Honor the Memory of THE Patriot
|Give Me LIBERTY or Give me Death
The soul of the American Revolution was George Washington, but the spirit was Patrick Henry.
We all know the greatness of our First President, but have you read the speech that set the tone of our struggle for
Liberty from this other Virginian? Each year we honor those who have fallen in defense of our country. But do we fully appreciate
the essence of what our bravest patriots fought and died to create? The words of Patrick Henry ring true today, just as they
did during his life. Read the entire speech and tell me if the struggle is any different today? Patrick Henry spoke these
words on March 23, 1775 and says more about America than all the writing of those of us who revere the purpose of our vision
as a Nation.
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!
Yes, "Liberty or Death" is the issue! And the question that screams out for an answer is whether there is any hope
for us, if we wish to be free? So where is your fight? Do you know who is the enemy? And are you willing to heed the exemplar
of the meaning of America? Patrick Henry did more than posed his questions; he made the ultimate sacrifice. His model is real
patriotism and Liberty is his purpose. So why have so many forgotten its real meaning, while they profess to be in the service
of America? For most of them, they accept that their government and their country are the same. How foolish and disrespectful
it is to confuse the two, as being one. Patrick Henry knew they were not the same, and paid the final price of his conviction.
Those who fail to follow his lead, while serving the false master, dishonor his memory. For us who moan the collapse of our
Nation, confer our respect upon the greatest patriot and lament that few among us are willing to make the same stand.
Death is preferable without Liberty. Most reject this assertion, by the way they are so willing to submit. The standard
for your behavior should model the example of this Southern Gentleman. His kind of patriotism gave birth to the 'Idea of America',
and bears the imprint of his name. Patriotism is spelled PATRICK . . .
SARTRE - November 7, 2001