1736 – 1799
Who was Patrick Henry?
Patrick Henry was an American attorney, planter and politician who became known as an orator during the movement for independence in Virginia in the 1770s. A Founding Father, he served as the first and sixth post-colonial Governor of Virginia, from 1776 to 1779 and from 1784 to 1786.
Henry led the opposition to the Stamp Act of 1765 and is remembered for his "Give me liberty, or give me death!" speech. Along with Samuel Adams and Thomas Paine, he is regarded as one of the most influential champions of Republicanism and an invested promoter of the American Revolution and its fight for independence.
After the Revolution, Henry was a leader of the anti-federalists in Virginia. He opposed the United States Constitution, fearing that it endangered the rights of the States as well as the freedoms of individuals; he helped gain adoption of the Bill of Rights. By 1798 however, he supported President John Adams and the Federalists; he denounced passage of the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions as he feared the social unrest and widespread executions that had followed the increasing radicalism of the French Revolution.
As a married man, Henry was an expanding landowner. By 1779, along with his cousin and her husband, Henry owned a 10,000-acre plantation known by the name of Leatherwood. He is also recorded to have purchased up to 78 slaves. In 1794 he and his wife retired to Red Hill Plantation, which had 520-acre in Charlotte County that was also a functioning tobacco plantation.
- Give me liberty, or give me death!
- For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst and provide for it.
- Is the relinquishment of the trial by jury and the liberty of the press necessary for your liberty? Will the abandonment of your most sacred rights tend to the security of your liberty? Liberty, the greatest of all earthly blessings give us that precious jewel, and you may take every thing else! Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect every one who approaches that jewel.
- 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. It is vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, peace, peacebut 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!
- Perfect freedom is as necessary to the health and vigor of commerce as it is to the health and vigor of citizenship.
- I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death.
- Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss. Ask yourselves how this gracious reception of our petition comports with those warlike preparations which cover our waters and darken our land. Are fleets and armies necessary to a work of love and reconciliation? Have we shown ourselves so unwilling to be reconciled, that force must be called in to win back our love? Let us not deceive ourselves, sir. These are the implements of war and subjugationthe last arguments to which kings resort.
- This is all the Inheritance I can give to my dear Family. The Religion of Christ can give them one which will make them rich indeed.
- Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God!
- It is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truthand listen to the song of that syren, 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 of 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 might cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it.
We need you!
Help us build the largest biographies collection on the web!
- May 29, 1736
- United States of America
- Harvard University
- Jun 6, 1799
Red Hill Patrick Henry National Memorial
- Resting place
- Red Hill Patrick Henry National Memorial
on July 23, 2013
Use the citation below to add to a bibliography:
"Patrick Henry." Biographies.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2021. Web. 29 Jul 2021. <https://www.biographies.net/people/en/patrick_henry>.