Presidential candidate Donald Trump was in Richmond, VA in October, and in an attempt to gin up local support he said, “Give me liberty or give me death, now that’s a great slogan. I wish I could come up with a slogan like that. How about Make America Great Again, I don’t know….”
With all due respect to Mr. Trump, the speech given by Patrick Henry on March 23, 1775 in historic St. John’s Church in Richmond had nothing to do with slogans or electioneering. Henry was arguing the minority opinion of that day in an effort to persuade his colleagues to support a motion in favor of forming a Militia to defend Virginia against British tyranny.
His concluding words were the furthest thing from a slogan. They were a heartfelt commitment to his personal worldview. The oft quoted catch phrase of “Liberty or Death” can only be properly understood in the context of its surrounding sentence.
“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 be liberty or give me death.”