PATRICK HENRY was born on May 29,1736, in Studley, Virginia. Studley is an unincorporated community in Hanover County, about 12 miles northeast of Richmond. His “GIVE ME LIBERTY OR GIVE ME DEATH!” was the spark that ignited the Revolution in Virginia.
But the influence of “The Voice of the Revolution” was greater than that. He was the first to raise his voice against England for taxation without representation. He led the attack against the Stamp Act in 1765, as well as being a leader in every protest against British tyranny and every movement for colonists’ rights afterward. He helped draft the Virginia Constitution and the May 1776 declaration favoring independence. He was the first governor of Virginia. He opposed the Constitution for fear that it would lead to centralization and then led the fight for a Bill of Rights as a guarantor. He was offered posts as Chief Justice and Secretary of State, which he turned down because of failing health.
All most Americans today know about Patrick Henry is his most famous quote. But he was central to our heritage, both as an advocate of the principles of liberty and as a participant in the revolution that made our nation a reality. Honor him by reflecting on his commitment to liberty.
- The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government–lest it come to dominate our lives and interests.
- 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!
- Liberty is the greatest of all earthly blessings…the dearest rights of man…the time has been when every pulse of my heart beat for American liberty; and which, I believe, had a counterpart in the breast of every true American…
- Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel.
- …you ought to be extremely cautious, watchful, jealous of your liberty; for instead of securing your rights, you may lose them forever.
- …liberty ought to be the direct end of your government.
- When the American spirit was in its youth, the language of America was different: liberty, sir, was then the primary object…our glorious forefathers…made liberty the foundation of everything…
- …those nations who have gone from a simple to a splendid Government? What can
- No free government, or the blessings of liberty, can be preserved to any people but by…frequent recurrence to fundamental principles.
- [Do not] bind our posterity by an improvident relinquishment of our rights.
We give little thought to whether our founding fathers would consider us worthy of the name Americans, in our commitment to liberty. But Patrick Henry would face us with that question. With liberty still contested day after day in America, let’s remember these words of Patrick Henry.