Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Liberty or Death

The misuse of American history for ideological ends has bothered me a lot recently. Thankfully, I haven't seen anything so far abusing the auspicious event that happened in Richmond, Virginia, 235 years ago today. On March 23rd, 1775, Patrick Henry delivered his "Give me Liberty, or Give me Death" speech before the House of Burgesses, awakening Virginia to the fact that Boston's hardships were cause for concern in the Old Dominion as well. It was an outcry in a deliberative, representative body (the first in the New World), to take collective action in the defense of liberty against a leader that asserted power over the Americans, rather than receiving assent to govern from those Americans. Henry did not emphasize taxes or the size of the state in his speech. He focused on the impending threat of war and the revocation of the right to self-governance.

There's a bit of a historical mystery that I don't have time to look into, but am curious if readers can help me with. Richmond was only designated as the capitol of Virginia in 1780. Before then, Williamsburg remained the capitol as far as I can tell. And yet in 1775, Henry delivered his address to the House of Burgesses in Richmond. Does anyone know why? Williamsburg was under no direct military occupation or threat as early as 1775 (and if they were, it's not like Richmond would be considerably safer). So why were they in Richmond? If anyone knows, please let me know in the comments - I'm curious.

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