and firm purpose are required. The conditions demanded stalwart qualities and he was not a stalwart.” – The Life and times of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass. Page 384.

    Sterner stuff. Firm purpose. Stalwart qualities. Being a Douglass man seems to put me at odds with everything the GOPe has stood for since the moment they chose to insult my intelligence with “compassionate” as a silly marketing modifier.

    • #3
  4. Ole Summers Member
    Ole Summers
    @OleSummers

    The “Self-Made Men” speech which Douglass gave for close to 50 years is one of the great pieces of Am Lit and should be taught in every school. I often issued a copy of it to every player in my position group with their locker number on it and we would start each meeting or film session with one of them called on to read a paragraph from it, no discussion, just a reminder that at anytime they could be called on to quote from it, a reminder of what I hoped them to be like 10 years from now.

    A good knowledge of Douglass would help a nation to a better understanding of both race relations and Liberty itself.

    • #4
  5. Douglas Pratt Coolidge
    Douglas Pratt
    @DouglasPratt

    Afterwards, Douglass joined the crowd moving toward the White House to attend the traditional post-inaugural reception. At the door, two policemen rudely blocked his way. Douglass asked a passer-by whom he recognized: “Be so kind as to say to Mr. Lincoln that Frederick Douglass is detained by officers at the door.” That gentleman hastened to convey the message, and in less than a minute Douglass was admitted. When Lincoln saw him, he exclaimed, “Here comes my friend Douglass.” After the two men shook hands, the president said, “Douglass, I saw you in the crowd today listening to my inaugural address. There is no man’s opinion that I value more than yours; what do you think of it?” Douglass replied, “Mr. Lincoln, it was a sacred effort.”

    Burlingame, Michael. Abraham Lincoln: A Life (p. 595). Johns Hopkins University Press. Kindle Edition.

    • #5
  6. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    Is what Texans are doing at their border with Mexico an example of the Soap Box? They, the State of Texas representing the people of Texas, have resorted to tactical acts of control at the border with Mexico. This sends two messages to the Biden Administration; the people of Texas are entitled to a republican form of government guaranteed by the Constitution and a federal chief executive (POTUS) that abides the oath taken for that office. Texans are standing in solidarity to enforce existing immigration and border control law.

    Are all Texas representatives in Congress supporting the Texas people in this effort? For those who are not the Texans represented by  those elected representatives should  institute similarly demonstrable tactics in their district to stimulate some constituent attention which most Congressional representatives understand.  

     

    • #6
  7. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):
    Is what Texans are doing at their border with Mexico an example of the Soap Box?

    I’d say what Abbott is doing along the border is better understood as use of the cartridge box, at least to the sense of displaying it. The State of Texas is using force to seal the border, which falls within the cartridge box. However, they are acting within the laws of the Constitution of the United States which empowers a state to use its own resources to repel invasion.

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    Texans are standing in solidarity to enforce existing immigration and border control law.

    The majority of Texans are standing in solidarity with Abbott and the State on that score.

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):
    Are all Texas representatives in Congress supporting the Texas people in this effort?

    Of course not.  Some Representatives from  Texas are Democrats. They are supporting the Marxist wing of the Democrat Party, like they always do. However, they were elected by the majority of the voters in their district, so those people are getting what they voted for, good and hard. Fortunately they are a minority of the voters in the state.

    • #7
  8. Headedwest Coolidge
    Headedwest
    @Headedwest

    Seawriter (View Comment):
    I’d say what Abbott is doing along the border is better understood as use of the cartridge box, at least to the sense of displaying it. The State of Texas is using force to seal the border, which falls within the cartridge box.

    Hence the new variation on the famous Gonzales flag:

    • #8
  9. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):
    Is what Texans are doing at their border with Mexico an example of the Soap Box?

    I’d say what Abbott is doing along the border is better understood as use of the cartridge box, at least to the sense of displaying it. The State of Texas is using force to seal the border, which falls within the cartridge box. However, they are acting within the laws of the Constitution of the United States which empowers a state to use its own resources to repel invasion.

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    Texans are standing in solidarity to enforce existing immigration and border control law.

    The majority of Texans are standing in solidarity with Abbott and the State on that score.

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):
    Are all Texas representatives in Congress supporting the Texas people in this effort?

    Of course not. Some Representatives from Texas are Democrats. They are supporting the Marxist wing of the Democrat Party, like they always do. However, they were elected by the majority of the voters in their district, so those people are getting what they voted for, good and hard. Fortunately they are a minority of the voters in the state.

    Well, some of those who voted Democrat when that representative was elected might have changed their view by now so it could be beneficial to enlist them with Republicans to let the Congressional representative know that many constituents want the laws enforced.

    • #9
  10. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):
    Well, some of those who voted Democrat when that representative was elected might have changed their view by now so it could be beneficial to enlist them with Republicans to let the Congressional representative know that many constituents want the laws enforced.

    Many of those who vote for Democrats make their living violating the law. There is no way to get them to change their votes by appealing to them to vote Republican so laws are enforced.

    • #10
  11. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):
    Are all Texas representatives in Congress supporting the Texas people in this effort?

    Of course not. Some Representatives from Texas are Democrats. They are supporting the Marxist wing of the Democrat Party, like they always do. However, they were elected by the majority of the voters in their district, so those people are getting what they voted for, good and hard.

    Actually they aren’t, Abbott et al are protecting ALL of them, even those who voted wrong.  If only a way could be found to redirect the illegals to those districts whose representatives – and so whose people – claim to want them.  It seems to be effective with New York, Chicago, etc.  But so far the Texas Democrats are given the virtue-signaling-with-no-consequences common for the left.

    • #11
  12. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    philo (View Comment):

    Being a Douglass man seems to put me at odds with everything the GOPe has stood for since the moment they chose to insult my intelligence with “compassionate” as a silly marketing modifier.

    Well said.  I hated the “compassionate” line from the moment I first heard it.  It is filled with hubris that others need compassion.  It’s a homespun version of “noblesse oblige,” which is offensive not because it makes me feel low status (I never do) but because it implies that Bush is so much loftier than me.  Screw you, George.   He was only president because of the odiousness of Dukakis, and we assumed he would continue the successes of Reagan.  He didn’t.  The only republican to even come close since is Trump.

    Ok, rant over. You touched a nerve.

    • #12
  13. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):
    Is what Texans are doing at their border with Mexico an example of the Soap Box?

    I’d say what Abbott is doing along the border is better understood as use of the cartridge box, at least to the sense of displaying it. The State of Texas is using force to seal the border, which falls within the cartridge box. However, they are acting within the laws of the Constitution of the United States which empowers a state to use its own resources to repel invasion.

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    Texans are standing in solidarity to enforce existing immigration and border control law.

    The majority of Texans are standing in solidarity with Abbott and the State on that score.

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):
    Are all Texas representatives in Congress supporting the Texas people in this effort?

    Of course not. Some Representatives from Texas are Democrats. They are supporting the Marxist wing of the Democrat Party, like they always do. However, they were elected by the majority of the voters in their district, so those people are getting what they voted for, good and hard. Fortunately they are a minority of the voters in the state.

    Despite its reputation, we should never forget that George W. Bush was only the second republican to be elected Governor of Texas since the reformation.  Texas still has a lot of democrats entrenched in the state, like bed bugs.  Sometimes you don’t notice them, but they will suck you dry if you aren’t careful.  

    The Marxists in Austin struggle everyday to turn Austin into Portland.  I’m so glad to have left. Now I’m in Amarillo, and I explain to the people here asking where I’m from that I escaped from Austin.  That’s usually successful in establishing rapport.

    • #13
  14. Nathanael Ferguson Contributor
    Nathanael Ferguson
    @NathanaelFerguson

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):
    Is what Texans are doing at their border with Mexico an example of the Soap Box?

    I’d say what Abbott is doing along the border is better understood as use of the cartridge box, at least to the sense of displaying it. The State of Texas is using force to seal the border, which falls within the cartridge box. However, they are acting within the laws of the Constitution of the United States which empowers a state to use its own resources to repel invasion.

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    Texans are standing in solidarity to enforce existing immigration and border control law.

    The majority of Texans are standing in solidarity with Abbott and the State on that score.

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):
    Are all Texas representatives in Congress supporting the Texas people in this effort?

    Of course not. Some Representatives from Texas are Democrats. They are supporting the Marxist wing of the Democrat Party, like they always do. However, they were elected by the majority of the voters in their district, so those people are getting what they voted for, good and hard. Fortunately they are a minority of the voters in the state.

    Despite its reputation, we should never forget that George W. Bush was only the second republican to be elected Governor of Texas since the reformation. Texas still has a lot of democrats entrenched in the state, like bed bugs. Sometimes you don’t notice them, but they will suck you dry if you aren’t careful.

    The Marxists in Austin struggle everyday to turn Austin into Portland. I’m so glad to have left. Now I’m in Amarillo, and I explain to the people here asking where I’m from that I escaped from Austin. That’s usually successful in establishing rapport.

    Another problem is that many Republican state legislators are former democrats who switched parties when they saw the state electorate changing during the Bush and early Perry years. They switched parties but kept a lot of their democrat policies which is partly why we can’t get school choice passed in Texas. We have a Republican legislature but not a conservative legislature. 

    • #14
  15. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    Nathanael Ferguson (View Comment):
    They switched parties but kept a lot of their democrat policies which is partly why we can’t get school choice passed in Texas.

    I have a sense that historically Democrats in Texas may have been very different from those in the other southern states. What is the specific issue that affects the Texas formerly Democrat Republicans from accepting school choice?

    • #15
  16. Nathanael Ferguson Contributor
    Nathanael Ferguson
    @NathanaelFerguson

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    Nathanael Ferguson (View Comment):
    They switched parties but kept a lot of their democrat policies which is partly why we can’t get school choice passed in Texas.

    I have a sense that historically Democrats in Texas may have been very different from those in the other southern states. What is the specific issue that affects the Texas formerly Democrat Republicans from accepting school choice?

    They are basically owned by the Teaches Association. 

    • #16
  17. Headedwest Coolidge
    Headedwest
    @Headedwest

    Speaking of the border, this was on X/twitter. Using TX laws to apprehend.

    • #17
  18. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Oh, almost forgot:

     

    • #18
  19. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    4

    philo (View Comment):
    …at odds with everything the GOPe has stood for since the moment they chose to insult my intelligence with “compassionate” as a silly marketing modifier.

    Compassion, charity – these are the things of individuals, not nations. Offloading such responsibilities makes us poorer in money and spirit both. 

    • #19
  20. Douglas Pratt Coolidge
    Douglas Pratt
    @DouglasPratt

    TBA (View Comment):

    4

    philo (View Comment):
    …at odds with everything the GOPe has stood for since the moment they chose to insult my intelligence with “compassionate” as a silly marketing modifier.

    Compassion, charity – these are the things of individuals, not nations. Offloading such responsibilities makes us poorer in money and spirit both.

    Very good comment. A government can’t love you, and looking to it for love is a sure way to disaster. 

    I have been pulling together some notes that I hope to turn into a post about a new individualism, as a counter to the tribalism and personality cults that pervade and despoil our society. The Founders wanted to create a government of men. Socialism wants to create men of government, the intellectual and physical property of government. (Susan and others will understand that old-guy me includes women when I use the term “men” when invoking the Founders and history; I’m not going to butcher a phrase that I am trying to make memorable by forcing PC pronouns into it.)

    • #20
  21. Ole Summers Member
    Ole Summers
    @OleSummers

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):
    Is what Texans are doing at their border with Mexico an example of the Soap Box?

    I’d say what Abbott is doing along the border is better understood as use of the cartridge box, at least to the sense of displaying it. The State of Texas is using force to seal the border, which falls within the cartridge box. However, they are acting within the laws of the Constitution of the United States which empowers a state to use its own resources to repel invasion.

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    Texans are standing in solidarity to enforce existing immigration and border control law.

    The majority of Texans are standing in solidarity with Abbott and the State on that score.

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):
    Are all Texas representatives in Congress supporting the Texas people in this effort?

    Of course not. Some Representatives from Texas are Democrats. They are supporting the Marxist wing of the Democrat Party, like they always do. However, they were elected by the majority of the voters in their district, so those people are getting what they voted for, good and hard. Fortunately they are a minority of the voters in the state.

    Despite its reputation, we should never forget that George W. Bush was only the second republican to be elected Governor of Texas since the reformation. Texas still has a lot of democrats entrenched in the state, like bed bugs. Sometimes you don’t notice them, but they will suck you dry if you aren’t careful.

    The Marxists in Austin struggle everyday to turn Austin into Portland. I’m so glad to have left. Now I’m in Amarillo, and I explain to the people here asking where I’m from that I escaped from Austin. That’s usually successful in establishing rapport.

    Once was coaching with a guy who had been hired from the mid-west and never really been to Texas and he was assigned the Austin area to recruit. When he was ranting about the traffic situation in Austin and wanting to know what those people were thinking (this is about ’90) I explained that Austin was where all the old hippies go to die and they are convinced that if you dont plan for growth it simply wont happen

     

     

     

    • #21
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