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Francis Lieber
1798 - 1872

German-born American professor of history, political science, and law, department chair at several institutions including Columbia Law School, author of Legal and Political Hermeneutics (1839) and his major work On Civil Liberty and Self-Government (1853), which were for many years widely-used textbooks. Lieber also wrote Instructions for the Government of Armies of the United States in the Field which President Abraham Lincoln promulgated as General Orders for the U.S. armed forces in 1863, and which later formed the basis for the Geneva Convention. Lieber argued that small, local governments united by a sense of national pride and limited national government were the best defense of individual liberty.


How... is real and essential self-government, in the service of liberty, to be obtained and to be perpetuated? There is no other means than by a vast system of institutions, whose number supports the whole, as the many pillars support the rotunda of our capitol.

1853 - from On Civil Liberty and Self-Government
In its ultimate sense, freedom is perfect self-determination: Absolute freedom... can be imagined only in conjunction with perfect power. The Almighty alone is perfectly free. To all other beings we can attribute freedom, but only in an approximate or relative sense.

1881 - from Miscellaneous Writings
... extensive and organized power over large populations does not suffice to make a nation.

1881 - from Miscellaneous Writings
... where there is only a national representative government without local self-government, there is no liberty as we understand it.

1853 - from On Civil Liberty and Self-Government
The Christian religion is interwoven with all the institutions which surround us and in which we have our social being. The Christian religion has found its way into a thousand laws, and has generated a thousand others. It can no more be excluded than the common law, or our language.

1881 - from "The Necessity of Religious Instruction in Colleges" in his Miscellaneous Writings