A distant wind howled through the pastures. Outside the doors of the House of Burgesses the trees bent from the gale force winds. The windows creaked and rattled in exhaustion sending an eerie air of doom to ears of the gentlemen gather there.
Inside the room tensions ran high, and sentiment even higher. The calm and resolute gentlemen sat stoically secure from the wind and partially acquiescent to matters of authority which stood above their heads on a far far distant shore.
The year was 1765. The month was May. Ten more years, plus one, would pass before Thomas Jefferson would lay before a sympathetic audience the solemn words,
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
The Speaker of the House bellowed “Treason” in response to the greatest orator of the time and for decades to come. What should cause an outburst of such vengeance? What could the orator have said? What heresy would elicit the Speaker to pronounce an indictment easily worthy of death to the orator?
Mr. Henry had engaged in the debate regarding the rights of men…ten years later to be confirmed by the thirteen colonies in the ink of Thomas Jefferson:
We hold these truths to be self-evident…
According to an observer on that auspicious day in 1765 Patrick Henry thundered his resolve, “with the look of a God”. Perhaps his eloquence silenced the lightening of outward storm, while igniting the flames of a much hotter fire of conscience. Yet,
proclaimed the Speaker, in complacency to the false God an ocean away.
The Speaker. A man of no small repute. A landowner of considerable wealth. Assigned, in privately known circles, by the king. The authority had spoken. All others were lesser men…except Patrick Henry.
Said some reports that Patrick Henry “faltered not for an instant, but rising to a loftier attitude and fixing on the speaker an eye of the most determined fire, …” declared:
“If this be treason, make the most of it.”
A decade later, most men would have tempered. They would have acquiesced. They would have caved beneath the weight of certain disapproval.
Yet, standing in a similar audience, on the eve of the impassioned words of Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry rose again.
With not a whit of diminished resolve, thunder, or temperament he declared these words we have all heard repeated among free men,
“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!“
What is overlooked by the passion of his conclusion are the earlier words of confidence which he expressed:
“Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature has placed in our power. Three 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, air, 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.”
Now taking mild liberty for our day, with respect to the assault of the national Bureau of Land Management upon a fellow citizen (Mr. Bundy) I make slight changes to one last quote from Patrick Henry’s “Treason” Speech.
“Shall we resort to entreaty and humble supplication?
What terms shall we find which have not been already exhausted?
Let us not, I beseech you, sir, deceive ourselves longer. Sir, we have done everything that could be done, to avert the storm which is now coming on. We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves before the throne of a national bureaucracy, and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the Bureau of Land Management. Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded, and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne of tyranny!”
That Is The Way I See It.