Rand Paul Mixes Up NH History in Invoking State Motto

Here's the Stark truth: Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul on Wednesday mixed up the origins of New Hampshire's "Live Free or Die" motto.

Paul opened his first New Hampshire speech as a declared Republican presidential candidate in Milford, telling a crowd that "when the founders of New Hampshire came up with the motto 'Live Free or Die', they didn't leave a lot of wiggle room."

But that phrase didn't become the state motto until 1945, and it wasn't a state founder who came up with it.

Gen. John Stark included the phrase in a letter to fellow Revolutionary War veterans who had invited him to a reunion in 1809 - 130 years after New Hampshire became a separate British colony. Declining the invitation due to poor health, his letter included a toast: "Live Free Or Die; Death Is Not The Worst Of Evils."

The state's motto is frequently invoked by politicians. In Goffstown last month, Sen. Ted Cruz said "Live Free or Die" sums up what it means to be an American. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry asked a crowd in Dover in February, "Are you ready to make people know that New Hampshire is about living free or dying?"

And during his failed Senate bid last year, former U.S. Sen. Scott Brown tweaked the motto to criticize President Barack Obama's health care overhaul law, saying it forces people to "live free or log on."

Paul isn't the first politician to get something about Stark wrong. In 2011, Vice President Joe Biden referred to Stark as a former New Hampshire governor. That same year, Perry referred to him as "John Spark."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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