How many people, like me, are only familiar with little more than the final sentence of this speech by Patrick Henry? It contains very little in the way of political policy or ideas, but a very good sketch of the character of the men who built our nation. How many citizens today are too busy to be bothered with understanding or maintaining the liberty which those men held in such high regard?
. . . it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth . . . 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.
As I read the words of the speech I began to ask myself, would we even recognize if our freedom were under assault today as theirs was then? It is especially important considering that our freedom is most likely to be abridged, not by a government based across the ocean from us, but one in our own land; one often held up as an example of government over what many call the most liberated society in history.
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 by 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?
If we do recognize a real danger will we have the courage to take action or is our character such that we would bow to the conventional wisdom which would undoubtedly tell us that we are too weak to make a change?
It should be no wonder to any of us that a patriot would say “give me liberty, or give me death,” if they have seen, as our founders had, that the war was already begun and that the options for an equitable peace had already been exhausted.