Liberty or death
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Give Me Liberty, Or Give Me Death


On March 23, 1775, Patrick Henry gave his famous Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death Speech. In today’s climate, it’s just as – if not more so – important as it was in 1775. This is why usa-evote is providing you with the entire text.

St. John’s Church, Richmond, Virginia:

 No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well as abilities, of the very worthy gentlemen who have just addressed the House. But different men often see the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, I hope it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen if, entertaining as I do, opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely, and without reserve. This is no time for ceremony. The question before the House is one of awful moment to this country. For my own part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfill the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offence, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the majesty of heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.

Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it.

I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided; and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past. And judging by the past, I wish to know what there has been in the conduct of the British ministry for the last ten years, to justify those hopes with which gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves, and the House? Is it that insidious smile with which our petition has been lately received? Trust it not, sir; it will prove a snare to your feet. Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss. Ask yourselves how this gracious reception of our petition comports with these war-like preparations which cover our waters and darken our land. Are fleets and armies necessary to a work of love and reconciliation? Have we shown ourselves so unwilling to be reconciled, that force must be called in to win back our love? Let us not deceive ourselves, sir. These are the implements of war and subjugation; the last arguments to which kings resort. I ask, gentlemen, sir, what means this martial array, if its purpose be not to force us to submission? Can gentlemen assign any other possible motive for it? Has Great Britain any enemy, in this quarter of the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies? No, sir, she has none. They are meant for us; they can be meant for no other. They are sent over to bind and rivet upon us those chains which the British ministry have been so long forging. And what have we to oppose to them? Shall we try argument? Sir, we have been trying that for the last ten years. Have we anything new to offer upon the subject? Nothing. We have held the subject up in every light of which it is capable; but it has been all in vain. Shall we resort to entreaty and humble supplication? What terms shall we find which have not been already exhausted? Let us not, I beseech you, sir, deceive ourselves. Sir, we have done everything that could be done, to avert the storm which is now coming on. We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the ministry and Parliament. Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne. In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation. There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free² if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained, we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of Hosts is all that is left us!

They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance, by lying supinely on our backs, and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot? Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. Three millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations; and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come.

It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

Currier & Ives | "Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death!–Patrick Henry ...

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Patrick Henry

To go with the latest American History post, we have a Patrick Henry biography.

Patrick Henry was born on Mary 29, 1736 in Hanover Country, Virginia on a plantation belonging to his mother’s family. His father was a Scottish immigrant. He was the 2nd oldest of nine children. Growing up, he played the fiddle and the flute. Most of his early schooling was done by his father and his uncle, the latter of whom also taught him about the great oratory Henry was later known for. But he taught himself law. “In 1760, he appeared in Williamsburg to take his attorney’s examination before Robert Carter Nicholas, Edmund Pendleton, John and Peyton Randolph, and George Wythe” (Source). Patrick Henry’s fate was officially intertwined with American and Virginian history.

Henry spent the next five years practicing as a lawyer, and a powerful one at that. A well-known case took place in 1763, the Parson’s Case. Here, Henry argued against a minister who sued for back pay when King George III had changed the payment law. The man had won his case, but Henry called him greedy and had managed to persuade the jury to only grant him a penny, the lowest award possible

Image result for Patrick HenryBy 1765, Henry was elected to the House of Burgesses. There, as we learned earlier, he was “an early voice of dissent against Britain’s colonial policies,” speaking out against the Stamp Act in his “If This Be Treason . . .” speech (Source).

Then, in 1774, he was selected to serve as a delegate to the Continental Congress. Here, he had Sam Adams fueled the fires of American rebellion.

Henry sounded the call to arms, saying, “Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? … Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!” Furthermore, he urged all Virginians to arm themselves in self-defense.

Once the Revolution was good and underway, Henry was made the commander-in-chief of Virginia’s forces. He only served for six months. In 1776, having decided to focus on statesmanship instead, Henry helped write Virginia’s constitution. He was also elected as the state’s first ever governor.

Image result for Patrick Henry birthplaceWorried that a strong federal government would only lead to more tyranny, only this time from their own government, Henry refused an appointment to the Constitution Convention in Philadelphia in 1787. He did not support the original draft of the Constitution; not until the Bill of Rights was added, that is. He feared that it would take away state’s rights.

In 1790, Henry left public office in favor of returning to law. Despite being offered numerous government positions – such as Supreme Court Justice, Attorney General, or Secretary of State, he turned them all down. At this point he life, Henry much preferred the company of his wife and children.

So, he spent out the rest of his life at his estate, Red Hill in Charlotte Country, Virginia. By 1799, thanks to President Washington, Henry had accepted a seat in the Virginia Legislature. However, he would never serve. He died on June 6, 1799, at home. He may never have been president, but he is still remembered as one of the greatest revolutionary leaders.

[Below: Red Hill]

Image result for Patrick Henry Red Hill

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“If This Be Treason, Make the Most of It!”

In the midst of the uproar over the Stamp Act, Patrick Henry, newly elected to the House of Burgesses, decided to offer up seven resolutions to the Stamp Act.

After a heated debate within the House, all seven of Henry’s resolutions were passed by the Congress on May 30, 1765. It didn’t take long for all of these resolutions to also appear in the colonial newspapers.

By the time the vote had moved to the House, the resolutions were already considered official. Back at the House of Burgesses, however, only a mere 39 of the 115 members were actually present. “The older, more conservative members opposed Henry’s resolutions on the grounds that the action taken the previous year by the House of Burgesses sufficiently responded to the Stamp Act, especially in light of the fact that Parliament had yet to answer those earlier resolutions” (Source). But younger members, such as Henry, argued that immediate action was necessary, given that the taxes would be required within months.

By the end of the 30th, five out of the seven amendments had been passed – by very narrow margins. During the debates over the 5th, Henry stood up to speak out in support of his fifth resolution:

“Caesar had his Brutus — Charles the first, his Cromwell — and George the third — ” (“Treason,” cried the Speaker — “treason, treason,” echoed from every part of the House. — It was one of those trying moments which is decisive of character. — Henry faltered not an instant; but rising to a loftier attitude, and fixing on the Speaker an eye of the most determined fire, he finished his sentence with the firmest emphasis) “may profit by their example. If this be treason, make the most of it” (Source).

Unfortunately, there is not actually any record of this speech. In 1817, when William Wirt was attempting to write an account of the famous speech, he had to rely on accounts from Thomas Jefferson, John Tyler, and Paul Carrington.

Many problems arise with this though. For example, Carrington was not actually a witness. He’d yet to take his seat. Jefferson and Tyler were both outside the chamber of the House of Burgesses. They claimed to “remember the cry of treason, the pause of Mr. Henry at the time of George III, and the presence of mind with which he closed the sentence and baffled the charge vociferated” (Source).

Despite none of these men having actually witnessed the speech, they were also all men of “untainted reputation;” they had no reason to lie about Patrick Henry, nor anything to gain from such lies. (Source). So, we do not have a real account of what was said. What we do know, though, is that after Henry retook his seat, another vote was taken. Five of the seven resolutions passed.

Until the following day, when the Congress reconsidered their options and decided to throw out the fifth, after all. Only four of his resolutions had passed. But these four resolutions spread quickly, and were even adapted by other colonies.

[Below: Patrick Henry addressing the Virginia Congress]

Up Next:

The Boston Massacre

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Revolutionary War History Intro

Our Revolutionary War History logo was designed with the intent to remind people what our founding fathers were willing to sacrifice to gain freedom from England. Just by singing the Declaration of Independence, they could have lost everything – including their lives. 

Revolutionary War History is about remembering the importance of the events that led up to the war – such as the Boston Tea Party or the Stamp Act. It is about why these men fought against the tyranny of the Crown. They wanted independence to govern themselves; they believed that they could successfully govern themselves. They had a better idea of their needs than England did.

Revolutionary War History is also about the heroes of the Revolutionary War war, our founding fathers. Men like Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Patrick Henry, and so many others. Even after the war, they struggled to find the best way to form our government, set with checks and balances to keep the president (or any other individual or branch) from gaining too much power.

The Liberty Bell has become a national memorial to these men and these events. It’s time to remember why they fought. This is the story of how our country was founded. This is the story of our ancestors. We are their children – the proper heirs to a great government. In the words of President Trump (and Reagan): It’s time to Make America Great Again!

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