"The problem here is a totalitarian uniformity, a cult-like mentality such that even allies are enemies if they fail to follow the Exact Party Line. " - Phyllis Chesler

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

"Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death!"

Patrick Henry's "Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death" Speech
St. John's Church, Richmond, Virginia
March 23, 1775.

MR. PRESIDENT: 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 fulfil 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 contending²if 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 inevitable²and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come.
It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace²but 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!


Angry said...

I've always thought this speach was a stand-out speach... and of course the statement, "give me liberty or give me death" is the stand out line in it. I wholeheartedly support the sentiment in those seven words... it's just a shame that it was coined by a slave owner.

Lauren said...

Ah Angry and isn't it a pity your country was started because of looters and thieves. I mean really if you insist on cherry picking...

Angry said...

Cherry picking...? It's the central theme, the thrust and crux of the whole speach. That one laudable line is held high and oft quoted, as it deserves to be... yet Mr Henry would no doubt have quashed any fight for liberty mounted by his own slaves.

And if you're refering to my country being started by convicts, then you couldn't be more wrong, Lauren. Sure it was a penal colony, but the inmates didn't run the institution. My country was started by UK Government representatives, those in their employ and free settlers. The free settler numbers were added to by ex convicts that just weren't able to get back to the 'old country' after serving their time. Many of them proved to be invaluable in ensuring that Australia developed and grew. But I'm sure you know as well as I do, Lauren, that someone in the late 17th century who stole a loaf of bread to stave off starvation was not necessarily of less character than those with money, position and much food on their plate. Indeed some could well have been of higher moral character than many of those in higher station.

But I will say that Australia, along with the US when it comes down to it, has a shameful history when it comes to how we dealt with the indiginous people.

And I'm sad to say that Australia still has a long way to go in our treatment of the Australian Aborigine.

Mum-me said...

@Lauren - I've been searching your blog (after your last comment on mine) to try to find what you thought might be offensive to me. I am guessing it is this?

No worries! Truth doesn't usually offend me.

Mum-me said...

@ Angry - I think you need to learn to read as well as spell.

And if you're refering to my country being started by convicts, then you couldn't be more wrong, Lauren.

Lauren did not say our country was started BY convicts. That would just be silly, wouldn't it? How could convicts 'start' a country.

Now read slowly and carefully - isn't it a pity your country was started because of looters and thieves.

Did you notice the difference, Angry? BECAUSE OF, not BY. That's what Lauren wrote in her reply to your comment.

So if you can't even address the issue Lauren raised, maybe you shouldn't be addressing it at all? Hmmm?

Something to think about before your next assertion that someone is 'wrong'.

Angry said...


Despite the condescending tone of your comment, you make a very good point and I concede that you're right in what you say. I took it as BY and not BECAUSE... which therefore renders my comment irrelevant and it should be disregarded.

With that in mind, and rereading Lauren's comment, I still find it hard to understand the relevance of it.

If, as you and Lauren have pointed out, I'm challenged when it comes to reading and spelling, then it's a shame that I'm not afforded due respect and given assistance in understanding the points being made rather than being ridiculed, shouted down, and told to 'F' off. If, as is often touted here, everyone should be allowed to express their views, then why, when I don't engage in name calling and other unacceptable practices, am I treated so shabily? Surely it's not because my views don't match the general views offered by Lauren and others here.

All I've ever offered and expected in return is a good honest fair go. Not because I say so, but because Lauren has said that that's how she runs here blog.


Mum-me said...

@ Angry - I'm sorry if you felt my reply was condescending. I always teach my children and students to read slowly and carefully so they don't make mistakes.

If you are really 'challenged' when it comes to reading and spelling (and comprehension?) maybe you should seek to correct yourself before telling other people they are wrong.

How can you correct your reading/spelling/comprehension? Try reading slowly and carefully ..... and more than once.

Angry said...

@Mum-me - Do you also teach your children to acknowledge when someone is contrite and admits their mistakes to them? Or do you teach them by your example above where you completely ignore the fact that I have acknowledged and conceded the point you made. And in the process, whilst I’m neither your child nor student, you continue to treat me in a less than polite manner.

I have the grace to acknowledge where I was mistaken, and in the process give you credit for correctly pointing that out to me. At least this 'illiterate' has some manners and integrity.


Mum-me said...

At least this 'illiterate' has some manners and integrity.

@Angry, you keep telling yourself that if it makes you feel good.

And please explain how I was less than polite in my reply. I am finding this 'discussion' quite entertaining on a slow weekend.

Angry said...

@Mum-me - I'd be delighted to continue our conversation. But I think we should do that at your blog... it would be impolite to do it here on Lauren's blog. And besides, my experience is tht Lauren doesn't always post my comments, as recently as these last few days, and so I'd rather not leave it to her to decide if you get to read my replies or not.

See you over at your place, Mum-me.


LaurAyn said...

I've already given my blessing to Mum-me to have this conversation with you here. Especially since it is here where YOU started this conversation and where you didn't see a problem with it before your last post.

Mum-me said...

@ Angry - I already had the decency to ask Lauren whether she would mind indulging me in this little whim.

I'm not worried about you leaving comments on my blog. I rarely 'reply' or 'discuss' in the comment section. It's not that kind of blog, as you (with all your integrity and good manners) should know as you've already been over.

If you've got nothing left to say, fine by me.

Angry said...

Well, Mum-me, I'm not about to "indulge you in this little whim and entertain you on this slow weekend"... but thanks anyway for the invite.


Mum-me said...

He he he ...

Thanks for letting me go troll baiting on your blog, Lauren.