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Patrick Henry

In office
1776 – 1779
1784 – 1786
Preceded by First Governor
Benjamin Harrison V (1784)
Succeeded by Thomas Jefferson (1779)
Edmund Randolph (1786)

Born May 29, 1736
Hanover County, Virginia
Died June 6, 1799 (aged 63)
Brookneal, Virginia

Patrick Henry (May 29, 1736 – June 6, 1799)[1] served as the first and sixth post-colonial Governor of Virginia from 1776 to 1779 and subsequently, from 1784 to 1786. A prominent figure in the American Revolution, Henry is known and remembered for his "Give me Liberty, or give me Death!" speech, and as one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. Along with Samuel Adams and Thomas Paine, he is remembered as one of the most influential, radical[2] advocates of the American Revolution and republicanism, especially in his denunciations of corruption in government officials and his defense of historic rights. After the Revolution, Henry was a leader of the anti-federalists who opposed the replacement of the Articles of Confederation with the United States Constitution, fearing that it endangered many of the individual freedoms that had been achieved in the war.


Early years

Henry was born in Studley, Hanover County, Virginia on May 29, 1736.[3] His father was John Henry, an immigrant from Aberdeenshire, Scotland, who had attended King's College, Aberdeen before immigrating to the Colony of Virginia in the 1720s.[4] Settling in Hanover County, about 1732 John Henry married Sarah Winston Syme, a wealthy widow from a prominent Hanover County family of English ancestry.[5] Patrick Henry was once thought to have been of humble origins, but he was actually born into the middle rank of the Virginia gentry.[3]

Henry attended local schools for a few years, and then was tutored by his father. After failing in business, in 1754 he married Sarah Shelton, with whom he would have six children. As a wedding gift, his father-in-law gave the couple six slaves and the 300-acre Pine Slash Farm. Henry began a career as a planter, but their home was destroyed by fire in 1757.[3] Henry made another attempt at business,which also failed, before deciding to become a lawyer in 1760.[3]

Henry first made a name for himself in a case dubbed the "Parson's Cause" (1763), which was an argument about whether the price of tobacco paid to clergy for their services should be set by the colonial government or by the Crown. After the British Parliament overruled Virginia's Two Penny Act that had limited the clergy's salaries, the Reverend James Maury filed suit against the vestry of Louisa County for payment of back wages. When Maury won the suit, a jury was called in Hanover County to determine how much Maury should be paid. Henry was brought in at the last minute to argue on behalf of Louisa County. Ignoring legal niceties, Henry delivered an impassioned speech that denounced clerics who challenged Virginia's laws as "enemies of the community" and any king who annulled good laws like the Two Penny Act as a "tyrant" who "forfeits all right to his subject's obedience".[6] Henry urged the jury to make an example of Maury. After less than five minutes of deliberation, they awarded Maury one penny.[7]

Stamp Act

Patrick Henry was elected from Louisa County to the House of Burgesses, the legislative body of the Virginia colony, in 1765 to fill a vacated seat in the assembly. When he arrived in Williamsburg the legislature was already in session. Only nine days after being sworn in Henry introduced the Virginia Stamp Act Resolutions, "in language so extreme that some Virginians said it smacked of treason".[8]

The freshman representative waited for an opportunity where the mostly conservative members of the House were away (only 24% was considered sufficient for a quorum). In this atmosphere, he succeeded, through much debate and persuasion, in getting his proposal passed. It was possibly the most anti-British American political action to that point, and some credit the Resolutions with being one of the main catalysts of the Revolution. The proposals were based on principles that were well established British rights, such as the right to be taxed by one's own representatives. They went further, however, to assert that the colonial assemblies had the exclusive right to impose taxes on the colonies and could not assign that right. The imputation of treason is due to his inflammatory words, "Caesar had his Brutus; Charles the First his Cromwell; and George the Third may profit by their example. If this be treason, make the most of it!"

Patrick Henry's "Treason" speech before the House of Burgesses in an 1851 painting by Peter F. Rothermel

According to biographer Richard Beeman, the legend of this speech grew more dramatic over the years. Henry probably did not say the famous last line of the above quote, i.e. "If this be treason, make the most of it." The only account of the speech written down at the time by an eyewitness (which came to light many years later) records that Henry actually apologized after being accused of uttering treasonable words, assuring the House that he was still loyal to the king. Nevertheless, Henry's passionate, radical speech was cause for notable interest at the time, even if his exact words are unknown.

American Revolution

Patrick Henry is perhaps best known for the speech he made in the House of Burgesses on March 23, 1775, in Saint John's Church in Richmond, Virginia. The House was undecided on whether to mobilize for military action against the encroaching British military force, and Henry argued in favor of mobilization. Forty-two years later, Henry's first biographer, William Wirt, working from oral testimony, attempted to reconstruct what Henry said. According to Wirt, Henry ended his speech with words that have since become immortalized:

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!

The crowd, by Wirt's account, jumped up and shouted "To Arms! To Arms!". For 160 years Wirt's account was taken at face value, but in the 1970s historians began to question the authenticity of Wirt's reconstruction.[9] Historians today observe that Henry was known to have used fear of Indian and slave revolts in promoting military action against the British, and that according to the only written first hand account of the speech, Henry used some graphic name-calling that failed to appear in Wirt's heroic rendition.[10]

In August 1775, Henry became colonel of the 1st Virginia Regiment. At the outset of the Revolutionary War, Henry led militia against Royal Governor Lord Dunmore in defense of some disputed gunpowder, an event known as the Gunpowder Incident. During the war he served as the first post-colonial Governor of Virginia and presided over several invasions of Cherokee Indian lands.

Henry lived during part of the War at his 10,000-acre (40 km2) Leatherwood Plantation in Henry County, Virginia, where he, his first cousin Ann Winston Carr and her husband Col. George Waller had settled.[11] During the five years Henry lived at Leatherwood, from 1779 to 1784, Henry owned 75 slaves, and grew tobacco.[12] During this time, Henry kept in close touch with his friend the explorer Joseph Martin, whom Henry had appointed agent to the Cherokee nation, and with whom Henry sometimes invested in real estate, and for whom the county seat of Henry County was later named.

A Hue & Cry, Virginia broadside, 1775

In early November 1775 Henry and James Madison were elected founding trustees of Hampden-Sydney College, which opened for classes on November 10. Henry remained a trustee until his death in 1799. Henry was instrumental in achieving passage of the College's Charter of 1783, an action delayed because of the war. He is probably the author of the Oath of Loyalty to the new Republic included in that charter. Seven of his sons attended the new college.

On October 25, 1777, Patrick Henry married his second wife, Dorothea Dandridge (1755–1831). From this marriage came eleven children.

Later years

Sarah Anne Fontaine Redd, great-granddaughter of Patrick Henry. Circa 1850, Henry County, Virginia

After the Revolution, Henry again served as governor of Virginia from 1784 to 1786, but declined to attend the Constitutional Convention of 1787 saying that he "smelt a rat in Philadelphia, tending toward the monarchy." An ardent supporter of state rights, Henry was an outspoken critic of the United States Constitution and led the Virginia opposition to its ratification arguing that it gave the federal government too much power and that the untested office of the presidency could devolve into a monarchy. As a leading Antifederalist, he was instrumental in forcing the adoption of the Bill of Rights to amend the new Constitution and became a leading opponent of James Madison.

Henry served as a representative to the Virginia convention of 1788 that ratified the U. S. Constitution. He voted against ratification.[13] He was chosen as an elector for the 1789 election from Campbell District.[14] That District consisted of Bedford County, Campbell County, Charlotte County, Franklin County, Halifax County, Henry County, Pittsylvania County, and Prince Edward County, which cover the area between Danville and Lynchburg in the south of Virginia [15] All of the 10 electors who voted cast one of their two votes for George Washington. 5 of them cast their other vote for John Adams. 3 cast theirs for George Clinton. 1 cast his for John Hancock. 1 cast his for John Jay.[16] Clinton was a leading Antifederalist,[17] a view which he shared with Henry.

President George Washington offered Henry the post of Secretary of State in 1795, which he declined out of opposition to Washington's Federalist policies. However, following the radicalism of the French Revolution Henry's views changed as he began to fear a similar fate could befall America and by the late 1790s Henry was in support of the Federalist policies of Washington and Adams. He especially denounced the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions, which had been secretly written by Jefferson and Madison, and approved by the legislatures of those two states. He warned that civil war was threatened because Virginia, "had quitted the sphere in which she had been placed by the Constitution, and, in daring to pronounce upon the validity of federal laws, had gone out of her jurisdiction in a manner not warranted by any authority, and in the highest degree alarming to every considerate man; that such opposition, on the part of Virginia, to the acts of the general government, must beget their enforcement by military power; that this would probably produce civil war, civil war foreign alliances, and that foreign alliances must necessarily end in subjugation to the powers called in."[citation needed] In 1798 President John Adams nominated Henry special emissary to France, but he had to decline because of failing health. He strongly supported John Marshall and at the urging of Washington stood for and was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates as a Federalist.[18] However, three months prior to taking his seat in the state legislature, he died of stomach cancer on June 6, 1799, while at Red Hill, his family's large plantation.

Monuments and memorials

Last law office of Patrick Henry, Red Hill Plantation, Charlotte County, Virginia

Monuments are located at his home and grave site, designated Red Hill Patrick Henry National Memorial.

During the Civil War, both the United States Navy and Confederate Navy named a submarine in his honor, the USS Patrick Henry (SSBN-599) and the CSS Patrick Henry. Also named in his honor, during the first World War II Liberty ship, the SS Patrick Henry, Emory & Henry College in Emory, Virginia, eight high schools (including three in Virginia, more than for any other person in the Commonwealth), and Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Virginia, named in his honor. The Patrick Henry Boys and Girls Plantation was established as a living legacy to Patrick Henry on property near his grave site donated by the Red Hill Patrick Henry National Memorial. It is a Christian residential facility for at-risk youth. Henry helped to establish the Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia. It is the 10th oldest institution of higher education in the United States. Six of Patrick Henry's sons graduated from Hampden-Sydney. The Patrick Henry Scholars are named for him. Future United States president William Henry Harrison also graduated from the College in 1791.

Fort Patrick Henry was a colonial fort built during the American Revolutionary War along the South Fork Holston River at the present-day site of Kingsport, Tennessee. This fort serves as the namesake of Fort Patrick Henry Dam and the reservoir that it forms on the river.[19] Camp Patrick Henry was a United States Army base from late 1942 to the late 1960s and was a 1,700-acre (6.9 km2) complex in Newport News, Virginia. Since decommissioned, it is the site of the Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport on 925 acres (3.74 km2) of the old location. The airport opened in 1949 and was originally called Patrick Henry Field. The airport code is still PHF for the beginning letters of the old name.

Other places named in honor of Patrick Henry include Henry County, Virginia, Henry County, Kentucky, Patrick County, Virginia, Henry County, Georgia, Henry County, Ohio, Henry County, Tennessee, Henry County, Alabama, Henry County, Illinois, Henry County, Missouri after an 1841 name change, and Patrick Henry Village in Heidelberg, Germany.

See also

Further reading


  1. ^ "Patrick Henry Timeline". Patrick Henry National Memorial. Retrieved 2007-11-28. 
  2. ^ "Patrick Henry: America's Radical Dissenter" by Thomas Jewett accessed at [1] on 11-5-2009
  3. ^ a b c d Thad Tate, "Henry, Patrick", American National Biography Online, February 2000.
  4. ^ Meade, Patrick Henry, 13–18.
  5. ^ Meade, Patrick Henry, 1:21–24.
  6. ^ Meade, Patrick Henry, 1:133
  7. ^ Beeman, Patrick Henry, 16–19; Middlekauff, Glorious Cause, 82–83; Meade, Patrick Henry, 1:125–34.
  8. ^ Breen, T.H.,"Tobacco Culture: The Mentality of the Great Tidewater Planters on the Eve of Revolution," (Princeton University Press, 1985), page 189
  9. ^ Judy Hemple, "The Textual and Cultural Authenticity of Patrick Henry's 'Liberty or Death' Speech," Quarterly Journal of Speech 63 (1977): 298-310; see Ray Raphael, Founding Myths, 311 note 7 for additional discussions among historians.
  10. ^ Raphael, Founding Myths, 145-156, 311-313.
  11. ^ "The True Patrick Henry, George Morgan, Lippincott, New York, 1907". 2007-07-17.,M1. Retrieved 2010-03-19. 
  12. ^ "A Son of Thunder: Patrick Henry and the American Republic, Henry Mayer, Grove Press, New York, 2001".,M1. Retrieved 2010-03-19. 
  13. ^ "Elliot's Debates: Virginia Ratifying Convention: June 27, 1788". 1980-01-01. Retrieved 2010-03-19. 
  14. ^ The Documentary history of the first Federal elections, 1788-1790, by Gordon DenBoer, Volume 2, page 303
  15. ^ "View Election". 2007-10-18. Retrieved 2010-03-19. 
  16. ^ The Documentary history of the first Federal elections, 1788-1790, by Gordon DenBoer, Volume 2, pages 304-5
  17. ^ "Anti-Federalist Papers". Retrieved 2010-03-19. 
  18. ^ Tyler, Patrick Henry pp413-420
  19. ^ "Fort Patrick Henry Reservoir". Tennessee Valley Authority. Retrieved 2008-10-28. 


  • Beeman, Richard R. (1974). Patrick Henry: A Biography. New York: McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0070042802. 
  • Mayer, Henry (2001). Son of Thunder: Patrick Henry and the American Republic. New York: Grove Press. 
  • Meade, Robert D. (1957-1969). Patrick Henry: 2 volumes. 
  • Raphael, Ray (2004). Founding Myths: Stories that Hide Our Patriotic Past. New York: The New Press. ISBN 1565849213. 
  • Tyler, Moses Coit (2002) [1898]. Patrick Henry. Patrick Henry University Press. ISBN 978-1589635579. 
  • Wirt, William (1818). Sketches of the Life and Character of Patrick Henry. Philadelphia: James Webster. 

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Edmund Pendleton
Governor of Virginia
Succeeded by
Thomas Jefferson
Preceded by
Benjamin Harrison V
Governor of Virginia
Succeeded by
Edmund Randolph


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

Patrick Henry (29 May 17366 June 1799) was a prominent figure in the American Revolution, known and remembered primarily for his stirring oratory.



Caesar had his Brutus, Charles the First his Cromwell; and George the Third — may profit by their example. If this be treason, make the most of it.
  • I am not a Virginian, but an American.
    • Speech in the First Continental Congress, Philadelphia (14 October 1774). Compare: "I was born an American; I will live an American; I shall die an American!", Daniel Webster, Speech, July 17, 1850.
  • Suspicion is a virtue as long as its object is the public good, and as long as it stays within proper bounds. ... Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect every one who approaches that precious jewel.
    • Speech on the Federal Constitution, Virginia Ratifying Convention (1788-06-05)
    • This has sometimes been paraphrased as "Suspicion is a virtue if it is in the interests of the good of the people."
  • Show me that age and country where the rights and liberties of the people were placed on the sole chance of their rulers being good men, without a consequent loss of liberty?
    • Speech on the Federal Constitution, Virginia Ratifying Convention (1788-06-05)
  • This is all the inheritance I can give my dear family. The religion of Christ can give them one which will make them rich indeed.
    • Last Will and Testament (20 November 1798), as quoted in Patrick Henry : Life, Correspondences and Speeches (1891) by William Wirt Henry, Vol. H, p. 631; also in America's God and Country : Encyclopedia of Quotations (1996) by William Joseph
  • United we stand, divided we fall, Let us not split into factions which must destroy that union upon which our existence hangs.
    • Last public speech before his death (4 March 1799
  • The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government — lest it come to dominate our lives and interests.
    • As quoted in The Best Liberal Quotes Ever : Why the Left is Right (2004) by William P. Martin

"Give me liberty or give me death!" (1775)

The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave.
Speech at the Second Virginia Convention at St. John's Church in Richmond, Virginia (23 March 1775); first published in Life and Character of Patrick Henry (1817) by William Wirt
  • It is natural for man to indulge in the illusions of hope and pride. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it.
  • I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience. I know no way of judging of the future but by the past.
    • Compare: "You can never plan the future by the past", Edmund Burke, Letter to a Member of the National Assembly, Vol. iv. p. 55.
  • They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot?
    Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. Three millions of people, armed in the holy cause of Liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave.
    • This is also sometimes quoted as "The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty..."
  • If we wish to be free; if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending; if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained — we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms, and to the God of hosts, is all that is left us.
  • It is vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, peace! But there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? 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!


  • One of his neighbors going to see him found him reading the Bible. Holding it up in his hand, he said: "This book is worth all the books that ever were printed, and it has been my misfortune that I have never found time to read it with the proper attention and feeling till lately. I trust in the mercy of Heaven that it is not yet too late."
    • As related in William Wirt Henry, Patrick Henry: Life, Correspondence, and Speeches (1891), vol. 2, p. 519. He gives his source as "Statement of George Dabney, MS. Letter to Mr. Wirt". Dabney was a lifelong friend of Patrick Henry's.


  • That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and therefore all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity towards each other.
    • Virginia Bill of Rights, Article 16 (12 June 1776); Henry was on the committee which drafted the Virginia constitution and he supported this Bill, but it is not clear to what extent he was the author of any portion of it. This statement is also sometimes misattributed to James Madison who quoted it in his arguments for the United States Bill of Rights.
  • There is an insidious campaign of false propaganda being waged today, to the effect that our country is not a Christian country but a religious one—that it was not founded on Christianity but on freedom of religion. It cannot be emphasized too clearly and too often that this nation was founded, not by "religionists", but by Christians—not on religion, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason, peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here.
    • This has been cited at some sites as being in a speech to the House of Burgesses in May 1765, but the date and quote are both spurious: it is extremely anachronistic to have Henry speaking of the colony of Virginia in 1765 as a "nation" that afforded "peoples of other faiths" the "freedom of worship." In fact this statement first appeared in the April 1956 issue of The Virginian in a piece partially about, not by, Patrick Henry, as the next sentence clearly shows: "In the spoken and written words of our noble founders and forefathers, we find symbolic expressions of their Christian faith. The above quotation from the will of Patrick Henry is a notable example." (The "above quotation from the will" which is cited, is also quoted here, as a quote dated 20 November 1798.)

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

PATRICK HENRY (1736-1799), American statesman and orator, was born at Studley, Hanover county, Virginia, on the 29th of May 1736. He was the son of John Henry, a welleducated Scotsman, among whose relatives was the historian William Robertson, and who served in Virginia as county surveyor, colonel and judge of a county court. His mother was one of a family named Winston, of Welsh descent, noted for conversational and musical talent. At the age of ten Patrick was making slow progress in the study of reading, writing and arithmetic at a small country school, when his father became his tutor and taught him Latin, Greek and mathematics for five years, but with limited success. His school days being then terminated, he was employed as a store-clerk for one year. Within the seven years next following he failed twice as a storekeeper and once as a farmer; but in the meantime acquired a taste for reading, of history especially, and read and re-read the history of Greece and Rome, of England, and of her American colonies. Then, poor but not discouraged, he resolved to be a lawyer, and after reading Coke upon Littleton and the Virginia laws for a few weeks only, he strongly impressed one of his examiners, and was admitted to the bar at the age of twentyfour, on condition that he spend more time in study before beginning to practise. He rapidly acquired a considerable practice, his fee books shewing that for the first three years he charged fees in 1185 cases. Then in 1763 was delivered his speech in "The Parson's Cause" - a suit brought by a clergyman, Rev. James Maury, in the Hanover County Court, to secure restitution for money considered by him to be due on account of his salary (16,000 pounds of tobacco by law) having been paid in money calculated at a rate less than the current market price of tobacco. This speech, which, according to reports, was extremely radical and denied the right of the king to disallow acts of the colonial legislature, made Henry the idol of the common people of Virginia and procured for him an enormous practice. In 1765 he was elected a member of the Virginia legislature, where he became in the same year the author of the "Virginia Resolutions," which were no less than a declaration of resistance to the Stamp Act and an assertion of the right of the colonies to legislate for themselves independently of the control of the British parliament, and gave a most powerful impetus to the movement resulting in the War of Independence. In a speech urging their adoption appear the often-quoted words: "Tarquin and Caesar had each his Brutus, Charles the First his Cromwell, and George the Third [here he was interrupted by cries of" Treason "1 and George the Third may profit by their example! If this be treason, make the most of it." Until 1 775 he continued to sit in the House of Burgesses, as a leader during all that eventful period. He was prominent as a radical in all measures in opposition to the British government, and was a member of the first Virginia committee of correspondence. In 1774 and 1775 he was a delegate to the Continental Congress and served on three of its most important committees: that on colonial trade and manufactures, that for drawing up an address to the king, and that for stating the rights of the colonies. In 1 775, in the second revolutionary convention of Virginia, Henry, regarding war as inevitable, presented resolutions for arming the Virginia militia. The more conservative members strongly opposed them as premature, whereupon Henry supported them in a speech familiar to the American school-boy for several generations following, closing with the words, "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!" The resolutions were passed and their author was made chairman of the committee for which they provided. The chief command of the newly organized army was also given to him, but previously, at the head of a body of militia, he had demanded satisfaction for powder removed from the public store by order of Lord Dunmore, the royal governor, with the result that £330 was paid in compensation. But his military appointment required obedience to the Committee of Public Safety, and this body, largely dominated by Edmund Pendleton, so restrained him from active service that he resigned on the 28th of February 1776. In the Virginia convention of 1776 he favoured the postponement of a declaration of independence, until a firm union of the colonies and the friendship of France and Spain had been secured. In the same convention he served on the committee which drafted the first constitution for Virginia, and was elected governor of the State - to which office he was re-elected in 1777 and 1778, thus serving as long as the new constitution allowed any man to serve continuously. As governor he gave Washington able support and sent out the expedition under George Rogers Clark into the Illinois country. In 1778 he was chosen a delegate to Congress, but declined to serve. From 1780 to 1784 and from 1787 to 1790 he was again a member of his State legislature; and from 1784 to 1786 was again governor. Until 1786 he was a leading advocate of a stronger central government but when chosen a delegate to the Philadelphia constitutional convention of 1787, he had become cold in the cause and declined to serve. Moreover, in the state convention called to decide whether Virginia should ratify the Federal Constitution he led the opposition, contending that the proposed Constitution, because of its centralizing character, was dangerous to the liberties of the country. This change of attitude is thought to have been due chiefly to his suspicion of the North aroused by John Jay's proposal to surrender to Spain for twentyfive or thirty years the navigation of the Mississippi. From 1 794 until his death he declined in succession the following offices: United States senator (1794), secretary of state in Washington's cabinet (1795), chief justice of the United States Supreme Court (1795), governor of Virginia (1796), to which office he had been elected by the Assembly, and envoy to France (1799). In 1799, however, he consented to serve again in his State legislature, where he wished to combat the Virginia Resolutions; he never took his seat, since he died, on his Red Hill estate in Charlotte county, Virginia, on the 6th of June of that year. Henry was twice married, first to Sarah Skelton, and second to Dorothea Spotswood Dandridge, a grand-daughter of Governor Alexander Spotswood.

See Moses Coit Tyler, Patrick Henry (Boston, 1887; new ed., 1899), and William Wirt Henry (Patrick Henry's grandson), Patrick Henry: Life, Correspondence and Speeches (New York, 1890-1891); these supersede the very unsatisfactory biography by William Wirt, Sketches of the Life and Character of Patrick Henry (Philadelphia, 1817). See also George Morgan, The True Patrick Henry (Philadelphia, 1907). (N. D. M.)

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Simple English

Patrick Henry

1st & 6th Governor of Virginia
In office
1776 – 1779
1784 – 1786
Preceded by First Governor
Benjamin Harrison V (1784)
Succeeded by Thomas Jefferson (1779)
Edmund Randolph (1786)

Born May 29, 1736
Hanover County, Virginia
Died June 6, 1799 (aged 63)
Brookneal, Virginia

Patrick Henry (May 29, 1736 – June 6, 1799)[1] served as the first post-colonial Governor of Virginia from 1776 to 1779.


  1. "Patrick Henry Timeline". Patrick Henry National Memorial. Retrieved 2007-11-28. 

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