Patrick Henry holds a special place in my heart for various reasons, but I am not sure how many people who are not from Virginia have even heard of him. Those of us who were lucky enough to be raised in this beautiful state memorized his great, “Give me Liberty, or give me Death!” speech in grade school. Or maybe that was just my school. Patrick Henry gave that speech at St. John’s Church in Richmond. The church is still there, and they do re-enactments all summer. Doing a little research for this post, I discovered something I never knew, that his speech to the Virginia Convention that day, March 20, 1775, arguing in favor of Virginia drawing up militia troops and preparing to defend itself against the British, was never actually transcribed. The speech was re-created years later based on the memories of other men who were there to hear it. In THAT case, I think I should have gotten a bit more leniency in my grade when I flubbed a line in the middle because you can’t prove to me he didn’t say, “Is life so dear, or peace so neat…” With that caveat, I present to you the last part of the inspiring and timeless speech he (probably) gave that day. Yes, it was said specifically for the British colonies in the Americas years ago, but it could be said for any civilization at any time; Liberty is always worth fighting for.
…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!