Sunday, March 23, 2008

Patrick Henry Was Wrong

On March 23, 1775, at St. John's Church in Richmond, Virginia, Patrick Henry delivered a powerful speech that is credited with having swung the balance in convincing the Virginia House of Burgesses to pass a resolution calling the Virginia troops into the service of the Revolutionary War.

"We must fight!" he said. "I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of hosts is all that is left us!"

We would consider Patrick Henry to be aligned with the "Religious Right." Perhaps the British thought of him as a left-wing radical:

Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. The 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, sir, 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.

His final line is so famous that it may even be known by several recent graduates of government-run schools:

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!

The actual meaning of this call to arms, of course, is "Give me liberty or give THEM death." Or as General George S. Patton, Jr., put it in June, 1944,

Now I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.

George Washington phrased it this way:

Unhappy it is though to reflect, that a Brother's Sword has been sheathed in a Brother's breast, and that, the once happy and peaceful plains of America are either to be drenched with Blood, or Inhabited by Slaves. Sad alternative! But can a virtuous Man hesitate in his choice?

Nobody in America today believes that Patrick Henry was justified in calling for a War for Independence. Nobody today would sign the Declaration of Independence. Americans love their taxes. Economic historians have quantified the "chains and slavery" that Patrick Henry denounced.

The total tax burden imposed by the British Empire on the colonies in 1775, as distinguished from the taxes imposed by colonial legislatures, was approximately 1% of national income in the North, and about 2.5% in the South. The main burden was from customs duties placed on non-British imports into the colonies. These were tariffs, i.e., sales taxes on imports.

If we were to experience this rate of taxation today, Henry's "slavery" would be considered a "libertarian utopia." Political polls are considered accurate within 3-5%. If this economist's estimate of the colonial tax burden is off by 100%, we are still paying ten times more in taxes than Patrick Henry called "slavery."

But Americans today pay these exhorbitant taxes because they labor under a delusion that they're getting more in government benefits than they pay. "Something for nothing." Americans accept slavery because they have larcenous hearts.

America's Founding Fathers would undoutedly call today's Americans a bunch of slaves, unworthy of the name "American."

And they would probably be correct.

But to advocate the taking up of arms -- of muskets and cannons against brothers -- was unChristian. The Bible clearly commands the paying of taxes and prohibits the violent overthrow of the government. Our job is to live to witness to our captors, not to kill them.

Patrick Henry was known for putting evangelistic tracts in the jurors chairs in every trial he argued. It was certainly not his goal to replace the colonial Theocracies with a secular government. Patrick Henry's speech invoked the blessing of God, and frequently cites the Bible. But Jesus said, “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword." Matthew 26:52
Patrick Henry's America has indeed perished.

Patrick Henry by David Dieteman

Mourn on the 4th of July.

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