Everyone knows New Hampshire's famous motto:

Live Free or Die.

The phrase is seen on our license plates, and you've definitely heard someone say it to justify a behavior, habit, or freedom of speech.

But where did this saying come from? Who "invented" it? We decided to do some research, and here's what we found.

As it turns out, we have Major-General John Stark (1728-1822) to thank for unknowingly coining New Hampshire's state motto over 200 years ago.

Wikipedia, Public Domain
General John Stark (Public Domain)

The American Battlefield Trust shares more information on Stark's life, from his beginnings in Nutfield, New Hampshire, to his military service during the Revolutionary War.

In 1777, Stark became known as the "Hero of Bennington" after organizing "a militia force to defend New Hampshire and Vermont from British General John Burgoyne’s force." After sending Lieutenant Colonel Friedrich Baum to Bennington, Vermont, to gather supplies for the troops, Baum's forces found themselves ultimately colliding with the British. Stark and his troops joined the fray a few days later, attacking ten miles away at Walloomsac, New York. Ultimately, the Americans emerged victorious.

According to NH.gov, it was 32 years later when Stark was invited to Vermont to head up an anniversary reunion of the battle. He had to decline due to ailing health, instead writing a volunteer toast. It read, in part:

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

Although Stark's words were written in the early 19th century, it wasn't until 1945 when the phrase became New Hampshire's official state motto, according to NewEngland.com. And they continue to withstand the test of time to this day.

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