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Live free or die

"Live free or die" is the official motto of New Hampshire, a small state in the New England region of the northeast United States. It is probably the best-known of all state mottos, perhaps because it speaks to the aggressive side of the American Dream.

The phrase comes from a toast written by Gen. John Stark in July 31, 1809. Poor health had forced Stark, who was New Hampshire's most famous soldier of the American Revolution, to decline an invitation to an anniversary reunion of the Battle of Bennington, Vermont. Instead he sent the toast, which said in full: "Live free or die: Death is not the worst of evils."

In 1945, the New Hampshire Legislature adopted the phase as the state's motto, and in 1971 chose to have it appear on all New Hampshire license plates, replacing the sentiment "Scenic". The modern plate seems in contrast to the sentiments that appear on most U.S. license plates, such as "Famous Potatoes" (Idaho), and helps contribute to its notoriety.

The motto seems to be similar to "Eleftheria i thanatos" ("Liberty or Death"), which is the national motto of Greece and comes from the motto of the Greek War of Independence (1821 - 1830).

A possible source of both mottoes is Patrick Henry's famed March 23, 1775 speech to the House of Burgesses (the legislative body of the Virginia colony) that contained the following line:

"Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!"

See also: List of state mottos



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