Reading

The Spirit of Liberty

In this excerpt from a 1944 speech, Judge Learned Hand, a federal judge and one of the most significant American legal thinkers of the twentieth century, reflects on the roles of the law and citizens’ hearts and minds in upholding liberty.


In 1944, federal judge Learned Hand gave a speech on the spirit of liberty, in which he reflected:

I often wonder whether we do not rest our hopes too much upon constitutions, upon laws, and upon courts. These are false hopes; believe me, these are false hopes. Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it; no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it. While it lies there, it needs no constitution, no law, no court to save it.

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