Fireworks last night along the James River, with Richmond city skyline in background and 17th century Shockoe Bottom market in foreground. Photo taken from Church Hill where Patrick Henry reportedly* incited the wavering patriots to fight in 1775 with these words:
Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace – but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! 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!" (March 23, 1775, at St. John's Church).
Edward Carrington was so moved by the speech he had his heirs bury him outside the window to St. John's Church where he heard the words.
* The speech was not written down but recreated 40 years later through the memories of spectators. Henry's oratory skills were such that people were mesmerized at the moment, making recreation difficult. One account says:
Ear-witnesses to Henry's hypnotic orations remarked that while they always seemed to be convincing in the moment, they had a difficult time remembering exactly what he had said immediately afterwards: according to Thomas Jefferson, "Although it was difficult, when [Henry] had spoken, to tell what he had said, yet, while speaking, it always seemed directly to the point. When he had spoken in opposition to my opinion, had produced a great effect, and I myself had been highly delighted and moved, I have asked myself, when he ceased, 'What the devil has he said?' and could never answer the inquiry."
Yet in this speech delegates remembered and left the chamber crying "Liberty or death!"
As we know, most revolutionary founders lost either their lives or their fortunes in the endeavor to liberate us from the empire's yoke. For a good account, see Woody Holton's, Forced Founders: Indians, Debtors, Slaves, and the Making of the American Revolution in Virginia (1999).