In 1775, a 36-year-old named Patrick Henry swung the balance of the Second Virginia Convention with these words:
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!
This impassioned statement, with its famous concluding phrase, convinced the delegates to commit troops to the War of Independence. Henry dominates the American imagination as a fiery orator and champion of independence.