"Give me liberty or give me death" were part of a speech that was credited as inciting the Virginia House of Burgesses to send the Virginia troops into the Revolutionary War.
The speech was so inspirational that the crowds who had gathered to hear it responded by shouting back "To arms! To arms!" The speaker was so motivational, that he actually caused a large number of people to willingly enter into the war against England in order to fight for their freedom.
At the Virginia Convention on March 23, 1775, Patrick Henry spoke these famous words in his speech. He addressed the audience with intentions of convincing them that they must enter the Revolutionary War in order to defend their freedom. He spoke about:
At the end of the speech is where his most well known line came into play. His last words to the audience were:
"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 had a long history of involvement in the political systems of the then British colony. Henry was an advocate for the people in the Parson's Case, in which he argued against prices paid to the clergy for tobacco. Soon after being elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses, Henry adamantly promoted the Stamp Act, a famous document that helped to protect the colonial citizens from unfair taxation by the British government.
After the American Revolution, Henry continued to have a prominent role in the governmental setting.
He always acted as a radical, and he fiercely opposed the Constitution because he felt it gave too much power to the federal government and not enough to the states. Therefore, he supported the Bill of Rights and was an instrumental figure in the enforcement of that doctrine.
Aside from the major effect of inciting Virginia into the Revolutionary War, Henry's words also have another powerful meaning. He made a very grand and intense statement, that he would rather die than not have liberty.
The passion with which he crafted his speech in undeniable. While some may think that he was using "Give me liberty or give me death" as a hyperbole, the seriousness of the subject of which he spoke and the enthusiasm and fearlessness he displayed through his life for political matters show that he was quite serious in his statement.