History

Give Me Liberty, or Give Me Death

Famous words that finished a speech given by Patrick Henry on 23 March 1775 that encouraged the Second Virginia Convention that was taking place at St. John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia to become a part of the Revolutionary War (or at least put Virginia in a place of defense).

This is a Currier & Ives drawing circa 1876 that can be found at the Library of Congress

After his memorable speech Patrick Henry was named Chairman of the Committee to build the Virginia militia.

No one knows for sure if Patrick Henry said the infamous words or if his biographer, William Wirt, created them. Regardless, men who were in attendance that fateful day claim it is the “boldest, vehement, and animated pieces of eloquence that had ever been delivered” according to John Marshall who spoke on behalf of his dad, Thomas Marshall. George Mason claimed “every word he said not only engages but commands attention”.

Who Was Patrick Henry?

Patrick Henry was born on 29 May 1736 in Virginia. He was born of privilege and at age 10 was taught Latin, Greek, Math, ancient and modern history by his father. He was a self-educated lawyer, who like the philosopher Cato would use speeches as a form of persuasion.

Following the Declaration of Independence, Patrick Henry served as it’s 2nd and 6th Governor (from 1776-1779 and again from 1784-1786). Throughout his life his other vocations were planter, politician, and orator.

He made countless speeches over the years and no one ever wrote them down, a sad tale for his biographers. He was a highly respected man and is considered one of our nations Founding Father’s.

He passed away on 6 June 1799 of stomach cancer.

The Entire Speech

If you would like to read or hear the entire speech given at the Second Virginia Convention, please click here to visit the Colonial Williamsburg website where you can download an MP3 version to listen or read the words already typed out of this speech with the famous ending.

I found the information used above by reading a variety of websites: