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WORLD, A BETTER PLACE
TO LIVE IN
BY PATRICK HENRY. (MARCH 23, 1775)
MR. PRESIDENT: No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well as the 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 that it will not be thought disrespectful s 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. The question before the House is one of awful moment to this country. For my own part I consider it as 10 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 15 back my opinion at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason toward my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the Majesty of Heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.
Mr. President, it is natural to 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 s 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 ? For my part, whatever
anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the 10 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 the future but by the past. And judging by the past,
I wish to know what there has been in the conduct of the 15 British ministry for the last ten years to justify those
hopes with which gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves and the House? 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 20 yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss. Ask yourselves
how this gracious reception of our petition comports with these 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 our25 selves so unwilling to be reconciled, that force must be
called in to win back our love? Let us not deceive ourselves, sir. These are implements of war and subjugation; the last arguments to which kings resort. I ask gentle
men, sir, what means this martial array, if its purpose be 30 not to force us to submission? Can gentlemen assign any
other possible motives for it? Has Great Britain any enemy, in this quarter of the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies? No, sir, she has none.
They are meant for us; they can be meant for no other. 35 They are sent over to bind and rivet upon us those chains
which the British Ministry have been so long forging. And