Archived Story

American Heritage: What does freedom mean to you?

Published 8:57pm Wednesday, December 21, 2011

“If this is treason, make the most of it.” — Patrick Henry, 1765

As we look back over our history as Americans, we see a deeply seated desire for freedom on the part of the early colonists. They were willing to do whatever was necessary to obtain it and to keep it when they got it. They believed, with all their heart, that God intended for people to be free and they also believed that with his intent, he gave mankind certain unalienable rights and would protect them as they pursued that freedom and maintained it once they got it.

No one expressed their desire to see the day that America would be free any clearer than Patrick Henry. In 1765 he made a speech in Virginia where he stated “If this be treason, make the most of it.” Then on March 23, 1775, he made another speech.  This time it was before the Virginia Revolutionary Committee in the St. John’s Church in Richmond, Va.

It was in this speech where he spoke in favor of resolutions for arming the Virginia Militia.

I will not have enough room to quote the entire speech that he made, but I will quote enough to give you an idea of how deeply he wanted freedom and what he was willing to sacrifice to get it and to keep it.

He began his speech by saying, “No man thinks more highly than I do of 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.” (Wouldn’t it be great if our politicians felt this way. There is nothing wrong with expressing difference in opinions on very important topics.)

“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.”

As is in our country today, there was a division amongst the people on whether or not to go to war. It is obvious, that Mr. Henry knew that there were those in this meeting who did not want to go to war against England. But he also knew that this unpopular subject must be addressed in its entirety.  From his words, we can see that he felt that he had a responsibility to speak to the subject, knowing the events that had transpired over the past 10 years.

He went on to state that there were those who were willing to listen to the soothing words of the oppressing government and shut their eyes to the painful truth that the colonists were becoming nothing more than mere slaves to England.  Slaves who had no rights. So, he laid out their alternatives. I continue to quote from later in his speech.

“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 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? 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.”

Mr. Henry believed that God gave man the right to be free. Mr. Henry believed that God would give man what was necessary to gain and to keep that freedom.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if people would believe that strongly in God today, as did Patrick Henry? Today we are becoming a country where our children are being taught that there is no God and that God should not be mentioned outside our homes and our churches. What if Patrick Henry and the other founders had felt that way?  Would we be the free nation that we are today. I will allow Mr. Henry to close this article with these words.

“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” (emphasis mine).

Is freedom, or liberty, worth fighting for?  Or would our people rather have the peace of slavery without freedom.  As the old saying goes, “Freedom is not free.” I liked the way Ronald Reagan looked at this topic. Freedom and peace is obtained and kept through strength. Words never kept wars away from our door step. It was a real strong military, fantastic military technology and the enemy knowing that America was willing to use both, if necessary. A bully will never pick on a person who stays in shape and is known to be willing to stand his ground.

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