Patrick Henry

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A portrait of Patrick Henry.

Patrick Henry (1736-1799) was a Patriot during the American Revolution, and an anti-Federalist who opposed ratification of the U.S. Constitution afterwards. A radical democrat, he supported combining the executive and the legislative into a single elected body. An attorney, he prevailed in the Parsons' Cause by defending the right of the Virginia colony to fix the price of the tobacco to be paid to the clergy in violation of a contrary ruling in England.[1] In the 1790s Henry was a leader of the Federalist Party in support of George Washington and Alexander Hamilton, and opposition to Thomas Jefferson

Patrick Henry is best known today for the rousing speech that he gave on March 23, 1775 to the 2nd Virginia Convention at Richmond's St. John's Church:[2]

I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery ... We have done everything that could be done to avert the storm which is now coming on. We have petitioned; we have remonstrated ... We have prostrated ourselves before the throne ... Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence. ...
There is a just God who presides over the destines of nations ... who will raise up friends to fight our battle for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave ... 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.

Henry has this to say about the Bible: a book worth more than all of the other books that were every printed.[3]
A depiction Henry speaking in the Virginia House of Burgesses.


  • "The rising greatness of our country is greatly tarnished by the general prevalence of deism, which with me, is but another name for vice and depravity. I hear it is said by the deists that I am one of their number and indeed, that some good people think I am no Christian. This thought gives me much more pain than the appellation of tory; because I think religion of infinitely higher importance than politics."
  • "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." - Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death
  • “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."
  • "The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them."
  • "Are we at last brought to such humiliating and debasing degradation, that we cannot be trusted with arms for our defense?"

See also

Patrick Henry College


  3. Original Intent (2004), David Barton, page 168

External links