This is no time for ceremony. The question before the People is one of awful moment to this country. For my own part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfill the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the Majesty of the Heavens, which I revere above all earthly lords, kings, and governments.
It is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? 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.
I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past. And judging by the past, I wish to know what there has been in the conduct of the government for the last four years to justify those hopes with which gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves. Is it that insidious smile with which our petitions have been lately received?
Trust it not; it will prove a snare to your feet. Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss. Ask yourselves how this gracious reception of our petitions comports with those warlike preparations which cover our waters and darken our land.
Are drones and armies necessary to a work of love and reconciliation? Have we shown ourselves so unwilling to be reconciled that force must be called in to win back our love?
Let us not deceive ourselves. These are the implements of war and subjugation; the last arguments to which kings and tyrants resort. I ask, what means this martial array, if its purpose be not to force us to submission? Can gentlemen or ladies assign any other possible motive for it? Has America any enemy, within our own borders, to call for all this accumulation of armed agencies? No, she has none. They are meant for us: they can be meant for no other. They are sent out to bind and rivet upon us those chains which the government have been so long forging. And what have we to oppose to them? Shall we try argument? We have been trying that for the last ten years or more.
Have we anything new to offer upon the subject? Nothing. We have held the subject up in every light of which it is capable; but it has been all in vain. Shall we resort to entreaty and humble supplication? What terms shall we find which have not been already exhausted? Let us not, I beseech you, deceive ourselves.
We have done everything that could be done to avert the storm which is now coming on. We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves before the Presidency, and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the Congress. Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the Presidency!
In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation. There is no longer any room for hope.
If we wish to remain free – if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending – if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained – we must fight! I repeat it, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God(s) of hosts is all that is left us! They tell us 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 government guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength but 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? We are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God(s) of nature hath placed in our power. The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, we shall not fight our battles alone. There are just Gods who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles beside us. The battle is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave.
Besides, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the streets of every city in our land!
The war is inevitable – and let it come! I repeat it, sirs and mesdames, let it come.
It is in vain to extenuate the matter. Ladies and gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace – but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brothers and sisters are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that people 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(s)! I know not what course others may take but as for me; I will keep my liberty or I will fall in death.
And so, my fellow Americans, I openly, frankly, and honestly brand myself an “extremist” and likely “terrorist” in a mere 1143 words. For so will the Liberals and Progressives, the agents of Statism and subjugation label me for repeating and updating the words of Patrick Henry, which he spoke in St. John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia on March 20, 1775.
And yet, they are not utterly foolish to do so. The brave and inspiring words of Patrick Henry are as applicable now as they were in the final prelude to the Revolution because the Liberals and Progressives, and the politicians they’ve managed to install now fulfill exactly the same role as George III, his court, and the Royalists who supported them.
History repeat itself. The names, flags, slogans, and excuses may change, but the underlying struggle of Liberty against Tyranny remains the same. So too does the means to win that struggle remain the same.