On March 23, 1775, Patrick Henry delivered his famous speech against British tyranny, a speech that became a defining moment in the fight for independence. Henry wanted Virginia to raise a militia and to put Virginia in a posture of defense against England. Most of his fellow Virginians preferred to be more cautious. Henry delivered his fiery speech to his fellow Virginians at Richmond’s St. John’s Church where the House of Burgesses was meeting. This is how his famous speech ends:
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? 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!
His speech was so rousing that the House of Burgesses voted to arm Virginia to defend the colonies against the British. Thomas Jefferson described Henry as the man who “set the ball of Revolution rolling” in Virginia.
Although the church is still an active Episcopal church, you can visit the historic church and relive this speech and learn more about this period in American history. The church a registered historic landmark and offers tours, lecture series, and permanent exhibits. The church also hosts re-enactments and a variety of other activities of interest to history enthusiasts.