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themselves, to their unbiased good sense, and to their true interests! The ferocious Gaul would have dropped his sword at the hall-door, and have fled, thunderstruck, as from an assembly of gods.!
3. Whom do I behold ?- A Hancock, a Jefferson, an Adams, a Henry, a Lee, a Rutledge! Glory to your immortal spirits ! On you depend the destinies of your country, — the fate of three millions of men, and of the countless millions of their posterity! Shall these be slaves, or will you make a noble stand for liberty, against a power whose triumphs are already co-extensive with the earth; whose legions trample on thrones and sceptres; whose thunders bellow on every ocean? How tremendous the occasion! How vast the responsibility!
4. The president and all the members of this august assembly take their seats. Every countenance tells the mighty struggle within. Every tongue is silent. It is a pause in nature, — that solemn, awful stillness, which precedes the earthquake and tornado! At length, Demosthenes rises, - he only is adequate to the great occasion, — the Virginian Demosthenes, the mighty Henry! What dignity! What majesty! Every eye fastens upon him. Firm, erect, undaunted, he rolls on the mighty torrent of his eloquence.
5. What a picture he draws of the horrors of servitude and the charms of freedom! At once, he gives the full rein to all his gigantic powers, and pours his own heroic spirit into the minds of his auditors; they become as one man actuated by one soul; and the universal shout is, “ Liberty or Death!” This single
speech, of this illustrious man, gave an impulse which probably decided the fate of America.
X. - LIBERTY OR DEATH!
1. MR. PRESIDENT: It is natural for 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 ?
2. 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.
3. 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?
4. Let us not deceive ourselves, sir. These are the implements of war and subjugation — the last arguments to which kings resort. I ask, 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 ?
5. 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 them?
6. 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 ?
7. Let us not, I beseech you, sir, deceive ourselves longer. Sir, we have done everything that could be done to avert the storm that is now coming on. We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have sup
plicated; we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the ministry and Parliament.
8. 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.
9. 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 !
10. 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 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 ?
11. Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of Nature hath 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.
12. 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 is not to the strong alone: it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave.
13. 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 or 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!
14. It is 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 ?
15. 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!