Today in American History, March 23, 1775:
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
It was with this speech at the Virginia House of Burgesses at St John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia that Patrick Henry influenced his fellow delegates to make Virginia join the American Revolution. The rest, as they say, is history.
But history is a beautifully intricate thing.
Yes, Patrick Henry’s now famous speech and oratory served as the impetus for Virginia to join ranks with her sister colonies against the British, but it did much more than that.
Today, outside a window at St. John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia, there stands a grave and marker that’s not at all fancy but is of monumental importance. From Paul Johnson’s A History of the American People:
Then Henry got to his knees, in the posture of a manacled slave, intoning in a low but rising voice: ‘Is life so dear, our peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God!’ He then bent to the earth with his hands still crossed, for a few seconds, and suddenly sprang to his feet, shouting, ‘Give me liberty!’ and flung wide his arms, paused, lowered his arms, clenched his right hand as if holding a dagger at his breast, and said in sepulchral tones: ‘Or give me death!’ He then beat his breast, with his hand holding the imaginary dagger.
There was silence, broken by a man listening at the open window, who shouted: “Let me be buried on this spot!‘
The man standing at that open window, so inspired by Henry that he felt compelled to yell “Let me buried on this spot!” – and who was subsequently buried on that spot – was Edward Carrington. While later on he served in the Continental Army, was a delegate to the Continental Congress and became Virginia’s first U.S Marshall, at the time of Henry’s speech, Carrington was just a regular Joe. A concerned citizen. One distressed with what was happening around him. Concerned about his country and his freedom and the usurpation of same. A regular Joe who understood the absolute importance of regular Joes in the fight against despotism.
It’s safe to say that we are living somewhat resonant historical moments. Today our lives are being intruded upon by a government running roughshod over our civil liberties and our freedoms are being diluted and usurped through arrogant prevarication and agenda driven policy. And make no bones about this: we aren’t losing our freedoms, they are being taken away from us.
Yeah, the jury is still out on whether we have leaders of the caliber of a Patrick Henry today, but we certainly have no shortage of Edward Carringtons. Each and every one of you knows that the most valuable thing you have is your freedom. Each and every one of you knows that it will be up to you to ensure those freedoms for yourselves and for your progeny. Each and every one of you reading this is an Edward Carrington.
So if today’s signing of the health care farce has you a bit disappointed and maybe a little frustrated, just remember that you are Edward Carrington, American Patriot. Consider every phone call to a congressman, every email you send, every editorial you share, every dollar you donate, every poster you create and every protest you attend to be your own shout outside that window: Let me be buried on this spot!
Just like this day back in 1775, our country needs every Edward Carrington it can muster.
(A huge thanks to Sheila for the inspiration today.)
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