The South Carolina #StandwithRand for President 2016 Meetup! Message Board › Patrick Henry's famous "liberty or death" speech is perhaps the mo

Patrick Henry's famous "liberty or death" speech is perhaps the most stirring example of the original American commitment to individual liberty. However, the story behind Henry's passionate oration is largely untold.

Group Organizer
Greer, SC
Post #: 13,264
[-- Original message -- ]
Below is Patrick Henry's entire speech. If you have never read it, This holiday weekend is the perfect time.



Patrick Henry's famous "liberty or death" speech is perhaps the most stirring example of the original American commitment to individual liberty. However, the story behind Henry's passionate oration is largely untold.

As a young Christian lawyer riding into Culpepper, Virginia in March of 1775, Patrick Henry had witnessed the brutal public flogging of a preacher. Tied to a whipping post in the middle of the town square, the preacher's back laid bloody and bare with the bones of his ribs showing. He had been scourged mercilessly, with a leather whip laced with metal.

What heinous crime, what foul act had this man committed to deserve such barbarous torture? He was one of twelve who were locked in jail because they had refused to take a license from the British Crown. Three days later, the martyred minister was again flogged, this time to death.

This was the incident which sparked Patrick Henry to write the famous words which later ignited the Revolution:

"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!"

He later made this a part of his famous speech which he delivered at Saint John's Episcopal Church in Williamsburg, Virginia.

So where does a free man or woman derive the right to the "Pursuit of Happiness" as Thomas Jefferson so ably phrased it? From one's government, or from one's creator? Where exactly is the line drawn between the free exercise of natural rights, and permission granted from a ruling authority? And how does this line become transgressed?

Many millions of Americans are married. But were they married or did they marry each other? And what is the distinction? Ask a young engaged couple when the wedding is to take place and they will say, "We're getting married on [fill in the date]." Getting married? How does one "get" married? In order to "get" anything done "to" you, it must necessarily be done by someone else, like getting your teeth cleaned by a dental hygienist or your fingernails buffed by a beautician. When you "get married" does that mean that someone else is causing you to become married? That they are doing this "to" you?

Can't a man and a woman just marry each other simply by exchanging vows before witnesses, or must the Governor first give his permission before they are permitted (licensed) to wed? Most Americans today would answer that they are required to "get a license." But how does that actually happen? Does the Governor send out spies to detect when a wedding ceremony is about to commence, walk up the startled couple and hand them their permission slip (license)? Or do they go about obtaining a license of their own free will?

Many states still recognize the status of common law marriage. All you have to do is live together with your spouse for a number of years and you are presumed to be as married as anyone else. If that is true, then why does everyone else bother to get a license? Just so they can pay the licensing application fee to the Governor? What other benefit do they actually derive from being licensed? Certainly not so that their marriage will be "real."

When at the end of the wedding ceremony the presiding clergy intones, "By the power vested in me by the Governor of [State] I now pronounce you man and wife," has some sort of invisible, jurisdictional marriage dust just been sprinkled over the blissful couple? Is that why they are now married? And how many parties are there now to the agreement? Just the couple themselves, or three, including the Governor? What exactly is the Governor's role in the arrangement? To decide who may and who may not marry in the first place? Or perhaps to let everyone marry -- with his prior permission of course -- then await the eventual death of each spouse so that the heavy hand of government can reach into the pockets of the deceased and extract its share of estate tax?

What about the right to travel? The First Amendment protects the right of assembly to seek redress of grievance. But how can you assemble if you cannot travel to the assembly in the first place? Of course, you could simply hop into your car and make the trip. But, wait! You are not permitted to travel on the bureaucrat's roads without first obtaining his permission (license). Is that not what you are told? But where in the Constitution is the right to transport your person from place to place abridged or limited in any way, assuming of course that you are not trespassing on private property? But do not the public roads belong to the public? How, then, can the traveling public trespass on their own property?

Today's public has been conditioned to ask the Governor to allow them to travel on their own roads. And how do they do this? By filling out an application for permission to travel. When James Madison traveled from Virginia to Philadelphia with the "Virginia Plan" that was to evolve into the Constitution, did he first obtain a driver's license? Did he make sure to apply license plates to the back of his carriage? Or did he just make the journey as a free man?

What about your right to cut someone's hair for a living? All that should be required is a sheet, a comb and a pair of scissors. But no! You must first must ask permission of the Governor. Without said permission (license) you can be fined or even incarcerated for (God forbid) "practicing without a license."

The same set of rules apply for many activities, whether marrying one another, requesting permission to travel the public roads, remove fish from public property, shoot game on public land, build a house on your own land, etc., etc., ad nauseam.

None of these activities can be engaged without first requesting permission from the Governor. And how does one receive this permission (act of permitting)? Why, by requesting that the permission be granted. And how does one go about making the request? Why, on a piece of paper called an application on which one applies for (requests, seeks, beseeches) said permission.

You fill out the paper, filling in your most personal information, then allow agents of the Governor to grab your arm against your will and wrestle your hand to the writing surface where your signature is forcibly extracted from you as you resist with all your might while exercising your inalienable right to operate as a free, sovereign individual, right?

No? That's not what actually happens? I see. You mean to say that you actually sign the document of your own free will, thereby converting a right for which your forefathers (and mothers) shed their precious blood into a mere administrative privilege to be granted at the whim of a bureaucrat?

No kidding? That's amazing. You actually consent to apply your signature, voluntarily and of your own free will, hoping that his Excellency will allow you to cut hair, travel the roads, even build your own home on your own property. No kidding?

Group Organizer
Greer, SC
Post #: 13,265
Did you ever stop to think that a dog whose leash is clipped to a rope strung between two trees may be free to move back and forth, but will never truly enjoy the condition called Liberty? So are you at liberty, Dear Reader, or merely "free" to operate within administratively permitted bounds?

With the collapse of the economy accompanied by a visceral sense that the heavy hand of government may be turning into a fist, countless Americans today are beating their breasts on YouTube and railing against the government on countless blogs for trampling their freedoms and in countless ways limiting their lives. Yet they should ask themselves, if they feel so restrained by their fetters, who actually forged them?

Mr.Government did not require them to do anything. He simply asked them to apply to him for permission. Once they did so, and of their own free will, mind you, they demoted themselves to subservient status by placing themselves at his whim.

So eat your hot dogs, thankless (and perhaps unpatriotic?) American and enjoy the fireworks! Because there are going to be a lot more where those came from, and soon!

Did you ever stop to ponder that everything you have ever signed throughout the course of your entire life, and I do mean everything, has been an overt act of voluntary consent? Tax forms, applications, bank signature cards, greeting cards from Hallmark, you name it. All done as an act of your own free will. You see, the administrative process can be quite deceiving. You are told that you are required to do such and such, that you must do it, that everyone else does it because it is the law, etc. It is said to be compulsory, mandatory, required and so forth. And, please be forewarned, if you do not do as you are told, you will be fined, perhaps even convicted and thrown into a cage for a year or two, fed three times a day and allowed out for an hour each day for exercise.

But reality is really quite different from illusion. The Administrative Procedure Express is indeed a mighty train. It rumbles down the tracks straight towards you, thundering and belching smoke. It stops directly in front of you and a door opens. A Little Man leans forward with a clipboard in his hand and says, "I am from the Licensing Department. I am here to help you process your application. Please sign here, and make your application fee payable to ______________."

You take the pen that was offered and apply your signature, wherein the Little Man thanks you for your act of voluntary participation, the door closes, the Administrative Procedure Express belches smoke, gets back up to speed and heads for the Emerald City where your application will be processed.

A short time later the Governor approves your application, while reminding you that you now come under the rules and limitations that apply to all applicants. If you find those rules restrictive or in any way violative of your rights as a free man or woman, please do not complain to him. After all, he's just doing his job which is to exercise control over you as an owner does over his pet.

Remember, you are the one who requested his permission! Did he forcibly extract your signature? Of course not. He didn't force you to do anything. Why would he want to anger you? After all, he needs your full cooperation as a licensed motor vehicle operator so that he can fine you when you disobey his rules while traveling on your own roads. Otherwise, where would the funds come from to feed his family, not to mention feed the families of the thousands of other functionaries who manage and operate the entire regulatory licensure apparatus, from Governor to State Trooper?

I could go into much more detail here, but perhaps I've said enough. But one can only wonder whether the preacher whom Mr. Henry saw being scourged, were he alive today, would rush to apply for a 501(c)(3) "exemption" to operate his church with supervisory approval from the IRS? Which leads me to my next unregulated thought. Which is whether there can be any such thing as a real church that operates at the whim of the bureaucracy? How many churchgoers today are prepared to exercise their constitutionally protected right to the free and untrammeled exercise of their conscience when it's easier just to pass the plate and "write it off" next April 15th?

When we contemplate the raw sacrifices made by so many of our nation's forebears, we are reminded that Patrick Henry did not exclaim "Give me liberty, or give me benefits!" It is remarkable how little our nation's Founders expected from the government they forged.

Yet with over one hundred million Americans currently receiving -- or living in the expectation of one day receiving -- Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, welfare vouchers, subsidized loans, subsidized transportation, subsidized housing and other forms of congressional largesse, I think it only fair to call the 4th of July by its proper term: "Co-Dependence Day".

Below is the full transcript of the great orator's legendary speech, followed by the observations of John Roane who was present and had the great pleasure of watching Patrick Henry deliver it. If Roane's remarks don't give you a lump in your throat, perhaps you need to apply to the Ministry of Lumps for permission to develop one!

Group Organizer
Greer, SC
Post #: 13,266

Patrick Henry

March 23, 1775

"No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well as the 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 should speak forth my sentiments freely, and without reserve.

"This is no time for ceremony. The question before the house is one of awful moment to this 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.

"Mister President, it is natural for 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 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 almost 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 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 was capable; but it has been all in vain. Shall we resort to entreaty and humble supplication? What terms shall we find that we have not already exhausted? Let us not, I beseech you, sir, deceive ourselves longer.

"Sir, we have done every thing 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, we may 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, 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 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?

Group Organizer
Greer, SC
Post #: 13,267
"Sir, we are not weak, if we make a proper use of those means 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 are 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 heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable - and let it come! I repeat, 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 the 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!"

Observations of John Roane who was present and witnessed the speech:

"You remember, sir, the conclusion of the speech, so often declaimed in various ways by schoolboys, '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!'

"He gave each of these words a meaning which is not conveyed by the reading or delivery of them in the ordinary way. When he said, 'Is live so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?' he stood in the attitude of a condemned galley slave, loaded with fetters, awaiting his doom. His form was bowed; his wrists were crossed; his manacles were almost visible as he stood like an embodiment of helplessness and agony.

"After a solemn pause, he raised his eyes and chained hands towards heaven, and prayed, in words and tones which thrilled every heart, 'Forbid it Almighty God!' He then turned towards the timid loyalists of the house, who were quaking with terror at the idea of the consequences of participating in proceedings which would be visited with the penalties of treason by the British crown; and he slowly bent his form yet nearer to earth, and said, 'I know not what course others may take,' and he accompanied the words with his hands still crossed, while he seemed to be weighted down with additional chains. The man appeared transformed into an oppressed, heart-broken, and hopeless felon.

"After remaining in this posture of humiliation long enough to impress the imagination with the condition of the colony under the iron heel of military despotism, he arose proudly, and exclaimed, 'but as for me,' -- and the words hissed through his clenched teeth, while his body was thrown back, and every muscle and tendon was strained against the fetters which bound him, and, with his countenance distorted by agony and rage, he looked for a moment like Lacoon in a death struggle with coiling serpents; then the loud clear, triumphant notes, 'give me liberty' electrified the assembly.

"It was not a prayer, but a stern demand, which would submit to no refusal or delay. The sound of his voice, as he spoke these memorable words, was like that of a Spartan paean on the Field of Plataea, and, as each syllable of the word 'liberty' echoed through the building, his fetters were shivered; his arms were hurled apart, and the links of his chains were scattered to the winds.

"When he spoke the word 'liberty' with an emphasis never given it before, his hands were open, and his arms elevated and extended; his countenance was radiant; he stood erect and defiant; while the sound of his voice and the sublimity of his attitude made him appear a magnificent incarnation of Freedom, and express all that can be acquired or enjoyed by nations and individuals invincible and free.

"After a momentary pause, only long enough to permit the echo of the word 'liberty' to cease, he let his left hand fall powerless to his side, and clenched his right hand firmly, as if holding a dagger with the point aimed at his breast. He stood like a Roman senator defying Caesar, while the unconquerable spirit of Cato of Utica flashed from every feature, and he closed the grand appeal with the solemn words, 'or give me death!' which sounded with the awful cadence of a hero's dirge, fearless of death, and victorious in death, and he suited the action to the word by a blow upon the left breast with the right hand, which seemed to drive the dagger to the patriot's heart."
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