Thursday, 31 August 2006

"Give me liberty, or give me death!"

"Give me liberty, or give me death!" That impassioned speech by Patrick Henry still rings down the years from a man who would rather die on his feet than live on his his knees. It is among the top speeches from all history in defence of taking action in defence of one's liberty.

Perhaps more than any other, it was this speech that swung support behind opposing British tyranny and firmly behind the cause of individual liberty, and within a month the American War of Independence had begin -- and we know now how that war ended. Here is how the speech ends, when victory against what was then the world's greatest military force was still far from certain:
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 but 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?
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!
Lessons there for today, no?

Anyway, 'Learn Out Loud' now has this speech free for download on its website to listen to, learn from and enjoy. (And no, Virginia, this isn't actually Patrick Henry reciting the speech ... )

Just nine minutes long, it comes with my highest recommendation.

LINK: Patrick Henry's 'Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death' speech - Learn Out Loud
'Give me Liberty or Give Me Death' - transcript of the speech at Membrane.Com

RELATED: History, Politics-US


  1. Reading that makes me want to hear it. Methinks the art of oratory is much depleted.

  2. I mean the original speech of course! Would love to be able to hear the live oratory of the likes of Robert.G.Ingersoll etc.

  3. Too right, PC. People still want to "talk" to Iran about nukes. They want to "negotiate" with Hezbollah. They think lunatics and murderers will listen to reason. According to them, if we take any action and even one person gets hurt, we're horrible bullies. Much better to be conquered or vaporized cuz then we can feel morally superior.

  4. "Lessons there for today, no?"

    Who is it that is taking away liberty?

  5. Patrick Henry said...
    [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?]

    I thought that the comment can be taken to mean that his speech was directed at Green Party members in those days, that is if you hug a tree firmly, the enemy will look at you and feel sympathy that you care more about the tree, than your own defence, thus the enermy will leave you alone.


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