"I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death"
President : 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.
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 British ministry for the last ten years,
to justify those hopes with which gentlemen have been pleased to
solace themselves and the house? Is it that insidious smile with
which our petition has been lately received? Trust it not, sir;
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 petition comports with those warlike preparations which cover
our waters and darken our land. Are fleets 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, sir. These are the implements
of war and subjugation -- the last arguments to which kings resort.
I ask gentlemen, sir, what means this martial array, if its purpose
be not to force us to submission? Can gentlemen assign any other
possible motive for it? Has Great Britain any enemy in this quarter
of the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies?
No, sir, she has none. They are meant for us: they can be meant
for no other. They are sent over to bind and rivet upon us those
chains which the British ministry have been so long forging. And
what have we to oppose to them? Shall we try argument? Sir, we have
been trying that for the last ten years. 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, sir, deceive ourselves longer.
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 throne,
and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands
of the ministry and parliament. 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 throne. 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 be 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,
sir, we must fight!! An appeal to arms and to the God of Hosts,
is all that is left us!
tell us, sir, 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 British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall
we gather strength by 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? Sir, we are not weak, if we make a
proper use of those means which the God of nature has placed in
our power. Three 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, sir,
we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides
over the destinies of nations; and who will raise up friends to
fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong
alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir,
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 plains of Boston! The war is inevitable and
let it come!! I repeat it, sir, let it come!!!
is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. 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 brethren are already in the field!
Why stand we here idle? 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!