Moby-Dick: The Republic at Sea

I am not so much alarmed at the excessive liberty which reigns in that country as at the very inadequate securities which one finds there against tyranny. (Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America)[i]


Moby-Dick is a transcendental novel, concerned with man’s place in creation and with the secrets behind the pasteboard mask. However, Melville’s novel is also a meditation on democracy. Melville delighted in equality, in the exalted imagery of common workmen and in the gathering of many peoples united as one. But Melville shared with the Greek philosophers and with the Hebrew Scriptures the classical worries about democracy. How can the mass of citizens, gathered indiscriminately from many nations to these shores, so obviously deficient in education, rooted in bodily sensations, and lacking experience even in governing themselves personally rise to the challenge of judicious government?

An enlightening guide to Moby-Dick (1851) is de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America (1835). Alexis de Tocqueville, dismayed by political and cultural turbulence in Europe, traveled to America to study our brave experiment in democracy. Overall, he approved of what he found, especially the social energy let loose by trust in the people. His approval, however, included reservations. The usual account identifies de Tocqueville’s concern as the undue influence of majority opinion, the worry that the people driven by narrow interests and prejudice, would overwhelm the judgment of principled and reasonable men equipped by education and temperament to lead.

De Tocqueville was equally alarmed by the prospect of tyranny. An inexperienced populace, emboldened by an unrestrained notion of liberty, could fall victim to the artful and ambitious. In classical theory, an aristocracy provides a counter-weight both to the central authority of the monarch and the passions of the people. This balance of forces between the central authority, an aristocracy, and the people follows the classical republican model. The republic fails when the mob rules but also when “Caesarism” defeats the Senate and has its way, unimpeded, with the people.[ii]

This model of balances had been provided for in the U.S. Constitution, but de Tocqueville was distressed by the absence of wise leadership, by the ignorance of the people, and by the potential for tyrannical abuse by a central power. He believed the danger came from a mistaken notion of individual liberty, unimpeded either by traditions of respect for authority or by a culture of patience to quiet the restlessness of the New World. The people of this new experiment, a heterogeneous collection of strangers uprooted from their past, lacked the requisite culture to balance appetite and ambition with the needs for stability and lacked sufficient defenses against clever and unscrupulous leaders.

As many have noticed, the Pequod is a microcosm — like the United States, a gathering of peoples in an egalitarian setting. Shipmates are in it together, sharing each his “lay” of the profits, in a sturdy bark upon an ocean wilderness. The crew hails from every continent and represents the stratification of mid-century America, from slave to Yankee patrician. While the majority are common seaman, there is a servant class below (Pip and Doughboy), and a class of especially skilled (carpenter and blacksmith) above. The harpooners (Queequeg, Tashtego, and Daggoo) boast the essential skills in killing whales and enjoy a favored rank, though still accounted workers. The ship’s mates – Stubb, Flask, and Starbuck –constitute an aristocracy and manage the crew. Above them all, of course, stands Ahab.[iii]

Melville notes this management chart, but Ishmael romanticizes the Pequod’s equality:

But this august dignity I treat of, is not the dignity of kings and robes, but that abounding dignity which has no robed investiture.  Thou shalt see it shining in the arm that wields a pick or drives a spike; that democratic dignity which, on all hands, radiates without end from God; Himself! The great God absolute! The centre and circumference of all democracy! His omnipresence, our divine equality! (103)[iv]

However, Ishmael becomes aware of the stresses that tug at this egalitarian idyll. The mature Ishmael who years later tells the “Town-Ho’s Story” (Chapter 54) to his Spanish friends, recounts the catastrophe that results when natural impulse supersedes authority. Here a jealous subaltern strikes a proud worker, which leads to mutiny and the ship’s destruction. Radney follows natural instinct; Steelkilt, in turn, follows his pride, and the Captain, following his own desire for mastery, brings destruction upon himself and his ship.  In all three cases, pride trumps authority, each player asserting his liberty to follow his private passion.[v]

As the opening of Moby-Dick makes clear, American society is torn with tensions. Ishmael, a happy anarchist, despises authority. He rejects the practical compromises that stabilize society and celebrates instead the restless pull to disorder that lurks below conventional surfaces. His playfulness may cause us to miss the dangers of his views. Ishmael’s rebellion against the in-door rigors of the schoolroom encompasses society in general: “Landsmen … pent up in lath and plaster – tied to counters, nailed to benches, clinched to desks” (19). He announces: “For my part, I abominate all honorable respectable toils, trials, and traditions of every kind whatsoever” (20). His “everlasting itch for things remote” (22) takes him to sea and to the deadly business of whaling.

Ishmael is a prototypical American of his time and of ours.  Ishmael embraces whatever trumps tradition and settled culture. Rebelling against civilization, he praises Queequeg’s “very indifference speaking a nature in which there lurked no civilized hypocrisies and bland deceits” (56). Ishmael decides it is “better [to] sleep with a sober cannibal than a drunken Christian” (36). Although Ishmael claims to be a “good Christian; born and bred in the bosom of the infallible Presbyterian Church” (57), he happily joins his new friend in the “First Congregational Church” (83), an indiscriminate gathering of humanity. Ishmael loves tipping over cows and outhouses; he mocks whatever is sober-minded and self-regarding.  Whatever blocks the liberty of his “robust soul” (19) takes a witty beating.[vi] Ishmael’s rebelliousness, however, offers no resistance to Ahab’s tyranny.  The same rambunctiousness makes him fair game for the dictator’s appeal.  Without strong customs and traditions to resist willful personalities, Ishmael is defenseless against an authoritarian who destroys his liberty and nearly his life.

Ahab threatens democracy but is also a product of democracy’s confused understanding of liberty. Ahab recognizes no authority, not even God. Ahab is a law unto himself. Captain Peleg warns Ishmael that “he’s Ahab, boy; and Ahab of old, thou knowest, was a crowned king!” (78). Peleg forgets, however, that the biblical Ahab was also an abomination and a rebel against God. Ahab embraced Jezebel and her gods and dishonored the victories God granted him.  The dogs licked his blood, but Ahab earned his wretched end.

Ahab is not only “crowned king” but also he is “absolute dictator” (90). While a captain enjoys extensive powers, he must obey his employers, maritime traditions, and standards governing the treatment of his men. Instead Ahab obeys only his own dark will and becomes “absolute dictator,” without objection from Ishmael and almost all the others. Ishmael calls Ahab, “their supreme lord and dictator” (107); Ahab exhibits a “nameless regal overbearing dignity” (109); Ishmael notes a “sultanism [that] became incarnate in an irresistible dictatorship” (127); he compares Ahab to Nicholas the Czar, whose “plebian herds crouch abased before the tremendous centralization” (127); he is Caesar (128); the German Emperor (129); the ruling “mute, maned sea-lion on the white coral beach” (128); the leader of a pack of prairie wolves (141); the great Pope (142); the old Mogul (145); and withholds himself with “Grand-Lama-like exclusiveness” (355); Starbuck notes that Ahab “would be a democrat to all above; look how he lords it over all below!” (143); in defiance of the rights of property, Ahab protests that “the only owner of anything is its commander” (362); and, in ultimate arrogance, Ahab pronounces “there is one God that is Lord over the earth, and one Captain that is lord over the Pequod” (362).

Ahab’s mastery over his crew, however, requires more than self-assertion. If the Pequod is our nation, then we are poorly armed against tyranny, especially against a master politician like Ahab. The traditional account of democracy identifies flattery as the source of corruptibility. A leader like Ahab who wishes to win the people’s support caters to their self-esteem, praises their hardihood and exalts their ambition, an approach not notably absent in our own politics.[vii]

Ahab, while observing this rule, achieves his pre-eminence by understanding the psychological needs of his men.  Ahab knows what Ishmael knows, that the mass of his countrymen are restless, divided between the rigors of a hard, laboring life, and the dreams of vast endeavors in a boundless landscape. The inquietude of soul that drives Ishmael to sea is a national disease, waiting for a canny leader to exploit it.

Ahab achieves his tyranny over his crew for four reasons: first, the crew is “chiefly made up of mongrel renegades, and castaways, and cannibals…” (158). While elsewhere Melville celebrates the dignity of the common laboring man, in political discussion he highlights the incompetence and rootlessness of his countrymen.  They are deracinated men, running from orderliness and the laws of civility, noble but savage, and unprepared for the rigors of self-government. As Melville notes: “For however eagerly and impetuously the savage crew had hailed the announcement of his quest; yet all sailors of all sorts are more or less capricious and unreliable – they live in the varying outer weather, and they inhale its fickleness…” (177).

Second, the crew is “morally enfeebled also, by the incompetence of mere unaided virtue or right-mindedness in Starbuck, the invulnerable jollity of indifference and recklessness in Stubb, and the pervading mediocrity in Flask” (158). In a healthy republic, a vigorous aristocracy of thoughtful and courageous leaders protects the liberty of the people and imposes constraints upon the central power. The Founders, according to de Tocqueville, having been joined in a brave project, could govern the passions of their untutored countrymen. This function, de Tocqueville observed, had deteriorated by the 1830s, and Melville’s Pequod reflects this decay. Starbuck, a decent, thoughtful man, fails to fulfill his role as protector of the people.

Third, Ahab is a cunning politician. Ahab associates their crew’s spiritual hunger with his own frenzy for revenge. Ishmael perceives the connection between the crew’s restlessness and the fury of their captain. Ahab depicts their mutual enemy as “that intangible malignity which has been from the beginning; … All that most maddens and torments; all that stirs up the lees of things; all truth with malice in it; all that cracks the sinews and cakes the brain; all the subtle demonisms of life and thought … He piled upon the whale’s white hump the sum of all the general rage and hate felt by his whole race from Adam on down” (156).

Ishmael embraces this mad quest to unweave the fabric of nature and history, a visionary project possible only in the new world order the New World promises. Ishmael poses as the ultimate renegade: “I myself am a savage, owning no allegiance but to the King of the Cannibals; and ready at any moment to rebel against him” (222). But Ishmael gives full allegiance to his captain. His example warns how easily we may fall under the spell of demagogues who appeal to our deepest fears: “I, Ishmael, was one of that crew; my shouts had gone up with the rest; my oath had been welded with theirs; and stronger I shouted, and more did I hammer and clinch my oath, because of the dread in my soul. A wild mystical, sympathetical feeling was in me; Ahab’s quenchless feud seemed mine. With greedy ears I learned the history of that murderous monster against whom I and all others had taken our oaths of violence and revenge” (152).[viii]

Finally, Ahab wields “the paltry skills of the politician.” Ahab is surprised by his success at mastering his crew: “I thought to find one stubborn, at the least; but my one cogged circle fits into their various wheels, and they revolve” (143). This image expresses his contempt for his men.[ix] However, while he can “rouse them in some few fevered moments to passion for his quest, the permanent constitutional condition of the manufactured man, thought Ahab, is sordidness” (178). His effort to engage their spiritual mechanics requires rhetorical skill. The body politic is protected against tyrannical assault when superior men refuse cheap trickery to command the will of the masses.  Melville notes, however, a paradox of democracy – one noted by de Tocqueville, too – that leadership is often left to unscrupulous men:

For be a man’s intellectual superiority what it will, it can never assume the practical, available supremacy over other men, without the aid of some sort of external arts and entrenchments, always, in themselves, more or less paltry and base (127).

Ahab constructs three bewitching moments of political theater: (1) the doubloon — and its exotic heraldry of mountain, eagle and sun — provides a catalyzing image to focus his crew’s imagination (Ch. 36 and Ch. 99); (2) Ahab’s mastering of St. Elmo’s fire astonishes his crew – Ahab here appears to command nature itself by extinguishing its premonitory fire (Ch. 119); and, finally, with a mountebank’s skill, Ahab re-magnetizes a needle compass and astonishes his crew (Ch. 124). In the end, Ahab fashions himself as a force challenging God and the Devil to redeem mankind from subservience to the galling indignities of life.[x]

The submission of Ishmael and Starbuck to Ahab anchors Melville’s investigation of the dangers to the republic. Ishmael’s false notion of liberty leaves him defenseless against Ahab’s mesmerizing appeal.[xi] As a free being, Ishmael follows his rambunctious wit wherever it leads. Because some men are mad, he concludes: “for there is no folly of the beasts of the earth which is not infinitely outdone by the madness of men” (300). Ishmael denies any distinctions between meat-eating and the cannibalism: “Go to the meat-market of a Saturday night and see the crowds of live bipeds staring up at the long rows of dead quadrupeds … Cannibals? Who is not a cannibal? (242). The Rights of Man are merely illusory: “What are the Rights of Man and the Liberties of the World but Loose-Fish? What all men’s minds and opinions but Loose-Fish? What is the principle of religious belief in them but a Loose-Fish? What to the ostentatious smuggling verbalists are the thoughts of thinkers but Loose-Fish?” (310). To be sure, mankind has not respected these rights, and true liberty does not rule.  Ishmael is correct also that debate swirls around the Rights of Man. But his conclusions are immature.  Rather than thinking hard about political principles and history, Ishmael’s easy skepticism undercuts the claims of rights and honors instead the realism of power. Ishmael’s contempt for custom and tradition also robs him of the habits of freedom. To his agile mind, orthodoxy is nothing more than old fears about mistaken terrors, merely timorous captains avoiding the spot where a whale’s carcass was once mistaken for a dangerous shoal; he comments “There’s your law of precedents; there’s your utility of traditions; there’s the story of your obstinate survival of old beliefs never bottomed on the earth, and now not even hovering in the air! There’s orthodoxy!” (248). As a post-Enlightenment fellow, Ishmael disregards the force for liberty supported by tradition and orthodoxy.

Alexis de Tocqueville worried about this vagrant culture of democracy. While energetically engaged in local government, the people lacked a cohesive regard for the larger politics: In the United States “the inhabitants have only recently immigrated to the land which they now occupy, and brought neither customs nor traditions with them there; where they met one another for the first time with no previous acquaintance; where, in short, the instinctive love of their country can scarcely exist,..” (Ch. XIV, 243). Indeed, de Tocqueville was impressed that involvement with local affairs was instilling a robust citizenship. Still, the Frenchman noted the absence of a firm grounding in patriotic habit and feeling, which supplies the best defense against the incursions of tyranny: “Do you not see that religious belief is shaken and the divine notion of right is declining, that morality is debased and the notion of moral right is therefore fading away? Argument is substituted for faith, and calculation for the impulses of sentiment” (Ch. XIV, 246). In this account, arguments and calculations provide less sturdy support for the republic than faith and sentiment, than customs and traditions.

In Democracy in America, de Tocqueville fears that American democracy cannot deter Europe’s drift into political decadence. In exasperation de Tocqueville laments the Enlightenment even while he is deeply committed to it: “Has such been the fate of the centuries which have preceded our own? and has man always inhabited a world like the present, where all things are not in their proper relationships, where virtue is without genius, and genius without honor; where the love of order is confused with a taste for oppression, and the holy cult of freedom with a contempt of law; where the light thrown by conscience on human actions is dim, and where nothing seems to be any longer forbidden or allowed, honorable or shameful, false or true?” (Author’s Introduction, 13). Ishmael exemplifies these failures: his deconstructive imagination breaks all conventional links — he celebrates genius as power, condemns stability as oppression, mistakes contempt for law for liberty, evades both memory and conscience, and delights in the notion that nothing is false or true or beyond excusing. In a world where Pip’s deconstructive wisdom rules — “I look, you look, he looks; we look, ye look, they look” (335) – where nothing is other than a point of view, the claim for positive rights and the settled resistance to tyranny is enfeebled.

The tragic figure in Moby-Dick is not Ahab but the quietly tormented Starbuck. Starbuck is the aristocrat onboard. Stubb is spirited and resents Ahab’s humiliating kick, but Stubb’s sunny disposition blinds him to Ahab’s tyranny. Flask, while a fiery fellow, enters Ahab’s presence “in the character of Abjectus, or the Slave” (128). Starbuck alone understands that Ahab violates the codes of his captaincy and that Ahab’s impiety transgresses the boundaries of human knowledge and power. Starbuck foresees his own death and the suffering of his young family, yet he can do nothing. He is alone against both his mad captain and the fevered excitements of the crew.  He is in the position that de Tocqueville fears for the diminished aristocracy in America: “… an aristocracy protects the people from the excesses of despotism, because it always possesses an organized power ready to resist a despot. … What resistance can be offered to tyranny in a country where each individual is weak, and where the citizens are not united by any common interest?” (Ch V, 95). Alone, Starbuck cannot resist tyranny, as Ahab thunders, “The crew, man, the crew! Are they not one and all with Ahab, in this matter of the whale?  See Stubb! He laughs! See yonder Chilian! He snorts to think of it.  Stand up amid the general hurricane, thy one tost sapling cannot, Starbuck!” (140).

Starbuck objects on commercial grounds to Ahab’s commandeering the Pequod for his personal quest. The ship’s owners hired Ahab to bring back the precious commodities of the whale-trade. Ahab protests to Starbuck: “Owners. Owners? Thou art always prating to me, Starbuck, about those miserly owners, as if the owners were my conscience” (362). At the same time, Ahab is well aware that he has violated the law of his captaincy: “… he had indirectly laid himself open to the unanswerable charge of usurpation; and with perfect impunity, both moral and legal, his crew if so disposed, and to that end competent, could refuse all further obedience to him, and even violently wrest from him the command” (178). Starbuck understands this fully, yet he cannot act.

Second, Starbuck sees that Ahab violates the laws of his own humanity. Starbuck commiserates with Ahab’s torment as issuing from excessive attention to what torments all human beings – the malignant turns of fate, the agonies and limitations of our bodies, the humiliation of not measuring up, the gaping divide between what we can imagine for ourselves and what we can accomplish, and the malevolence of our fellow human beings. But Starbuck is a sensible Christian who accepts, by faith and feeling, the need to submit to these realities and trust in God’s mercy and justice. Starbuck balances his understandings of how things are with his commitment to proper action. He possesses spiritual poise. Ahab’s imbalance is a matter of impiety, a challenge to God by a man who “would strike the sun if it insulted [him]” (140). Yet, alone, Starbuck is powerless to save his ship from destruction.

Third, a captain must protect his crew. Whaling is already a deadly business, and Ahab has doomed his ship and his crew by his personal quest. As Starbuck stands, musket in hand, outside Ahab’s quarters, he knows he must assassinate his captain to save himself and the crew, and yet he fails to act. As Shakespeare’s Brutus does Caesar, Starbuck reveres his captain and his magnificence of soul.  Like Brutus, Starbuck is thoughtful, a man of principle, avoiding base passions. Like Brutus, Starbuck loves liberty and would protect his floating republic from tyranny.  However, Starbuck stands alone in an enfeebled aristocracy, unable to act.

Noting the absence of robust aristocracy, Alexis de Tocqueville placed his hopes for political restraint in the American commitment to religion: “Hitherto no one in the United States has dared to advance the maxim that everything is permissible for the interests of society, an impious adage which seems to have been invented in an age of freedom to shelter all future tyrants. Thus while the law permits Americans to do what they please, religion prevents them from conceiving, and forbids them to commit, what is rash or unjust” (Ch. 17, 305). Religion figures prominently in Moby-Dick, and especially in chapters 8 and 9, devoted to Father Mapple’s sermon. Yet far from constraining Ahab’s excesses, Mapple’s protestant sermon rages against balance and civility. Mapple urges his congregation that to obey God we must disobey ourselves, our shared humanity, and conventions of appropriate behavior: “Woe to him who seeks to please rather than appal! Woe to him whose good name is more to him than goodness! Woe to him who in this world, courts not dishonor!” (53). Mapple appeals to excess and narcissism, not to law, to constitutional traditions, nor to cultural conventions that support a vigorous republic. Mapple rouses the enraged voice of our lonely selves: “Delight is to him – a far, far upward, and inward delight – who against the proud gods and commodores of this earth, ever stands forth his own inexorable self….. Delight is to him, who gives no quarter in the truth, and kills, burns, and destroys all sin though he pluck it out from under the robes of Senators and Judges. Delight – top-gallant delight is to him, who acknowledges no law or lord, but the Lord his God, and is only a patriot to heaven” (54). Mapple’s sermon does not support a Starbuck or tutor an Ishmael but encourages instead Ahab’s outraged defiance. Where de Tocqueville hoped for restraint and direction towards liberty, Melville portrays a powerful religious strain in the weave of American culture as an enemy to freedom and to civilization.

Moby-Dick tells us more about our embattled experiment in liberty and democracy than most have chosen to recognize. We prefer in literature and in our politics, too, to embrace the vagrant wit of Ishmael and the outraged defiance of Ahab. Ishmael rejects institutions and always looks beyond the conventions of his society for something strange and enchanting and pleasantly ironical. Ahab also rejects established institutions, but in his case to cultivate power. Strangely, the rebel and the tyrant are cut from the same defiant and Romantic cloth

Ahab manipulates a passion that lies dormant in his men; he knows that beneath their practical and habitual concerns, there lies a golden dream to sail beyond all limits and accomplish memorable deeds. The gold doubloon addresses not their mercenary interests but their desire for fame and glory in capturing the sun. Ahab’s rhetorical gifts are remarkable.  As an unscrupulous leader of men, operating in an unrestrained democracy, he is a danger to the community and to institutions that provide society our devotion to family, town, and nation. In Ahab, Melville tracks not only a danger to himself and the Pequod but to democracy because of our loose adherence to institutions and traditions and our readiness to lose ourselves to idealistic and destructive projects beyond our capabilities.

[i] Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, The Henry Reeve Text as revised by Francis Bowen, Vintage Books Edition, 1990


[ii] De Tocqueville follows Montesquieu, Spirit of the Laws (1748), which explored the balance of power and influenced the founders of our republic. Machiavelli’s Discourses on Livy (1517) traces the shifting power within this balance during the long history of the Roman republic.


[iii] This emphasis on rankings is articulated especially in Chapters 26 and 27 (“Knights and Squires”) and in Chapter 34 (“The Cabin-Table”). Melville recognizes this tension between the idyll of equality and social rank.


[iv] All Moby-Dick citations are to the Norton Critical Edition (editors. Hershel Parker and Harrison Hayford), second edition, 2002


[v] The “Town-Ho Story” is notable for several reasons.  It was published separately before the publication of Moby-Dick; it is the only instance in which Ishmael refers to himself at a time later than the events of the Pequod, and it becomes the core for “Billy Budd” and was ruminated over by Melville long after 1851. The conflict between social rank and natural gifts had a special place in Melville’s thinking.


[vi] Melville’s Ishmael is the progenitor of a long tradition of delightfully anarchistic rebels in American literature, a list that includes Whitman, Twain, Henry Miller, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and Philip Roth, among many other of our most beloved authors. In contemporary media, the list would include Bill Maher, John Stewart and Steven Colbert.


[vii] De Tocqueville quotes Alexander Hamilton from Federalist Paper No. 71 on this theme of the dangers to the people from those who would employ flattery and other wiles: “The republican principle demands, that the deliberative sense of the community should govern the conduct of those to whom they entreat the management of their affairs; but it does not require an unqualified complaisance to every sudden breeze of passion, or to every transient impulse which the people may receive from the arts of men who flatter their prejudices to betray their interests. … [The people] know from experience that they sometimes err; and wonder is, that they so seldom err as they do, beset, as they continually are, by the wiles of parasites and sycophants; by the snares of the ambitious, the avaricious, the desperate; by the artifices of men who possess their confidence more than they deserve it, and of those who seek to possess rather than deserve it” (Ch. VIII, 154).


[viii] Paul Rahe, Montesquieu and the Logic of Liberty (2009) notes Montesquieu’s concern for what he called Inquietude, the unfocussed restlessness of free men who lack an engaging objective. De Tocqueville adopted this term in his account of the mass appeal of a central authority.


[ix] De Tocqueville expresses his fears of central authority in terms reflected in Ahab’s shocking image: “It profits me but little, after all, that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquility of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life, and if it so monopolizes movement and life that when it languishes everything languishes around it, that when it sleeps everything must sleep, and that when it dies the state itself must perish” (Ch. V, 92).


[x] De Tocqueville comments on the dangers of demagogic persuasion in a way that sheds interesting light on the doubloon episode. He writes: “A proposition must be plain to be adopted by the understanding of a people.  A false notion which is clear and precise will always have more power in the world than a true principle which is obscure or involved” (Ch. VIII, 166). And further, “mountebanks of all sorts are able to please the people, while their truest friends frequently fail to gain their confidence’” (Ch. XIII, 201). Melville’s interest in this issue is intense in The Confidence-Man (1857), his last published novel.


[xi] De Tocqueville quotes approvingly a speech by John Winthrop (1588-1649), the 17th Century governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, to distinguish between true and false liberty: “The first is common to man with beasts and other creatures.  By this … man hath liberty to do what he lists; it is a liberty to evil as well as to good. This liberty is incompatible and inconsistent with authority, and cannot endure the least restraint of the most just authority …. The other kind of liberty I call civil or federal; it may also be termed moral, in reference to the covenant between God and man, in the moral law, and the public covenants and constitutions, among men themselves.  This liberty is the proper end and object of authority, and cannot subsist without it; and it is a liberty to that only which is good, just, and honest. This liberty you are to stand for, with the hazard not only of your goods, but of your lives, if need be.  Whatsoever crosseth this, is not authority, but a distemper thereof.  This liberty is maintained and exercised in a way of subjection to authority; it is of the same kind of liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free” (Ch. II, 42-43; de Tocqueville quotes from Mather’s Magnalia Christi Americana, Vol. II, p. 13).