Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death

Patrick Henry

Patrick Henry

On March 23rd, 1775, Patrick Henry participated in the Second Virginia Congressional Convention. The Convention was debating how to resolve the then current crisis of a tyrannical British Government. Before Henry spoke at the convention, his opponents had urged conciliation and patience until Britain had replied to their latest petition for reconciliation. Henry was in radical opposition to capitulation, and argued to establish a militia in order to defend themselves; to the death, if need be.

According to his first biographer, William Wirt, Patrick Henry’s words were never written down at that prophetic meeting, yet no one who heard those words ever forgot their eloquence, in particular his final words: “Give me liberty, or give me death!”

On the eve of the anniversary of Patrick Henry’s powerful and moving speech, we reproduce the final words of it here:

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!

Within days, at about 5:00 am on April 19th, 1775, 700 British troops marched into Lexington to arrest “patriots” and seize their guns and ammunition, when, from a still unknown aggressor, the “shot heard around the world” was fired. The American Revolution had begun.

1 comment on this post.
  1. Jennifer Starkey:

    The revolution had begun.
    God give us liberty!

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