Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death

 

UNITE OR DIE
Give Me Liberty or Give me Death. by Patrick Henry 1775
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 questing 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!

 

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