He Wanted Liberty

By | Mar 23, 2017

The Virginia’s House of Burgesses was meeting in Saint John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia on March 23, 1775 when Patrick Henry addressed the assembled. Virginia was still undecided on whether they would join their Northern neighbors in Massachusetts in fighting the British.

At the end of his speech he had convinced Virginia to send troops to New England. It was this speech that he is credited with saying, “Give me Liberty, or Give me Death”.

Did he actually utter these words? It wasn’t until 1816, seventeen years after Patrick Henry’s death, that Henry’s biographer William Wirt first published the text for that speech. With no notes available Wirt had corresponded with men who had heard the speech and others who were acquainted with people who were there at the time to recreate it.

According to Wirt the crowd convinced, jumped up and shouted “To Arms! To Arms!”

Patrick Henry may have been one of the key Virginia’s in favor of removing the colonies from the rule of George III, who he called at times a Tyrant, a fool, a puppet & tool to the Ministry, but when it came time to adopt the Constitution he led a movement in Virginia to vote against its ratification. He felt it gave the federal government too much power. Once the Constitution was adopted he was instrumental in forcing the adoption of the Bill of Rights to amend the new Constitution.

George Washington did offer Henry the post of Secretary of State in 1795 to replace Edmund Randolph. Henry was still opposed to the views of Washington and declined the post. With the radicalism of the French Revolution Henry’s views changed. He feared that the same could happen in America and began supporting the Federalist policies of Washington and Adams.


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