Patrick Henry famously said (as part of a longer speech), “Give me Liberty or give me death!” But he also later noted this same Liberty could bless or hurt a nation. Freedom without honor or righteousness was virtually worthless. He based this on what the Word of God says. The Word was such a part of him that when you read some speeches he gave, you see the Scriptures are skillfully interwoven into his words. It is almost as if they were his thoughts alone. But in reality it was the Word of God that had shaped his character and way of thinking on particular subjects.
You can see this in a note found with Patrick Henry’s will after his death:
Without virtue the blessings of liberty will be worth little. Whether this [American liberty] will prove a blessing or a curse will depend upon the use our people make of the blessings which a gracious God hath bestowed upon us. If they be wise, they will be great and happy. If they are of a contrary character, they will be miserable. Righteousness alone shall exalt them as a nation. Reader! Whoever thou art, remember this, and in thy sphere practice virtue thyself, and encourage it in others.
“Righteousness exalts a nation…” is a piece of wisdom right out of Proverbs14:34. The rest of that verse reads “but sin is a reproach to any people.” Patrick Henry, knowing the first part of the verse, likely knew the second part of the verse and inherently made the connection between unrighteousness and misery and death. It was obvious to him that the fruits of our nation’s freedom would be determined by our nation’s righteous—or unrighteous—actions.
(The above note was apparently a part of Patrick Henry’s final thoughts about the Stamp Act. You can read his thoughts in their entirety below.)
What Patrick Henry Accomplished and What He Stood For Written in 1999 for the 200th anniversary of Patrick Henry’s death at Red Hill. James Elson (James Elson is the Executive Vice President of the Patrick Henry Memorial Foundation at Red Hill, Virginia, Henry’s ancestral home. The Woman’s Auxiliary of the Foundation is the national sponsor of Oratory.)
Written on the back of Henry’s copy of the Stamp Act Resolutions was a message to posterity (as printed by William Wirt Henry from the manuscript then in his possession).
The within resolutions passed the House of Burgesses in May, 1765. They formed the first opposition to the Stamp Act and the scheme of taxing America by the British Parliament. All the colonies, either through fear, or want of opportunity to form an opposition, or from influence of some kind or other, had remained silent. I had been for the first time elected a Burgess a few days before, was young, inexperienced, unacquainted with the forms of the House, and the members that composed it. Finding the men of weight averse to opposition, and the commencement of the tax at hand, and that no person was likely to step forth, I determined to venture, and alone, unadvised, and unassisted, on a blank leaf of an old law-book, wrote the within. Upon offering them to the House violent debates ensued. Many threats were uttered, and much abuse cast on me by the party for submission. After a long and warm contest the resolutions passed by a very small majority, perhaps of one or two only. The alarm spread throughout America with astonishing quickness, and the Ministerial party were overwhelmed. The great point of resistance to British taxation was universally established in the colonies. This brought on the war which finally separated the two countries and gave independence to ours. Whether this will prove a blessing or a curse, will depend upon the use our people make of the blessings which a gracious God hath bestowed on us. If they are wise, they will be great and happy. If they are of a contrary character, they will be miserable. Righteousness alone can exalt them as a nation. Reader! whoever thou art, remember this; and in thy sphere practise virtue thyself, and encourage it in others.
- P. HENRY