« PreviousContinue »
No, no It was the chains that were forging for your posterity that made you fly to arms; and scattering the elements of these chains to the winds, you transmitted to us the rich inheritance of liberty.
ON THE GREEK STRUGGLE FOR
From a speech in 1824.
RE we so mean, so base, so despicable, that
we may not attempt to express our horror, utter our indignation, at the most brutal and atrocious war that ever stained earth or shocked high Heaven? at the ferocious deeds of a savage and infuriated soldiery, stimulated and urged on by the clergy of a fanatical and inimical religion, and rioting in all the excesses of blood and butchery, at the mere details of which the heart sickens and recoils?
If the great body of Christendom can look on calmly and coolly while all this is perpetrated on a Christian people, in its own immediate vicinity, in its very presence, let us at least evince that one of its remote extremities is susceptible of sensi
bility to Christian wrongs, and capable of sympathy for Christian sufferings; that in this remote quarter of the world there are hearts not yet closed against compassion for human woes, that can pour out their indignant feelings at the oppression of a people endeared to us by every ancient recollection and every modern tie. Sir, attempts have been made to alarm the committee by the dangers to our commerce in the Mediterranean; and a wretched invoice of figs and opium has been spread before us to repress our sensibilities and to eradicate our humanity. Ah, sir! "What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?" or what shall it avail a nation to save the whole of a miserable trade and lose its liberties?
"GIVE ME LIBERTY OR GIVE ME
Patrick Henry, American patriot, statesman, and orator, was born in the County of Hanover, Colony of Virginia, May 29, 1736, and died in Charlotte County, Va., June 6, 1799. He held many public offices, the enumeration of which is unnecessary here. No American has had a greater influence on the oratory of his country than Patrick Henry. His great fault was indolence, and through his entire life he paid little attention to detail. He knew little of science and of literature, but was a lover of nature, and a student
of men. His delivery was natural, deliberate, and dignified, although at times intensely passionate, and his gestures, always appropriate and expressive, corresponded in every respect with his voice. His manner was certainly superior to his matter; his chief power consisted in his delivery, and above all else he was an orator. After his admission to the bar he devoted more time to study, particularly to history, but he never became what could be considered a student, and his matter lacks both variety and fulness. Patrick Henry has been held up as an example of what can be done by a man who permits himself to be developed by nature and not by work, and this argument has injuriously affected the lives of many youths, who have refrained from effort, and glided down the years of time, waiting for nature to turn them into geniuses. Patrick Henry, great as he was, would, no doubt, have been greater as an orator, a statesman, and a scholar, had he developed, by study, the wonderful talent God intrusted to him. The secret of success, in all fields of usefulness, is labor. The speech which follows was delivered in the Virginia Convention, on a resolution to put the Commonwealth into a state of defence, March 23, 1775.
O man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well as abilities, of the very worthy gentlemen who have just addressed the house. But different men often see the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, I hope it will not be thought disrespectful of those gentlemen, if, entertaining as I do opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely and without reserve. This is no time for ceremony. The question before the house 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 fulfil 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 offence, I should consider myself as guilty of treason toward my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the Majesty of Heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.
Mr. 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.
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 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