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"Live Free or Die" is the official motto of the U.S. state of New Hampshire
New Hampshire
New Hampshire is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. The state was named after the southern English county of Hampshire. It is bordered by Massachusetts to the south, Vermont to the west, Maine and the Atlantic Ocean to the east, and the Canadian...

, adopted by the state in 1945. It is possibly the best-known of all state mottos, partly because it speaks to an assertive independence
Independence
Independence is a condition of a nation, country, or state in which its residents and population, or some portion thereof, exercise self-government, and usually sovereignty, over its territory....

 historically found in American political philosophy
Political ideologies in the United States
Political ideologies in the United States vary considerably. Persons in the U.S. generally classify themselves either as adhering to positions along the political spectrum as liberal-progressive, moderate, or conservative. American liberalism aims at the preservation and extension of human, social...

 and partly because of its contrast to the milder sentiments found in other state mottos.

The phrase comes from a toast written by General John Stark
John Stark
John Stark was a New Hampshire native who served as a major general in the Continental Army during the American Revolution. He became widely known as the "Hero of Bennington" for his exemplary service at the Battle of Bennington in 1777.-Early life:John Stark was born in Londonderry, New...

 on July 31, 1809. Poor health forced Stark, New Hampshire's most famous soldier of the American Revolutionary War
American Revolutionary War
The American Revolutionary War , the American War of Independence, or simply the Revolutionary War, began as a war between the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen British colonies in North America, and ended in a global war between several European great powers.The war was the result of the...

, to decline an invitation to an anniversary reunion of the Battle of Bennington
Battle of Bennington
The Battle of Bennington was a battle of the American Revolutionary War that took place on August 16, 1777, in Walloomsac, New York, about from its namesake Bennington, Vermont...

. Instead, he sent his toast by letter:
Live free or die: Death is not the worst of evils.


The motto was enacted at the same time as the state emblem
Emblem of New Hampshire
The State Emblem of New Hampshire is an elliptical panel with a picture of the Old Man of the Mountain surrounded on the top by the state name and on the bottom by the state motto, "Live Free or Die." The emblem was officially declared by the New Hampshire General Court in 1945. In 1957, the emblem...

, on which it appears.

Legal battle


In 1971, the New Hampshire state legislature
New Hampshire General Court
The General Court of New Hampshire is the bicameral state legislature of the U.S. state of New Hampshire. The lower house is the New Hampshire House of Representatives with 400 members. The upper house is the New Hampshire Senate with 24 members...

 mandated that the phrase appear on all non-commercial license plate
Vehicle registration plates of New Hampshire
The state of New Hampshire began requiring its citizens to register their vehicles and display license plates on their cars in 1905.-Passenger baseplates 1933 to present:-Non-passenger types:-External links:*...

s, replacing "Scenic."

In 1977, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the case of Wooley v. Maynard
Wooley v. Maynard
Wooley v. Maynard, 430 U.S. 705 , was a case in which the Supreme Court of the United States held that New Hampshire could not constitutionally require citizens to display the state motto upon their vehicle license plates when the state motto was offensive to their moral...

, 430 U.S. 705, that the State of New Hampshire could not prosecute motorists who chose to hide part or all of the motto. That ruling came about because George Maynard, a Jehovah's Witness, covered up "or die" from his plate. "By religious training and belief, I believe my 'government' - Jehovah's Kingdom - offers everlasting life. It would be contrary to that belief to give up my life for the state, even if it meant living in bondage." Pursuant to these beliefs, the Maynards began early in 1974 to cover up the motto on their license plates.

He was convicted of breaking a state law against altering license plates.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6–3 in his favor and likened Maynard's refusal to accept the state motto with the Jehovah’s Witness children refusing to salute the American flag in public school in the 1943 decision West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette
West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette
West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624 , is a decision by the Supreme Court of the United States that held that the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution protected students from being forced to salute the American flag and say the...

.

"We begin with the proposition that the right of freedom of thought protected by the First Amendment against state action includes both the right to speak freely and the right to refrain from speaking at all,” Chief Justice Warren Burger wrote for the majority in Maynard.

"Here, as in Barnette, we are faced with a state measure which forces an individual, as part of his daily life indeed constantly while his automobile is in public view to be an instrument for fostering public adherence to an ideological point of view he finds unacceptable.

"The fact that most individuals agree with the thrust of New Hampshire’s motto is not the test; most Americans also find the flag salute acceptable," Burger wrote.

The Supreme Court concluded that the state’s interests paled in comparison to individuals’ free-expression rights.

Similar mottos


A possible source of such mottoes is Patrick Henry
Patrick Henry
Patrick Henry was an orator and politician who led the movement for independence in Virginia in the 1770s. A Founding Father, he served as the first and sixth post-colonial Governor of Virginia from 1776 to 1779 and subsequently, from 1784 to 1786...

's famed March 23, 1775 speech to the House of Burgesses
House of Burgesses
The House of Burgesses was the first assembly of elected representatives of English colonists in North America. The House was established by the Virginia Company, who created the body as part of an effort to encourage English craftsmen to settle in North America...

 (the legislative body of the Virginia
Virginia
The Commonwealth of Virginia , is a U.S. state on the Atlantic Coast of the Southern United States. Virginia is nicknamed the "Old Dominion" and sometimes the "Mother of Presidents" after the eight U.S. presidents born there...

 colony), which contained the following phrase: 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!

A medal struck at Matthew Boulton
Matthew Boulton
Matthew Boulton, FRS was an English manufacturer and business partner of Scottish engineer James Watt. In the final quarter of the 18th century the partnership installed hundreds of Boulton & Watt steam engines, which were a great advance on the state of the art, making possible the...

's Soho Mint
Soho Mint
Soho Mint was created by Matthew Boulton in 1788 in his Soho Manufactory in Handsworth, West Midlands, England. A mint was erected at the manufactory containing eight machines, driven by steam engine, each capable of striking 70 to 84 coins per minute....

, as tokens of exchange for the Paris firm of Monneron Freres, 1791–92, has on its obverse the motto Vivre libres ou mourir (Live free or die in French). A mention of "vivre libre ou mourir" occurs in 1754 Memoires by Chalopin.

During the Siege of Barcelona
Siege of Barcelona
The Siege of Barcelona was a battle at the end of the War of Spanish Succession , which pitted Archduke Charles of Austria The Siege of Barcelona was a battle at the end of the War of Spanish Succession (1701–1714), which pitted Archduke Charles of Austria The Siege of Barcelona was a battle at...

 (25 August 1713 - 11 September 1714) the Barcelona defenders and the Maulets used black flags with the motto "Live free or die", in Catalan "Viurem lliures o morirem". Now it is used as a symbol of Catalan independentism
Catalan independentism
Catalan independentism is a political movement, derived from Catalan nationalism, which supports the independence of Catalonia or the so-called Catalan countries from Spain and France...

.

National mottos

  • "Ελευθερια η Θανατος" (Eleutheria i thanatos — "Liberty
    Liberty
    Liberty is a moral and political principle, or Right, that identifies the condition in which human beings are able to govern themselves, to behave according to their own free will, and take responsibility for their actions...

     or Death
    Death
    Death is the permanent termination of the biological functions that sustain a living organism. Phenomena which commonly bring about death include old age, predation, malnutrition, disease, and accidents or trauma resulting in terminal injury....

    ") is the national motto of Greece
    Greece
    Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

     and comes from the motto of the Greek War of Independence
    Greek War of Independence
    The Greek War of Independence, also known as the Greek Revolution was a successful war of independence waged by the Greek revolutionaries between...

     (1821–1830).
  • "Слобода или Смрт" - "Sloboda ili Smrt" - "Freedom or Death" is the national motto of the Republic of Macedonia
    Republic of Macedonia
    Macedonia , officially the Republic of Macedonia , is a country located in the central Balkan peninsula in Southeast Europe. It is one of the successor states of the former Yugoslavia, from which it declared independence in 1991...

     and is derived from the Ilinden–Preobrazhenie Uprising.
  • "Libertad o Muerte" - "Liberty or Death" is the national motto of Uruguay
    Uruguay
    Uruguay ,officially the Oriental Republic of Uruguay,sometimes the Eastern Republic of Uruguay; ) is a country in the southeastern part of South America. It is home to some 3.5 million people, of whom 1.8 million live in the capital Montevideo and its metropolitan area...

    .
  • "Independência, ou morte!" - "Independence or death", was the national motto of the Brazilian Empire
    Brazilian Empire
    The Empire of Brazil was a 19th-century state that broadly comprised the territories which form modern Brazil. Its government was a representative parliamentary constitutional monarchy under the rule of Emperors Dom Pedro I and his son Dom Pedro II, both members of the House of Braganza—a...

    .
  • "Eala Frya Fresena" - "Rise up, Free Frisia
    Frisia
    Frisia is a coastal region along the southeastern corner of the North Sea, i.e. the German Bight. Frisia is the traditional homeland of the Frisians, a Germanic people who speak Frisian, a language group closely related to the English language...

    ns", spoken at the Upstalsboom in Aurich
    Aurich
    Aurich is a town in Lower Saxony, Germany. It is the capital of the district of Aurich.-History:The history of Aurich dates back to the 13th century, when the settlement of Aurechove was mentioned in a Frisian document called the Brokmerbrief in 1276. In 1517, Count Edzard from the house of...

     in the early first millennium. It is traditionally answered with "Lewwer duad üs Slaav", or "Better dead than a slave."
  • "Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité, ou la mort" - "Liberty, Equality, Brotherhood, or Death" was the early motto of the French Revolution
    French Revolution
    The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...

    . Later versions dropped "ou la mort". The full motto is still displayed above the entrance of the Hotel de Ville in Troyes
    Troyes
    Troyes is a commune and the capital of the Aube department in north-central France. It is located on the Seine river about southeast of Paris. Many half-timbered houses survive in the old town...

    .
  • "Better to die than to be a coward" (कांथर हुनु भन्दा मर्नु राम्रो - Kaayar hunnu bhanda marnu ramro) (Nepali). This is a motto in Nepal and is the motto of the British Army regiment the Royal Gurkha Rifles
    Royal Gurkha Rifles
    The Royal Gurkha Rifles is a regiment of the British Army, forming part of the Brigade of Gurkhas. The Royal Gurkha Rifles are now the sole infantry regiment of the British Army Gurkhas...

    , which coincidentally used to have its UK base in the county of Hampshire.

Historical


On January 1, 1804, Jean-Jacques Dessalines
Jean-Jacques Dessalines
Jean-Jacques Dessalines was a leader of the Haitian Revolution and the first ruler of an independent Haiti under the 1801 constitution. Initially regarded as Governor-General, Dessalines later named himself Emperor Jacques I of Haiti...

 proclaimed Haiti
Haiti
Haiti , officially the Republic of Haiti , is a Caribbean country. It occupies the western, smaller portion of the island of Hispaniola, in the Greater Antillean archipelago, which it shares with the Dominican Republic. Ayiti was the indigenous Taíno or Amerindian name for the island...

 (Ayiti), then a French slave colony, to be free and independent. Dessalines is said to have torn the white section from the French tricolor flag
Flag of France
The national flag of France is a tricolour featuring three vertical bands coloured royal blue , white, and red...

 while shouting, "Vivre libre ou mourir!", which means "live free or die."
The phrase "Vivre Libre ou Mourir" ("live free or die") was used in the French Revolution
French Revolution
The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...

. It was the subtitle of the journal by Camille Desmoulins
Camille Desmoulins
Lucie Simplice Camille Benoît Desmoulins was a journalist and politician who played an important role in the French Revolution. He was a childhood friend of Maximilien Robespierre and a close friend and political ally of Georges Danton, who were influential figures in the French Revolution.-Early...

, titled Le Vieux Cordelier
Le Vieux Cordelier
Le Vieux Cordelier was a journal published in France between 5 December 1793 and 3 February 1794. Its radical criticism of ultra-revolutionary fervor and repression in France during the Reign of Terror contributed significantly to the downfall and execution of the Dantonists, among whom its author,...

, written during the winter of 1793-4.

The first Convention of the Delegates of the Scottish Friends of the People in Edinburgh
Edinburgh
Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland, the second largest city in Scotland, and the eighth most populous in the United Kingdom. The City of Edinburgh Council governs one of Scotland's 32 local government council areas. The council area includes urban Edinburgh and a rural area...

 on 11–13 December 1792 used the phrase "live free or die" and referred to it as a "French oath."

Unix


Live Free or Die is popular among Unix
Unix
Unix is a multitasking, multi-user computer operating system originally developed in 1969 by a group of AT&T employees at Bell Labs, including Ken Thompson, Dennis Ritchie, Brian Kernighan, Douglas McIlroy, and Joe Ossanna...

 users, a group which also cherishes its independence. The popularity dates to the 1980s, when Armando Stettner
Armando Stettner
Armando P Stettner is a computer engineer and architect who is most widely known for spearheading the native VAX version of Unix, Ultrix, during his tenure at Digital Equipment Corporation.-Biography:...

 of Digital Equipment Corporation
Digital Equipment Corporation
Digital Equipment Corporation was a major American company in the computer industry and a leading vendor of computer systems, software and peripherals from the 1960s to the 1990s...

 (DEC) had a set of Unix license plates printed up and given away at a USENIX
USENIX
-External links:* *...

 conference. They were modeled on the license plates in New Hampshire, where DEC's Unix Engineering Group was headquartered. Stettner lived in New Hampshire at the time and used the vanity license plate UNIX. When DEC came out with its own Unix version, Ultrix
Ultrix
Ultrix was the brand name of Digital Equipment Corporation's native Unix systems. While ultrix is the Latin word for avenger, the name was chosen solely for its sound.-History:...

, they printed up Ultrix plates that were distributed at trade shows. More recently, Linux
Linux
Linux is a Unix-like computer operating system assembled under the model of free and open source software development and distribution. The defining component of any Linux system is the Linux kernel, an operating system kernel first released October 5, 1991 by Linus Torvalds...

 novelty plates have been produced following the same pattern.

Books

  • Live Free or Die is the title of a 1990 novel by New Hampshire writer Ernest Hebert
    Ernest Hebert
    Ernest Hebert is an American author. He is best known for the Darby series, five novels written between 1979 and 1990, about modern life in a fictional New Hampshire town as it transitions from relative rural poverty to being more upscale, almost suburban....

    . The title has also been used for a book by Gardner Goldsmith
    Gardner Goldsmith
    Gardner Goldsmith is a television and radio script writer, journalist and author whose work has appeared in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. He was also the host of "Against the Grain", and creator of The Liberty Conspiracy...

     and one by John Ringo
    John Ringo
    John Ringo is an American science fiction and military fiction author. He has had several New York Times best sellers. His books range from straightforward science fiction to a mix of military and political thrillers...

    .
  • In the early 2000s, Avengers
    Avengers (comics)
    The Avengers is a fictional team of superheroes, appearing in magazines published by Marvel Comics. The team made its debut in The Avengers #1 The Avengers is a fictional team of superheroes, appearing in magazines published by Marvel Comics. The team made its debut in The Avengers #1 The Avengers...

     comics had a storyline called "Live Kree or Die". It featured the alien race called the Kree
    Kree
    The Kree, also known as the Ruul, are a scientifically and technologically advanced militaristic alien race in the fictional Marvel Universe. They are native to the planet Hala in the Large Magellanic Cloud...

    .
  • In the Animorphs
    Animorphs
    Animorphs is an English language science fiction series of young adult books written by K. A. Applegate and published by Scholastic. Five humans, Jake, Marco, Cassie, Rachel, and Tobias, and one alien, Aximili-Esgarrouth-Isthill , obtain the ability to morph into any animal they touch. They name...

     companion book Visser
    Visser (novel)
    Visser is the third companion book to the Animorphs series, written by K. A. Applegate. Within the continuity of the series, it takes place directly after the events of book #35, The Proposal, but is also in part a detail of the backstory of its narrator, Edriss 562, Visser One, whose host is...

    , Marco
    Marco (Animorphs)
    Marco is a fictional character from the sci-fi book series, Animorphs, written by K. A. Applegate. His last name is never mentioned.-Biography:...

     tells Visser One
    Edriss 562
    Edriss 562 is a Yeerk that controls Marco's mother Eva. For most of the series, her rank is Visser One. She is the subject of the novel Visser, which describes her rise to and dramatic fall from power...

    , who is inside the head of his mother, to remember the phrase on the New Hampshire
    New Hampshire
    New Hampshire is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. The state was named after the southern English county of Hampshire. It is bordered by Massachusetts to the south, Vermont to the west, Maine and the Atlantic Ocean to the east, and the Canadian...

     license plate (the state's motto). His Andalite
    Andalite
    The Andalites are a fictional alien race of grazers in the Scholastic book series Animorphs.-Biology:The Andalites are fictional aliens from the book series and TV series Animorphs....

     friend, Ax
    Aximili-Esgarrouth-Isthill
    Aximili-Esgarrouth-Isthill is a fictional character from the sci-fi book series Animorphs.-Biography:Aximili is a young Andalite who becomes stranded on Earth when the Andalite Dome Ship GalaxyTree is shot down by Yeerk fighters...

    , has his tail blade up against Eva's throat. Marco tells Visser One that he knows his mother would rather die at Ax's tail blade than continue to be a slave to Visser One.
  • Live Free Or Die is the first book in John Ringo
    John Ringo
    John Ringo is an American science fiction and military fiction author. He has had several New York Times best sellers. His books range from straightforward science fiction to a mix of military and political thrillers...

    s Troy Rising science fiction
    Science fiction
    Science fiction is a genre of fiction dealing with imaginary but more or less plausible content such as future settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, aliens, and paranormal abilities...

     series.

TV

  • "Live Free or Die" is the title of the sixth episode of the sixth season of the TV show The Sopranos
    The Sopranos
    The Sopranos is an American television drama series created by David Chase that revolves around the New Jersey-based Italian-American mobster Tony Soprano and the difficulties he faces as he tries to balance the often conflicting requirements of his home life and the criminal organization he heads...

    . It concerns a captain in the New Jersey mafia who hides in New Hampshire
    New Hampshire
    New Hampshire is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. The state was named after the southern English county of Hampshire. It is bordered by Massachusetts to the south, Vermont to the west, Maine and the Atlantic Ocean to the east, and the Canadian...

     after being outed as a homosexual.
  • On The West Wing, Josh
    Josh Lyman
    Joshua "Josh" Lyman is a fictional character played by Bradley Whitford on the television drama The West Wing. For the majority of the series, he was White House Deputy Chief of Staff in the Josiah Bartlet administration...

     routinely makes cheese-related jokes about Donna's
    Donna Moss
    Donnatella "Donna" Moss is a fictional character played by Janel Moloney on the television serial drama The West Wing. Donna is a recurring character during the first season, although she appears in every episode, making her a de facto regular...

     Wisconsin
    Wisconsin
    Wisconsin is a U.S. state located in the north-central United States and is part of the Midwest. It is bordered by Minnesota to the west, Iowa to the southwest, Illinois to the south, Lake Michigan to the east, Michigan to the northeast, and Lake Superior to the north. Wisconsin's capital is...

     roots. In one episode, he jokes that Wisconsin's state motto is "Live Brie
    Brie
    Brie is a historic region of France most famous for its dairy products, especially Brie cheese. It was once divided into two sections ruled by different feudal lords: the western Brie française, corresponding roughly to the modern department of Seine-et-Marne in the Île-de-France region; the...

     or Die." In another episode it was proclaimed by Sam
    Sam Seaborn
    Samuel Norman "Sam" Seaborn is a fictional character portrayed by Rob Lowe on the television serial drama The West Wing. He is best known for being Deputy White House Communications Director in the Josiah Bartlet administration throughout the first four seasons of the series.-Creation and...

     in reference to the state: "New Hampshire. Live free or cheap."
  • On Futurama
    Futurama
    Futurama is an American animated science fiction sitcom created by Matt Groening and developed by Groening and David X. Cohen for the Fox Broadcasting Company. The series follows the adventures of a late 20th-century New York City pizza delivery boy, Philip J...

    , the apathetic Neutral Planet has the motto: "Live free or don't."

Film

  • Live Free or Die
    Live Free or Die (documentary)
    Live Free or Die is a 2000 documentary film that follows Dr. Wayne Goldner, a New Hampshire OBGYN fighting on the latest front of the "abortion wars." The feature originally aired as part of PBS' P.O.V. series...

    , a 2000 documentary about abortion
  • Live Free or Die
    Live Free or Die (film)
    Live Free or Die is a 2006 American comedy film starring Aaron Stanford, Paul Schneider, Zooey Deschanel, Michael Rapaport, Judah Friedlander, Kevin Dunn, and Ebon Moss-Bachrach...

    , a 2006 comedy movie
  • Live Free or Die Hard
    Live Free or Die Hard
    Live Free or Die Hard , is a 2007 American action film, and the fourth installment in the Die Hard series. The film was directed by Len Wiseman and stars Bruce Willis as John McClane. The name was adapted from the state motto of New Hampshire, "Live Free or Die"...

    , a 2007 movie, the fourth in the Die Hard
    Die Hard
    Die Hard is a 1988 American action film and the first in the Die Hard film series. The film was directed by John McTiernan and written by Jeb Stuart and Steven E. de Souza. It is based on a 1979 novel by Roderick Thorp titled Nothing Lasts Forever, itself a sequel to the book The Detective, which...

    series.

Music

  • Live Free or Die is the name of Vancouver punk group D.O.A.
    D.O.A. (band)
    D.O.A. is a hardcore punk band from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. They are often referred to as the "founders" of hardcore punk, along with Black Flag, Bad Brains, Teen Idles, and Minor Threat. Their second album Hardcore '81 was thought by many to have been the first actual reference to...

    's 2004 album.
  • Bill Morrissey
    Bill Morrissey
    Bill Morrissey was an American folk singer/songwriter from New Hampshire. Many of his songs reflect the harsh realities of life in crumbling New England mill towns.-Career:Morrissey was born in Hartford, Connecticut...

     wrote a song titled "Live Free or Die" about the irony of a prisoner serving time in the State of New Hampshire's jails and hand-stamping license plates with the motto Live Free or Die. The song appeared on his first single. It was covered by Hayes Carll
    Hayes Carll
    Joshua Hayes Carll , known as Hayes Carll, is a Texas Country singer-songwriter from The Woodlands, Texas ....

     on his 2002 album Flowers and Liquor.

External links