John Stark pens motto ‘Live Free or Die’

Published: 11/19/2016 10:00:00 PM

In 1809, New Hampshire Revolutionary War hero John Stark wrote a letter to a group of men planning an anniversary celebration of Stark’s victory at the Battle of Bennington in 1777.

The battle had proven a critical early engagement for the Battle of Saratoga, a British defeat that is widely considered the turning point of the war.

Given his age and infirmities, Stark was not able to attend the celebration, but instead wrote the letter to be read aloud to the attendees. A rousing defense of the revolution’s principles, Stark included a sentence that would become immortal: “Live free or die, death is not the greatest of evils.” The phrase “Live free or die” officially became the state motto of New Hampshire in 1945. 

N.H. Historical Society

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