This Day in History
Patrick Henry

Give me Liberty, or Give me Death
March 30, 1775

Most of the leaders of the American Revolution were of the “aristocracy” in so far as Colonials could have achieved that status. Patrick Henry was an exception. A product of the frontier, he somehow taught himself enough law to win admission to the bar. Once there, he developed an uncanny habit of winning his cases, largely by his native oratorical genius. His reputation quickly took him to the House of Burgesses where he rose to leadership of the plain farmers, and where his tirade against the Crown’s invasion of Virginia’s autonomy won admiration throughout the colonies. Elected to the First Continental Congress, Henry quickly achieved leadership of those who clamored for independence. When, in the winter of 1775, the British government sent troops to Boston to intimidate the local population, it was Henry who appealed for united support of independence. On March 30, 1775, he introduced resolutions calling for arming the colonies for war, with the famous peroration:

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. 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.
In another month the winds from the North did indeed bring the clash of resounding arms - the battle had been joined at Lexington and Concord.

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All illustrations by Mort Künstler. Text by Michael Aubrecht, Dee Brown, Henry Steele Commager, Rod Gragg, Mort Künstler, Edward Lengel, James McPherson, and James I. Robertson, Jr. - Copyright © 2001-2019. All Rights Reserved. No part of the contents of this web site may be reproduced or utilized in any form by any means without written consent of the artist.