Henry is historically known for his denunciation of corrupt officials in government and his vigorous defense of individual rights and freedoms. Henry's speech at St. John's is his most famous, and though no official account was ever recorded, witnesses came away remembering these powerful closing remarks:
"It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. 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?A witness to the speech later reported that immediately following Henry's remarks, "No murmur of applause was heard. The effect was too deep. After the trance of a moment, several members started from their seats. The cry, 'To arms!' seemed to quiver on every lip and gleam from every eye!"
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!"
Patrick Henry stirred American spirits and helped set us on a course for freedom 235 years ago today.