Liberty, like equality, is a word that is more often used than understood. Perfect and absolute liberty is as incompatible with the existence of society, as equality of condition. It is impracticable even in a state of nature, since without the protection of the law, the strong would oppress and enslave the weak. Liberty is merely a state of the social compact that permits the members of a community to lay no more restraints on themselves than are required by their real necessities, and obvious interests. To this definition may be added, that it is a requisite of liberty, that the body of a nation should retain the power to modify its institutions, as circumstances shall require. These and other topics are explored in James Fenimore Cooper's "The American Democrat". Cooper argues that the natural disposition of all people is to be able to enjoy perfect freedom of action. It is a common error to suppose that the nation which possesses the mildest laws, or laws that impose the least personal, restraints is the freest. This is indefensible because the power that concedes this freedom of action, can recall it unless it is lodged in the body of the American community itself.
Cooper was a fierce democrat and a harsh cultural critic - much like Alexis de Tocqueville. This large print edition will resonate to the issues of this time almost as much as it did when originally published.
James Feinmore Cooper (1789-1851) was a famed nineteenth century American author known for his work in fiction particularly sea stories and historical novels and politics. He enrolled in Yale University, never earned a degree but later joined the United States Navy. Some of his most famous works include Last of the Mohicans, A Letter to my Countymen, and Ned Myers' or A Life before the Mast. H. L. Mencken (1880-1956) was an American journalist and author. Skilled in satire, he was famous for the pungent criticism he aimed at all complacent attitudes and for his vigorous attacks on the shams and stuffiness of his day. Among his works are Ventures into Verse, Treatise on the Gods, and his autobiography Happy Days.