Patrick Henry’s inspiring words, spoken March 1775 at the Second Virginia Convention, helped inspire Colonial Virginia to take up arms against Great Britain, the acknowledged super power of that era. “Give me liberty…” finalized a strong last paragraph:
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 paragraph was at the end of a powerful speech I don’t think everyone has read. It might not be a bad idea to take a few minutes away from the barbecue and fireworks to peruse his words. Maybe later to check out some of the other speeches from the bold, impetuous, imperfect people who helped set our country on the path toward freedom.
At the time Thomas Jefferson penned “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” as “unalienable rights” his stirring words addressed only a portion of the population. As did so many of our forefathers, he owned slaves. We have progressed beyond that era. It took another horrific war to start to resolve that issue although the repercussions continue to shadow our lives.
Between the brats and the beer we might think about the men who dared stand up and demand independence, the men who fought to extend those inalienable rights for all men, the women later who stood up against society to demand those rights for their gender. And let’s plan to continue to build on these efforts to leave a better society for our children.
In more eloquent words: “secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity…” Let’s do it.