Friday, May 6, 2011

Patrick Henry - May 6th, 1776

On this day, May 6th, 1776 - Patrick Henry, a symbol of the American colonial struggle for liberty served as a delegate to the Virginia Constitution Ratification Convention. He played a promienent role on this day at the convention and later became the first governor of the commonweath of Virginia under it's new constitution. Patrick Henry served five terms as governor of Virginia.

His Early Years
Patrick Henry was born in Hanover County, Virginia in 1736, to John and Sarah Winston Henry.  Patrick Henry was a lawyer, patriot, orator, and willing participant in virtually every aspect of the founding of America. He was twice married, to Sarah Shelton, and to Dorothea Dandridge.

John Henry educated young Patrick at home, including teaching him to read Latin, however Patrick studied law on his own. In 1760, he appeared in Williamsburg to take his attorney's examination before Robert Carter Nicholas, Edmund Pendleton, John and Peyton Randolph, and George Wythe, and from that day forward, Patrick Henry's story is inseparable from the stream of Virginia history.

Many of Patrick Henry's words resonated then, as they still do.

In 1763, arguing the famed Parson's Cause in Hanover County, Patrick Henry proclaimed that a king who would veto a good and necessary law made by a locally elected representative body was not a father to his people but "a tyrant who forfeits the allegiance of his subjects." Henry amplified his idea to the point of treason in defending his resolutions against the Stamp Act in the House of Burgesses May 30, 1765.

Carried away by the fervor of his own argument, the plainly dressed burgess from Louisa County exclaimed that "Caesar had his Brutus, Charles the First his Cromwell, and George the Third..." 

At this point, cries of treason rose from all sides, but with hardly a pause, Henry continued with his argument and won the burgesses for his cause. Five of his resolutions approved, the new leader in Virginia politics saddled his lean horse and took the westward road out of Williamsburg. 
Henceforth, Patrick Henry was an ardent leader in every protest against British tyranny and in every movement for colonial rights.

In March 1775, Patrick Henry urged his fellow Virginians to arm in self-defense, closing his appeal (uttered at St. John's Church in Richmond, where the legislature was meeting) with the immortal words: "I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death." The British were most happy to try to oblige him.

Take a listen above to this mans impassioned words of conscience. His actions marked the beginning of revolution in Virginia.

Patrick Henry is remembered for his famous speech 
"Give me liberty or give me death..."

Henry's call to arms was carried over the protests of more conservative patriots and was one of the causes of the order for Lord Dunmore, the royal governor, to remove some gunpowder from the Magazine. Henry, "a Quaker in religion but the very devil in politics," mobilized the militia to force restitution of the powder. Since Henry's action followed the British march on Concord by only a few hours, it is said to mark the beginning of the American Revolution in Virginia.

This is where some historians break with which battle indeed was the first of the American Revolution. Some say it was here at Point Pleasant, while others call it only the culminaton of Lord Dunmore's war. The Battle of Point Pleasant, Virginia did infact take place and is one of those points of argument. I do not mind those with the historical viewpoint that the first shots of the Revolution where fired at Lexington and Concord.

Regardless of the dates, the fact remains that Patrick Henry was an inspiration leader in our countries beginning aspirations and fight for independence. So the next time you hear the words, "Give me liberty, or give me death," think of the man who first spoke them.

Patrick Henry,
American Patriot

Some Interesting Facts

  • Born May 29, 1736 in Hanover County, Virginia
  • Protested British tyranny
  • Symbol of American struggle for liberty
  • Served in the Virginia House of Burgesses and the Continental Congress
  • Five-term governor of Virginia
  • Delivered the famous "Give me liberty or give me death!" speech. 
  • Died June 6, 1799 at Red Hill Plantation, Virginia

Who Was There - The Battle of Point Plesant at
Battle of Point Pleasant - Google Books on Line

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