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!
*additional emphasis, mine!
The speaker of these famous words, was
- Born May 29, 1736 in Hanover County, Virginia
- Protested British tyranny
- Symbol of American struggle for liberty
- Served in the Virginia House of Burgesses and the Continental Congress
- Five-term governor of Virginia
- Delivered the famous “Give me liberty or give me death!” speech.
- Died June 6, 1799 at Red Hill Plantation, Virginia
Henry’s call to arms was carried over the protests of more conservative patriots and was one of the causes of the order for Lord Dunmore, the royal governor, to remove some gunpowder from the Magazine. Henry, “a Quaker in religion, but the very devil in politics,” mobilized the militia to force restitution of the powder. Since Henry’s action followed the British march on Concord by only a few hours, it is said to mark the beginning of the American Revolution in Virginia.
Again I ask …
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! ~ Patrick Henry