Give me liberty or give me death

Kevin Holten, executive producer of "Special Cowboy Moments" on RFD-TV, discusses Patrick Henry and the origination of liberty.

Kevin Holten, pictured above, is the executive producer of "Special Cowboy Moments" on RFD-TV. (Submitted Photo)

Do you know who Patrick Henry was? Basically he was an attorney who served as the Governor of Virginia twice, from 1776 to 1779 and from 1784 to 1786, among other things.

He became famous prior to that, when he represented the legislature in a case against a bunch of preachers. You see, in that day and age, instead of sending preachers a check in the mail, they were given 16,000 pounds of tobacco per year for their services.

That is until 1758, when the price of a pound of tobacco tripled from two cents a pound to six cents and that’s when Virginia’s colonial representatives decided to change the law and cap the preacher’s pay at two cents no matter what.

Of course, America was just a British colony at that time, and good ole King George III came along and vetoed the law and that’s when it got complicated because those folks from Virginia, who weren’t that fond of Georgie anyway, didn’t exactly like him meddling in their affairs; especially when it came to their number one commodity, tobacco, and the backbone of their economy.

So that’s when Patrick Henry said that King George III, by disallowing the new legislation, had overstepped his bounds, degenerated into a tyrant and was thereby forfeiting all rights to his subject's obedience.


And that, most historians say, set the stage for the American Revolution, kind of like the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria set the stage for World War I, even though it was nearly two decades before the pot boiled over.

Then years later, Patrick Henry would deliver a speech that has since been recognized as one of the most pivotal speeches in world history.

That speech, called the “Give me Liberty or Give me Death” speech, took place at a church in Virginia on March 23, 1775, and was in response to Britain's ongoing actions toward the colonies, which he viewed as a threat to the freedom of the American people.

Henry believed that the British Empire was leeching from the colonies and that American citizens were being given no choice but to accept their role as subordinates to the domineering British colonial rule.

It was the pebble tossed into the lake that turned into a tidal wave and a revolution that ultimately created the home of the brave and the land of the free.

But that speech might not have received the acclaim it did if it weren’t centered on that one key, magical, oh so powerful word: Liberty.

According to Mr. Dictionary, liberty is the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one's way of life, behavior, or political views.

And that definition reminds me of a quote by Austrian-British economist and philosopher, Friedrich August von Hayek, who said that, “Emergencies have always been the pretext on which the safeguards of individual liberty have been eroded.”


In other words, it’s an emergency that usually serves to obliterate freedom. But American Statesman, Alexander Hamilton said that there is a certain enthusiasm in liberty that makes human nature rise above itself, in acts of bravery and heroism.

In other words, he’s saying that, no matter what, in the end, liberty always wins.

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