Infomotions, Inc.Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death / Henry, Patrick, 1736-1799



Author: Henry, Patrick, 1736-1799
Title: Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): gentlemen; refund; liability; liber; liberty; damages; domain
Contributor(s): Cajander, Paavo, 1846-1913 [Translator]
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
Services: find in a library; evaluate using concordance
Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 2,517 words (really short) Grade range: 10-13 (high school) Readability score: 56 (average)
Identifier: etext6
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December, 1975  [Etext #6]
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Officially released in December 1975, unofficially released for
the 200th anniversary of the speech by Patrick Henry before the
"House" as he referred to it. [Which was the Virgina Provincial
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Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death


Patrick Henry, March 23, 1775.


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 offense, 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 those warlike 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 free--
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.  
The 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!


Colophon

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