236 years ago, yesterday, a nation rose from tyranny and oppression. A people, with unalienable rights endowed by the Creator, had had enough of Imperial rule and said so boldly, courageously and with the knowledge that they had a choice.
Patrick Henry understood that choice.
In a speech before the Virginia House of Burgesses, on March 23, 1775, Henry swung the vote convincing his Colony to send troops to the Revolutionary War when he proclaimed, “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!”
12 years earlier, Patrick Henry, a bar keeper turned attorney had argued in a case that the King was but “a tyrant who forfeits the allegiance of his subjects.”
In 1765, a law student and guest in the House of Burgesses, Thomas Jefferson, listened while, regarding the Stamp Act, Henry offered resolutions to nullify them. Henry, at that time, was met with fierce opposition and his resolutions were termed as treasonous to the King. What Patrick Henry said in response, lit the fire in Jefferson that would lead him to be elected to the House of Burgesses 6 years later.
“If this be treason, make the most of it.”
And so, as a Virginia Delegate, Thomas Jefferson was in attendance on that March Day in 1775, when once again, Patrick Henry took the floor.
That speech, lasting less than 5 minutes, is now considered one of the greatest speeches ever delivered and the words of it are widely believed to be those which propelled the introspective Jefferson to accept the duty of writing the Declaration of Independence.
In that speech, Henry was, of course, speaking of the King’s Imperial rule over the people of America and of the Revolutionary war already in progress.
It doesn’t take much to realize that, those same words apply to the situation today. Rather than King George III, think Obama. Rather than a war already in progress, think the current campaign.
The only difference between Patrick Henry’s time and today mentioned in his speech is our right to vote but, allow me to submit that such a right, in today’s situation, is but temporary and but a single edict of contrived Imperial decree, of being erased.
Conservatives today, justly, use social media to attach themselves to the wisdom and words of Thomas Jefferson.
“The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.”
“Was the government to prescribe to us our medicine and diet our bodies would be in such keeping as our souls are now.”
“To take from one because it is thought that his own industry and that of his father’s has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers, have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association—the guarantee to every one of a free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it.”
“I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.”
“The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.”
“Most bad government has grown out of too much government.”
“An elective despotism was not the government we fought for.”
“All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.”
While it is nearly impossible to distinguish whether Jefferson was regarding issues of his day our ours, one thing is clear. Jefferson was an uncommon man with an uncommon amount of common sense whose words would remain an inspiration for centuries.
It also seems clear that, had Jefferson not written the Declaration of Independence and become our 3rd President, his thoughts, rather than being written down and highly regarded in his own time may well have never been known either or be a source of inspiration now.
Tomorrow, we will be exactly 4 months from deciding the fate of the nation which began exactly 236 years ago yesterday and we would be remiss, were we to attach grand significance to the words of Jefferson, without also attaching the same to the words which inspired him.
At The National Patriot, we write commentary on the issues we face today but, so too did Jefferson and Patrick Henry.
Listen to the words which ignited Jefferson to accept the task of writing the Declaration of Independence and tell me whether Patrick Henry was speaking only of King George in 1775 or was he also warning us of Obama in 2012?
These may well be the words which gave birth to our nation rather than the Declaration itself for, these words swung the vote to commit Virginia’s militia to the revolutionary war and in attendance that day, to hear them, were not only Jefferson but George Washington.
There can be no doubt whatsoever that these words committed men’s souls and actions to the fight in 1775 and there should also be no doubt that they should again in 2012.
between 1775 and 2012, the only distinguishing separation which can be attached to these words are centuries marked on the calendar.
The issues remain the same.