Mark Twain never said that — and 18 other quotes incorrectly attributed to famous people

15. “Give me liberty or give me death!”

—Patrick HenryBefore we get into this, maybe you should take off your tricorne hat and have a seat. Are you sitting? Here goes. While this line is often cited as the conclusion of a stirring speech Patrick Henry delivered at the Virginia convention in 1775, he left behind no notes or written versions of the speech, and no one there at the time did, either. The first documented version of the speech as we know it appeared in William Wirt’s 1817 biography of Henry, based mostly on memories from Henry’s contemporaries, which were very likely fallible. When the book was finally released, many of those same contributors panned it as deeply flawed. (Thomas Jefferson called it “a poor book” and said it offered “an imperfect idea of Patrick Henry.”) What’s more, some scholars have noted the line bears a heavy resemblance to text from the 1712 play Cato. (“It is not now time to talk of aught/But chains or conquest, liberty or death.”)

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