Amazing articles on just about every subject...




American Statesman:
 George Washington

 Benjamin Franklin

 Samuel Adams

 John Adams

 Patrick Henry

 Thomas Jefferson

 James Madison

 Alexander Hamilton

 James Monroe

 Andrew Jackson

 Read More Articles About: American Statesman

Patrick Henry

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

1736--1799

"GIVE ME LIBERTY OR GIVE ME DEATH"

The war-cry of America, when it leaped from the lips of Patrick Henry, sounded out beyond the confines of his province, beyond the limits of a nation, and echoed far into the reaches of succeeding centuries. In addition to his unapproachable gift of speech, he was as forceful as Samuel Adams. He was so nearly correct on every question, and so unselfish in his advocacy of the right, that he always had an easy majority with him, and his will was to such an extent corollary with the feelings of his fellow-citizens that they did not often feel the imperious weight of his influence. When he retired to private life he justly found his fame increasing, and the final chapter of his career was distinguished by the number of chief offices that he declined and the universal honors that were bestowed on him. His loyal veneration for the Father of His Country was a touching testimony of the clearness of his vision and the breadth of his manhood. Patrick Henry well deserved the love and astonishment he evoked. Few like him have lived.

He was born on the estate of Studley, in the County of Hanover, Virginia, May 29, 1736. It was considered that he came by his talent from his mother's side, for his mother's brother was an eloquent man. The son was not a brilliant scholar, and left his studies at fifteen, first to learn a trade, and thereafter to serve as a clerk in a country store. At eighteen, without means, he married a young woman, Sarah Shelton, who was equally impoverished. The parents established the headstrong couple on a small farm with a few slaves. In two years the husband sold the slaves at auction and set up a country store. At twenty-three he was insolvent. Thomas Jefferson, now sixteen, met him, and thought "his misfortunes were not to be traced either in his countenance or conduct." "He attached every one to him," says Jefferson.

He next concluded he would be a lawyer. How he learned his profession it has puzzled historians to say. Scholars of his day affected to despise his culture, for the luster of his fame cast them oftentimes into shadows that were trying to their good nature. It is the question over again, How did Shakespeare get his poetry? Patrick Henry certainly made a march into legal practice the swiftest on record. He said he studied a month; some said six weeks; some dignified the period into six months; men of imagination said nine months. He arrived at Williamsburg, the capital of Virginia, almost as soon as Thomas Jefferson. He was fortunate enough to impress the remarkable qualities of his mind on John Randolph (not "John Randolph of Roanoke"), and that astute lawyer secured for him the signatures of the other legal examiners. Patrick Henry related how Mr. Randolph had endeavored to out-argue him, after practicing all the arts of the attorney on the young man. "You defend yourself well, sir; but now to the law and to the testimony." Thereupon he went with him to his office, and, searching the authorities, said to him : "Behold the force of natural reason ! You have never seen these books, nor this principle of the law; yet you are right and I am wrong. And for the lesson which you have given me (you must excuse me for saying it) I will never trust to appearances again."

The young man's success as an advocate was gratifying, and it was generally admitted he had at last discovered his proper vocation. In about four years' time, or late in 1763, he defeated the celebrated "Parsons' cause" in court, and at once became a celebrated Virginian. The Established Church was a part of the colonial ad-ministration, and all persons above the age of sixteen years were assessed to pay the wages of the ministry of the Episcopal Church. The salaries were legally measured in pounds of tobacco; therefore the amount to be realized in money varied with the state of the market; when that market was low the ministry were ill paid in-deed. But a time had come when the price of tobacco had risen to such an extent that a law was passed taking off the advantage that would fairly accrue to the par-sons, and, moreover, paying them in a paper money so deeply depreciated that where a parson should justly receive $2,000, he was forced by the legislative act to accept $665, which sum was not counted to be worth over $100 in England. The Privy Council at London vetoed the act because of its manifest injustice, and the Rev. James Maury brought suit for his legal salary at Han-over Court-House. The Court was shown that the legislative act had been disallowed at London, and at once adjudged it to be no law. There then only remained a writ of inquiry, and a jury to ascertain the damages sustained by the parson who complained. Hereupon counsel for the defendants (the Vestrymen, or Supervisors, of the parish, or township) withdrew from the case.

Many people objected to the methods by which the salaries were paid; many dissented on religious grounds; a large portion of the poor inhabitants regarded the religious tax as an odious levy. From the body of the people a jury was to be summoned that should put aside its antipathies and treat the matter on a basis of technical law. It may be said that these twelve men were to take the side of the Crown in disallowing their own law. The Vestrymen, counting on the feelings that were to be aroused, at once engaged Patrick Henry to address this jury as to the damage suffered by the Rev. Maury in his case. There was a multitude present, news of the Court's demurrer having spread and caused excitement and anger, for the people were resolved, right or wrong, upon repudiating the salaries if possible, and a case was eventually to come up from every parish. The clergy were jubilant, and an array of twenty of the most learned fathers of the colony sat in court, "to look down opposition." When Patrick Henry rose to speak his father was the presiding magistrate, and it was his son's first appearance in an important cause, before a great gathering. Patrick Henry made an awkward be-ginning and faltered often. The clergy were pleased and "exchanged sly looks one with another." The father of the speaker could not conceal his confusion. "Now was first witnessed that mysterious and almost supernatural transformation of appearance which the fire of his own eloquence never failed to work in him.* His attitude by degrees became erect and lofty. His countenance shone with a nobleness and grandeur which it had never before exhibited. There was a lightning in his eyes which seemed to rive the spectator. Those who heard him said 'he made their blood run cold and their hair to rise on end.' As for the father, such was his surprise, such his amazement, such his rapture, that forgetting where he was and the character he was filling, tears of ecstacy streamed down his cheeks, without the power or inclination to repress them." The jurymen, who would have been easily convinced by interest, were now carried away into the regions of enthusiasm, and returned a verdict of only one penny's damage; but, what is more strange, the Court, by a unanimous vote, overruled a motion for a new trial amid the thundering acclamations of the throngs outside and inside the court-house. The orator was carried forth on the shoulders of the people and borne in triumph where all could congratulate him. His admirers could never repeat what Patrick Henry said that day. It remained for the plaintiff, who had been the victim of the advocate's eloquence, to give the tenor of his speech. The "harangue lasted nearly an hour." It held that the law had been a good law, because it was a law of general utility; the King could not annul it because he would thus become a tyrant and forfeit all right to his subjects' obedience; that it was the "only use" of an established clergy to enforce obedience to civil sanctions, and teach respect for the laws; otherwise, instead of useful members of the State, the clergy ought to be considered as enemies to the community; that Mr. Maury, instead of damages, very justly deserved to be punished with signal severity. When the orator touched on the word "tyrant," there was a protest of treason from the complainant's attorney, with cries of "Treason ! Treason!" from the gentry of the county, but such was the torrent of the speaker's words that none in authority saw fit to stop him. After court, Patrick Henry made a civil speech to Mr. Maury, which the complainant took for a confession of insincerity. "You see, then," wrote Mr. Maury to a friend, "it is so clear a point in this person's opinion that the ready road to popularity here is to trample under foot the interests of religion, the rights of the Church and prerogatives of the Crown."

In 1764 the seat of a member of the House of Bur-gesses was contested, and Patrick Henry went to the colonial capital as attorney for the sitting member. "For a day or two before the hearing of the case the members of the House had observed an ill-dressed young man sauntering in the lobby, moving awkwardly about, with a countenance of abstraction and total 'unconcern as to what was going on." He lost the cause before the committee, but made a deep impression once more as an orator.

In May, 1765, he was himself elected a member of the House of Burgesses (legislature) for a county in which he did not reside, thus reaping the rewards of his eloquence in the parsons' cause. A copy of the Stamp Act had arrived from England. On the 29th the House went into Committee of the Whole, and Patrick Henry, a new and untried member, with the foreknowledge of only two members, moved the celebrated "Virginia Resolves"—that taxation without representation was odious to English law and practice, and would have a tendency to destroy freedom. The debate was long and acrimonious. "Many threats were uttered, and much abuse cast on me," said Patrick Henry. "Torrents of sublime eloquence from Mr. Henry" are recorded. Reaching a climax of invective, he paused, and said with solemnity : "Casar had his Brutus; Charles the First his Cromwell; and George the Third [Treason!' shouted the Speaker of the House. 'Treason ! Treason!' came from all parts of the hall and George the Third may profit by their example. If this be treason, make the most of it." The resolutions, after two days of debate, passed the Virginia House. They had been cut down in number, which modified their tone, but a manu-script copy of Patrick Henry's resolutions soon reached New York City, where they were "handed about with great privacy." They were accounted so treasonable that the possessors of them declined printing them in that city. They reached New England, where the Sons of Liberty were prompt to give them wide circulation. In the papers accompanying his will, Patrick Henry left the original manuscript of the "Virginia Resolves." "They formed," he wrote, "the first opposition to the Stamp Act." "Finding that no person was likely to step forth, I determined to venture; and alone, un-advised and unassisted, on a blank leaf of an old law book, wrote the within."

The Lieutenant Governor wrote to the Lords of Trade regarding "a Mr. Henry, a young lawyer, who carried all the young members with him." Rector Robinson wrote to the Bishop of London, relating the "Par-sons' cause" and the election of Patrick Henry to the House. "He blazed out in a violent speech against the authority of Parliament and the King, comparing his Majesty to a Tarquin, a Caesar, and a Charles the First, and not sparing insinuations that he wished another Cromwell would arise. He is now gone quietly into the upper parts of the country, to recommend himself to his constituents by spreading treason." "From this period," says Wirt, his first biographer, "Mr. Henry became the idol of the people of Virginia."

For nine years the troubles of the colonies increased. During that time Patrick Henry was a member of the House, and at last a member of the Committee of Correspondence with Boston. After Governor Dunmore dissolved the House, Patrick Henry was the leader of the revolutionary body. George Washington wrote: "He is by far the most powerful speaker I ever heard. But his eloquence is the smallest part of his merit. He is, in my opinion, the first man upon this Continent, as well in abilities as public virtues." Late in August, 1774, with Colonel George Washington and Edmund Pendleton, Patrick Henry left Virginia for the First Continental Congress. Roger Atkinson, of Petersburg, wrote, describing Henry as a delegate: "Patrick Henry is a real half-Quaker—your brother's man—moderate and mild, and in religious matters a saint, but the very devil in politics; a son of thunder. He will shake the Senate. Some years ago he had liked to talk treason into the House."

Charles Thomson, Secretary of Congress, described Patrick Henry as "dressed in a suit of parson's gray, and from his appearance I took him for a Presbyterian clergyman, used to haranguing the people." In his first speech he said : "The distinctions between Virginians, Pennsylvanians, New Yorkers, and New Englanders are no more. I am not a Virginian, but an American."

On the 28th of September began the debate on Galloway's plan of reconciliation, which was opposed by Massachusetts and Virginia, but defeated by a vote of only six colonies to five. Patrick Henry made a fierce assault on the scheme of quasi-home-rule. John Adams reports him as saying: "Before we are obliged to pay taxes as they do, let us be as free as they; let us have our trade open with all the world." "We are not to consent by the representatives of representatives." "I am inclined to think the present measures lead to war." John Adams afterward wrote that "in the Congress of 1774 there was not one member except Patrick Henry who appeared sensible of the precipice, or rather the pinnacle on which we stood, and had candor and cour-age enough to acknowledge it"—"a man of deep reflection, keen sagacity, clear foresight, daring enterprise, inflexible intrepidity, and untainted integrity, with an ardent zeal for the liberties, the honor and felicity of his country and his species" (the latter sentiments in a letter to Wirt). As they parted from the Congress, John Adams read to Patrick Henry the contents of a letter from Major Hawley, of Massachusetts, which concluded : "After all, we must fight." Mr. Henry had his head down. "He raised his head, and with an energy and vehemence that I can never forget, broke out with : 'By G–, I am of that man's mind!' " This is the only oath that is on record as coming from the lips of Patrick Henry.

Returning from Philadelphia in the autumn of 1774, Patrick Henry, when he next appeared before the public, at the old church in Richmond, on the 23d of March, 1775, as a member of the Second Revolutionary Convention of Virginia, made the immortal speech upon which his fame popularly rests. This oration, perfectly stationed in the drama of bloody events that was to fol-low, offers almost the only recorded example of adequate eloquence outside the pages of the sublimest poets. As an actual happening in actual life, it will ever thrill the student of history and exalt the lover of patriotism. The resolutions under debate authorized "a well-regulated militia" for the defense of the colony. Patrick Henry thought there was too much opposition to the resolutions, and he seems to have charged upon that sentiment with the very highest powers of his mind. The early portion of the speech is full of well-turned sentences of indubitable truth and sound sense. "This is no time for ceremony," he said. "The question is one of awful moment to this country"—"freedom or slavery. And in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate." "Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason toward my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the majesty of Heaven, which I revere above all earthly Kings." "It is natural in man to indulge in the illusions of hope. 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."

"I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging the future but by the past." "Ask yourselves how this gracious reception of our petition comports with those warlike preparations which cover our waters and darken our lands. 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 subjugation—the last arguments to which Kings resort."

"Shall we resort to entreaty and humble supplication? What terms shall we find which have not been already exhausted?" "We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the Ministry and Parliament. Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned with contempt from the foot of the throne."

"There is no longer any room for hope [of peace]. If we wish to be free," "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 to us."

To this point in the address, of which the above are only striking sentences, all was deliberate and self-constrained. "Imagine to yourself this speech," says St. Gedrge Tucker, "delivered with all the calm dignity of Cato of Utica. Imagine to yourself the Roman Senate assembled in the Capitol when it was entered by the pro-fane Gauls. Imagine that you heard that Cato addressing such a Senate. Imagine that you saw the handwriting on the wall of Belshazzar's palace. Imagine you heard a voice as from Heaven uttering the words, 'We must fight!' as the doom of fate and you may have some idea of the speaker, the assembly to whom he addressed himself, and the auditory, of which I was one."

An aged clergyman related the following: "Henry rose with unearthly fire burning in his eyes. He commenced somewhat calmly, but the smothered excite-ment began more and more to play upon his features and thrill in the tones of his voice. The tendons of his neck stood out white and rigid, like whipcords. His voice rose louder and louder, until the walls of the building, and all within them, seemed to shake and rock in its tremendous vibrations. Finally, his pale face and glaring eye became terrible to look upon. Men leaned forward in their seats, with their heads strained forward, their faces pale, and their eyes glaring, like the speak-er's." The hearer felt sick with excitement.

Patrick Henry continued, with increasing fury of words: "They tell us, sir, that we are weak—unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger?" "Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs, and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies have bound us hand and foot?" He next sums up the very considerable power of the colonies. "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. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. These is no retreat, but in submission and slavery. Our chains are forged. Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston. The war - is inevitable. And let it come ! I repeat it, sir, let it come ! It is in 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. 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 pur-chased 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 !"

When Patrick Henry sat down, every eye yet gazed entranced upon him. It is said that he enacted the bent form of the slave bearing his gyves and manacles of iron; that as he closed, he straightened his form, threw off his slavery, and gave the impression of having a dagger in his hand, to be aimed at his own heart. All the hearers agreed that the tones of his voice were deep with awe and the gaze of his eyes full of splendor—something altogether different from the most highly-excited expressions of other men. The effect was complete. Everything was done by vote that he asked for, and he himself was made the chairman, to see that the legislative action should be carried into effect.

"The first overt act of war in Virginia," says Thomas Jefferson, "was committed by Patrick Henry." He was the captain of an independent company of militia. Governor Dunmore had removed some powder. Patrick Henry marched on Williamsburg and compelled the Receiver General to pay an indemnity of $1,650. The Governor thereupon issued a proclamation against "a certain Patrick Henry and a number of deluded fol-lowers" who had "put themselves in a posture of war." This would "call for the vengeance of offended majesty," and all subjects were warned "not to abet or give countenance to the said Patrick Henry." He was now acclaimed as the logical leader of the patriots, and nearly every company sent him a message of congratulation touching the powder episode. In May, 1775, how-ever, he set off for the Second Congress, where he took little interest. In August he returned and was made Colonel and Commander of the Virginia troops. His relations with the civil committee of safety were unpleasant, and he soon resigned, to the great grief of the militia, who parted with him as their true and rightful leader. Early in March, 1776, his wife Sarah, mother of six children, died. He thereafter returned to the Third Virginia Convention. His hope of a French alliance was keen from the first, and he urged measures to bring it about, or make it easy. "May we not lose her?" "The French alliance is everything." On July 5, 1776, he became the first elected Governor of Virginia, and took up his residence in the palace that had been vacated by Lord Dunmore. He was reelected in 1777, and on the 9th of October married Dorothea Dandridge, who was considerably his junior—he was now forty-one. During his second term efforts were made by the secret members of the Conway cabal to wean Governor Henry away from the support of General Washington, who had suffered a number of defeats. The loyal action of the Governor, in at once sending warning to the General, together with the sentiments of his letters at that time, reflect the highest honor upon both his judgment and his affection. "I really think your personal welfare and the happiness of America are intimately connected." "The most exalted merit has ever been found to attract envy." To these expressions of regard and solicitude General Washington responded warmly, and his admiration for Patrick Henry never lessened.

Governor Henry was reelected in 1778. His third term was disastrously marked at its very close by the British invasion of Virginia. The Governor was an efficient aid to General Washington, whose letters to Patrick Henry. abound with testimonies of high approval and recognition. The French officers addressed him in their epistles as "Son Altesse Royale, Monsieur Patrick Henri, Gouverneur de l'Etat de Virginie." He declined a reelection as Governor, being annoyed with long-continued charges that he entertained a usurper's ambitions.

He owned a new estate of 10,000 acres, called Leatherwood, southwest from Richmond, along the North Carolina boundary, in the county of Henry, named after himself. To this "wild and mountainous solitude" he at once removed, making it his home for five years. He wrote to Thomas Jefferson, now Governor, in denunciation of Tories. They were "miscreants—wretches who, I am satisfied, were laboring our destruction. They should be shunned and execrated, and this is the only way to supply the place of legal conviction and punishment." He was elected to the Assembly in 1780, but was compelled to leave in poor health. He returned for the winter of 178o-81, when the Legislature retreated before Benedict Arnold, the traitor, now making war on Virginia. The members adjourned to Charlottesville, and thence actually fled over the mountains to Staunton. The traditions of Virginia are illuminated with a well-wrought series of stories seemingly made at the expense of Patrick Henry, yet all reflecting the admiration that was everywhere felt for him as the first Virginia patriot. In the head-long flight from Charlottesville, the fugitives broke into small parties, one of these being composed of Benjamin Harrison, Colonel William Christian, John Tyler and Patrick Henry. Weary with travel, late in the day, they halted before a hut in the gorge, and asked for food. An aged woman asked them who they were. Patrick Henry answered that they were members of the Legislature, compelled to leave Charlottesville on the approach of the enemy. "Ride on, then, ye cowardly knaves," cried the ancient dame, in wrath; "here have my husband and sons just gone to Charlottesville to fight for ye, and you running away with all your might. Clear out—ye shall have nothing here." "But," expostulated Patrick Henry, "it would not do for the Legislature to be broken up by the enemy. Here is Mr. Speaker Harrison; you don't think he would have fled had it not been necessary?" "I always thought a great deal of Mr. Harrison till now, but he'd no business to run from the enemy" [starting to close her door]. "Wait a moment, my good woman," urged Mr. Henry; "you would hardly believe that Mr. Tyler or Mr. Christian would take to flight if there were not good reason for it?" "No, indeed, that I wouldn't." "But Mr. Tyler and Colonel Christian are here." "They here?" she said, as if in doubt. "Well, I never would have thought it! No matter. We love these gentlemen, and I didn't suppose they would ever run away from the British. But since they have, they shall have nothing to eat in my house. You may ride along." Now Mr. Tyler stepped forward : "What would you say, my good woman, if I were to tell you that Patrick Henry fled with the rest of us?" "Patrick Henry ! I should tell you there wasn't a word of truth in it !" she replied with rising anger. "Patrick Henry would never do such a cowardly thing !" "But this is Patrick Henry !" said Mr. Tyler, pointing to him. The old woman started, twitched her apron-string convulsively, and sur-rendered: "Well, then, if it's Patrick Henry, it must be all right. Come in, and ye shall have the best I've got."

The stories go on that at Staunton Colonel William Lewis told Patrick Henry (not recognizing him) that "if Patrick Henry had been in Charlottesville the British dragoons never would have passed over the Rivenna River." A still more artistic fable of classic rank avers that the legislators were warned out of their beds in the night, and told to flee to the estate of Colonel George Moffett near by, on which was a cave, wherein conceal-ment would be effectual. One of the fugitives got on only one boot, leaving the other behind. Mrs. Moffett received these statesmen and entertained them hospitably, but at breakfast, next morning—an eventless night having passed—she could not refrain from remarking that the Legislature had one member who would not have fled from the enemy. "Who is he?" was asked. "Patrick Henry," she replied, proudly, looking also with disdain at the guest in one boot, who was seen to be in some confusion. Just then a negro rode up from Staun-ton, carrying a boot, and inquiring for Patrick Henry. "In that way alone," concludes this tradition, "did the admiring Mrs. Moffett learn who it was that the boot fitted." These ingenious stories are told in the hills of Virginia with undiminishing zest, without derogating from the affection and admiration bestowed on the memory of Patrick Henry.

In 1784 and 1785 the favorite son of Virginia was called upon to serve two more terms. as Governor, retiring on his own demand to recuperate his fortune. He refused to attend the Convention at Philadelphia which formulated the Constitution of the United States, and his attitude led General Washington to greatly fear that Virginia would reject that document. So deep was the anxiety of the Father of His Country that he sent a copy of the instrument with an entreating letter to his old friend. But General Washington could not silence Patrick Henry's scruples, and it was doubtless his valiant opposition that led to the first ten amendments. He came down to the Virginia Convention to make a bitter fight against adoption, and spoke often on eighteen days of the debate. He made one speech seven hours' long. He made eight speeches in one day, five in another. He used the word "secession," but denied that he approved such an act. He wanted a new Convention. The President, Patrick Henry thought, might become King. His speeches, many of them, were in the best form of his undiminished eloquence, but he did not echo the sentiments of the man above all others who had saved the country—General Washington. One remarkable exhibition of the orator's power was attended with a furious thunderstorm, in which Mr. Henry, making full use of his mighty voice, seemed to unite the bolts of heaven with the invectives which he hurled at the foes of a broader representative liberty. The scene surpassed the endurance of the listeners; they adjourned in disorder without the usual form, and he ceased, from motives of pity, to increase their alarm.

Although he was outvoted, and the Constitution was adopted by Virginia, it was seen that the amendments which he desired must be conceded, forais prestige continued to increase under defeat. He made imperative the demands of Virginia on Congress. Lear, Secretary to General Washington, sorrowfully recounted Patrick Henry's triumphs at this time (1789) : "In plain English, he ruled a majority of the Assembly; and his edicts were registered by that body with less opposition than those of the Grand Monarque have met with from his Parliaments. He chose the two Senators. He divided the State into districts" [gerrymandering so as to exclude James Madison from Congress]. "And after he had settled everything relative to the Government wholly, I suppose, to his satisfaction, he mounted his horse and rode home, leaving the little business of the State to be done by anybody who chose to give them-selves the trouble of attending to it." Congress un-willingly responded, and the first ten amendments stand to-day as the necessary concessions made to the apprehensive patriotism of Patrick Henry.

Through all the years from 1786 to 1794, when he retired with a competence, he was an advocate without peer at the bar of Virginia. His triumphs were too numerous for even the most summary description here. His voice and delivery were inexpressibly felicitious, but hearers declared that the chief phenomenon was the vibratory feeling which he not only expressed in his own body, but was able to thoroughly establish in the nerves of his auditors. He retired in 1795 to an estate called Red Hill, in Charlotte County, and there he spent the last four years of his life, the people proud of his fame, and boastful that his like had never before lived among the eloquent. It was said that he would stand on an eminence and give commands to his servants "in tones as melodious as an Alpine horn," his enunciation being so clear that he might be understood in every part of a space that would have held 50,000 people. He, like Shakespeare, sought rather to show his wealth in acres than to receive homage for his eloquence. He was highly abstemious and religious. It disconcerted and grieved the greatest of the fathers to see this giant of liberty cold to the new Nation, yet, as the smaller gentry of critics assembled to annoy George Washington, Patrick Henry increased his tributes of veneration for the Father of His Country; therefore efforts did not cease to attach the old wheelhorse to the new car of Liberty. He was made United States Senator, but declined; Washington fruitlessly tendered him the port-folio of Secretary of State; later the Father offered the great office of Chief Justice of the United States. They elected him Governor for the sixth time. All of these flattering offers Patrick Henry put aside. John Adams ascended to the Presidency, and, casting off all party ties, nominated Patrick Henry as one of the Envoys to France, believing the French Nation must generously welcome such a patriot. The health of the statesman was too feeble to permit him to reenter public life. But he was at last in full harmony with the Federalists, and at the personal request of General Washington, Patrick Henry, in March, 1799, went to the hustings and stood as a candidate for the Legislature. This was an act of extraordinary generosity. Vast crowds from all over Virginia came forth when it was heard that the renowned orator would once more lift his voice. He counseled obedience to Federal laws, and told the people they had planted thorns upon his pillow and called him forth from a happy retirement, to see if he could not prevent civil discord. "Where," he asked, "is the citizen of America who would dare to lift his hand against the Father of His Country?" A drunken man cried out that he would dare. "No," cried the feeble orator, rising once more to his full majesty, "you dare not do it. In such a parricidal attempt the steel would drop from your nerveless arm!"

The young John Randolph, of Roanoke, followed in a speech, as the candidate of the opposing party. While he was speaking Patrick Henry retired into the tavern. When the young man returned to the room where the patriot was resting, the latter took him by the hand, saying with great kindness : "Young man, you call me father. Then, my son, I have something to say unto thee: Keep justice, keep truth—and you will live to think differently." The poll resulted in a great majority for Patrick Henry.

It may be believed that the patriotic effort of Patrick Henry, to which he was moved by the entreaties of Gen-eral Washington, was more than his feeble body would bear, and it is probable that his infirmity had been courageously concealed, even from the Father of His Country. Patrick Henry returned to his bed and never left it. In the middle of May he lifted himself up long enough to send his dying blessing to his old friend, John Adams, the President. On the 6th of June, as Dr. Cabell, his physician, was weeping bitterly, the dying patriot asked the doctor to observe how great a reality and benefit the Christian religion was to a man about to die. These were his last words, for he sank as if into a gentle sleep, and presently it was seen he was dead. He was reverently buried at Red Hill, and that estate is to-day in the hands of his proud descendants, who, however, no more than the masses of Americans, treasure his memory as a shining jewel in the crown of freedom.

"After all," wrote Thomas Jefferson, "it must be allowed that Patrick Henry was our leader in the measures of the Revolution in Virginia, and in that respect more is due to him than to any other person. He left us all behind."

Home | More Articles | Email: info@oldandsold.com