Give Me Liberty: Speakers and Speeches that Have Shaped America
Christopher L. Webber
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Sure to become a classic of American oratorical history, ?Give Me Liberty reveals the enduring power of America's quest for a freer and more just society, and the context of the speeches and speakers―from Daniel Webster and Patrick Henry to Martin Luther King and Ronald Reagan―that gave voice to the struggle. ?
"Give me liberty," demanded Patrick Henry, "or give me death!" Henry's words continue to echo in American history and that quote, and the speech it comes from, remains one of the two or three known to almost every American. The other speeches that have become part of our American collective consciousness all have one theme in common: liberty. These feats of oration seem to trace the evolution of America's definition of liberty, and who it applies to. But what exact is liberty?
It is a term open to a broad range of opinion, and questions about freedom arise daily in the news and in everyday life. Perhaps uniquely among the nations of the world, the United States traces its origins to groups and individuals who specifically wanted create something new. Webber's insightful Give Me Liberty looks at these great speeches and provides the historical context, focusing attention on particular individuals who summed up the issues of their own day in words that have never been forgotten. Webber gleans lessons from the past centuries that will allow us to continue to strive for the ideals of liberty in the 21st century.
analogies and telling stories that would enable them to be more aware of the mystery of life. Bryan’s very presence would also, of course, tend to deepen the faith of his hearers, for here was a great man who had traveled the world and discoursed with great philosophers and had now come to their small town to share his faith with them. Bryan’s faith would be put on public display in a very different way toward the end of his life; but in his planned statement to the Scopes Trial court—never made
by its people. I have an abiding faith in their capacity, integrity and high purpose. I have no fears for the future of our country.29 It is noteworthy that Roosevelt said “we” and Hoover said “I.” Roosevelt was always reaching out to include others. Hoover was an engineer by profession and had been paid always for his own expertise and individual opinion. Thus, when the stock market crashed only seven months after his inauguration as president, fear was rampant and Hoover was unable to speak in
establish the facts in the case. Part Two, slightly shorter, was addressed to the South, taking up charges made in the South that the Republican Party was determined to destroy the Union. In fact, he said, it was the South that was determined to force a new understanding of federal power on the nation. Your purpose, then, plainly stated, is that you will destroy the Government, unless you be allowed to construe and enforce the Constitution as you please, on all points in dispute between you and
the Plymouth Church in the morning and then toured a charity mission in the worst Manhattan slum in the afternoon. He spoke to the children collected for Sunday School, telling them about his own childhood deprivations. Then, turning down invitations to speak in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, he took the ferry across the Hudson and boarded the Erie Railroad for the long, slow trip along New York’s snow-covered southern tier, saying a few words to small groups at some of the stations.
misstated Lincoln’s position. He had not, he told his audience, complained of the Dred Scott decision because it “held that a negro could not be a citizen”; he complained of it because he saw it to be part of a scheme to make slavery a nationwide institution. Here Lincoln cited the great Kentucky senator Henry Clay (1777–1852), who had defended slavery while calling it “a great evil.” That, Lincoln asserted, had been the prevailing opinion until recent years. The authors of the Constitution had