Discourse on Voluntary Servitude, by La Boétie, Étienne de

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This call to freedom ringing down the corridors of four centuries is sounded again here for the sake of peoples in all totalitarian countries today who dare not freely declare their thought.

It will also ring dear and beautiful in the ears of those who still live freely and who by faith and power will contribute to the liberation of the rest of mankind from the horrors of political serfdom.


Dr. Royal S. van de Woestyne, formerly at Knox College, where I knew him, and now teaching at the Universities of Chicago and of Buffalo, first stirred an abiding interest in La Boétie by his expressed admiration for the spirit of liberty in the sixteenth century.

Mr. Gilbert H. Doane, formerly at the University of Nebraska, where I knew him, and now Director of Libraries at the University of Wisconsin, urged me effectively to undertake the work of giving to our new world a new rendering of La Boétie’s old cry for freedom.

Grace Cook Kurz, my wife, lent her luminous intelligence and beautiful literary style to the perfecting of the translation of the essay.

To Roy, Gilbert, and Grace, I express here gratitude for their inspiration and comradeship.

To Matilda L. Berg of the Columbia University Press I wish to make a special acknowledgment of her skilful and close scrutiny of the manuscript of this book and her excellent guidance.

Queens College
February, 1942


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