Saturday, March 28, 2009

Patrick Henry, The Realist.

Once in awhile, when contemplating things to write about, something comes thru my inbox, that is a quote from someone about something noble, thoughtful, or positive. Meditating on the "good" makes one acutely sensitive to what is right and wrong in the world, and many times allows for me a stepping off point to further elucidate (hopefully!) and to polish, "scrub the rust off of", and, refashion into something witty and worth reading.
Other times, however, the nugget of truth shines so radiantly and so purely, that it needs but be carried to the table and reviewed to let it shine in all it luminsence.

This quote was delivered on March 23rd, 234 years ago.

"No 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 to 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 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 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 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.
Sir, 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! They 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 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? Sir, we are not weak if we make a
proper use of those means which the God 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, 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.
It 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."
- Patrick Henry; March 23, 1775.

1 comment:

David W. Lowe said...

How far we've strayed from real men of liberty, freedom, and justice like Patrick Henry to the wimps and traitors we now have in DC. I weep for my country.

How far we've strayed from the Lord as well. Let us return to liberty based on the Constitution, and let us return the Lord in sackcloth and ashes. He is our only hope.