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“Give Me Liberty, or Give Me Death”

Posted on Thursday, May 30, 2024
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by AMAC, Robert B. Charles
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26 Comments
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A revolutionary mindset does not mean violence, it means principled resistance to what is patently wrong, what does not fit with our understanding of fairness, freedom, and history. Many years ago, Patrick Henry swayed the cause of what would become “America” to freedom. He used free speech rights not yet in the Constitution, as it was not yet written. Speaking truth, his words moved people.

In a Virginia church, he brought every person to silence in March 1775, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, George Mason, young John Marshall, and a room full of patriots.

His throwdown was about freedom of everything, speech, worship, movement, family … freedom from unfair treatment by government, unfair targeting, captivity, punishment, and limits on power because …unchecked power is tyranny.

To revisit that incredible moment, after which the entire church fell still – and people contemplated the implications of Patrick Henry’s speech – here is part of what Henry said:

“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.”

Henry, speaking 16 months before the Declaration of 1776, continued: “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!”

He concluded with words that ring still: “I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”

So, why is this speech, are these words, so timely? Are we likely to see a domestic war? No, not likely, not like that one. Nor is that desirable, as it would destroy civil order, shaken as it is. 

Constitutional Republicans, those who believe in the Constitution, the rule of law, and ideas like separation of powers, three co-equal branches, an executive, legislative, and judicial, cross-checking each other at federal and state levels, then vertically with states’ rights, should never want violence to replace civil order.

So, why are Patrick Henry’s words, then, spoken with such force, foresight, and conviction in 1775 so fitting? Review the first line above. We must mount principled resistance to untruth, as he did.

In our day, we must use the Bill of Rights – made possibly by his 1775 speech. We must use educational, electoral, and moral power, persuasion, electoral engagement, and courts, and insist on fairness. We must defend principles sidelined by those who care nothing for truth, integrity, law, history, limited government, accountability, morality, or individual freedom.

This is a war, but not the kind fought to found this Republic, instead an “all hands on deck,” war of ideas. This is a conflict where we must be unafraid to “speak truth to power,” a phrase, coined by black Quaker Ayard Rustin in 1942, who said that is the role of religious groups and all of us. We must not back away from, shade, minimize, or distort the truth.

So, “Give me liberty, or give me death!” is about integrity of the soul, being equal to our time, understanding the stakes at the moment – and having the courage to be counted, to step up.

In the broadest sense, we are back there again – basic liberties being challenged, speech to fair administration of laws, accountability to loss of freedom, a test of our moral character. Will we abide by truth, or allow it to fall away?

I think we all know the right answer, and so the real question is whether – like the ears who heard Patrick Henry’s ominous words from those hard church pews in March 1775 – do we have the courage to be who we say we are, stand up for rights hard-won, speak fearlessly to preserve language, lives, laws, and society? Are we willing to risk life and limb for honest dialogue?

He was, and his conviction moved others. Patrick Henry died 225 years ago, not by hanging but of “old age,” at 63. Before done, he was Virginia’s governor twice, in the Continental Congress, Colonel in the Revolution, helped save Washington at Valley Forge, and turned down offers by Washington to be Secretary of State and a senator. In his view, speaking truth was the big thing – and acting on it.

Robert Charles is a former Assistant Secretary of State under Colin Powell, former Reagan and Bush 41 White House staffer, attorney, and naval intelligence officer (USNR). He wrote “Narcotics and Terrorism” (2003), “Eagles and Evergreens” (2018), and is National Spokesman for AMAC.

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Iron Mike
Iron Mike
16 days ago

I have been saying the same thing. A revolution of truth,justice, and proper representation. I cry the same as Patrick Henry. Give me liberty, or give me death. I would rather be judged by God, than man.

Max
Max
16 days ago

RBC, amazing how this article definitely APPLIES TODAY with our nation and situation.

Rob citizenship
Rob citizenship
16 days ago

Very important writing with this Patrick Henry history Robert. It sure enough is an appropriate time to think about these matters. So many similarities between the issues in 1775 and now. In the next to last paragraph the mention of having the courage to stand up for rights , speak fearlessly to preserve language, lives , laws and society – the part about language I do believe , at this time, needs attention because of the way language is being changed by the internet and also by the epidemic of obfuscation that is practiced by many people when the matter of determining the truth is the issue. Those who practice obfuscation , any individual, any group, – could be doctors, the medical establishment, members of Congress, government agencies, business leaders, business groups, whoever, are choosing to disrespect the truth and that indicates a lack of character. Straight talk, honesty, an honest approach to speaking reflects good character and a sense of integrity . That is the way Patrick Henry spoke , that reflected his soul and spirit in that ” give me liberty or give me death” speech in 1775 . So ,this is a great example of how important defending principles is all about. That makes this an article of great importance . Good work with writing it Robert, it should be appreciated by all those Americans who value truth and liberty. The internet changing of many words is a serious matter as the English language , as understood by people who are older than 60 is substantially different than what it is with the internet version of the English language . It is good to remember that systems are ideas, plans, strategies made by people, not technology.That means that responsibility is required when systems are influencing important matters.Again, respect for truth and liberty . Internet references need to reflect a spirit of integrity in order to be valid, that means the people who made the internet reference in a controversy need to be accountable for how information has been influenced.That sets the course line to truth, and understanding.

Phil
Phil
16 days ago

Whenever I read another story of the founder’s activities, I inevitably am reminded and have reinforced their sage and salient grasp and comprehension of what to this day was of prime importance for the success of America, and yet generally it falls on deaf ears due to lack of interest by far too many citizens.

Nancy Perrine
Nancy Perrine
16 days ago

Patrick Henry’s words were very brave for that era in our history. Words like these led to the future elimination of slavery in our entire nation. My fear is that I am not as brave as the people who gave us liberty, and the great freedoms we have.

jim
jim
15 days ago

BE very careful of your internet movements. Remember what happened to the supporters of the Canadian truckers convoy? If you think that this type of government reaction cannot happen here in the US… you haven’t been paying close enough attention my friends.

PapaYEC
PapaYEC
15 days ago

Biden and his Rat Party of Slavery and Murder would gladly give a horrible torturous death to any who don’t support them 100%.

Jeff
Jeff
15 days ago

I know not who will judge me in the afterlife on earth, but I will not be a slave to this government or any tyranical regime.

Pat R
Pat R
16 days ago

One of your best Mr. Charles, quite inspirational from the first paragraph. Thank you for this moving critique of Patrick Henry’s ‘principled resistance’.

Spitfire?
Spitfire?
16 days ago

Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human liberty; it is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves”. William Pitt.

Spitfire?
Spitfire?
16 days ago

Those people who are not governed by GOD will be ruled by tyrants “. William Penn.

Myrna
Myrna
15 days ago

Nobody could have said it better.

Spitfire?
Spitfire?
16 days ago

Amac editor,my last post was attributed to William Pitt of the British House of Commons.It is important that you do not cut that info out.

Spitfire?
Spitfire?
16 days ago

I notice that people who are pro choice have already been born. ” Ronald Reagan.

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