Speech to the Virginia Convention "Give Me Liberty, Or Give Me Death!"
by Patrick Henry

Speech to the Virginia Convention book cover
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"Give Me Liberty, Or Give Me Death!"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: An American statesman and orator, a Revolutionary leader from Virginia, Patrick Henry, as a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses, offered a series of resolutions declaring the Stamp Act unjust. The only version of his most famous speech, in which he supported a motion that "the colony be put immediately into a state of defence," is found in William Wirt's Sketches of the Life of Patrick Henry (1817). Wirt, who had not known Henry, attempted to reconstruct the speech from accounts given him by St. George Tucker, John Tyler, Thomas Jefferson, and others who had heard it. Though portions of the speech undoubtedly had to be supplied by Wirt, there is little likelihood that those present when the speech was delivered could have forgotten the rousingly patriotic concluding lines. Urging armed resistance to the British and declaring that recent acts of Parliament no longer leave room for hope, Henry says:

. . . 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!