Wednesday, March 23, 2011


patrickhenry.jpg (496×599)
1736 – 1799

From border lands they came to claim a place,
In furth’est reaches of the royal realm.
Scots Irish, coming poor was no disgrace,
Proud, clannish, they’d the Red Coats overwhelm.

Parliament overreach they frowned upon
To fight and ‘haps to die caused them no balk.
Treat “lowland troubles” with the musket balm.
King barred them from the west? An end to talk!

The Henrys and the Winstons led the fight,
Railed, rallied neighbors, honored yet the king.
These borderers enraged when might trumps right.
Said might serves right, free people’s freedoms ring.

Think cousin Patrick’s views were some extreme?
Cut off the grasping hand! No in between!

Copyright 2011 Richard Baldwin Cook
PATRICK HENRY is a collateral ancestor of the poet. 

This sonnet appears in SPLENDID LIVES AND OTHERWISE: Sonnets of Remembrance (Nativa LLC) 2011, available at


March 23, 1775, Patrick Henry delivered the decisive oratory at a meeting of the Burgesses, Saint John's Church, Richmond, Virginia. Both Washington and Jefferson were present.
Did Patrick Henry actually say, 'Give me liberty or death?' Who knows? His oratory was hypnotic but his hearers had trouble remembering exactly what he had said. 

Jefferson on Henry: 
"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." ("Liberty or Death Speech," Charles Cohen, 38 William and Mary Quarterly 4 (pp. 702-717).

Portrait of Patrick Henry by George Bagby Matthews, Senate Website, Public Domain

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