Quote: your liberty ends just where my nose begins (1894)

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Mon Sep 26 13:51:52 UTC 2011

1887 _Atlanta Constitution_ (Nov. 9) 5 [NewspaperArchive]: The only leading
argument urged by the anti-prohibitionists in this campaign for keeping open
the bar-rooms, is personal liberty. A great man has said, "your personal
liberty to swing your arm ends where my nose begins, [and a] man's personal
liberty to drink whisky and support barrooms [sic] ends where the rights of
the family and community begin.


On Mon, Sep 26, 2011 at 9:33 AM, Garson O'Toole
<adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com>wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Garson O'Toole <adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Quote: your liberty ends just where my nose begins (1894)
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Yesterday, a Professor Emeritus at Hunter College asked me about the
> following quote: "Your freedom ends at the tip of my nose."
> Exact matches for this wording do not find much. But there are a large
> number of "conceptual" matches. In recent decades the sentiment has
> been attributed to a variety of luminaries:
> Attributed to Oliver Wendell Holmes: "The right to swing my fist ends
> where the other man's nose begins."
> Attributed to Judge Learned Hand: "Your right to swing your fist ends
> where my nose begins."
> Attributed to John Stuart Mill: "The right to swing my arms in any
> direction ends where your nose begins."
> Attributed to Abraham Lincoln "My right to swing my fist ends where
> your nose begins."
> I have not found any justification for these attributions.
> The Yale Book of Quotations provides an excellent citation in 1919.
> <Begin excerpt>
> Zechariah Chafee, Jr.
> U.S. legal scholar, 1885–1957
> Each side takes the position of the man who was arrested for swinging
> his arms and hitting another in the nose, and asked the judge if he
> did not have a right to swing his arms in a free country. "Your right
> to swing your arms ends just where the other man's nose begins."
> Harvard Law Review, June 1919
> <End excerpt>
> There are multiple matches before 1919. Versions of the saying were
> used by temperance campaigners and school administrators. The earliest
> instance I have located so far is found within a pro-temperance joke
> told in 1894:
> Cite: 1894, Thirteenth International Christian Endeavor Convention,
> [Held in Saengerfest Hall and Tent, Cleveland, Ohio, July 11-15,
> 1894], Heroes of Faith: Address of Rev. A.C. Dixon, Page 95, Published
> by United Society of Christian Endeavor, Boston, Massachusetts.
> (Google Books full view)
> http://books.google.com/books?id=GaBVAAAAYAAJ&q=%22nose+begins%22#v=snippet&
> <Begin excerpt>
> A drunken man was going down the street in Baltimore flinging his
> hands right and left, when one of his arms came across the nose of a
> passer-by. The passer-by instinctively clenched his fist and sent the
> intruder sprawling to the ground. He got up, rubbing the place where
> he was hit, and said, "I would like to know if this is not a land of
> liberty." "It is," said the other fellow; "but I want you to
> understand that your liberty ends just where my nose begins."
> [Laughter and Applause.]
> <End excerpt>
> I would appreciate any earlier cites. Also, direct evidence of a
> interesting/prominent person using the saying would be welcome.
> Garson
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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