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HISTORIC ARTICLE
HISTORIC ARTICLE

Mar 23, 1775 CE: Henry Urges Colonists to 'Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death'

Mar 23, 1775 CE: Henry Urges Colonists to 'Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death'

On March 23, 1775, Patrick Henry urged his fellow Virginians to support the Revolutionary War effort, supposedly saying “Give me liberty or give me death!”

Grades

5 - 11

Subjects

Civics, Social Studies, U.S. History

On March 23, 1775, Patrick Henry urged his fellow Virginians to support the Revolutionary War, supposedly saying “Give me liberty or give me death!” Actually, it is unlikely that Henry uttered those precise words. The phrase was first attributed to him in 1817, more than 40 years after the American Revolution. U.S. Attorney General William Wirt tried to recreate Henry’s speech from the memories of several people who were present. Regardless, Henry’s speech encouraged Virginia legislators to provide troops to the Revolutionary War effort, helping to create the Continental Army less than three months later. After the revolution, Henry became the first governor of the state of Virginia. Like many other leaders of the American Revolution—including fellow Virginians George Washington and Thomas Jefferson—Henry was a wealthy enslaver, making the conclusion of Wirt's interpretation of Henry's famous speech notable: “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!”

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Writer
National Geographic Society
Producer
National Geographic Society
other
Last Updated

May 20, 2022

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