A Radical Man with Treasonous Aspirations
History has portrayed Patrick Henry as a radical man, a title that few men can wear with ease yet, Patrick Henry, was synonymous with the word in the minds of colonists and British Empire. Even though many of us know Henry for his immortal words, we know very little about the hero that contributed greatly to the revolutionary cause. As we glimpse into the past, I hope to give you a brief look into the life of Patrick Henry as well as pop culture's take on the revolutionary icon.
He, like so many of the founding fathers, by definition of the British empire, committed acts of treason in their fight for an ideal so radical that their beliefs set the keystone for the identity of the new nation that was about to emerge from the ruins of the American Revolutionary War. A Patriot and symbol in America's struggle for liberty, Patrick Henry was a lawyer, orator, and active participant in virtually every phase of the founding of America. His Stamp Act Resolutions are still at the epicenter of what many historians hail as the first shot fired in the Revolutionary War.
A Synopsis of Patrick Henry's Life
Patrick Henry was born in Hanover County, Virginia in 1736, to John and Sarah Winston Henry. His family quickly became aware that he was not interested in becoming a farmer, and instead began to educate Patrick. John Henry educated young Patrick at home teaching Henry Latin. Patrick took on the study of law on his own. In 1760, he traveled to Williamsburg to take his attorney's examination, and from that day forward, Patrick Henry became indivisible from American history.
In 1763, arguing the famed Parson's Cause in Hanover County, Patrick Henry proclaimed that a king who would veto a good and necessary law made by a local representative government was not a father to his people but "a tyrant who forfeits the allegiance of his subjects." Henry's oratory skills soon became his forte and used this skill to his advantage. Soon after he was elected to the House of Burgesses in 1764 and became its leading radical member. Defending his resolutions against the Stamp Act in the House of Burgesses May 30, 1765, he proposed the Virginia Stamp Act Resolutions. In March 1775, at the Second Virginia Convention, Patrick Henry urged his fellow Virginians in an appeal at St. John's Church in Richmond, where the legislature was meeting. Here his uttered the immortal words, "I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death."
Henry called the citizens of Virginia to arms and his protest was carried over the protests of other soft spoken patriots and was one of the causes of the order for Lord Dunmore, the royal governor, to remove gunpowder from the local Magazine. Henry mobilized the militia to force the return of the powder. Since Henry's action followed the British march on Concord by only a few hours, it is said to mark the beginning of the American Revolution in Virginia.
In 1776, Henry was elected Governor of Virginia and was re-elected for three terms and then succeeded by Thomas Jefferson. He was again elected to the office in 1784. Patrick Henry was a strong critic of the constitution proposed in 1787. He was in favor of the strongest possible government for the individual states, and a weak federal government. President Washington appointed him Secretary of State in 1795, but Henry declined the office and in 1799, President Adams appointed him envoy to France, but failing health forced him to decline this office too. He died on June 6, 1799 at age of 63.
The actions of Patrick Henry and other Patriots paved the way for America's eventual break from the British empire. As we continue to discover Patrick Henry as a founding father we will begin to explore how popular culture perceives the man, whose words will forever be remembered.
The portrait (left) by Thoams Sully, depicts the serious and punctual demeanor of...
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