Yesterday, I sent to my private list Patrick Henry’s Speech ‘If This Be Treason.’ Today, Quin Hillyer at The American Spectator reads my mind and publishes a brilliant piece of work: Channeling the Young Patrick Henry. You’ll love it – I know I did.
Here’s what I sent the list yesterday – from Sparrowhawk, Book IV: “If This Be Treason…”:
Reluctantly, Peyton Randolph rose and read each of the resolves to the House as though he were reading obscene literature. Some desultory debate occurred between members on both sides of the chamber. The first three resolves passed by the same margin: twenty-two to seventeen. When Randolph finished reading the fourth, George Wythe rose again to protest. “I maintain that proper deference must be shown to Parliament, and I remind the gentlemen across the floor that, should these resolutions pass, they will be read by their lordships in the upper House, by His Majesty, and by eminences throughout the kingdom too numerous to name here. We will seem to be upstart renegades, not only by England, but also by our fellow colonials here. I cannot imagine a more distasteful consequence!”
Patrick Henry rose and was recognized by Robinson. He asked, “If this House elects to wait on Parliament, sir, may I ask in what capacity? Ought we to wait idle in the foyer of those eminences’ concerns, in the mental livery of a menial, while they complete the latest business of oppressing the good people of England, not daring to whisper the persecution of their own brethren, lest it some how insinuate our own?” He turned sharply away from Wythe, whose eyes were wide with anger, and addressed the House. “Some men in this chamber may prefer to approach the bar of Parliament, hats in hand, on raw knees, as humble supplicants, in search of redress and restitution. I, sirs, prefer to wait for Parliament to call on me, to beg my forgiveness for that body’s attempt to dupe and enslave me and this my country!
He was answered, not by anyone from the other side, but by an assenting murmur among the spectators. …The Speaker ordered the clerks to conduct a vote. William Ferguson rose and read the fourth resolve for a last time. His colleague, Clough Anderson, marked down the Ayes and Nays as each burgess rose and spoke. The fourth resolve passed and was adopted by the House by the same margin as the day before, twenty-two to seventeen….
Hugh Kenrick rose before any other burgesses could. Robinson was obliged to recognize him. Hugh said, “We who endorse these resolves are neither ignorant of the difference between foolishness and wisdom, nor oblivious to the virtues of those who have trod the earth before many of us came into it. Virtue, said Socrates, springs not from possessions – and I mean here not merely our tangible wealth, but our liberties as well – not from possessions, but from virtue springs those possessions, and all other human blessings, whether for the individual or society. In these circumstances, the virtue which that gentleman accuses us of lacking, has become a vice. Call it moderation, or charity, it will not serve us now. We exercise the virtue of righteous certitude, for it alone has the efficacy that conciliation and accommodation have not. That virtue is expressed – and I believe that the honorable Colonel Bland there will concur with me on this point – that virtue is expressed in one of the original charters of this colony, and in the first charter of Massachusetts, and has merely been reiterated in these resolves, but in clearer language. Moral certitude is a virtue itself, and in this instance is a glorious one, because it asserts and affirms, in all those charters and resolves, our natural liberty and the blessings it bestows upon us!”
Hugh’s mouth bent in a devilish grin, and he wagged a finger at the members on the other side. “Let us not imbibe the hemlock of humility, duty, or deference, sirs! Socrates did not have a choice in that regard. We have. Should we choose to rest on the virtue boasted of and advocated by that more experienced gentleman, that will be a more certain path to the despair, defeat, and regret he fears, and we will have nothing left that we can call our own!” Hugh glanced around once more, then took his seat.
Patrick Henry, however, had more to say. His colleagues nearest him noticed that his face had grown red, and that his blue-gray eyes were set in a murderous fury whose object they did not envy. Henry rose, and those eyes fastened on Speaker Robinson. That man, who otherwise would have fallen back on the rationale that since Henry had already spoken, he could be denied recognition. But he knew by the ferocious set of Henry’s features that this man would not be silenced. In the hiatus, no one else had risen, and he was bound to allow this man to speak.
Henry had removed his hat and handed it again to Colonel Munford. He took a step away from his seat. “The honorable gentleman there,” he said, pointing boldly to Peyton Randolph, “spoke now, not of the rightness or wrongness of the resolve in question, but of ominous consequences, should this House adopt it. I own that I am perplexed by his attention to what the Crown can and may do, and by his neglect to speak to the propriety of the resolve and the impropriety of this Stamp Act. Should he have examined for us the basis of his fears? Yes. But, he did not. Perhaps he concluded that they were too terrible to articulate. So, I shall examine them, for I believe that he and I share one well-founded fear: The power of the Crown to punish us, to scatter us, to despoil us, for the temerity of asserting in no ambiguous terms our liberty! I fear that power no less than he. But, I say that such a fear, of such a power, can move a man to one of two courses. He can make a compact with that power, one of mutual accommodation, so that he may live the balance of his years in the shadow of that power, ever-trembling in soul-dulling funk lest that power rob him once again.
“Or – he can rise up, and to that power say ‘No!’, to that power proclaim: ‘Liberty cannot, and will not, ever accommodate tyranny! I am wise to that Faustian bargain, and will not barter piecemeal or in whole my liberty!'”
Henry folded his arms and surveyed the rows of stony-faced members across the floor. “Why are you gentlemen so fearful of that word?” he demanded. “Why have not one of you dared pronounce it? Is it because you believe that if it is not spoken, or its fact or action in any form not acknowledged, it will not be what it is? Well, I will speak it for you and for all this colony to hear!” His arms dropped, but the left rose again, and he shouted, stabbing the air with a fist, “Tyranny! Tyranny! Tyranny!” The arm dropped again. “There! The horror is named!” He suddenly strode to the Clerk’s table, seized the bound pages of the Stamp Act that lay next to the golden mace, and violently thrust it back down, causing John Randolph and his clerks to wince, and loose papers to blow to the floor. “Tyranny! There is its guise, sirs! What a Janus-faced object it is, smirking at you on one side of its mask, shedding tears for you on the other! What a contemptible set of men who authored it, but whom you wish to accommodate! What a disgraceful proposition! And what a travesty you ask us to condone! ‘Tis only a mere pound of flesh we propose to remove from you, they tell you in gentle, proper language, and we promise that you will not bleed. Hah!” barked Henry with scorn. “You will recall how the Bard proved the folly and fallacy of that kind of compact! Are not accommodation and compromise another but greater form of it? He proved it in a comedy, sirs! You propose to prove it in a tragedy, and if you succeed in penning finis to your opus, you may rue the day you put your names on its title page!”
Henry wandered back in the direction of his seat, though his contemptuous glance did not leave the men on the opposition benches. “You gentlemen, you have amassed vast, stately libraries from which you seem to be reluctant to cull or retain much wisdom. Know that I, too, have books, and that they are loose and dog-eared from my having read them, and I have profited from that habit.” His voice now rose to a pitch that seemed to shatter the air. “History is rife with instances of ambitious, grasping tyranny! Like many of you, I, too, have read that in the past, the tyrants Tarquin and Julius Caesar each had his Brutus, Catline had his Cicero and Cato, and, closer to our time, Charles had his Cromwell! George the Third may – ”
The opposition benches exploded in outrage. Burgesses shot up at the sound of the king’s name, released now from their dumb silence, and found their argument. They cried to the Speaker, “Treason!” “Treason!” “Enough! He speaks treason!” “Expel that man!” “Silence that traitor!” “Stay his tongue!” “Treason!”
Speaker Robinson was also on his feet, shaking his cane at Henry. “Treason, sir! Treason! I warn you, sir! Treason!”
Henry, determined to finish his sentence, shouted about the tumult, ” –George the Third may profit by their example!”
“Treason!” insisted more of the older members. “Sedition!” “Treason!” “Speaker, silence that man!”
Henry stood defiantly, facing his gesturing accusers, then raised a hand and whipped it through the air in a diagonal swath that seemed to sweep them all way. “If this be treason, then make the most of it!” he shouted. He stood for a moment more, then turned and strode back to his seat. But, he did not sit, for he was not finished….
The fifth resolve was adopted by the House by a margin of one vote, twenty to nineteen. Patrick Henry leaned back in his seat, his eyes closed in relief.
UPDATE: The Radio Patriot is asking how people feel about Quin Hillyer’s article. I love that site and all of you should read it as well as the author’s columns at World Net Daily – Andrea Shea King.
I have now been labeled a ‘radical’ by fellow bloggers who think my site and Quin Hillyer’s article go too far. So be it. Here is my comment from The Radio Patriot:
Yep, totally agree… And am now being labeled as radical for agreeing with him. What we don’t need to save this country are a bunch more Republicans/Conservatives/Moderates (whatever) that are afraid of speaking the truth and calling a spade a spade. Everything he said in the article is right and correct, so why does everyone think it is over the top? He said Obama must be stopped and I agree, but he stopped there. Soooo damn frustrated with those that claim they want to fix the horrible mess we are in but don’t have the spine to do so….