Freedom is a word we use regularly in the study of American history, but it is a concept that we do not often stop to consider. What exactly is freedom? Is it freedom from something, such as oppression by a tyrannical government, or is it freedom of something, such as the freedom to exercise your own religion without government interference?

Perhaps our sense of freedom in America has changed over time. For the original New England colonists, freedom was about religion, but today we yearn for freedom from the fear of terrorism.

At the founding of the nation in the 1780s, the wealthy White men who gathered in Philadelphian to craft our current system of government had to define freedom and find a way to guarantee it for future generations. Government, they knew had to protect rather than take away freedom. Of course, their ideas about freedom and ours were different. Many of them owned slaves, which is anathema to our sense of freedom.

What do you think? What is freedom?