American Rhetoric: Movie Speech

"The Patriot" (2000)


South Carolina Assembly Levy Debate

Audio mp3 delivered by Chris Cooper and Mel Gibson


Assembly Speaker: Our first order of business --

Simms: And our last if we vote a levy.

Assembly Speaker: Order! Order! Mr. Simms, you do not have the floor. Our first order of business will be an address by Colonel Harry Burwell of the Continental Army. Colonel Burwell....

  Colonel Burwell: You all know why I'm here.  I'm not an orator. And I would not try to convince you of the worthiness of our cause.  I'm a soldier and we are at war. From Philadelphia we expect a declaration of independence. Eight of the thirteen colonies have levied money in support of a Continental Army.  I ask that South Carolina be the ninth.

Simms: Massachusetts and Virginia may be at war, but South Carolina is not.

Colonel Burwell: This is not a war for the independence of one or two colonies, but for the independence of one nation.

Wilkins: And, uh, yes, what nation is that?

Howard: An American nation.

Wilkins: There is no such nation and to speak of one is treason.

Howard: We are citizens of an American nation and our rights are being threatened by a tyrant three thousand miles away.


Benjamin Martin: Would you tell me, please, Mister Howard, why should I trade one tyrant three thousand miles away for three thousand tyrants one mile away?

An elected legislature can trample a man's rights as easily as a King can.







Colonel Burwell: Captain Martin, I understood you to be a Patriot.

Benjamin Martin: If you mean by "Patriot," am I angry about taxation without representation? Why, yes, I am. Should the American colonies govern themselves independently? I believe they can and they should. But if you're asking me am I willing to go to war with England? Well then the answer is most definitely no!

Middleton: This from the same Captain Benjamin Martin whose fury was so famous during the Wilderness Campaign.

Benjamin Martin: I was intemperate in my youth.

Middleton: Temperance can be a convenient disguise for fear.

Colonel Burwell: Mister Middleton, I fought with Captain Martin under Washington in the French and Indian War. There is not a man in this room, or anywhere, for that matter, to whom I would more willingly trust my life.

Benjamin Martin: There are alternatives to war. We take our case before the King. We plead with him.

Colonel Burwell: Yes, we tried that.

Benjamin Martin: Well then we try again and again, if necessary, to avoid a war.

Colonel Burwell: Benjamin, I was at Bunker Hill. The British advanced three times and we killed over seven hundred of them at point blank range, and still they took the ground. That is the measure of their resolve. Now, if your principles dictate independence, then war is the only way.  It has come to that.

Benjamin Martin:  I have seven children. My wife is dead. Now who's to care for them if I go to war?

Colonel Burwell: Wars are not fought only by childless men.

Benjamin Martin: Granted. But mark my words. This war will be fought not on the frontier or on some distant battlefield, but amongst us -- among our homes. Our children will learn of it with their own eyes. And the innocent will die with the rest of us. I will not fight. And because I will not fight, I will not cast a vote that will send others to fight in my stead.

Colonel Burwell: And your principles?

Benjamin Martin: I'm a parent. I haven't got the luxury of principles.

Movie Speeches

Online Speech Bank

American Rhetoric Home

Copyright 2001-Present. 
American Rhetoric.
HTML transcription by Michael E. Eidenmuller.
All rights reserved.