In light of this week’s events, many Americans are frustrated and disheartened. But we should take heart. Today marks the 235th anniversary of Patrick Henry’s famous speech, when he proclaimed “Give me liberty, or give me death.” This sentiment represents a legacy much older and nobler than tyrannical healthcare legislation and should inspire our efforts to restore liberty.
Some may know the story; I tell it in the first pages of my book, We Still Hold These Truths. It was 1775. Patrick Henry, a young backcountry lawyer, rose before a gathering of Virginia state legislators. He encouraged his countrymen to prepare for war against Great Britain – little did they know, the fighting would begin in a month’s time.
Henry crafted one of the most convincing and impassioned speeches of the revolution. “We have done everything that could be done to avert the storm which is now coming on,” he argued in building to the close of his address. “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 here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have?”
“Is life so dear, or peace so sweet,” he cried, “as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?” Henry raised his hands, crossed at the wrists, as though he were bound. “Forbid it, Almighty God!”
“I know not what course others may take,” he calmly professed then he paused. Slowly, deliberately, and in a firm voice, Henry concluded to the hushed audience, “But as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!”
Americans should remember his courage and strive to revive our commitment to liberty and self-government.