Friday, April 30, 2010

Eric Zorn's Reply to Speech Before the House of Burgesses

Tea Partier Pat Henry -

No man, Mr. President, thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well as abilities, of the very worthy gentlemen who have just addressed the House. But different men often see the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, I hope it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen if, entertaining as I do opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely and without reserve. This is no time for ceremony. The question before the House is one of awful moment to this country. For my own part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfill the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the Majesty of Heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.

Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it.

I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past. And judging by the past, I wish to know what there has been in the conduct of the British ministry for the last ten years to justify those hopes with which gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves and the House. Is it that insidious smile with which our petition has been lately received? Trust it not, sir; it will prove a snare to your feet. Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss. Ask yourselves how this gracious reception of our petition comports with those warlike preparations which cover our waters and darken our land. Are fleets and armies necessary to a work of love and reconciliation? Have we shown ourselves so unwilling to be reconciled that force must be called in to win back our love? Let us not deceive ourselves, sir. These are the implements of war and subjugation; the last arguments to which kings resort. I ask gentlemen, sir, what means this martial array, if its purpose be not to force us to submission? Can gentlemen assign any other possible motive for it? Has Great Britain any enemy, in this quarter of the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies? No, sir, she has none. They are meant for us: they can be meant for no other. They are sent over to bind and rivet upon us those chains which the British ministry have been so long forging.

And what have we to oppose to them? Shall we try argument? Sir, we have been trying that for the last ten years. Have we anything new to offer upon the subject? Nothing. We have held the subject up in every light of which it is capable; but it has been all in vain. Shall we resort to entreaty and humble supplication? What terms shall we find which have not been already exhausted? Let us not, I beseech you, sir, deceive ourselves. Sir, we have done everything that could be done to avert the storm which is now coming on. We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the ministry and Parliament. Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne! In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation. There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free — if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending — if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained — we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of hosts is all that is left us!

They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot? Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable — and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come.

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!

Eric Zorn -
Mr. President, my esteemed colleagues, especially the fiery cry-baby Mr. Henry, what do you really want? " These voters are "big babies," as political journalist Michael Kinsley wrote in the introduction of his 1995 book with that title: "They make flagrantly incompatible demands — cut my taxes, preserve my benefits, balance the budget — and then explode in self-righteous outrage when politicians fail to deliver."

A nicer term of art for such people is "symbolic conservatives and operational liberals," said retired SIU political scientist John Jackson, now a visiting professor at the Simon Institute. "I read most of the major polls routinely," he said. "And my long-term reading of those polls certainly seems to indicate that we want it all while damning the government and taxes." "We want Washington and the states to fix all of our problems now," as Slate's Jacob Weisberg wrote earlier this year. "At the same time, we want government to shrink, spend less and reduce our taxes."

Weisberg's essay was titled, "Down with the people: Blame the childish, ignorant American public — not politicians — for our political and economic crisis.What to do? Hope that our leaders find the courage to treat us like adults, and hope that we find the wisdom to appreciate it. When you are being robbed, Man Up! Pay Up! Buck Up! It's the Patriotic Thing! A BFD! Listen to Joe! Joe Biden!

Racist Babies! Look around, do you see any women, blacks, or Pacific Islanders in this House of Burgesses? Dude! What's all this Great Britain Stuff? Context and Narrative, you cry baby!


Dominick O Maolain said...

Pat, you certainly have a lot of colourful language there. But the meaning is a little lost. This is too open to interpretation. There is no paragraph where you sufficiently distance yourself from the more poetic rhetoric to make your intention unambiguous. Sometimes I can't tell whether you're for a thing, against it, or just flexing your literary muscles with no fixed message in mind.

Are you trying to emulate Kevin Myers? He may not be the best template to be following, I think. In a piece of his you quoted from recently he makes himself out to be a staunch defender of Catholicism, the Republic and traditional culture. In truth, he has a long track record of being against use of the Irish language1, and a reputation as a "West Brit"2. Bit of a slippery character, really. I stopped reading him long ago.

It'd be a shame if your passion for righteousness were diluted or even turned against itself through a lack of clarity.


2 among others . . .

Condolenses on the passing of your Fathe. Go raibh a anam ar dheasláimh Dé.

pathickey said...

God Bless you for the thoughts of my father.

As to my own obscurantist leanings in prose, chalk it up to my respect and dedication to the Catholic schoolyard practice of removing the trousers of sneaks, snitches and sycophants and tossing those puritanical habiliments onto the utility wires in the immediate empyrean sky.

Why we did that specific action I am not sure, but its effect was an immediate cease in the abilities of quislings to do us harm.