September 3: Treaty of Paris Day

Today is the anniversary of the signing of the 1783 Treaty of Paris which ended the Revolutionary War. The treaty document was signed at the Hotel de York by David Hartley — the British Representative — and John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and John Jay, representing the colonies. In what was entitled “The Definitive Treaty of Peace Between His Britannic Majesty and the United States of America,” Britain recognized the thirteen colonies as free and independent states for the first time (1).

From the beginning of the Revolutionary War until the end, from the Declaration of Independence to the Treaty of Paris, two synonymous words were paramount in the colonists’ struggle against the British: freedom and liberty. Since the French served as midwife for American independence, it’s appropriate that one of these words is of French origin: liberty, from Old French via Latin. Freedom is of Anglo-Saxon origin.

The dictionary definitions from the American Heritage Dictionary are so similar as to be practically indistinguishable:

Freedom: The condition of being free of restraints.

Liberty: The condition of being free from restriction or control.


Today’s Challenge: Freedom’s Just Another Name for . . . Liberty
Memorable quotes don’t resonate with the reader by accident. They are crafted using stylistic devices (also known as rhetorical techniques) that make them stand out like italicized passages. The eight quotes below all refer to either freedom or liberty. Each quote also features one of the seven rhetorical techniques defined below. From the three options given for each quote, see if you can identify the most prominent rhetorical technique.

Allusion: A passing reference to a proper noun from history, the Bible, mythology, or literature.

Antithesis: Contrasting ideas used in a parallel structure in the same line or same sentence.

Irony: Saying the opposite of what is meant or expected.

Metaphor: A figurative comparison of two unrelated nouns.

Parallelism: Repetition of grammatical structures in writing.

Personification: Using human attributes to describe things.

Simile: A figurative comparison of two unrelated nouns using “like” or “as.”

1. Liberty, when it begins to take root, is a plant of rapid growth. –George Washington
Metaphor, Allusion, Parallelism

2. Freedom has its life in the hearts, the actions, the spirit of men and so it must be daily earned and refreshed — else like a flower cut from its life-giving roots, it will wither and die. –Dwight D. Eisenhower
Irony, Allusion, Simile

3. Another thing: What has liberty done for us? Nothing in particular that I know of. What have we done for her? Everything. We’ve given her a home, and a good home, too. And if she knows anything, she knows it’s the first time she every struck that novelty. –Mark Twain
Parallelism, Allusion, Personification

4. Liberty, n. One of Imagination’s most precious possessions. –Ambrose Bierce
Irony, Allusion, Parallelism

5. We Americans are the peculiar, chosen people–the Israel of our time; we bear the ark of the liberties of the world. –Herman Melville
Irony, Allusion, Parallelism

6. We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. –Thomas Jefferson
Irony, Personification, Parallelism

7. Nothing brings more Pain than too much Pleasure; nothing more bondage than too much Liberty. –Benjamin Franklin
Metaphor, Antithesis, Allusion

8. As long as men are free to ask what they must, free to say what they think, free to think what they will, freedom can never be lost, and science can never regress. –John F. Kennedy
Metaphor, Parallelism, Antithesis (3).

Word of the Day: Revolution
This word, originally from French, emerged in the 14th century as an astronomy term referring to the movement of celestial bodies. It did not acquire a political meaning until the 1600s, where it was used to describe turnarounds in power as well as in planets. The word took on new connotations in 1987 when the song Revolution became the first Beatles song ever to be featured in a television commercial. The ad prompted Paul McCartney to say, “Songs like Revolution don’t mean a pair of sneakers, they mean Revolution” (4).

Quote of the Day: What other liberty is there worth having, if we have not freedom and peace in our minds — if our inmost and most private man is but a sour and turbid pool? –Henry David Thoreau

Answers: 1. Metaphor 2. Metaphor 3. personification 4. irony 5. allusion 6. parallelism 7. antithesis 8. Parallelism

2 – Klos, Stanley L. Treaty of Paris.
3 – The Book of American Values and Virtues (Edited by Erik A. Bruun and Robin Getzen). New York: Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, 1996.
4 – Online Etymology Dictionary