"Live Free Or Die; Death Is Not The Worst Of Evils."
--General John Stark,
July 31, 1809

I remember some years ago when there was a movement to change the state motto of New Hampshire. Apparently there were some people who felt it was too harsh and that it was potentially offensive. I remember there being some kind of argument that, "Maybe someone who lives here doesn't really feel that way." The effort to strike the motto went to the legislature, championed by some state representative who had no idea what he was doing. He lost his re-election bid in a landslide and was mocked statewide.

The 1945 New Hampshire legislature was the one that officially stamped "Live Free or Die" as the state motto. It was probably the kind of thing that people were willing to rally around during World War II. At the same time, it leaves New Hampshire as the only state that actively declares one of the key themes of the American War of Independence without hiding it behind some kind of cute Latin phrasing. The fact that there are still groups of people pursuing the "freedom" to not have to wear it on their license plate tells us much about the state of the nation. I remember back in the 1980s hearing some drunken slob in a bar telling me, "If we were taken over by the commies, would they all really turn over and die in New Hampshire or would they go along with the program? I think they'd go along with the program."

Which of course reminds us of an important point. How free are we, really? There have been others to make the point that the motto is a lie, and that everytime the state legislature in New Hampshire passes laws that restrict freedom, such as disallowing the medicinal use of marijuana until said substance is approved by the FDA, it is making liars of our its own people. Indeed.

The fact is that the state motto of New Hampshire is one of the few state mottos that everyone in the state knows and has on the tip of their tongue. It is a state of mind and it is more than a motto, it is the state theme. In a state that many consider to be more European in nature, something you might understand if you drive through its many towns, it is a place where the Mongol invaders from the state to the south are known as "Massholes." This has something to do with the fact that people from Massachusetts come up to raid, pillage and steal the womenfolk. I know, I used to be a Masshole.

General John Stark was New Hampshire's most noted hero of the American War of Independence. In those days they used to have annual reunions to commemorate great deeds of the past. Not having television award shows and the like, they had to do it all live. General Stark's words were sent on the commemoration of the occasion of the 32nd anniversary of the Battle of Bennington. Stark was ill and unable to make the reunion so he sent these words, and they were used as a toast at the reunion.

"Live Free Or Die; Death Is Not The Worst Of Evils."

Stark probably never expected his words to get any further than that. He was an old general in his last days on earth. However, he probably intended to say more than most people infer, especially since the second part of his statement is all but forgotten. It puts the exclamation point on those four words that appear on license plates, T-shirts and stickers all over the state. All too many people equate the slogan with the fact that New Hampshire has no sales tax or income tax. This shows us how weird Americans have become and how money has become the definition of freedom.

The New Hampshire Presidential Primary has always provided much entertainment for the rest of the country. People in New Hampshire have a general attitude about voting in that primary. They don't give a damn what the rest of the country thinks and they will vote what they think. It has often been stated that the New Hampshire primary is an opportunity for candidates to change their fortunes. Others have called it a meaningless game that says nothing about the final results. Regardless, winning the New Hampshire primary rarely produces a winner in the general election. It is more likely to get you an appearance on Saturday Night Live.

I suppose I could say that New Hampshire is different from every other state in the union, except for the fact that I've only lived in four other states. My data would therefore be incomplete. I've travelled extensively throughout America and I've never found any people who mirror the good folks of New Hampshire. They are not your average Americans. They have this tendency to snort when people tell them they can't do something. This is a state settled by people who decided they wanted to start farming on rocky hillsides. This is a place where overalls are considered "dressing for business." This is a place you need to move to if you have any interest in being elected to office as a Libertarian. They elect third party candidates in New Hampshire, and the state has the largest percentage of Libertarian office holders in the United States. "Live Free or Die" has produced a culture of right-wing radicalism just as its neighbor, Vermont, tends to support left-wing radicalism. Go figure. Vermont has the highest per capita income in the United States and New Hampshire is filled with blue collar working people. This throws off all theories on democracy and the masses. This is why New Hampshire laughs at you.

People in New Hampshire laugh at stereotypes. If you tell them they are all a bunch of right wing Republicans they will go to the polls and elect a Democrat just to show you. They have no concept of party lines. They follow representative democracy according to a person by person examination. I've only ever met one person who lived in New Hampshire who had a party affiliation.

You have to wonder. General John Stark was sending a personal message to his old comrades in arms when he talked about the concept of "Live Free or Die." He managed to define a state full of people who are resilient, defiant and refuse to be defined by what the rest of the country thinks. While you have the American south joining hands with each other in some form of defiance and the Pacific Northwest trying to tell us they are different, only New Hampshire stands alone as its own fully functional island.

"Live Free Or Die; Death Is Not The Worst Of Evils."


Information on General John Stark researched at the New Hampshire state website.

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.