Patrick Henry’s Admonition

– Larry McDonald

Patrick Henry's speechThis week will mark the anniversary of  Patrick Henry’s “Give me Liberty, or give me Death” oration to the second revolutionary convention of Virginia 235 years ago.  Events taking place in various of the colonies preceding his speech portended the revolution which erupted less than a month after he raised his voice in warning. 

It may seem an exaggeration to compare the state of affairs affronting us (due to the audacious actions being perpetrated on our liberties by the federal government) to the dangers the colonists were facing from an imminent war with the greatest military power on earth, but the consequences of the current threat are the same as that which could have afflicted the citizens who were being similarly oppressed by their government, i.e., the loss of popular sovereignty.


A difference in the prospects is obvious.  The threat to the colonists took the form of all-out war against their government forces which carried the risk of loss of life or limb, while we are threatened by the stealth of our government’s imposition of rules and regulations which carry the penalty of fines or prison to any who resist.   It would seem that the price we will pay is minor relative to that the patriots of 1775 had to contemplate.  But is that price one we accept?   Patrick Henry is remembered as having concluded his exhortation with this thought: “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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