Sunday, July 1, 2012

Patrick Henry's second most famous speech

You've likely heard at least snippets of Patrick Henry's Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death. But have you ever heard or read Shall Liberty or Empire Be Sought?

Here's just one of the paragraphs:
We are descended from a people whose government was founded on liberty; our glorious forefathers of Great Britain made liberty the foundation of everything. That country is become a great, mighty, and splendid nation; not because their government is strong and energetic, but, sir, because liberty is its direct end and foundation. We drew the spirit of liberty from our British ancestors; by that spirit we have triumphed over every difficulty. But now, sir, the American spirit, assisted by the ropes and chains of consolidation, is about to convert this country into a powerful and mighty empire. If you make the citizens of this country agree to become the subjects of one great consolidated empire of America, your government will not have sufficient energy to keep them together. Such a government is incompatible with the genius of republicanism. There will be no checks, no real balances, in this government. What can avail your specious, imaginary balances, your rope-dancing, chain-rattling, ridiculous ideal checks and contrivances? But, sir, "we are not feared by foreigners; we do not make nations tremble." Would this constitute happiness or secure liberty? I trust, sir, our political hemisphere will ever direct their operations to the security of those objects.
Henry wrote his words in opposition to the ratification of the U.S. Constitution. He saw some of the constitutional powers as having potentional to shift the nature of America. While the results may have taken more than two centuries, much of what we're seeking today appears to be in line with Mr. Henry's foresight.

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