Free State of Jones: Libertarianism in Pop Culture
Recently, I had the opportunity to see the film, “Free State of Jones.” It is the story inspired by the Civil War era actions in southeastern Mississippi led by a farmer, Newton Knight.
A nurse in the Confederate Army, Knight deserts after the Confederate Congress amends its conscription policy to exclude those who owned 20 or more slaves. This exemption allowed many wealthy men to not serve the three years the Confederacy held them responsible to serve.
As libertarians, we understand the principle that a man owns himself and is not “responsible” to give over part of his life to anyone else.
Just prior to desertion, he comes across a teenager from near Knight’s home drafted after the boy’s family’s assets were seized by the local government officials and the boy was sent to war. As if conscription weren’t enough, the taking of property and food from the people is a bridge too far.
As libertarians, we also value the principle of private property, and the stories from home, coupled with the boy’s death on the battlefield send Knight home to Jones County, Mississippi.
Upon his return, he learns of another family whose animals are seized by Confederate soldiers and stands armed with the woman and her daughters against a trio of cavalry officers, turning them away. The officers then target Knight and his family, forcing him to flee ahead of dogs to the swamp to live as a fugitive.
As libertarians, we hold dear the ability to defend one’s life, liberty, and property from an unjust taking.
While hiding out in the swamp, Knight befriends runaway slaves also living there in exile and other individuals afflicted by the Confederacy’s actions. They build a self-sustaining militia community of army deserters and runaway slaves, living, working, and fighting together against the oppression of the local military officials.
As libertarians, we fight oppression and tyranny on a daily basis.
The militia eventually overpowers the soldiers in the nearby town, taking over and asking the Union forces for support. The support never arrives, forcing the militia to fight off the Confederate regiments, holding out until the end of the war. They not only survive, but thrive, in the absence of both Confederate and Union forces in the area.
As libertarians, we are often “in between” one side and the other. Both evil, we continue to stand for freedom.
The freed slaves are promised “40 acres and a mule,” but see that promise rescinded by the conquering forces that occupy the South after the war, even the “Free State of Jones.” Regardless, the community grows, as white and black work, live, and grow together in a voluntary society where their bonds are those they choose.
As libertarians, we see the prosperity and harmony that come from a voluntary society without, and often in spite of, the force of government