Historians Unearth Draft of Famous Patrick Henry ‘Give Me Retail Shopping and Give Me Death’ Speech

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Researchers at the National Academy of History and Past Events announced this morning that they’ve made a rather interesting and unforeseen discovery in their basement filing cabinets. The NAHPE is tasked with curating and cataloging a variety of important documents and artifacts from throughout American history. For instance, their archives contain rare toe nail clippings from what they believe is the first slave of his that Thomas Jefferson raped, and they have in their possession the stock dividend statements Dick Cheney received during the first few years of the Iraq War. However, what NAHPE Executive Co-Vice President Jane Meyers told the country they found today could have some relevance to current events.

“This weekend, a very small crew of three people divided up our headquarters into thirds in an effort to clean, sanitize, and disinfect it,” Ms. Meyers reported, “and the woman we assigned to clean our basement level found a piece of parchment that we just couldn’t believe. It was a draft copy of one of the most famous speeches in American history.”


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What the NAHPE employee found was an astoundingly rare rough draft copy of a version of Patrick Henry’s famous “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” speech. However, Meyers says the draft that the employee discovered is from a time after Henry had delivered that speech in the run up to the American Revolution. Apparently, Henry had become concerned that the new government he was supporting the creation of could have the power to require citizens, for their own health and safety as well as countless others, to stay in their homes during a pandemic outbreak or some other such major national health crisis.

“The fascinating thing is that modern medicine wasn’t really a thing at the time the founders lived,” Meyers said, “but the speech is titled, Give Me Retail Shopping and Give Me Death, so clearly Henry, like the people protesting COVID-19 quarantines, was concerned about the economic impact of caring too much about everyone’s health and safety.”

The “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” speech, delivered by Patrick Henry to Virginia’s second constitutional convention more than a year before the Revolutionary War broke out, has been referred to by many in the nearly 250 years since it was given as a shining example of America’s belief in personal freedom. The most famous line, “give me liberty or give me death,” has been used by people arguing for more such personal freedom throughout American history. As it turns out though, not long after Henry delivered it, he had some misgivings, and considered following up his first speech with another one.

In Henry’s follow-up speech, he worried that sometime in the future Americans might be asked to make a choice to temporarily reduce or limit their personal freedoms in order to keep millions more safe from infection. Meyers says it’s a “stunning example” of someone rightly predicting the future, and that Mr. Henry apparently grappled with whether future citizens should be kept from their “God given right to purchase items in a retail commercial setting.”

Ms. Meyers says she finds it “quite interesting” that in his second speech, Henry seems to tacitly admit that sometimes a compromise between safety and liberty is needed.

“He clearly says in the second speech that he’s getting a form of liberty, in the retail shopping, but also death,” Meyers said. “He is not declaring a binary choice like he did in the first speech, and is admitting, it would appear, that more liberty could mean more death in some circumstances.”

Though Meyers said the NAHPE plans on not fully publishing and publicizing the contents of the draft speech until around the 4th of July this year, they did want to “do a little tease” of what people could expect to find in it. They decided to publish an excerpt that Henry apparently meant to self-satirize his previous speech with. It’s a very “familiar sounding” passage, Meyers explained, but with a few key differences.

Printed below is the excerpt.

“It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, health, flatten the curve, stop the spread, —but there is no health worth losing all of one retailer’s revenue. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the CDC will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already lined up outside Woolworth’s and JC Penney, red hats and all! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or not dying so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of not purchasing anything at any price? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me retail shopping and give me death! I WANT BOTH, IS WHAT I AM SAYING, IN CASE I DID NOT MAKE IT CLEAR BEFORE NOW!”

“If you think about it, this all makes a lot of sense. The people protesting know about as much about modern healthcare as Patrick Henry did,” Meyers concluded, “so this tracks. This…really, really tracks.”


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Writer/comedian James Schlarmann is the founder of The Political Garbage Chute and his work has been featured on The Huffington Post. You can follow James on Facebook, Spotify, and Instagram, but not Twitter because Twitter is a cesspool.

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