New Hampshire has a strong bond with Quebec, even if most people who live in the state aren’t always aware of it. There’s an independent streak in Quebec that strongly mirrors the independent streak in neighboring New Hampshire. There’s an obviously population blending as many French Canadians moved to the jobs the Industrial Revolution offered in America. One clue of the bond is the highway signs, which welcome French Canadians in both English and French. Welcome and Bienvenue are prominently displayed, along with the state motto “Live Free or Die”. If New Hampshire is famous for anything, it’s Live Free or Die.
The expression is more meaningful if you reflect on the entire phrase written by General John Stark to commemorate the Revolutionary War’s Battle of Bennington; “Live free or die: Death is not the worst of evils.” John Stark is a fascinating, bad-ass kind of guy who I’m going to write about more in a separate post tomorrow, but suffice it to say, he lived the words.
The expression isn’t entirely an American concept. Around the time that Stark wrote these words, the French were saying the same thing in the French Revolution; Vivre Libre ou Mourir, which literally means Live Free or Die. So perhaps changing the highway signs to reflect both the English and French words would be appropriate. It would be a nice way to bookend the sentiment: Welcome, Live Free or Die/Bienvenue, Vivre Libre ou Mourir. I think our neighbors in Quebec would appreciate that.