Henry's first attempt as a planter ended when fire destroyed his house in After a second attempt at storekeeping proved unsuccessful, Henry helped his father-in-law at Hanover Tavern, across the road from the county courthouse, and began reading law. Parson's Cause of , Henry's address to the jury made him a popular defender of the rights of colonial Americans. His was an early and powerful voice against Britain's attempt to impose taxation on the American colonies.
Henry delivered his most famous speech in March at St. John's Church during the Second Virginia Convention. His eloquent words that day became a clarion call that led the colonies toward independence: As the first elected governor of Virginia, Henry supported George Washington and the patriot cause at critical moments in the War for Independence.
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Henry supported the movement for independence in , He also participated in the drafting Virginia's new constitution and it Declaration of Rights , an important precursor of the federal Bill of Rights. Henry served three terms as governor, from to and two subsequent terms from to He worked closely with George Washington to raise and equip the soldiers who won American independence, and in sent Virginia troops under George Rogers Clark to hold the Old Northwest against the British and their Indian allies.
Henry's statesmanship did not end with the Revolution and achievement of independence. While recognizing the need to augment the financial resources of the confederation congress, he was critical of the extensive powers given to the central government by the Constitution of He was adamant in his demand for the protection of basic individual liberties.
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Henry's speeches in the Virginia Convention of testify to his insistence that American freedom required a Bill of Rights. After twenty-five years in Virginia's legislature, five conventions, and five exhausting terms as governor, Patrick Henry retired to Red Hill and resumed his private legal practice. Failing health and the needs of his family prompted him to decline appointment as Chief Justice of the United States, Secretary of State, and minister to Spain and to France.
He even turned down a sixth term as governor of Virginia. Only a direct appeal from George Washington persuaded Henry to stand for election to the Virginia legislature in Partisan strife threatened to undermine the young republic. The repressive Alien and Sedition Acts prompted opponents to assert that states could nullify acts of the federal government.
History.org: The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation's Official History and Citizenship Website
Bowed with age, his health precarious, Patrick Henry made his last public oration to the voters at Charlotte County Courthouse - an appeal for unity and moderation to preserve the nation. Patrick Henry died three months later, on June 6, , and was buried at Red Hill. Carried away by the fervor of his own argument, the plainly dressed burgess from Louisa County exclaimed that "Caesar had his Brutus —Charles the First, his Cromwell — and George the Third — " At this point, cries of treason rose from all sides, but with hardly a pause, Henry neatly "baffled the charge vociferated" and won the burgesses for his cause.
Five of his resolutions approved, the new leader in Virginia politics saddled his lean horse and took the westward road out of Williamsburg. After his departure, one of the resolutions was overturned. Henceforth, Patrick Henry was a leader in every protest against British tyranny and in every movement for colonial rights.
In March , Patrick Henry urged his fellow Virginians to arm in self-defense, closing his appeal uttered at St. John's Church in Richmond, where the legislature was meeting with the immortal words: Henry's call to arms was carried over the protests of more conservative patriots and was one of the causes of the order for Lord Dunmore, the royal governor, to remove some gunpowder from the Magazine.
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Henry, "a Quaker in religion but the very devil in politics," mobilized the militia to force restitution 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. Henry served in the Virginia House of Burgesses; he was a member of the Virginia committee of Correspondence, a delegate to the Virginia Convention, and a delegate to the Virginia Constitution Ratification Convention.
Henry was then in Philadelphia, having been elected by the previous Virginia Convention as a delegate to the Continental Congress. He resigned his position of delegate to return to Virginia to begin organizing his regiment.
He played a prominent role in the fifth Virginia convention, which convened on May 6, , and on June 29 was elected the first governor of the Commonwealth under its new constitution, adopted the same day. Patrick Henry served five terms as the first and sixth governor of Virginia.
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Listen as he re-creates Patrick Henry's powerful words spoken March 23, at St.
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