At the time when Patrick Henry delivered this passionate speech, the colonies were in constant and growing conflict with Britain. In reply, rumors circulated that Britain was planning some form of reconciliation with the colonies, and many people were swayed to hope for a renewed alliance. Henry asserted that Britain would never be moved to protect the interests of the colonies and that war was both imminent and necessary.
In this speech, Henry rallied those in attendance to pursue a nation based on freedom and liberty. In this quote, Henry boldly asserts that he would rather die than to remain under British rule, subject to their ongoing efforts to reverse colonial resistance through efforts such as the Coercive Acts. Henry states that regardless of what other colonists may feel or what actions they might take, he will relentlessly fight for freedom and liberty.
Though some doubt that Henry spoke these words, it was just after this passionate speech, given without notes, that "the shot heard round he world" launched the series of events that would culminate in the Revolutionary War. Many colonials embroidered the words "Liberty or Death" onto their shirts and rushed to join their local militias in the spirit of Patrick Henry's bold speech.