Return to WRITINGS - Page Two
The following article is copied
from THE VOICE NEWS ONLINE
Henry's Words Still Ring True
"Give Me Liberty, or Give Me Death"
By James Crispino of Canaan, Connecticut
The following words, spoken before the
house on March 23, 1775, by Patrick Henry, are almost as pertinent today
as the were then. If one were to replace certain words pertaining to Britain,
it may very well read as something that could be said by one of our contemporaries.
|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 question 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 the 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 numbers 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 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? 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!
The never ending onslaught of legislation which directly opposes the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights has been nibbling away at many of our basic freedoms. We have been trading our essential liberties for small pieces of false security for so long now, that I dare anyone to come forward with a list of three things in their life which are not regulated in some way shape or form.
We have fallen victim to the falsehood which tells us that we cannot be trusted with our own safety, our own defense and our own freedom.
We have been convinced that we need our government to protect us from ourselves.
We cannot educate our own children without their permission.
We cannot get married without their permission.
We cannot fish without their permission.
We cannot hunt without their permission.
We cannot drive without their permission.
We cannot build without their permission.
We cannot work without their permission.
We cannot demonstrate without their permission.
We cannot open a business without their permission.
We cannot purchase firearms without their permission.
We cannot operate a powerboat without their permission.
We cannot burn leaves without their permission.
We cannot have a swimming pool without their permission.
We cannot use many of our state lands without their permission.
We cannot camp on state lands without permission.
We cannot clear land without their permission.
We cannot use fireworks without their permission.
We cannot use our property as we see fit, without their permission.
We cannot have a dog without their permission.
We cannot flush more than 1.4 gallons of water down our toilets.
We are not allowed to pray in school.
We are not allowed to display the Ten Commandments on public property.
We are not allowed to display a nativity scene on public property.
We are not allowed to open graduation commencements with prayer.
.......I could go on, but by now you get the point.
We are evil and dangerous in the eyes of our government. We are no longer safe from illegal search and seizure. We no longer have the right to retain life and property in the absence of due process. The government has given itself permission to use deadly force to enforce it's unlawful regulation. If we resist, ultimately we can be killed.
Does this sound like a government of the people, by the people, for the people? Not to me it doesn't. We have all been tried and convicted, in advance and in absentia, for crimes we have not committed.
Our judicial system, which is supposed to presume innocence, is now presuming guilt and denying us the right to a fair trial, by a jury of our peers, before denying us our liberty and property.
If Mr. Henry were alive today, and saying these same words, he would be labeled a radical or a right wing extremist. I have been called the same on many occasions, so I know this to be true. The question I ask everyone is "Since when is supporting our constitution considered radical?" I rarely get an answer.
There are those in our government and in our media who believe that the constitution is "interpretable." Is this the same way our president interpreted the meaning of "having sex"? Does anyone truly believe that he misunderstood the meaning?
Does anyone truly believe that the words "the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed" means anything other than just that? Or that "shall not be infringed" means "shall not be infringed unless we want to infringe"? Does anyone know that the reason we have a right to bear arms is to preserve our freedom? It is not about hunting ducks, it is about keeping America free. Reading Mr. Henry's remarks about British attempts to disarm Americans proves this.
Does anyone truly believe that the words "congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" means that we cannot "allow" school prayer? Allow does not mean require. Has anyone ever seen anything in our constitution that guarantees a right to kill unborn babies? Or better yet, how many people have read the Constitution and the Bill of Rights in the past 20 years?
There two ways to reverse the current assault on our rights. The first, and best, is to seek out candidates who will uphold the constitution to the letter. We need to elect representatives who will not try to "interpret" it's meaning to fit their particular agenda. To do this, we must first educate ourselves and our neighbors in the content of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The second is not so pretty, but the day may come when it becomes necessary if we are to remain free.
If we are smart, we will begin to pledge our lives, honor and fortunes to electing those who will defend our constitution and see to it that America remains, forever, the land of the free, and the home of the brave.