Biography >> History >> American Revolution
- Occupation: Lawyer, Governor of Virginia
- Born: May 29, 1736 in Hanover County, Virginia
- Died: June 6, 1799 in Brookneal, Virginia
- Best known for: Founding Father of the United States and "Give me liberty, or give me death" speech.
Patrick Henry was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. He was a gifted speaker known for his rousing speeches and strong support for revolution against the British.
Where did Patrick Henry grow up?
Patrick Henry was born in the American colony of Virginia on May 29, 1736. His father, John Henry, was a tobacco farmer and judge. Patrick had ten brothers and sisters. As a child, Patrick like to hunt and fish. He attended the local one-room school and was tutored by his father.
Patrick Henry by George Bagby Matthews
When Patrick was just 16 years old he opened a local store with his brother William. The store was a failure, however, and the boys soon had to close it. A few years later Patrick married Sarah Shelton and started his own farm. Patrick wasn't much good as a farmer either. When his farmhouse burned down in a fire, Patrick and Sarah moved in with her parents.
Becoming a Lawyer
Living in town, Patrick realized that he liked to talk and argue politics and law. He studied law and became a lawyer in 1760. Patrick was a very successful lawyer handling hundreds of cases. He had finally found his career.
The Parson's Case
Henry's first big law case was called the Parson's Case. It was a famous case where he went up against the king of England. It all started when the people of Virginia had passed a local law. However, a local parson (like a priest) objected to the law and protested to the king. The king of England agreed with the parson and vetoed the law. The case ended up in court with Henry representing the colony of Virginia. Patrick Henry called the king a "tyrant" in court. He won the case and made a name for himself.
Virginia House of Burgesses
In 1765 Henry became a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses. This was the same year the British introduced the Stamp Act. Henry argued against the Stamp Act and helped to get the Virginia Stamp Act Resolutions against the Stamp Act passed.
First Continental Congress
Henry was elected to the First Continental Congress in 1774. On March 23, 1775, Henry gave a famous speech arguing that the Congress should mobilize an army against the British. It was in this speech that he uttered the memorable phrase "Give me liberty, or give me death!"
Henry later served as a Colonel in the 1st Virginia Regiment where he led the militia against the Royal governor of Virginia, Lord Dunmore. When Lord Dunmore tried to remove some gunpowder supplies from Williamsburg, Henry led a small group of militiamen to stop him. It later became known as the Gunpowder Incident.
Henry was elected the governor of Virginia in 1776. He served a number of one year terms as governor and also served on the Virginia state legislature.
After the Revolutionary War
After the war, Henry again served as governor for Virginia and on the state legislature. He argued against the initial version of the US Constitution. He did not want it passed without the Bill of Rights. Through his arguments the Bill of Rights were amended to the Constitution.
Henry retired to his plantation at Red Hill. He died of stomach cancer in 1799.
Famous Patrick Henry Quotes
"I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!"
"I know of no way of judging the future but by the past."
"I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience."
"If this be treason, make the most of it!"
Interesting Facts About Patrick Henry
- Patrick's first wife Sarah died in 1775. They had six children together before she died in 1775. He married Dorothea Dandridge, cousin of Martha Washington, in 1777. They had eleven children together.
- The Hanover County Courthouse where Patrick Henry argued the Parson's Case is still an active courthouse. It's the third oldest active courthouse in the United States.
- Although he called slavery "an abominable practice, destructive to liberty", he still owned over sixty slaves on his plantation.
- He was against the Constitution because he was concerned that the office of the president would become a monarchy.
- He was elected governor of Virginia again in 1796, but declined.
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Biography >> History >> American Revolution