The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims have been born of earnest struggle. The conflict has been exciting, agitating, all absorbing, and for the time being putting all other tumults to silence. It must do this or it does nothing. If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightening. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.
This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress. In the light of these ideas, Negroes will be hunted at the North, and held and flogged at the South so long as they submit to those devilish outrages, and make no resistance, either moral or physical. Men may not get all they pay for in this world; but they must certainly pay for all they get. If we ever get free from the oppressions and wrongs heaped upon us, we must pay for their removal. We must do this by labor, by suffering, by sacrifice, and if needs be, by our lives and the lives of others.
[In Great Thoughts by George Seldes a portion of this quote was attributed to a March 30, 1849 letter to Gerrit Smith. But I found that letter in the papers of Douglass and it says nothing even related. I have been unable to find the original date and context of this quote even though portions of it are widely quoted.
I especially like the sentence “Men may not get all they pay for in this world; but they must certainly pay for all they get.” One could make the claim that the entire basis for the Second Amendment is to increase the cost for oppression. It may be that it cannot fully prevent it but it can dramatically increase the cost. And those that would oppress us, even if they may be able to succeed, must be forced to pay a cost. If they do not pay then there is no limit to the oppression they will inflict.
The Colorado Senators who lost their seats in the recall elections because of their oppressive gun control laws and arrogance is a lesson to those who believe oppression is cost free. If they win a battle then make them pay a heavy price.