“Give Me [Tree Bark], Or Give Me Death” – Liberty Yesterday And Today
No speech has ever stirred the American people so much as Patrick Henry’s “Give Me Liberty, or Give Me Death” speech. No matter if I see a professional orator perform it with eloquence, or a young child reciting that speech, it touches my heart with goodness and purpose. The United States of America was built upon these two feelings and Patrick Henry’s speech.
Henry’s cry for liberty started a worldwide movement toward governmental freedom, spiritual freedomand personal freedom.
Liber, Liberty, and Freedom
What is liberty? Years ago I attended a seminar called“The Liber” by a professor named Dr. Shanon Brooks. Dr. Brooks explained that before books and parchment, there was tree bark. Only a few people in each community could read or write on the tree bark documents they had. At the time tree bark was the most logicaland simple method of communicating for business, politicsand religion with other communities of people. The word for tree bark is liber, and the people who were privileged enough to learn how to read it, write on it and speak what it said to the community were called “Liber” as well.
The Liber knew more than anyone else and shared his knowledge with all. He was the main source for the community’s freedom since he was the only one educated in the liber arts. And, as we know, education is freedom.
Since that time liber has been the root word of many words which lead to freedom: liberal arts, libros, libraryand liberty — to name a few.
It’s very fitting that in United States history, liberty started with a speaker, Patrick Henry, and a document, The Declaration of Independencewas signed by all the delegates from our large communities called colonies. Liberty has always been born the same. The founders of the United States of America were liber.
Standing For Freedom
Once a person, or a people, become more liber they will not accept any system, except a free system. When I say, “free” I don’t mean consequence-free. I mean open, intelligentand not-controlling. A system based on self analysis and self-government. That’s what our country was built upon. It’s the idea that all good people try to govern themselves with correct principles.
“Remember in 1831 when the famous French historian Alexis de Tocqueville said:“I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers, and it was not there; in her fertile fields and boundless prairies, and it was not there; in her rich mines and her vast world of commerce, and it was not there. Not until I went to the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.” – L. Tom Perry
George Takes A Stand
Imagine yourself sitting in session with the First Continental Congress. You’re meeting with people like John Adams, Benjamin Frankin, Richard Henry Leeand Thomas Jefferson. You and all your fellow delegates are in business attire, ready for a full day’s debate, when through the door walks the war hero, George Washington, in his military uniform. What could it mean?
George Washington was making a statement. He was saying that he was ready to fight against the British to get his liberty.
Another large part of the continental congress meetings was drafting a document that would declare our independence from Britain. The Declaration of Independence was written for the Congress by Thomas Jefferson.
The United States of America began its fight to become an independent, libercountry with some writing on a piece of paper and a man ready to fight for the freedoms the document declared arenecessary. Tree bark works again.
Note: At a constitutional studies class I attended a few years ago, the instructor said that only about four percent of the current United States population has actually read the whole Declaration of Independence. Take a minute or two to raise the percentage!
Same Story, Another Era
Many many years before George Washington, a Native American warrior did the same thing George Washington did. He wrote a document called “The Title of Liberty” on a coat and made a banner out of it. Then he put on his military uniformto show he would fight for his liberties if it was necessary. This warrior was also fighting against a man who wanted to unlawfully become king of his people. Same land, similar dispute, but a different time.
In true tree bark fashion, he went from place to place sharing his message about Liberty. Many years later, this warrior is still an inspiration because of his goodness, his purpose, and his stand.
The words on the title were not complicated. He simply declared that he waned freedom of religion and peace for their families.
Freedom For Families
Freedom for families has always been a concern. It’s an ongoing discussion that includes people of all ages and throughout all times. It’s especially important to discuss freedom for families in our world today.
Our families are in bondage. Not to some kingor cruel master. We’re in bondage because we’re not obedientand give in to our weaknesses. We’re under attack in the walls of our own homes. Confusion, distractionand selfishness abound.
Think for a minute… what are your weaknesses?
How do these weaknesses affect your family relationships?
Who is the enemy this time? You could probably name a few people as “bad guys,”but in reality, the ultimate “bad guy,”Satan, has turned us all against ourselves. He confuses us and instills anger and dishonesty in our hearts. He encourages us to judge, hate one another, and turn our backs on the most important organization we have in life:the family.
Warriors from long ago were willing to give their lives to protect their families. We need to do the same. We need to lose all the confusion, comparisonand contention of daily lifeand insteadbecome united families.
Our free country was built upon the principles of self-government. Our founding fathers fought for years to defend the right to self-govern. Now, we, not too many years later, spend most of our time fighting because none of us know what self-government is. We need to take back the self-government our founding fathers fought for by taking back our agency.
We get to choose how to behave, and what our relationships will feel like. Even if another person wrongs us, or is unkind, we get to choose our reaction, and in so doing our peace and happiness.
What To Do About It?
What can we really do to start our families on the road to liberty and self-government? The answer is:become liber again.
Who are you? What is your battle cry? What will you fight for? Make a statement.
We have a family mission statement that we say each morning after family prayer. We wrote it, we read it, we say itand we live it. It goes like this:
“We, the Peck family, will love support and be united with one another.
We are dedicated to building an atmosphere of trust, faithand learning in our home.
We spread love and happiness to others.
We know that we are children of God and endeavor to return to his presence as an eternal family.
We have patience and wisdom in our relationships.
Heavenly Father guides and loves each of us so that we can fulfill our life’s missions.”
When our family says this each day as a group, I feel, in a small way, like Patrick Henry. We’re taking a stand, we’re fighting each day for goodness and purpose. We will go against mediocrity and accepted social apathy to serve God’s purpose.
This is our liber. It makes us free to be different than the crowd. And, if followed, will bring us social, religious, personal, family, and even governmental liberty.
I echo the words or the great Patrick Henry, “I know not what course others may take. But as for me, give me liberty, or give me death.”
Because without self-government (liberty), what are we really living for? If our purpose is the next thing that feels good, then we’re in bondage forever.