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September 16, 2008

Did Patrick Henry really say "Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death?"

“These are the times that try men’s souls.” “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” “Don't fire till you see the whites of their eyes.” “No taxation without representation.” “I can't tell a lie.”

The often quoted words of our founding fathers (and an occasional founding mother) inspired a revolution and continue to inspire Americans today. Now a new book published by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and Rowman and Littlefield Publishers tells the true stories behind the words that made America. In Paul Aron’s “We Hold These Truths…,” you’ll discover:

Why Patrick Henry may never have said “If this be treason, make the most of it” and Paul Revere never said “the British are coming;”
Where Benjamin Franklin found his “Poor Richard” proverbs and Thomas Jefferson his “self-evident” truths;
Who changed the Preamble of the Constitution from “We the States” to “We the People;”
How James Otis’ declaration that “taxation without representation is tyranny” led to his going insane;
How George Washington’s “I can’t tell a lie” spread throughout the land.

Aron is senior editor and writer for Colonial Williamsburg. His previous books include “Unsolved Mysteries of American History,” “Unsolved Mysteries of History,” “More Unsolved Mysteries of American History” and “Did Babe Ruth Call His Shot?” In “We Hold These Truths…,” Aron offers the often surprising and always entertaining background of the famous words that still provoke and inspire us today.

Gordon Wood, best-selling author of “Revolutionary Characters” and “The American Revolution,” called Aron’s book “…an entertaining and educational romp through Revolutionary history. Paul Aron uses . . . words and phrases as starting points for the telling of dozens of interesting and delightful stories, and in the process he has created a colorful tapestry of life in the Founding era of America.”

Roger Kennedy, former director of the National Park Service, wrote that “’We Hold These Truths…’ invites us into a world in which words mattered because ideas mattered… Aron has bravely situated [the founders’] eloquence and elegance in explanatory prose of his own, which shows that he has no fear of formidable neighbors; that he has read them and learned from them about how to write – which he does earnestly but not heavily –clearly and with verve.”

And Pulitzer Prize winning historian Jack Rakove wrote: “’We Hold These Truths…’ is a fascinating and handy compendium of the real origins of many of the best known quotations from our Revolutionary era. Sometimes you'll be surprised, and more often, delighted.”

The book is available in hardcover for $18.95 from WILLIAMSBURG Booksellers®, 101 Visitor Center Drive, and other Colonial Williamsburg retail outlets and on the Internet at It is published by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation in association with Rowman and Littlefield Publishers Inc., who will distribute books outside Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area.

Established in 1926, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational institution that preserves and operates the restored 18th-century Revolutionary capital of Virginia as a town-sized living history museum, telling the inspirational stories of our nation’s founding men and women. Within the restored and reconstructed buildings, historic interpreters, attired as colonial men and women from slaves to shopkeepers to soldiers, relate stories of colonial Virginia society and culture – stories of our journey to become Americans – while historic trades people research, demonstrate and preserve the 18th-century world of work and industry. As Colonial Williamsburg interprets life in the time of the American Revolution for its guests, it also invites them to interact with history. “Revolutionary City®,” a dramatic live street theater presentation, is a 2008 Rand McNally Best-of-the-Road™ Editor’s Pick. Williamsburg is located in Virginia’s Tidewater region, 20 minutes from Newport News, within an hour’s drive of Richmond and Norfolk, and 150 miles south of Washington, D.C., off Interstate 64. For more information about Colonial Williamsburg, call 1-800-HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg’s Web site at

Media Contact:
Barbara Brown
(757) 220-7121