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g>tanOart) JLtbrar^ (EDition 













<bc iiincrsiDc press, Cambridge 

Copyright, 1887 and 1898, 

Copyright, 1898, 

All rights reserved. 


IN this book I have tried to embody the chief 
results derived from a study of all the materials 
known to me, in print and in manuscript, relat 
ing to Patrick Henry, many of these materials 
being now used for the first time in any formal 
presentation of his life. 

Notwithstanding the great popular interest at 
taching to the name of Patrick Henry, he has 
hitherto been the subject of but one memoir 
founded on original investigation, and that, of 
course, is the Life by William Wirt. When it is 
considered, however, that Wirt s book was finished 
as long ago as the year 1817, before the time 
had fairly come for the publication of the corre 
spondence, diaries, personal memoranda, and offi 
cial records of every sort, illustrating the great 
period covered by Patrick Henry s career, it 
will be easy to infer something as to the quantity 
and the value of those printed materials bearing 
upon the subject, which are now to be had by us, 
but which were not within the reach of Wirt. 
Accordingly, in his lack of much of the detailed 



courteous assistance from Mr. Theodore F. Dwight 
and Mr. S. M. Hamilton of the library of the 
Department of State ; from the Rev. Professor 
W. M. Hughes, of Hobart College ; and from the 
Rev. Stephen H. Synnott, rector of St. John s, 

M. C. T. 




I HAVE gladly used the opportunity afforded by 
a new edition of this book to give the text a mi 
nute revision from beginning to end, and to make 
numerous changes both in its substance and in its 

During the eleven years that have passed since 
it first came from the press, considerable additions 
have been made to our documentary materials for 
the period covered by it, the most important for 
our purpose being the publication, for the first 
time, of the correspondence and the speeches of 
Patrick Henry and of George Mason, the former 
with a life, in three volumes, by William Wirt 
Henry, the latter also with a life, in two volumes, 
by Kate Mason Rowland. Besides procuring for 
my own pages whatever benefit I could draw from 
these texts, I have tried, while turning over very 
frequently the writings of Patrick Henry s con 
temporaries, to be always on the watch for the 
means of correcting any mistakes I may have 
made concerning him, whether as to fact or as to 


In this work of rectification I have likewise 
been aided by suggestions from many persons, of 
whom I would particularly mention the Right 
Rev. Joseph Blount Cheshire, Jr., D. D., Bishop 
of North Carolina, and Mr. William Wirt Henry. 

M. C. T. 

COBNELL UNIVERSITY, 31 March, 1898. 


I. EARLY YEARS ....... 1 




VI. CONSEQUENCES ....... 77 

VII. STEADY WORK ....... 90 





XTT. INDEPENDENCE ....... 189 




STITUTION ....... 313 


XXI. IN RETIREMENT ....... 382 

XXII. LAST DAYS ....... 407 

INDEX . ......... 431 


PATRICK HENR? Frontispiece 

From the painting by Sully, owned by Henry s grand 
son, William Wirt Henry, Esq., Richmond, Va. 

Autograph from MS. in the possession of Mr. Henry. 
The vignette of " Redhill," Patrick Henry s home, 
Charlotte County, Va., is from a photograph owned by 
Mrs. Elizabeth Henry Lyons, Richmond, Va. Page 


SPEECH facing 72 

From an engraving in the possession of the Virginia 
Historical Society, after the painting by Peter Frederick 

GEORGE MASON facing 204 

From a painting by Herbert Walsh, in Independence 
Hall, after the original by Stuart. 

Autograph from the Emmet collection, New York 
Public Library, Lenox Building. 

CHARLES LEE facing 244 

From the engraving in Girdleston s " Facts tending 
to prove that General Lee was the Author of Junius," 
London, 1813. The drawing was made by Barham 
Ruskbrooke, on Lee s return from Poland in 1766, in the 
uniform of an aide to King Stanislaus, and shows the 
inevitable dog. According to Dr. Girdlestone, " though 
designed as a caricature, it was allowed, by all who 
knew General Lee, to be the only successful delineation, 
either of his countenance or person." 

Autograph from Moore s " Treason of Major-General 
Charles Lee," New York, 1860. 

JOHN RUTLEDGE facing 404 

After a portrait by John Trumbull, by permission of 
Mrs. C. C. Pinckney, Charleston, S. C. 




ON the evening of October 7, 1732, that merry 
Old Virginian, Colonel William Byrd of West- 
over, having just finished a journey through King 
William County for the inspection of his estates, 
was conducted, for his night s lodging, to the 
house of a blooming widow, Mistress Sarah Syme, 
in the county of Hanover. This lady, at first 
supposing her guest to be some new suitor for 
her lately disengaged affections, "put on a Gravity 
that becomes a Weed; " but so soon as she learned 
her mistake and the name of her distinguished 
visitor, she "brighten d up into an unusual cheer 
fulness and Serenity. She was a portly, handsome 
Dame, of the Family of Esau, and seem d not to 
pine too much for the Death of her Husband, who 
was of the Family of the Saracens. . . . This 
widow is a person of a lively & cheerful Conversa 
tion, with much less Reserve than most of her 
Countrywomen. It becomes her very well, and 


sets off her other agreeable Qualities to Advan 
tage. We tost off a Bottle of honest Port, which 
we relisht with a broil d Chicken. At Nine I re- 
tir d to my Devotions, And then Slept so Sound 
that Fancy itself was Stupify d, else I shou d have 
dreamt of my most obliging Landlady." The next 
day being Sunday, "the courteous Widow invited 
me to rest myself there that good day, and go to 
Church with Her, but I excus d myself by telling 
her she wou d certainly spoil my Devotion. Then 
she civilly entreated me to make her House my 
Home whenever I visited my Plantations, which 
made me bow low, and thank her very kindly." 1 

Not very long after that notable visit, the 
sprightly widow gave her hand in marriage to a 
young Scotchman of good family, John Henry, of 
Aberdeen, a protege and probably a kinsman of 
her former husband ; and continuing to reside on 
her estate of Studley, in the county of Hanover, 
she became, on May 29, 1736, the mother of Pat 
rick Henry. 

Through the lineage of both his parents, this 
child had some claim to an inheritance of brains. 
The father, a man of firm and sound intellect, had 
been liberally educated in Scotland; among the 
country gentlemen of his neighborhood in Virginia, 
he was held in high esteem for superior intelligence 
and character, as is shown by the positions he long 
held of county surveyor, colonel of his regiment, 
and presiding judge of the county court ; while he 

1 Byrd Manuscripts, ii. 79, 80. 


could number among his near kinsmen at home 
several persons of eminence as divines, orators, or 
men of letters, such as his uncle, William Rob 
ertson, minister of Borthwick in Mid Lothian 
and afterward of the Old Greyfriars Church 
in Edinburgh; his cousin, David Henry, the suc 
cessor of Edward Cave in the management of 
the "Gentleman s Magazine;" and especially his 
cousin, William Robertson, principal of the Uni 
versity of Edinburgh, and author of the "History of 
the Reign of the Emperor Charles V." Moreover, 
among the later paternal relatives of Patrick Henry 
may be mentioned one person of oratorical and 
forensic genius very brilliant and in quality not 
unlike his own. Patrick Henry s father was sec 
ond cousin to that beautiful Eleanor Syme of 
Edinburgh, who, in 1777, became the wife of 
Henry Brougham of Brougham Hall, Westmore 
land. Their eldest son was Lord Brougham, who 
was thus the third cousin of Patrick Henry. To 
some it will perhaps seem not a mere caprice of 
ingenuity to discover in the fiery, eccentric, and 
truculent eloquence of the great English advocate 
and parliamentary orator a family likeness to that 
of his renowned American kinsman; or to find in 
the fierceness of the champion of Queen Caroline 
against George IV., and of English anti-slavery re 
form and of English parliamentary reform against 
aristocratic and commercial selfishness, the same 
bitter and eager radicalism that burned in the 
blood of him who, on this side of the Atlantic, 


was, in popular oratory, the great champion of the 
colonies against George III., and afterward of 
the political autonomy of the State of Virginia 
against the all-dominating centralization which he 
saw coiled up in the projected Constitution of the 
United States. 1 

Those, however, who knew the mother of Pat 
rick Henry, and her family, the Winstons, were 
accustomed to think that it was from her side of 
the house that he derived the most characteristic 
traits not only of his genius, but of his disposition. 
The Winstons of Virginia were of Welsh stock ; 
a family marked by vivacity of spirit, conversa 
tional talent, a lyric and dramatic turn, a gift for 
music and for eloquent speech, at the same time 
by a fondness for country life, for inartificial plea 
sures, for fishing and hunting, for the solitude 
and the unkempt charms of nature. It was said, 
too, of the Winstons that their talents were in 
excess of their ambition or of their energy, and 
were not brought into use except in a fitful way, 
and under the stimulus of some outward and pass 
ing occasion. They seem to have belonged to that 
very considerable class of persons in this world of 

1 I have from private sources information that Brougham was 
aware of his relationship to Patrick Henry, and that in recogni 
tion of it he showed marked attentions to a grand-nephew of 
Patrick Henry, the late W. C. Preston, of South Carolina, when 
the latter was in England. Moreover, in his Life and Times, \. 17, 
18, Brougham declares that he derived from his maternal ances 
tors the qualities which lifted him ahove the mediocrity that had 
always attached to his ancestors on the paternal side. 


whom more might have been made. Especially 
much talk used to be heard, among old men in 
Virginia, of Patrick Henry s uncle, his mother s 
own brother, William Winston, as having a gift 
of eloquence dazzling and wondrous like Patrick s, 
nay, as himself unsurpassed in oratory among all 
the great speakers of Virginia except by Patrick 
himself. 1 

The system of education prevailing in Virginia 
during Patrick Henry s early years was extremely 
simple. It consisted of an almost entire lack of 
public schools, mitigated by the sporadic and ir- 
re<nilar exercise of domestic tuition. Those who 


could afford to import instruction into their homes 
got it, if they desired ; those who could not, gen 
erally went without. As to the youthful Patrick, 
he and education never took kindly to each other. 
From nearly all quarters the testimony is to this 
effect, that he was an indolent, dreamy, frolic 
some creature, with a mortal enmity to books, 
supplemented by a passionate regard for fishing- 
rods and shot-guns ; disorderly in dress, slouching, 
vagrant, unambitious; a roamer in woods, a loi 
terer on river-banks; having more tastes and aspi 
rations in common with trappers and frontiersmen 
than with the toilers of civilized life; giving no 
hint nor token, by word or act, of the possession 
of any intellectual gift that could raise him above 
mediocrity, or even up to it. 

During the first ten years of his life, he seems 
1 Wirt, 3. 


to have made, at a small school in the neighbor 
hood, some small and reluctant progress into the 
mysteries of reading, writing, and arithmetic; 
whereupon his father took personal charge of the 
matter, and conducted his further education at 
home, along with that of other children, being 
aided in the task by the very competent help of 
a brother, the Rev. Patrick Henry, rector of St. 
Paul s parish, in Hanover, and apparently a good 
Scotch classicist. In this way our Patrick ac 
quired some knowledge of Latin and Greek, and 
rather more knowledge of mathematics, the lat 
ter being the only branch of book-learning for 
which, in those days, he showed the least liking. 
However, under such circumstances, with little 
real discipline, doubtless, and amid plentiful in 
terruptions, the process of ostensible education 
went forward with the young man ; and even this 
came to an end by the time that he was fifteen 
years old. 

At that age, he was duly graduated from the 
domestic schoolroom into the shop of a country 
tradesman hard by. After an apprenticeship there 
of a single year, his father set him up in trade, 
joining with him in the conduct of a country store 
his elder brother, William, a youth more indolent, 
if possible, as well as more disorderly and uncom 
mercial, than Patrick himself. One year of this 
odd partnership brought the petty concern to its 
inevitable fate. Just one year after that, having 
attained the ripe age of eighteen, and being then 


entirely out of employment, and equally out of 
money, Patrick rounded out his embarrassments, 
and gave symmetry to them, as it were, by get 
ting married, and that to a young woman quite 
as impecunious as himself. The name of this 
damsel was Sarah Shelton ; her father being a small 
farmer, and afterward a small tavern-keeper in 
the neighborhood. In the very rashness and ab 
surdity of this proceeding on the part of these two 
interesting young paupers, irresistibly smitten with 
each other s charms, and mutually resolved to defy 
their own helplessness by doubling it, there seems 
to have been a sort of semi-ludicrous pathos which 
constituted an irresistible call for help. 

The parents on both sides heard the call, and by 
their joint efforts soon established the young cou 
ple on a little farm near at hand, from which, by 
their own toil, reenforced by that of half a dozen 
slaves, they were expected to extort a living. This 
experiment, the success of which depended "on ex 
actly those qualities which Patrick did not then 
possess, industry, order, sharp calculation, per 
sistence, turned out as might have been pre 
dicted. At the end of two years he made a forced 
sale of some of his slaves, and invested the pro 
ceeds in the stock of a country store once more. 
But as he had now proved himself to be a bad 
farmer, and a still worse merchant, it is not easy 
to divine by what subtle process of reasoning he 
had been able to conclude that there would be any 
improvement in his circumstances by getting out 
of agriculture and back into merchandise. 


When he undertook this last venture he was 
still but a youth of twenty. By the time that he 
was twenty-three, that is, by the autumn of 1759, 
he had become convinced that his little store was 
to prove for him merely a consumer of capital and 
a producer of bad debts; and in view of the neces 
sity of soon closing it, he had ample excuse for 
taking; into consideration what he should do next. 


Already was he the happy father of sundry small 
children, with the most trustworthy prospect of a 
steady enlargement and multiplication of his pater 
nal honors. Surely, to a man of twenty -three, a 
husband and a father, who, from the age of fif 
teen, had been engaged in a series of enterprises 
to gain his livelihood, and had perfectly failed in 
every one of them, the question of his future 
means of subsistence must have presented itself 
as a subject of no little pertinence, not to say ur 
gency. However, at that time Patrick seems to 
have been a young fellow of superabounding health 
and of inextinguishable spirits, and even in that 
crisis of his life he was able to deal gayly with 
its problems. In that very year, 1759, Thomas 
Jefferson, then a lad of sixteen, and on his way 
to the College of William and Mary, happened 
to spend the Christmas holidays at the house of 
Colonel Nathan Dandridge, in Hanover, and there 
first met Patrick Henry. Long afterward, recall 
ing these days, Jefferson furnished this picture of 
him : 
" Mr. Henry had, a little before, broken up his store, or 


rather it had broken him up ; but his misfortunes were 
not to be traced either in his countenance or conduct." 
kk During the festivity of the season I met him in society 
every day, and we became well acquainted, although I 
was much his junior. ... His manners had something 
of coarseness in them. His passion was music, dancing, 
and pleasantry. He excelled in the last, and it attached 
every one to him." ] 

Shortly after Jefferson left those hilarious scenes 
for the somewhat more restrained festivities of the 
little college at Williamsburg, Patrick succeeded 
in settling in his own mind what he was going to 
do next. He could not dig, so it seemed, neither 
could he traffic, but perhaps he could talk. Why 
not get a living by his tongue? Why not be a 
lawyer ? 

But before we follow him through the gates of 
that superb profession, gates which, after some 
preliminary creaking of the hinges, threw open to 
him the broad pathway to wealth, renown, un 
bounded influence, let us stop a moment longer 
on the outside, and get a more distinct idea, if we 
can, of his real intellectual outfit for the career on 
which he was about to enter. 

1 In a letter to Wirt, in 1815, Life of Henry, 14, 15 ; also 
Writings of Jefferson, vi. 487, 488, where the letter is given, ap 
parently, from the first draft. 



CONCERNING the quality and extent of Patrick 
Henry s early education, it is perhaps impossible 
now to speak with entire confidence. On the one 
hand there seems to have been a tendency, in his 
own time and since, to overstate his lack of educa 
tion, and this partly, it may be, from a certain 
instinctive fascination which one finds in pointing 
to so dramatic a contrast as that between the sway 
which the great orator wielded over the minds of 
other men and the untrained vigor and illiterate 
spontaneity of his own mind. Then, too, it must 
be admitted that, whatever early education Patrick 
Henry may have received, he did, in certain com 
panies and at certain periods of his life, rather too 
perfectly conceal it under an uncouth garb and 
manner, and under a pronunciation which, to say 
the least, was archaic and provincial. Jefferson 
told Daniel Webster that Patrick Henry s "pro 
nunciation was vulgar and vicious," although, as 
Jefferson adds, this "was forgotten while he was 
speaking." 1 Governor John Page "used to re 
late, on the testimony of his own ears," that Pat- 
1 Curtis, Life of Webster, i. 585. 


rick Henry would speak of "the yearth," and of 
"men s naiteral parts being improved by larnin ; " l 
while Spencer Roane mentions his pronunciation 
of China as "Cheena." 2 All this, however, it 
should be noted, does not prove illiteracy. If, 
indeed, such was his ordinary speech, and not, as 
some have suggested, a manner adopted on parti 
cular occasions for the purpose of identifying him 
self with the mass of his hearers, the fact is evi 
dence merely that he retained through his mature 
life, on the one hand, some relics of an old-fash 
ioned good usage, and, on the other, some traces 
of the brogue of the district in which he was born, 
just as Edmund Pendleton used to say "scaicely " 
for scarcely, and as John Taylor, of Caroline, 
would say "bare " for bar; just as Thomas Chalm 
ers always retained the brogue of Fifeshire, and 
Thomas Carlyle that of Ecclefechan. Certainly 
a brogue can never be elegant, but as it has many 
times coexisted with very high intellectual cultiva 
tion, its existence in Patrick Henry does not prove 
him to have been uncultivated. 

Then, too, it must be remembered that he him 
self had a habit of depreciating his own acquaint 
ance with books, and his own dependence on them. 
He did this, it would seem, partly from a con 
sciousness that it would only increase his hold on 
the sympathy and support of the mass of the peo 
ple of Virginia if they should regard him as abso 
lutely one of themselves, and in no sense raised 

l Randall, Life of Jefferson, i. 20. 2 MS. 


above them by artificial advantages. Moreover, 
this habit of self-depreciation would be brought 
into play when he was in conversation with such 
professed devourers of books as John Adams and 
Jefferson, compared with whom he might very 
properly feel an unfeigned conviction that he was 
no reader at all, a conviction in which they 
would be quite likely to agree with him, and which 
they would be very likely to express. Thus, John 
Adams mentions that, in the first intimacy of their 
friendship begun at the Congress of 1774, the 
Virginian orator, at his lodgings, confessed one 
night that, for himself, he had "had no public 
education;" that at fifteen he had "read Virgil 
and Livy," but that he had "not looked into a 
Latin book since. " 1 Upon Jefferson, who of course 
knew Henry far longer and far more closely, the 
impression of his disconnection from books seems 
to have been even more decided, especially if we 
may accept the testimony of Jefferson s old age, 
when his memory had taken to much stumbling, 
and his imagination even more to extravagance 
than in his earlier life. Said Jefferson, in 1824, 
of his ancient friend : "He was a man of very little 
knowledge of any sort. He read nothing, and had 
no books." 2 

On the other hand, there are certain facts con 
cerning Henry s early education and intellectual 
habits which may be regarded as pretty well estab- 

1 Works of John Adams, ii. 390. 

2 Curtis, Life of Webster, i. 585. 


lished. Before the age of ten, at a petty neigh 
borhood school, he had got started upon the three 
primary steps of knowledge. Then, from ten to 
fifteen, whatever may have been his own irregu 
larity and disinclination, he was member of a home 
school, under the immediate training of his father 
and his uncle, both of them good Scotch classical 
scholars, and one of them at least a proficient in 
mathematics. No doubt the human mind, espe 
cially in its best estate of juvenile vigor and fri 
volity, has remarkable aptitude for the repulsion 
of unwelcome knowledge; but it can hardly be 
said that even Patrick Henry s gift in that direc 
tion could have prevented his becoming, under two 
such masters, tolerably well grounded in Latin, if 
not in Greek, or that the person who at fifteen is 
able to read Virgil and Livy, no matter what may 
be his subsequent neglect of Latin authors, is not 
already imbued with the essential and indestructi 
ble rudiments of the best intellectual culture. 

It is this early initiation, on the basis of a drill 
in Latin, into the art and mystery of expression, 
which Patrick Henry received from masters so 
competent and so deeply interested in him, which 
helps us to understand a certain trait of his, which 
puzzled Jefferson, and which, without this clue, 
would certainly be inexplicable. From his first 
appearance as a speaker to the end of his days, he 
showed himself to be something more than a de- 
claimer, indeed, an adept in language. "I have 
been often astonished," said Jefferson, "at his 


command of proper language ; how he obtained the 
knowledge of it I never could find out, as he read 
little, and conversed little with educated men." 1 
It is true, probably, that we have no perfect report 
of any speech he ever made; but even through 
the obvious imperfections of his reporters there 
always gleams a certain superiority in diction, 
a mastery of .the logic and potency of fitting words ; 
such a mastery as genius alone, without special 
training, cannot account for. Furthermore, we 
have in the letters of his which survive, and which 
of course were generally spontaneous and quite un 
studied effusions, absolutely authentic and literal 
examples of his ordinary use of words. Some of 
these letters will be found in the following pages. 
Even as manuscripts, I should insist that the let 
ters of Patrick Henry are witnesses to the fact and 
quality of real intellectual cultivation: these are 
not the manuscripts of an uneducated person. In 
penmanship, punctuation, spelling, syntax, they 
are, upon the whole, rather better than the letters 
of most of the great actors in our Revolution. 
But, aside from the mere mechanics of written 
speech, there is in the diction of Patrick Henry s 
letters the nameless felicity which, even with great 
natural endowments, is only communicable by gen 
uine literary culture in some form. Where did 
Patrick Henry get such literary culture? The 
question can be answered only by pointing to that 
painful drill in Latin which the book-hating boy 

1 Curtis, Life of Webster, i. 585. 


suffered under his uncle and his father, when, to 
his anguish, Virgil and Livy detained him anon 
from the true joys of existence. 

Wirt seems to have satisfied himself, on evidence 
carefully gathered from persons who were contem 
poraries of Patrick Henry, that the latter had 
received in his youth no mean classical education; 
but, in the final revision of his book for publica 
tion, Wirt abated his statements on that subject, 
in deference to the somewhat vehement assertions 
of Jefferson. It may be that, in its present les 
sened form, Wirt s account of the matter is the 
more correct one ; but this is the proper place in 
which to mention one bit of direct testimony upon 
the subject, which, probably, was not known to 
Wirt. Patrick Henry is said to have told his 
eldest grandson, Colonel Patrick Henry Fontaine, 
that he was instructed by his uncle "not only in 
the catechism, but in the Greek and Latin clas 
sics." 1 It may help us to realize something of 
the moral stamina entering into the training which 
the unfledged orator thus got that, as he related, 
his uncle taught him these maxims of conduct: 
"To be true and just in all my dealings. To bear 
no malice nor hatred in my heart. To keep my 
hands from picking and stealing. Not to covet 
other men s goods; but to learn and labor truly to 
get my own living, and to do my duty in that state 
of life unto which it shall please God to call me." 2 
Under such a teacher Patrick Henry was so 
i MS. 2 MS. 


thoroughly grounded, at least in Latin and Greek 
grammar, that when, long afterward, his eldest 
grandson was a student in Hampden-Sidney Col 
lege, the latter found "his grandfather s examina 
tions of his progress in Greek and Latin " so rig 
orous that he dreaded them "much more than he 
did his recitations to his professors." 1 Colonel 
Fontaine also states that he was present when a 
certain French visitor, who did not speak English, 
was introduced to Governor Henry, who did not 
speak French. During the war of the Revolution 
and just afterwards a similar embarrassment was 
not infrequent here in the case of our public men, 
among whom the study of French had been very 
uncommon ; and for many of them the old colonial 
habit of fitting boys for college by training them 
to the colloquial use of Latin proved to be a great 
convenience. Colonel Fontaine s anecdote implies, 
what is altogether probable, that Patrick Henry s 
early drill in Latin had included the ordinary col 
loquial use of it; for he says that in the case of 
the visitor in question his grandfather was able, 
by means of his early stock of Latin words, to 
carry on the conversation in that language. 2 

This anecdote, implying Patrick Henry s ability 
to express himself in Latin, I give for what it may 
be worth. Some will think it incredible, and that 
impression will be further increased by the fact 
that Colonel Fontaine names Albert Gallatin as 
the visitor with whom, on account of his ignorance 
i MS. 2 MS. 


of English, the conversation was thus carried on 
in Latin. This, of course, must be a mistake; 
for, at the time of his first visit to Virginia, Galla- 
tin could speak English very well, so well, in fact, 
that he went to Virginia expressly as English in 
terpreter to a French gentleman who could not 
speak our language. 1 However, as, during all 
that period, Governor Henry had many foreign 
visitors, Colonel Fontaine, in his subsequent ac 
count of that particular visitor, might easily have 
misplaced the name without thereby discrediting 
the substance of his narrative. Indeed, the sub 
stance of his narrative, namely, that he, Colonel 
Fontaine, did actually witness, in the case of some 
foreign visitor, such an exhibition of his grand 
father s good early training in Latin, cannot be 
rejected without an impeachment of the veracity 
of the narrator, or at least of that of his son, who 
has recorded the alleged incident. Of course, if 
that narrative be accepted as substantially true, it 
will be necessary to conclude that the Jeffersonian 
tradition of Patrick Henry s illiteracy is, at any 
rate, far too highly tinted. 

Thus far we have been dealing with the question 
of Patrick Henry s education down to the time of 
his leaving school, at the age of fifteen. It was 
not until nine years afterward that he began the 
study of the law. What is the intellectual record 
of these nine years ? It is obvious that they were 
years unfavorable to systematic training of any 

1 Henry Adams, Life of Gallatin, 59, 60. 


sort, or to any regulated acquisition of knowledge. 
During all that time in his life, as we now look 
back upon it, he has for us the aspect of some law 
less, unkempt genius, in untoward circumstances, 
groping in the dark, not without wild joy, towards 
his inconceivable, true vocation; set to tasks for 
which he was grotesquely unfit; blundering on 
from misfortune to misf ortune ? with an overflow 
of unemployed energy and vivacity that swept him 
often into rough fun, into great gusts of innocent 
riot and horseplay; withal borne along, for many 
days together, by the mysterious undercurrents of 
his nature, into that realm of reverie where the 
soul feeds on immortal fruit and communes with 
unseen associates, the body meanwhile being left 
$o the semblance of idleness ; of all which the man 
himself might have given this valid justification : - 

" I loafe and invite my soul, 
I lean and loafe at my ease, observing a spear of summer 

Nevertheless, these nine years of groping, blunder 
ing, and seeming idleness were not without their 
influence on his intellectual improvement even 
through direct contact with books. While still a 
boy in his teens, and put prematurely to uncon 
genial attempts at shopkeeping and farmkeeping, 
he at any rate made the great discovery that in 
books and in the gathering of knowledge from 
books could be found solace and entertainment; in 
short, he then acquired a taste for reading. No 
one pretends that Patrick Henry ever became a 


bookish person. From the first and always the 
habit of his mind was that of direct action upon 
every subject that he had to deal with, through his 
own reflection, and along the broad primary lines 
of common sense. There is never in his thought 
anything subtle or recondite, no mental move 
ment through the media of books; but there is 
good evidence for saying that this bewildered and 
undeveloped youth, drifting about in chaos, did 
in those days actually get a taste for reading, and 
that he never lost it. The books which he first 
read are vaguely described as "a few light and 
elegant authors," 1 probably in English essays and 
fiction. As the years passed and the boy s mind 
matured, he rose to more serious books. He be 
came fond of geography and of history, and he 
pushed his readings, especially, into the history of 
Greece and of Rome. He was particularly fasci 
nated by Livy, which he read in the English trans 
lation ; and then it was, as he himself related it to 
Judge Hugh Nelson, that he made the rule to read 
Livy through "once at least in every year during 
the early part of his life." 2 He read also, it is 
apparent, the history of England and of the Eng 
lish colonies hi America, and especially of his own 
colony ; for the latter finding, no doubt, in Bever- 

1 Wirt, 9. 

2 Wirt, 13. This is the passage on which Jefferson, in his ex 
treme old age, made the characteristically inaccurate comment : 
" His biographer says, He read Plutarch every year. I douht 
if he ever read a volume of it in his life." Curtis, Life of Web 
ster, i. 585. 


ley and in the grave and noble pages of Stith, and 
especially in the colonial charters given by Stith, 
much material for those incisive opinions which he 
so early formed as to the rights of the colonies, 
and as to the barriers to be thrown up against the 
encroaching authority of the mother country. 

There is much contemporaneous evidence to show 
that Patrick Henry was throughout life a deeply 
religious person. It certainly speaks well for his 
intellectual fibre, as well as for his spiritual tend 
encies, that his favorite book, during the larger 
part of his life, was "Butler s Analogy," which 
was first published in the very year in which he 
was born. It is possible that even during these 
years of his early manhood he had begun his endur 
ing intimacy with that robust book. Moreover, 
we can hardly err in saying that he had then also 
become a steady reader of the English Bible, the 
diction of which is stamped upon his style as un 
mistakably as it is upon that of the elder Pitt. 

Such, I think it may fairly be said, was Patrick 
Henry when, at the age of twenty-four, having 
failed in every other pursuit, he turned for bread 
to the profession of the law. There is no evidence 
that either he or any other mortal man was aware 
of the extraordinary gifts that lay within him for 
success in that career. Not a scholar surely, not 
even a considerable miscellaneous reader, he yet 
had the basis of a good education; he had the 
habit of reading over and over again a few of the 
best books; he had a good memory; he had an 


intellect strong to grasp the great commanding 
features of any subject ; he had a fondness for the 
study of human nature, and singular proficiency 
in that branch of science ; he had quick and warm 
sympathies, particularly with persons in trouble, 
an invincible propensity to take sides with the 
under-dog in any fight. Through a long experi 
ence in offhand talk with the men whom he had 
thus far chiefly known in his little provincial 
world, with an occasional clergyman, pedagogue, 
or legislator, small planters and small traders, 
sportsmen, loafers, slaves and the drivers of slaves, 
and, more than all, those bucolic Solons of old 
Virginia, the good-humored, illiterate, thriftless 
Caucasian consumers of tobacco and whiskey, who, 
cordially consenting that all the hard work of the 
world should be done by the children of Ham, 
were thus left free to commune together in endless 
debate on the tavern porch or on the shady side 
of the country store, young Patrick had learned 
somewhat of the lawyer s art of putting things; 
he could make men laugh, could make them seri 
ous, could set fire to their enthusiasms. What 
more he might do with such gifts nobody seems to 
have guessed ; very likely few gave it any thought 
at all. In that rugged but munificent profession 
at whose outward gates he then proceeded to knock, 
it was altogether improbable that he would burden 
himself with much more of its erudition than was 
really necessary for a successful general practice 
in Virginia in his time, or that he would perma- 
nentlv ormtent himself with less. 



SOME time in the early spring of 17GO, Thomas 
Jefferson, then a lad in the College of William and 
Mary, was surprised by the arrival in Williams- 
burg of his jovial acquaintance, Patrick Henry, 
and still more by the announcement of the latter 
that, in the brief interval since their merrymakings 
together at Hanover, he had found time to study 
law, and had actually come up to the capital to 
seek an admission to the bar. 

In the accounts that we have from Henry s con 
temporaries respecting the length of time during 
which he was engaged in preparing for his legal 
examination, there are certain discrepancies, 
some of these accounts saying that it was nine 
months, others six or eight months, others six 
weeks. Henry himself told a friend that his origi 
nal study of the law lasted only one month, and 
consisted in the reading of Coke upon Littleton 
and of the Virginia laws. 1 

Concerning the encounter of this obscure and 
raw country youth with the accomplished men who 
examined him as to his fitness to receive a license 

1 Wirt, 16. 


to practice law, there are three primary narratives, 
two by Jefferson, and a third by Judge John 
Tyler. In his famous talk with Daniel Webster 
and the Ticknors at Monticello, in 1824, Jefferson 
said : "There were four examiners, Wythe, Pen- 
dleton, Peyton Randolph, and John Randolph. 
Wythe and Pendleton at once rejected his applica 
tion ; the two Randolphs were, by his importunity, 
prevailed upon to sign the license; and, having 
obtained their signatures, he again applied to Pen 
dleton, and after much entreaty, and many promises 
of future study, succeeded also in obtaining his. 
He then turned out for a practicing lawyer." l 

In a memorandum 2 prepared nearly ten years 
before the conversation just mentioned, Jefferson 
described somewhat differently the incidents of 
Henry s examination : 

" Two of the examiners, however, Peyton and John 
Randolph, men of great facility of temper, signed his 
license with as much reluctance as their dispositions 
would permit them to show. Mr. Wythe absolutely 
refused. Rob. C. Nicholas refused also at first ; but on 
repeated importunities, and promises of future reading, 
he signed. These facts I had afterwards from the gen 
tlemen themselves ; the two Randolphs acknowledging 
he was very ignorant of law, but that they perceived 
him to be a young man of genius, and did not doubt he 
would soon qualify himself." 8 

1 Curtis, Life of Webster, i. 584. 

2 First printed in the Philadelphia Age, in 1867 ; and again 
printed, from the original manuscript, in The Historical Maga 
zine, August, 1867, 90-93. I quote from the latter. 

8 Jefferson s memorandum, Hist. Mag. for August, 1867, 90. 


Long afterward, and when all this anxious affair 
had become for Patrick Henry an amusing thing 
of the past, he himself, in the confidence of an 
affectionate friendship, seems to have related one 
remarkable phase of his experience to Judge John 
Tyler, by whom it was given to Wirt. One of 
the examiners was "Mr. John Randolph, who was 
afterwards the king s attorney - general for the 
colony, a gentleman of the most courtly elegance 
of person and manners, a polished wit, and a pro 
found lawyer. At first, he was so much shocked 
by Mr. Henry s very ungainly figure and address, 
that he refused to examine him. Understanding, 
however, that he had already obtained two signa 
tures, he entered with manifest reluctance on the 
business. A very short time was sufficient to sat 
isfy him of the erroneous conclusion which he had 
drawn from the exterior of the candidate. With 
evident marks of increasing surprise (produced, no 
doubt, by the peculiar texture and strength of Mr. 
Henry s style, and the boldness and originality of 
his combinations), he continued the examination 
for several hours ; interrogating the candidate, not 
on the principles of municipal law, in which he no 
doubt soon discovered his deficiency, but on the 
laws of nature and of nations, on the policy of the 
feudal system, and on general history, which last 
he found to be his stronghold. During the very 
short portion of the examination which was devoted 
to the common law, Mr. Randolph dissented, or 
affected to dissent, from one of Mr. Henry s an- 


swers, and called upon him to assign the reasons 
of his opinion. This produced an argument, and 
Mr. Randolph now played off on him the same arts 
which he himself had so often practiced on his 
country customers ; drawing him out by questions, 
endeavoring to puzzle him by subtleties, assailing 
him with declamation, and watching continually 
the defensive operations of his mind. After a con 
siderable discussion, he said, You defend your 
opinions well, sir ; but now to the law and to the 
testimony. Hereupon he carried him to his office, 
and, opening the authorities, said to him : Behold 
the force of natural reason ! You have never seen 
these books, nor this principle of the law ; yet you 
are right and I am wrong. And from the lesson 
which you have given me (you must excuse me for 
saying it) I will never trust to appearances again. 
Mr. Henry, if your industry be only half equal to 
your genius, I augur that you will do well, and 
become an ornament and an honor to your profes 


> i 

After such an ordeal at Williamsburg, the young 
man must have ridden back to Hanover with some 
natural elation over his success, but that elation 
not a little tempered by serious reflection upon his 
own deficiencies as a lawyer, and by an honest 
purpose to correct them. Certainly nearly every 
thing that was dear to him in life must then have 
risen before his eyes, and have incited him to in 
dustry in the further study of his profession. 

1 Wirt, 10, 17. 


At that time, his father-in-law had become the 
keeper of a tavern in Hanover; and for the next 
two or three years, while he was rapidly making 
his way as a general practitioner of the law in that 
neighborhood, Patrick seems occasionally to have 
been a visitor at this tavern. It was in this way, 
undoubtedly, that he sometimes acted as host, es 
pecially in the absence of his father-in-law, re 
ceiving all comers, and providing for their enter 
tainment ; and it was from this circumstance that 
the tradition arose, as Jefferson bluntly expressed 
it, that Patrick Henry "was originally a bar 
keeper," 1 or, as it is more vivaciously expressed 
by a recent writer, that " for three years" after 
getting his license to practice law, he "tended 
travelers and drew corks." 2 

These statements, however, are but an exaggera 
tion of the fact that, whenever visiting at the tav 
ern of his father-in-law, he had the good sense and 
the good feeling to lend a hand, in case of need, 
in the business of the house; and that no more 
than this is true may be proved, not only from 
the written testimony of survivors, 3 who knew him 
in those days, but from the contemporary records, 
carefully kept by himself, of his own earliest busi 
ness as a lawyer. These records show that, almost 
at once after receiving his license to practice law, 

1 Curtis, Life of Webster, I 584. 

2 McMaster, Hist, of U. S. i. 489. 

8 I have carefully examined this testimony, which is still in 


he must have been fully occupied with the appro 
priate business of his profession. 

It is quite apparent, also, from the evidence just 
referred to, that the common history of his life 
has, in another particular, done great injustice to 
this period of it. According to the recollection of 
one old man who outlived him, "he was not dis 
tinguished at the bar for near four years." l Wirt 
himself, relying upon the statements of several 
survivors of Patrick Henry, speaks of his linger 
ing "in the background for three years," and of 
"the profits of his practice " as being so inadequate 
for the supply of even "the necessaries of life," 
that "for the first two or three years " he was liv 
ing with his family in dependence upon his father- 
in-law. 2 Fortunately, however, we are not left in 
this case to grope our way toward the truth amid 
the ruins of the confused and decaying memories 
of old men. Since Wirt s time, there have come 
to light the fee-books of Patrick Henry, carefully 
and neatly kept by him from the beginning of his 
practice, and covering nearly his entire profes 
sional life down to old age. 3 The first entry in 
these books is for September, 1760 ; and from that 
date onward to the end of the year 1763, by 
which time he had suddenly sprung into great 
professional prominence by his speech. in "the 
Parsons Cause," he is found to have charged 

i Judge Winston, MS. 2 Wirt, 18, 19. . 

3 These fee-books are now in the possession of Mr. William 
Wirt Henry, of Richmond. 


fees in 1185 suits, besides many other fees for the 
preparation of legal papers out of court. From 
about the time of his speech in "the Parsons 
Cause," as his fee-books show, his practice became 
enormous, and so continued to the end of his days, 
excepting when public duties or broken health 
compelled him to turn away clients. Thus it is 
apparent that, while the young lawyer did not 
attain anything more than local professional repu 
tation until his speech against the parsons, he did 
acquire a very considerable practice almost imme 
diately after his admission to the bar. Moreover, 
so far from his being a needy dependant on his 
father-in-law for the first two or three years, the 
same quiet records show that his practice enabled 
him, even during that early period, to assist his 
father-in-law by an important advance of money. 

The fiction that Patrick Henry, during the first 
three or four years of his nominal career as a law 
yer, was a briefless barrister, earning his living 
at the bar of a tavern rather than at the bar of 
justice, is the very least of those disparaging 
myths, which, through the frailty of human mem 
ory and the bitterness of partisan ill-will, have 
been permitted to settle upon his reputation. 
Certainly, no one would think it discreditable, or 
even surprising, if Patrick Henry, while still a 
very young lawyer, should have had little or no 
practice, provided only that, when the practice 
did come, the young lawyer had shown himself to 
have been a good one. It is precisely this honor 


which, during the past seventy years, has been 
denied him. Upon the evidence thus far most 
prominently before the public, one is compelled to 
conceive of him as having been destitute of nearly 
all the qualifications of a good lawyer, excepting 
those which give success with juries, particularly 
in criminal practice : he is represented as ignorant 
of the law, indolent, and grossly negligent of busi- 
nesSi w ith nothing, in fact, to give him the least 
success in the profession but an abnormal and 
quite unaccountable gift of persuasion through 

Referring to this period of his life, Wirt says : 

" Of the science of law he knew almost nothing ; of 
the practical part he was so wholly ignorant that he was 
not only unable to draw a declaration or a plea, but in 
capable, it is said, of the most common or simple busi 
ness of his profession, even of the mode of ordering a 
suit, giving a notice, or making a motion in court." ] 

This conception of Henry s professional character, 
to which Wirt seems to have come reluctantly, was 
founded, as is now evident, on the long-suppressed 
memorandum of Jefferson, who therein states that, 
after failing in merchandise, Patrick "turned his 
views to the law, for the acquisition or practice of 
which however, he was too lazy. Whenever the 
courts were closed for the winter session, he would 
make up a party of poor hunters of his neighbor 
hood, would go off with them to the piny woods of 
i Wirt, 18. 


Fluvanna, and pass weeks in hunting deer, of 
which he was passionately fond, sleeping under a 
tent before a fire, wearing the same shirt the whole 
time, and covering all the dirt of his dress with 
a hunting-shirt. He never undertook to draw 
pleadings, if he could avoid it, or to manage that 
part of a cause, and very unwillingly engaged but 
as an assistant to speak in the cause. And the 
fee was an indispensable preliminary, observing to 
the applicant that he kept no accounts, never put 
ting pen to paper, which was true." l 

The last sentence of this passage, in which Jef 
ferson declares that it was true that Henry "kept 
no accounts, never putting pen to paper," is, of 
course, now utterly set aside by the discovery of 
the precious fee-books; and these orderly and cir 
cumstantial records almost as completely annihilate 
the trustworthiness of all the rest of the passage. 
Let us consider, for example, Jefferson s statement 
that for the acquisition of the law, or for the prac 
tice of it, Henry was too lazy, and that much of 
the time between the sessions of the courts was 
passed by him in deer-hunting in the woods. 
Confining ourselves to the first three and a half 
years of his actual practice, in which, by the rec 
ord, his practice was the smallest that he ever had, 
it is not easy for one to understand how a mere 
novice in the profession, and one so perfectly ig 
norant of its most rudimental forms, could have 
earned, during that brief period, the fees which he 
1 Hist. Mag. for 1867, 93. 


charged in 1185 suits, and in the preparation of 
many legal papers out of court, and still have been 
seriously addicted to laziness. Indeed, if so much 
legal business could have been transacted within 
three years and a half, by a lawyer who, besides 
being young and incompetent, was also extremely 
lazy, and greatly preferred to go off to the woods 
and hunt for deer while his clients were left to 
hunt in vain for him, it becomes an interesting 
question just how much legal business we ought to 
expect to be done by a young lawyer who was not 
incompetent, was not lazy, and had no inordinate 
fondness for deer-hunting. It happens that young 
Thomas Jefferson himself was just such a lawyer. 
He began practice exactly seven years after Patrick 
Henry, and at precisely the same time of life, 
though under external circumstances far more fav 
orable. As a proof of his uncommon zeal and suc 
cess in the profession, his biographer, Kandall*, 
cites from Jefferson s fee-books the number of 
cases in which he was employed until he was finally 
drawn off from the law into political life. Oddly 
enough, for the first four years of his practice, 
the cases registered by Jefferson l number, in all, 
but 504. It should be mentioned that this num 
ber, as it includes only Jefferson s cases in the 
General Court, does not indicate all the business 
done by him during those first four years; and 
yet, even with this allowance, we are left standing 
rather helpless before the problem presented by 
1 Randall, Life of Jefferson, i. 47, 48. 


the fact that this competent and diligent young 
lawyer whom, forsooth, the rustling leaves of 
the forest could never for once entice from the 
rustle of the leaves of his law-books did never 
theless transact, during his own first four years of 
practice, probably less than one half as much busi 
ness as seems to have been done during a some 
what shorter space of time by our poor, ignorant, 
indolent, slovenly, client - shunning and forest- 
haunting Patrick. 

But, if Jefferson s charge of professional indo 
lence and neglect on the part of his early friend 
fares rather ill when tested by those minute and 
plodding records of his professional employments 
which were kept by Patrick Henry, a fate not 
much more prosperous overtakes Jefferson s other 
charge, that of professional incompetence. It 
is more than intimated by Jefferson that, even had 
Patrick been disposed to engage in a general law 
practice, he did not know enough to do so success 
fully by reason of his ignorance of the most ordi 
nary legal principles and legal forms. But the 
intellectual embarrassment which one experiences 
in trying to accept this view of Patrick Henry 
arises from the simple fact that these incorrigible 
fee-books show that it was precisely this general 
law practice that he did engage in, both in court 
and out of court ; a practice only a small portion 
of which was criminal, the larger part of it consist 
ing of the ordinary suits in country litigation; a 
practice which certainly involved the drawing of 


pleadings, and the preparation of many sorts of 
legal papers ; a practice, moreover, which he seems 
to have acquired with extraordinary rapidity, and 
to have maintained with increasing success as long 
as he cared for it. These are items of history 
which are likely to burden the ordinary reader 
with no little perplexity, a perplexity the ele 
ments of which are thus modestly stated by a living 
grandson of Patrick Henry: "How he acquired or 
retained a practice so large and continually in 
creasing, so perfectly unfit for it as Mr. Jefferson 
represents him, I am at a loss to understand." 

As we go further in the study of this man s life, 
we shall have before us ample materials for deal 
ing still further and still more definitely with the 
subject of his professional character, as that char 
acter itself became developed and matured. Mean 
time, however, the evidence already in view seems 
quite enough to enable us to form a tolerably clear 
notion of the sort of lawyer he was down to the 
end of 1763, which may be regarded as the period 
of his novitiate at the bar. It is perfectly evident 
that, at the time of his admission to the bar, he 
knew very little of the law, either in its principles 
or in its forms : he knew no more than could have 
been learned by a young man of genius in the 
course of four weeks in the study of Coke upon 
Littleton, and of the laws of Virginia. If, now, 
we are at liberty to suppose that his study of the 

1 William Wirt Henry, Character and Public Career of Patrick 
Henry, 3. 


law then ceased, we may accept the view of his 
professional incompetence held up by Jefferson; 
but precisely that is what we are not at liberty to 
suppose. All the evidence, fairly sifted, warrants 
the belief that, on his return to Hanover with his 
license to practice law, he used the next few months 
in the further study of it; and that thenceforward, 
just so fast as professional business came to his 
hands, he tried to qualify himself to do that busi 
ness, and to do it so well that his clients should 
be inclined to come to him again in case of need. 
Patrick Henry s is not the first case, neither is it 
the last one, of a man coming to the bar miserably 
unqualified for its duties, but afterward becoming 
well qualified. We need not imagine, we do not 
imagine, that he ever became a man of great learn 
ing in the law; but we do find it impossible to 
believe that he continued to be a man of great 
ignorance in it. The law, indeed, is the one pro 
fession on ear; h in which such success as he is 
proved to have had, is impossible to such incom 
petence as he is said to have had. Moreover, in 
trying to form a just idea of Patrick Henry, it is 
never safe to forget that we have to do with a man 
of genius, and that the ways by which a man of 
genius reaches his results are necessarily his own, 
are often invisible, are always somewhat myste 
rious, to the rest of us. The genius of Patrick 
Henry was powerful, intuitive, swift ; by a glance 
of the eye he could take in what an ordinary man 
might spend hours in toiling for ; his memory held 


whatever was once committed to it; all his re 
sources were at instant command; his faculty for 
debate, his imagination, humor, tact, diction, elo 
cution, were rich and exquisite ; he was also a man 
of human and friendly ways, whom all men loved, 
and whom all men wanted to help ; and it would 
not have been strange if he actually fitted himself 
for the successful practice of such law business as 
was then to be had in Virginia, and actually en 
tered upon its successful practice with a quickness 
the exact processes of which were unperceived even 
by his nearest neighbors. 



THUS Patrick Henry had been for nearly four 
years in the practice of the law, with a vigor and a 
success quite extraordinary, when, late in the year 
1763, he became concerned in a case so charged 
with popular interest, and so well suited to the 
display of his own marvellous genius as an ad 
vocate, as to make both him and his case imme 
diately celebrated. 

The side upon which he was retained happened 
to be the wrong side, wrong both in law and in 
equity; having only this element of strength in it, 
namely, that by a combination of circumstances 
there were enlisted in its favor precisely those 
passions of the multitude which are the most self 
ish, the most blinding, and at the same time the 
most energetic. It only needed an advocate skilful 
enough to play effectively upon these passions, 
and a storm would be raised before which mere 
considerations of law and of equity would be swept 
out of sight. 

In order to understand the real issue presented 
by "the Parsons Cause," and consequently the 
essential weakness of the side to the service of 


which our young lawyer was now summoned, we 
shall need to turn about and take a brief tour into 
the earlier history of Virginia. In that colony, 
from the beginning, the Church of England was 
established by law, and was supported, like any 
other institution of the government, by revenues 
derived from taxation, taxation levied in this 
case upon nearly all persons in the colony above 
the age of sixteen years. Moreover, those local 
subdivisions which, in the Northern colonies, were 
called towns, in Virginia were called parishes ; and 
accordingly, in the latter, the usual local officers 
who manage the public business for each civil 
neighborhood were called, not selectmen or super 
visors, as at the North, but vestrymen. Among 
the functions conferred by the law upon these local 
officers in Virginia was that of hiring the rector or 
minister, and of paying him his salary; and the 
same authority which gave to the vestry this power 
fixed likewise the precise amount of salary which 
they were to pay. Ever since the early days of 
the colony, this amount had been stated, not in 
money, which hardly existed there, but in tobacco, 
which was the staple of the colony. Sometimes 
the market value of tobacco would be very low, 
so low that the portion paid to the minister would 
yield a sum quite insufficient for his support; and 
on such occasions, prior to 1692, the parishes had 
often kindly made up for such depreciation by 
voluntarily paying an extra quantity of tobacco. 1 

1 Perry, Hist. Coll. i. 12. 


After 1692, however, for reasons which need not 
now be detailed, this generous custom seems to 
have disappeared. For example, from 1709 to 
1714, the price of tobacco was so low as to make 
its shipment to England, in many instances, a 
positive loss to its owner ; while the sale of it on 
the spot was so disadvantageous as to reduce the 
minister s salary to about X25 a year, as reckoned 
in the depreciated paper currency of the colony. 
Of course, during those years, the distress of the 
clergy was very great; but, whatever it may have 
been, they were permitted to bear it, without any 
suggestion, either from the legislature or from the 
vestries, looking toward the least addition to the 
quantity of tobacco then to be paid them. On 
the other hand, from 1714 to 1720, the price of 
tobacco rose considerably above the average, and 
did something towards making up to the clergy the 
losses which they had recently incurred. Then, 
again, from 1720 to 1724, tobacco fell to the low 
price of the former period, and of course with the 
same results of unrelieved loss to the clergy. 1 
Thus, however, in the process of time, there had 
become established, in the fiscal relations of each 
vestry to its minister, a rough but obvious system 
of fair play. When the price of tobacco was 
down, the parson was expected to suffer the loss; 
when the price of tobacco was up, he was allowed 
to enjoy the gain. Probably it did not then occur 
to any one that a majority of the good people of 
1 Perr-, Hint. Coll. 316, 317. 


Virginia could ever be brought to demand such a 
mutilation of justice as would be involved in de 
priving the parson of the occasional advantage of 
a very good market, and of making up for this by 
always leaving to him the undisturbed enjoyment 
of every occasional bad one. Yet it was just this 
mutilation of justice which, only a few years later, 
a majority of the good people of Virginia were 
actually brought to demand, and which, by the 
youthful genius of Patrick Henry, they were too 
well aided in effecting. 

Returning now from our brief tour into a period 
of Virginian history just prior to that upon which 
we are at present engaged, we find ourselves ar 
rived at the year 1748, in which year the legisla 
ture of Virginia, revising all previous regulations 
respecting the hiring and paying of the clergy, 
passed an act, directing that every parish minister 
should "receive an annual salary of 16,000 pounds 
of tobacco, ... to be levied, assessed, collected, 
and paid" by the vestry. "And if the vestry of 
any parish" should "neglect or refuse to levy the 
tobacco due to the minister," they should "be lia 
ble to the action of the party grieved . . . for 
all damages which he ... shall sustain by such 
refusal or neglect." l This act of the colonial leg- 
islature, having been duly approved by the king, 
became a law, and consequently was not liable to 
repeal or even to suspension except by the king s 
approval. Thus, at the period now reached, there 
1 Hening, Statutes at Large, vi. 88, 89. 


was between every vestry and its minister a valid 
contract for the annual payment, by the former to 
the latter, of that particular quantity of tobacco, 
the clergy to take their chances as to the market 
value of the product from year to year. 

Thus matters ran on until 1755, when, by reason 
of a diminished crop of tobacco, the legislature 
passed an option law, 1 virtually suspending for 
the next ten months the Act of 1748, and requir 
ing the clergy, at the option of the vestries, to 
receive their salaries for that year, not in tobacco, 
but in the depreciated paper currency of the col 
ony, at the rate of two pence for each pound of 
tobacco due, a price somewhat below the market 
value of the article for that year. Most clearly 
this act, which struck an arbitrary blow at the 
validity of all contracts in Virginia, was one which 
exceeded the constitutional authority of the legis 
lature; since it suspended, without the royal ap 
proval, a law which had been regularly ratified by 
the king. However, the operation of this act was 
shrewdly limited to ten months, a period just 
long enough to accomplish its object, but too short 
for the royal intervention against it to be of any 
direct avail. Under these circumstances, the clergy 
bore their losses for that year with some murmur 
ing indeed, but without any formal protest. 2 

Just three years afterward, in 1758, the legisla 
ture, with even less excuse than before, passed an 

1 Ibid. vi. 568, 569. 

2 Perry, Hist. Coll i. 508 509. 


act 1 similar to that of 1755, its force, however, 
being limited to twelve months. The operation of 
this act, as affecting each parish minister, may be 
conveyed in very few words. In lieu of what was 
due him under the law for his year s services, 
namely, 16,000 pounds of tobacco, the market 
value of which for the year in question proved to 
be about 400 sterling, it compelled him to take, 
in the paper money of the colony, the sum of about 
133. To make matters still worse, while the 
tobacco which was due him was an instant and an 
advantageous medium of exchange everywhere, 
and especially in England whence nearly all his 
merchant supplies were obtained, this paper money 
that was forced upon him was a depreciated cur 
rency even within the colony, and absolutely worth 
less outside of it; so that the poor parson, who 
could never demand his salary for any year until 
six full months after its close, would have proffered 
to him, at the end, perhaps, of another six months, 
just one third of the nominal sum due him, and 
that in a species of money of no value at all except 
in Virginia, and even in Virginia of a purchasing 
value ilot exceeding that of 20 sterling in Eng 
land. 2 

Nor, in justification of such a measure, could it 
be truthfully said that there was at that time in 
the colony any general "dearth and scarcity," 3 or 

1 Hening, Statutes at Large, vii. 240, 241. 

2 Perry, Hist. Coll. i. 467, 468. 

8 As was alleged in Richard Eland s Letter to the Clergy, 17. 


any such public distress of any sort as might over 
rule the ordinary maxims of justice, and excuse, 
in the name of humanity, a merely technical viola 
tion of law. As a matter of fact, the only "dearth 
and scarcity" in Virginia that year was "confined 
to one or two counties on James River, and that 
entirely owing to their own fault -,* 1 wherever 
there was any failure of the tobacco crop, it was 
due to the killing of the plants so early in the 
spring, that such land did not need to lie unculti 
vated, and in most cases was planted "in corn and 
pease, which always turned to good account;" 2 
and although, for the whole colony, the crop of 
tobacco "was short in quantity," yet "in cash 
value it proved to be the best crop that Virginia 
had ever had " since the settlement of the colony. 3 
Finally, it was by no means the welfare of the 
poor that "was the object, or the effect, of the 
law;" but it was "the rich planters" who, first 
selling their tobacco at about fifty shillings the 
hundred, and then paying to the clergy and others 
their tobacco debts at the rate of sixteen shillings 
the hundred, were "the chief gainers " by the act. 4 
Such, then, in all its fresh and unadorned ras 
cality, was the famous "option law," or "two 
penny act," of 1758: an act firmly opposed, on its 
first appearance in the legislature, by a noble 

i Perry, Hist. Coll. i. 467. 

Ibid. i. 466. 

8 Ibid. i. 465, 466. 

4 Meade, Old Families of Virginia, i. 223. 


minority of honorable men ; an act clearly indica 
ting among a portion of the people of Virginia a 
survival of the old robber instincts of our Norse 
ancestors ; an act having there the sort of frantic 
popularity that all laws are likely to have which 
give a dishonest advantage to the debtor class, - 
and in Virginia, unfortunately, on the subject of 
salaries due to the clergy, nearly all persons above 
sixteen years of age belonged to that class. 1 

At the time when this act was before the legisla 
ture for consideration, the clergy applied for a 
hearing, but were refused. Upon its passage by 
the two houses, the clergy applied to the acting 
governor, hoping to obtain his disapproval of the 
act; but his reply was an unblushing avowal of 

1 In the account here given of these Virginia " option laws," 
I have been obliged, by lack of space, to give somewhat curtly 
the bald results of rather careful studies which I have made upon 
the question in all accessible documents of the period ; and I have 
not been at liberty to state many things, on both sides of the ques 
tion, which would be necessary to a complete discussion of the 
subject. For instance, among the motives to be mentioned for 
the popularity of laws whose chief effects were to diminish the 
pay of the established clergy, should be considered those con 
nected with a growing dissent from the established church in Vir 
ginia, and particularly with the very human dislike which even 
churchmen might have to paying in the form of a compulsory tax 
what they would have cheerfully paid in the form of a voluntary 
contribution. Perhaps the best modern defense of these laws is 
by A. H. Everett, in his Life of Henry, 230-233 ; but his state 
ments seem to be founded on imperfect information. Wirt, pub 
lishing his opinion under the responsibility of his great profes 
sional and official position, affirms that on the whole question, 
" the clergy had much the best of the argument." Life of Henry, 


his determination to pursue any course, right or 
wrong, which would bring him popular favor. 
They then sent one of their own number to Eng 
land, for the purpose of soliciting the royal disal 
lowance of the act. After a full hearing of both 
sides, the privy council gave it as their opinion 
that the clergy of Virginia had their "certain 
remedy at law;" Lord Hardwicke, in particular, 
declaring that "there was no occasion to dispute 
about the authority by which the act was passed ; 
for that no court in the judicature whatever could 
look upon it to be law, by reason of its manifest 
injustice alone." 1 Accordingly, the royal disal 
lowance was granted. Upon the arrival in Vir 
ginia of these tidings, several of the clergy began 
suits against their respective vestries, for the pur 
pose of compelling them to pay the amounts then 
legally due upon their salaries for the year 1758. 

Of these suits, the first to come to trial was that 
of the Rev. Thomas Warrington, in the County 
Court of Elizabeth City. In that case, "a jury 
of his own parishioners found for him considerable 
damages, allowing on their oaths that there was 
above twice as much justly due to him as the act 
had granted; " 2 but "the court hindered him from 
immediately coming at the damages, by judging 
the act to be law, in which it is thought they were 
influenced more by the fear of giving offense to 
their superiors, than by their own opinion of the 

1 Perry, Hist. Coll. i. 510. 

2 Ibid. i. 513, 514. 


reasonableness of the act, they privately pro 
fessing that they thought the parson ought to have 
his right." 1 

Soon afterward came to trial, in the court of 
King William County, the suit of the Rev. Alex 
ander White, rector of St. David s parish. In 
this case, the court, instead of either sustaining or 
rejecting the disallowed act, simply shirked their 
responsibility, "refused to meddle in the matter, 
and insisted on leaving the whole affair to the 
jury; " who being thus freed from all judicial con 
trol, straightway rendered a verdict of neat and 
comprehensive lawlessness : " We bring in for the 
defendant." 2 

It was at this stage of affairs that the court of 
Hanover County reached the case of the Rev. 
James Maury, rector of Fredericksville parish, 
Louisa; and the court, having before it the evi 
dence of the royal disallowance of the Act of 1758, 
squarely "adjudged the act to be no law." Of 
course, under this decision, but one result seemed 
possible. As the court had thus rejected the va 
lidity of the act whereby the vestry had withheld 
from their parson two thirds of his salary for the 
year 1758, it only remained to summon a special 
jury on a writ of inquiry to determine the damages 
thus sustained by the parson; and as this was a 
very simple question of arithmetic, the counsel for 
the defendants expressed his desire to withdraw 
from the case. 

1 Ibid. i. 496, 497. 

2 Perry, Hist. Coll. i. 497. 


Such was the situation, when these defendants, 
having been assured by their counsel that all fur 
ther struggle would be hopeless, turned for help 
to the enterprising young lawyer who, in that very 
place, had been for the previous three and a half 
years pushing his way to notice in his profession. 
To him, accordingly, they brought their cause, 
a desperate cause, truly, a cause already lost 
and abandoned by veteran and eminent counsel. 
Undoubtedly, by the ethics of his profession, Pat 
rick Henry was bound to accept the retainer that 
was thus tendered him ; and, undoubtedly, by the 
organization of his own mind, having once accepted 
that retainer, he was likely to devote to the cause 
no tepid or half-hearted service. 

The decision of the court, which has been re 
ferred to, was rendered at its November session. 
On the first day of the session in December, the 
order was executed for summoning a select jury 
"to examine whether the plaintiff had sustained 
any damages, and what." 1 Obviously, in the de 
termination of these two questions, much would 
depend on the personal composition of the jury; 
and it is apparent that this matter was diligently 
attended to by the sheriff. His plan seems to 
have been to secure a good, honest jury of twelve 
adult male persons, but without having among 
them a single one of those over-scrupulous and 
intractable people who, in Virginia, at that time, 
were still technically described as gentlemen. 

1 Maury, Mem. of a Huguenot Family, 419. 


With what delicacy and efficiency he managed this 
part of the business was thus described shortly af 
terward by the plaintiff, of course a deeply inter 
ested eye-witness : 

" The sheriff went into a public room full of gentle 
men, and told his errand. One excused himself. . . as 
having already given his opinion in a similar case. On 
this, ... he immediately left the room, without sum 
moning any one person there. He afterwards met an 
other gentleman ... on the green, and, on saying he 
was not fit to serve, being a church warden, he took upon 
himself to excuse him, too, and, as far as I can learn 
made no further attempts to summon gentlemen. . . . 
Hence he went among the vulgar herd. After he had 
selected and set down upon his list about eight or ten of 
these, I met him with it in his hand, and on looking 
over it, observed to him that they were not such jurors 
as the court had directed him to get, being people of 
whom I had never heard before, except one whom, I told 
him, he knew to be a party in the cause. . . . Yet this 
man s name was not erased. He was even called in 
court, and had he not excused himself, would probably 
have been admitted. For I cannot recollect that the 
court expressed either surprise or dislike that a more 
proper jury had not been summoned. Nay, though I 
objected against them, yet, as Patrick Henry, one of the 
defendants lawyers, insisted they were honest men, and, 
therefore, unexceptionable, they were immediately called 
to the book and sworn." l 

Having thus secured a jury that must have been 
reasonably satisfactory to the defendants, the hear- 

1 Maury, Mem. of a Huguenot Family, 419, 420. 


ing began. Two gentlemen, being the largest pur 
chasers of tobacco in the county, were then sworn 
as witnesses to prove the market price of the arti 
cle in 1759. By their testimony it was established 
that the price was then more than three times as 
much as had been estimated in the payment of 
paper money actually made to the plaintiff in that 
year. Upon this state of facts, "the lawyers on 
both sides" proceeded to display "the force and 
weight of the evidence; " after which the case was 
given to the jury. "In less than five minutes," 
they " brought in a verdict for the plaintiff, one 
penny damages." 1 

Just how the jury were induced, in the face of 
the previous judgment of that very court, to ren 
der this astounding verdict, has been described in 
two narratives: one by William Wirt, written 
about fifty years after the event; the other by the 
injured plaintiff himself, the Kev. James Maury, 
written exactly twelve days after the event. Few 
things touching the life of Patrick Henry can be 
more notable or more instructive than the contrast 
presented by these two narratives. 

On reaching the scene of action, on the 1st of 
December, Patrick Henry "found," says Wirt, - 

" on the courtyard such a concourse as would have ap 
palled any other man in his situation. They were not peo 
ple of the county merely who were there, but visitors from 
all the counties to a considerable distance around. The 
decision upon the demurrer had produced a violent fer- 
1 Ibid. 420. 


ment among the people, and equal exultation on the 
part of the clergy, who attended the court in a large 
body, either to look down opposition, or to enjoy the 
final triumph of this hard fought contest, which they 
now considered as perfectly secure. . . . Soon after the 
opening of the court the cause was called. . . . The 
array before Mr. Henry s eyes was now most fearful. 
On the bench sat more than twenty clergymen, the most 
learned men in the colony. . . . The courthouse was 
crowded with an overwhelming multitude, and sur 
rounded with an immense and anxious throng, who, not 
finding room to enter, were endeavoring to listen with 
out in the deepest attention. But there was something 
still more awfully disconcerting than all this ; for in the 
chair of the presiding magistrate sat no other person 
than his own father. Mr. Lyons opened the cause very 
briefly. . . . And now came on the first trial of Patrick 
Henry s strength. No one had ever heard him speak, l 
and curiosity was on tiptoe. He rose very awkwardly, 
and faltered much in his exordium. The people hung 
their heads at so unpromising a commencement ; the 
clergy were observed to exchange sly looks with each 
other ; and his father is described as having almost 
sunk with confusion, from his seat. But these feelings 
were of short duration, and soon gave place to others 
of a very different character. For now were those won 
derful faculties which he possessed, for the first time 
developed ; and now was first witnessed that mysterious 
and almost supernatural transformation of appearance, 
which the fire of his own eloquence never failed to work 
in him. For as his mind rolled along, and began to 

1 This cannot be true except in the sense that he had never be 
fore spoken to such an assemblage or in any great cause. 


glow from its own action, all the exuviae of the clown 
seemed to shed themselves spontaneously. His attitude, 
by degrees, became erect and lofty. The spirit of his 
genius awakened all his features. His countenance 
shone with a nobleness and grandeur which it had never 
before exhibited. There was a lightning in his eyes 
which seemed to rive the spectator. His action became 
graceful, bold, and commanding ; and in the tones of 
his voice, but more especially in his emphasis, there was 
a peculiar charm, a magic, of which any one who ever 
heard him will speak as soon as he is named, but of 
which no one can give any adequate description. They 
can only say that it struck upon the ear and upon the 
heart, in a manner which language cannot tell. Add to 
all these, his wonder-working fancy, and the peculiar 
phraseology in which he clothed its images : for he 
painted to the heart with a force that almost petrified it. 
In the language of those who heard him on this occa 
sion, he made their blood run cold, and their hair to 
rise on end. 

" It will not be difficult for any one who ever heard 
this most extraordinary man, to believe the whole ac 
count of this transaction which is given by his surviving 
hearers ; and from their account, the court house of 
Hanover County must have exhibited, on this occasion, 
a scene as picturesque as has been ever witnessed in 
real life. They say that the people, whose countenance 
had fallen as he arose, had heard but a very few sen 
tences before they began to look up ; then to look at 
each other with surprise, as if doubting the evidence 
of their own senses ; then, attracted by some strong ges 
ture, struck by some majestic attitude, fascinated by the 
spell of his eye, the charm of his emphasis, and the 


varied and commanding expression of his countenance, 
they could look away no more. In less than twenty 
minutes, they might be seen in every part of the house, 
on every bench, in every window, stooping forward from 
their stands, in death-like silence ; their features fixed 
in amazement and awe; all their senses listening and 
riveted upon the speaker, as if to catch the least strain 
of some heavenly visitant. The mockery of the clergy 
was soon turned into alarm ; their triumph into confu 
sion and despair ; and at one burst of his rapid and 
overwhelming invective, they fled from the house in pre 
cipitation and terror. As for the father, such was his 
surprise, such his amazement, such his rapture, that, for 
getting where he was, and the character which he was 
filling, tears of ecstasy streamed down his cheeks, with 
out the power or inclination to repress them. 

" The jury seem to have been so completely bewil 
dered, that they lost sight not only of the Act of 1748, 
but that of 1758 also ; for, thoughtless even of the ad 
mitted right of the plaintiff, they had scarcely left the 
bar, when they returned with a verdict of one penny 
damages. A motion was made for a new trial ; but the 
court, too, had now lost the equipoise of their judgment, 
and overruled the motion by an unanimous vote. The 
verdict and judgment overruling the motion were fol 
lowed by redoubled acclamations, from within and with 
out the house. The people, who had with difficulty 
kept their hands off their champion from the moment 
of closing his harangue, no sooner saw the fate of the 
cause finally sealed, than they seized him at the bar ; 
and in spite of his own exertions, and the continued cry 
of order from the sheriffs and the court, they bore him 
out of the courthouse, and raising him on their shoul- 


ders, carried him about the yard, in a kind of election 
eering triumph." l 

At the time when Wirt wrote this rhapsody, he 
was unable, as he tells us, to procure from any 
quarter a rational account of the line of argument 
taken by Patrick Henry, or even of any other than 
a single topic alluded to by him in the course of 
his speech, they who heard the speech saying 
"that when it was over, they felt as if they had 
just awaked from some ecstatic dream, of which 
they were unable to recall or connect the particu 
lars." 2 

There was present in that assemblage, however, 
at least one person who listened to the young orator 
without falling into an ecstatic dream, and whose 
senses were so well preserved to him through it all 
that he was able, a few days afterward, while the 
whole occasion was fresh in his memory, to place 
upon record a clear and connected version of the 
wonder-working speech. This version is to be 
found in a letter written by the plaintiff on the 
12th of December, 1763, and has been brought to 
light only within recent years. 

After giving, for the benefit of the learned 
counsel by whom the cause was to be managed, on 
appeal, in the general court, a lucid and rather 
critical account of the whole proceeding, Maury 
adds : 

"One occurrence more, though not essential to the 
1 Wirt, 23-27. 2 Ibid. 29. 


cause, I can t help mentioning. . . . Mr. Henry, men 
tioned above (who had been called in by the defendants, 
as we suspected, to do what I some time ago told you 
of), after Mr. Lyons had opened the cause, rose and 
harangued the jury for near an hour. This harangue 
turned upon points as much out of his own depth, and 
that of the jury, as they were foreign from the purpose, 
which it would be impertinent to mention here. 
However, after he had discussed those points, he la 
bored to prove that the Act of 1758 had every charac 
teristic of a good law ; that it was a law of general util 
ity, and could not, consistently with what he called the 
original compact between the king and people ... be 
annulled. Hence he inferred, that a king, by disal 
lowing acts of this salutary nature, from being the fa 
ther of his people, degenerated into a tyrant, and forfeits 
all right to his subjects obedience. He further urged 
that the only use of an established church and clergy 
in society, is to enforce obedience to civil sanctions, and 
the observance of those which are called duties of im 
perfect obligation ; that when a clergy ceases to answer 
these ends, the community have no further need of their 
ministry, and may justly strip them of their appoint 
ments ; that the clergy of Virginia, in this particular 
instance of their refusing to acquiesce in the law in ques 
tion, had been so far from answering, that they had 
most notoriously counteracted, those great ends of their 
institution; that, therefore, instead of useful members 
of the state, they ought to be considered as enemies of 
the community ; and that, in the case now before them, 
Mr. Maury, instead of countenance, and protection, and 
damages, very justly deserved to be punished with sig 
nal severity. And then he perorates to the following 


purpose, l that excepting they (the jury) were disposed 
to rivet the chains of bondage on their own necks, he 
hoped they would not let slip the opportunity which 
now offered, of making such an example of him as 
might, hereafter, be a warning to himself and his breth 
ren, not to have the temerity, for the future, to dispute 
the validity of such laws, authenticated by the only au 
thority which, in his conception, could give force to laws 
for the government of this colony, the authority of a 
legal representative of a council, and of a kind and be 
nevolent and patriot governor. You 11 observe I do 
not pretend to remember his words, but take this to 
have been the sum and substance of this part of his 
labored oration. When he came to that part of it where 
he undertook to assert that a king, by annulling or dis 
allowing acts of so salutary a nature, from being the 
father of his people, degenerated into a tyrant, and for 
feits all right to his subjects obedience, the more sober 
part of the audience were struck with horror. Mr. 
Lyons called out aloud, and with an honest warmth, to 
the Bench, that the gentleman had spoken treason, 
and expressed his astonishment, that their worships 
could hear it without emotion, or any mark of dissatis 
faction. At the same instant, too, amongst some gen 
tlemen in the crowd behind me, was a confused mur 
mur of treason, treason ! Yet Mr. Henry went on in 
the same treasonable and licentious strain, without inter 
ruption from the Bench, nay, even without receiving the 
least exterior notice of their disapprobation. One of 
the jury, too, was so highly pleased with these doctrines, 
that, as I was afterwards told, he every now and then 
gave the traitorous declaimer a nod of approbation. After 
the court was adjourned, he apologized to me for what he 


had said, alleging that his sole view in engaging in the 
cause, and in saying what he had, was to render him 
self popular. You see, then, it is so clear a point in this 
person s opinion that the ready road to popularity here 
is to trample under foot the interests of religion, the 
rights of the church, and the prerogatives of the 

1 Maury, Mem. of a Huguenot Family, 418-424, where the entire 
letter is given in print for the first time, 



IT is not in the least strange that the noble- 
minded clergyman, who was the plaintiff in the 
famous cause of the Virginia parsons, should have 
been deeply offended by the fierce and victorious 
eloquence of the young advocate on the opposite 
side, and should have let fall, with reference to 
him, some bitter words. Yet it could only be in 
a moment of anger that any one who knew him 
could ever have said of Patrick Henry that he was 
disposed "to trample under foot the interests of 
religion," or that he had any ill-will toward the 
church or its ministers. It is very likely that, in 
the many irritations growing out of a civil estab 
lishment of the church in his native colony, he 
may have shared in feelings that were not uncom 
mon even among devout churchmen there; but in 
spite of this, then and always, to the very end of 
his life, his most sacred convictions and his ten- 
derest affections seem to have been on the side of 
the institutions and ministers of Christianity, and 
even of Christianity in its historic form. Accord 
ingly, both before and after his great speech, he 
tried to indicate to the good men whose legal 


claims it had become his professional duty to resist, 
that such resistance must not be taken by them as 
implying on his part any personal unkindness. To 
his uncle and namesake, the Reverend Patrick 
Henry, who was even then a plaintiff in a similar 
suit, and whom he had affectionately persuaded 
not to remain at the courthouse to hear the com 
ing speech against the pecuniary demands of him 
self and his order, he said "that the clergy had 
not thought him worthy of being retained on their 
side," and that "he knew of no moral principle 
by which he was bound to refuse a fee from their 
adversaries." 1 So, too, the conciliatory words, 
which, after the trial, he tried to speak to the in 
dignant plaintiff, and which the latter has reported 
in the blunt form corresponding to his own angry 
interpretation of them, after all may have borne 
the better meaning given to them by Bishop Meade, 
who says that Patrick Henry, in his apology to 
Maury, "pleaded as an excuse for his course, that 
he was a young lawyer, a candidate for practice 
and reputation, and therefore must make the best 
of his cause." 2 

These genial efforts at pacification are of rather 
more than casual significance : they are indications 
of character. They mark a distinct quality of the 
man s nature, of which he continued to give evi-. 
dence during the rest of his life, a certain sweet 
ness of spirit, which never deserted him through 

1 Wirt, 24. 

2 Meade, Old Families and Churches of Va. i. 220. 


all the stern conflicts of his career. He was al 
ways a good fighter : never a good hater. He had 
the brain and the temperament of an advocate; 
his imagination and his heart always kindled hotly 
to the side that he had espoused, and with his im 
agination and his heart always went all the rest of 
the man ; in his advocacy of any cause that he had 
thus made his own, he hesitated at no weapon 
either of offence or of defence; he struck hard 
blows he spoke hard words and he usually 
triumphed ; and yet, even in the paroxysms of the 
combat, and still more so when the combat was 
over, he showed how possible it is to be a re 
doubtable antagonist without having a particle of 

Then, too, from this first great scene in his pub 
lic life, there comes down to us another incident 
that has its own story to tell. In all the roar of 
talk within and about the courthouse, after the 
trial was over, one "Mr. Cootes, merchant of 
James Eiver," was heard to say that "he would 
have given a considerable sum out of his own 
pocket rather than his friend Patrick should have 
been guilty of a crime but little, if any thing, in 
ferior to that which brought Simon Lord Lovat to 
the block," adding that Patrick s speech had 
"exceeded the most seditious and inflammatory 
harangues of the Tribunes of Old Rome." 1 Here, 
then, thus early in his career, even in this sorrow 
ful and alarmed criticism on the supposed error of 

1 Maury, Mem. of a Huguenot Fam. 423. 


his speech, we find a token of that loving interest 
in him and in his personal fate, which even in 
those days began to possess the heartstrings of 
many a Virginian all about the land, and which 
thenceforward steadily broadened and deepened 
into a sort of popular idolization of him. The 
mysterious hold which Patrick Henry came to have 
upon the people of Virginia is an historic fact, to 
be recognized, even if not accounted for. He was 
to make enemies in abundance, as will appear; he 
was to stir up against himself the alarm of many 
thoughtful and conservative minds, the deadly 
hatred of many an old leader in colonial politics, 
the deadly envy of many a younger aspirant to 
public influence; he was to go on ruffling the 
plumage and upsetting the combinations of all 
sorts of good citizens, who, from time to time, in 
making their reckonings without him, kept finding 
that they had reckoned without their host. But 
for all that, the willingness of this worthy Mr. 
Cootes of James River to part with his money, if 
need be, rather than his friend Patrick should go 
far wrong, seems to be one token of the beginning 
of that deep and swelling passion of love for him 
that never abated among the mass of the people of 
Virginia so long as Patrick lived, and perhaps has 
never abated since. 

It is not hard to imagine the impulse which so 
astonishing a forensic success must have given to 
the professional and political career of the young 
advocate. Not only was he immediately retained 


by the defendants in all the other suits of the same 
kind then instituted in the courts of the colony, 
but, as his fee-books show, from that hour his legal 
practice of every sort received an enormous in 
crease. Moreover, the people of Virginia, always 
a warm-hearted people, were then, to a degree 
almost inconceivable at the North, sensitive to 
oratory, and admirers of eloquent men. The first 
test by which they commonly ascertained the fit 
ness of a man for public office, concerned his abil 
ity to make a speech; and it cannot be doubted 
that from the moment of Patrick Henry s amazing 
harangue in the "Parsons Cause," a piece of 
oratory altogether surpassing anything ever before 
heard in Virginia, the eyes of men began to 
fasten upon him as destined to some splendid and 
great part in political life. 

During the earlier years of his career, Williams- 
burg was the capital of the colony, the official 
residence of its governor, the place of assemblage 
for its legislature and its highest courts, and, at 
certain seasons of the year, the scene of no little 
vice-regal and provincial magnificence. 

Thither our Patrick had gone in 1760 to get 
permission to be a lawyer. Thither he now goes 
once more, in 1764, to give some proof of his qual 
ity in the profession to which he had been reluc 
tantly admitted, and to win for himself the first of 
a long series of triumphs at the colonial capital, 
triumphs which gave food for wondering talk 
to all his contemporaries, and long lingered in the 


memories of old men. Soon after the assembling 
of the legislature, in the fall of 1764, the commit 
tee on privileges and elections had before them the 
case of James Littlepage, who had taken his seat 
as member for the county of Hanover, but whose 
right to the seat was contested, on a charge of 
bribery and corruption, by Nathaniel West Dan- 
dridge. For a day or two before the hearing of 
the case, the members of the house had "observed 
an ill-dressed young man sauntering in the lobby," 
apparently a stranger to everybody, moving "awk 
wardly about . . . with a countenance of abstrac 
tion and total unconcern as to what was passing 
around him;" but who, when the committee con 
vened to consider the case of Dandridge against 
Littlepage, at once took his place as counsel for 
the former. The members of the committee, either 
not catching his name or not recalling the associa 
tion attaching to it from the scene at Hanover 
Court House nearly a twelvemonth before, were 
so affected by his rustic and ungainly appearance 
that they treated him with neglect and even with 
discourtesy; until, when his turn came to argue 
the cause of his client, he poured forth such a tor 
rent of eloquence, and exhibited with so much 
force and splendor the sacredness of the suffrage 
and the importance of protecting it, that the inci 
vility and contempt of the committee were turned 
into admiration. 1 Nevertheless, it appears from 
the journals of the House that, whatever may have 

i Wirt, 39-41. 


been the admiration of the committee for the elo 
quence of Mr. Dandridge s advocate, they did not 
award the seat to Mr. Dandridge. 

Such was Patrick Henry s first contact with the 
legislature of Virginia, a body of which he was 
soon to become a member, and over which, in 
spite of the social prestige, the talents, and the 
envious opposition of its old leaders, he was 
promptly to gain an ascendancy that constituted 
him, almost literally, the dictator of its proceed 
ings, so long as he chose to hold a place in it. On 
the present occasion, having finished the somewhat 
obscure business that had brought him before the 
committee, it is probable that he instantly disap 
peared from the scene, not to return to it until the 
following spring, when he came back to transact 
business with the House itself. For, early in 
May, 1765, a vacancy having occurred in the re 
presentation for the county of Louisa, Patrick 
Henry, though not then a resident in that county, 
was elected as its member. The first entry to be 
met with in the journals, indicating his presence 
in the House, is that of his appointment, on the 
20th of May, as an additional member of the com 
mittee for courts of justice. Between that date 
and the 1st of June, when the House was angrily 
dissolved by the governor, this young and very 
rural member contrived to do two or three quite 
notable things things, in fact, so notable that 
they conveyed to the people of Virginia the tidings 
of the advent among them of a great political 


leader, gave an historic impulse to the series of 
measures which ended in the disruption of the 
British Empire, and set his own name a ringing 
through the world, not without lively imputa 
tions of treason, and comforting assurances that he 
was destined to be hanged. 

The first of these notable things is one which 
incidentally throws a rather painful glare on the 
corruptions of political life in our old and belauded 
colonial days. The speaker of the House of Bur 
gesses at that time was John Kobinson, a man of 
great estate, foremost among all the landed aristo 
cracy of Virginia. He had then been speaker for 
about twenty -five years ; for a long tune, also, he 
had been treasurer of the colony ; and in the latter 
capacity he had been accustomed for many years 
to lend the public money, on his own private ac 
count, to his personal and political friends, and 
particularly to those of them who were members 
of the House. This profligate business had con 
tinued so long that Robinson had finally become a 
defaulter to an enormous amount; and in order 
to avert the shame and ruin of an exposure, he 
and his particular friends, just before the arrival 
of Patrick Henry, had invented a very pretty de 
vice, to be called a "public loan office," - "from 
which monies might be lent on public account, and 
on good landed security, to individuals," and by 
which, as was expected, the debts due to Robinson 
on the loans which he had been granting might be 
"transferred to the public, and his deficit thus 


completely covered." 1 Accordingly, the scheme 
was brought forward under nearly every possible 
advantage of influential support. It was presented 
to the House and to the public as a measure emi 
nently wise and beneficial. It was supported in 
the House by many powerful and honorable mem 
bers who had not the remotest suspicion of the 
corrupt purpose lying at the bottom of it. Appar 
ently it was on the point of adoption when, from 
among the members belonging to the upper coun 
ties, there arose this raw youth, who had only just 
taken his seat, and who, without any information 
respecting the secret intent of the measure, and 
equally without any disposition to let the older 
and statelier members do his thinking for him, 
simply attacked it, as a scheme to be condemned 
on general principles. From the door of the lobby 
that day there stood peering into the Assembly 
Thomas Jefferson, then a law student at Williams- 
burg, who thus had the good luck to witness the 
debut of his old comrade. "He laid open with so 
much energy the spirit of favoritism on which the 
proposition was founded, and the abuses to which 
it would lead, that it was crushed in its birth." 2 
He "attacked the scheme ... in that style of 
bold, grand, and overwhelming eloquence for which 
he became so justly celebrated afterwards. He 
carried with him all the members of the upper 
counties, and left a minority composed merely of 

1 Mem. by Jefferson, in Hist. Mag. for 1867, 91. 

2 Jefferson s Works, vi. 365. 


the aristocracy of the country. From this time 
his popularity swelled apace ; and Robinson dying 
four years after, his deficit was brought to light, 
and discovered the true object of the proposition." 

But a subject far greater than John Robinson s 
project for a loan office was then beginning to 
weigh on men s minds. Already were visible far 
off on the edge of the sky, the first filmy threads 
of a storm-cloud that was to grow big and angry 
as the years went by, and was to accompany a 
political tempest under which the British Empire 
would be torn asunder, and the whole structure of 
American colonial society wrenched from its foun 
dations. Just one year before the time now reached, 
news had been received in Virginia that the British 
ministry had announced in parliament their pur 
pose to introduce, at the next session, an act for 
laying certain stamp duties on the American colo 
nies. Accordingly, in response to these tidings, 
the House of Burgesses, in the autumn of 1764, 
had taken the earliest opportunity to send a re 
spectful message to the government of England, 
declaring that the proposed act would be deemed 
by the loyal and affectionate people of Virginia as 
an alarming violation of their ancient constitutional 
rights. This message had been elaborately drawn 
up, in the form of an address to the king, a memo 
rial to the House of Lords, and a remonstrance to 
the Commons ; 2 the writers being a committee com- 

1 Mem. by Jefferson, in Hist. Mag. for 1867, 91. 

2 These documents are given in full in the Appendix to Wirt s 
Life of Henry, as Note A. 


posed of gentlemen prominent in the legislature, 
and of high social standing in the colony, includ 
ing Landon Carter, Richard Henry Lee, George 
Wythe, Edmund Pendleton, Benjamin Harrison, 
Richard Bland, and even Peyton Randolph, the 
king s attorney -general. 

Meantime, to this appeal no direct answer had 
been returned; instead of which, however, was 
received by the House of Burgesses, in May, 1765, 
about the time of Patrick Henry s accession to 
that body, a copy of the Stamp Act itself. What 
was to be done about it? What was to be done 
by Virginia? What was to be done by her sister 
colonies? Of course, by the passage of the Stamp 
Act, the whole question of colonial procedure on 
the subject had been changed. While the act 
was, even in England, merely a theme for consid 
eration, and while the colonies were virtually un 
der invitation to send thither their views upon the 
subject, it was perfectly proper for colonial pam 
phleteers and for colonial legislatures to express, in 
every civilized form, their objections to it. But 
all this was now over. The Stamp Act had been 
discussed; the discussion was ended; the act had 
been decided on ; it had become a law. Criticism 
upon it now, especially by a legislative body, was 
a very different matter from what criticism upon 
it had been, even by the same body, a few months 
before. Then, the loyal legislature of Virginia 
had fittingly spoken out, concerning the contem 
plated act, its manly words of disapproval and of 


protest; but now that the contemplated act had 
become an adopted act had become the law of 
the land could that same legislature again speak 
even those same words, without thereby becoming 
disloyal, without venturing a little too near the 
verge of sedition, without putting itself into an 
attitude, at least, of incipient nullification respect 
ing a law of the general government? 

It is perfectly evident that by all the old leaders 
of the House at that moment, by Peyton Ran 
dolph, and Pendleton, and Wythe, and Bland, 
and the rest of them, this question was answered 
in the negative. Indeed, it could be answered in 
no other way. Such being the case, it followed 
that, for Virginia and for all her sister colonies, 
an entirely new state of things had arisen. A 
most serious problem confronted them, a prob 
lem involving, in fact, incalculable interests. On 
the subject of immediate concern, they had endea 
vored, freely and rightfully, to influence legisla 
tion, while that legislation was in process; but 
now that this legislation was accomplished, what 
were they to do ? Were they to submit to it qui 
etly, trusting to further negotiations for ultimate 
relief, or were they to reject it outright, and try 
to obstruct its execution? Clearly, here was a 
very great problem, a problem for statesmanship, 
the best statesmanship anywhere to be had. 
Clearly this was a time, at any rate, for wise and 
experienced men to come to the front ; a time, not 
for rash counsels, nor for spasmodic and isolated 


action on the part of any one colony, but for delib 
erate and united action on the part of all the colo 
nies; a time in which all must move forward, or 
none. But, thus far, no colony had been heard 
from: there had not been time. Let Virginia 
wait a little. Let her make no mistake; let her 
not push forward into any ill-considered and dan 
gerous measure; let her wait, at least, for some 
signal of thought or of purpose from her sister 
colonies. In the meanwhile, let her old and tried 
leaders continue to lead. 

Such, apparently, was the state of opinion in 
the House of Burgesses when, on the 29th of May, 
a motion was made and carried, "that the House 
resolve itself into a committee of the whole House, 
immediately to consider the steps necessary to be 
taken in consequence of the resolutions of the 
House of Commons of Great Britain, relative to 
the charging certain stamp duties in the colonies 
and plantations in America." : On thus going 
into committee of the whole, to deliberate on the 
most difficult and appalling question that, up to 
that time, had ever come before an American legis 
lature, the members may very naturally have turned 
in expectation to those veteran politicians and to 
those able constitutional lawyers who, for many 
years, had been accustomed to guide their delibera 
tions, and who, especially in the last session, had 
taken charge of this very question of the Stamp 
Act. It will not be hard for us to imagine the 

1 Jour. Va. House of Burgesses. 


disgust, the anger, possibly even the alarm, with 
which many may have beheld the floor now taken, 
not by Peyton Randolph, nor Richard Bland, nor 
George Wythe, nor Edmund Pendleton, but by 
this new and very unabashed member for the 
county of Louisa, this rustic and clownish youth 
of the terrible tongue, this eloquent but pre 
sumptuous stripling, who was absolutely without 
training or experience in statesmanship, and was 
the merest novice even in the forms of the House. 
For what precise purpose the new member had 
thus ventured to take the floor, was known at the 
moment of his rising by only two other members, 
George Johnston, the member for Fairfax, and 
John Fleming, the member for Cumberland. But 
the measureless audacity of his purpose, as being 
nothing less than that of assuming the leadership 
of the House, and of dictating the policy of Vir 
ginia in this stupendous crisis of its fate, was in 
stantly revealed to all, as he moved a series of 
resolutions, which he proceeded to read from the 
blank leaf of an old law book, and which, proba 
bly, were as follows : 

" Whereas, the honorable House of Commons in Eng 
land have of late drawn into question how far the Gene 
ral Assembly of this colony hath power to enact laws for 
laying of taxes and imposing duties, payable by the people 
of this, his majesty s most ancient colony : for settling 
and ascertaining the same to all future times, the House 
of Burgesses of this present General Assembly have 
come to the following resolves : 


" 1. Resolved, That the first adventurers and settlers 
of this, his majesty s colony and dominion, brought with 
them and transmitted to their posterity, and all other 
his majesty s subjects, since inhabiting in this, his ma 
jesty s said colony, all the privileges, franchises, and 
immunities that have at any time been held, enjoyed, 
and possessed, by the people of Great Britain. 

"2. Resolved, That by two royal charters, granted 
by king James the First, the colonists aforesaid are de 
clared entitled to all the privileges, liberties, and im 
munities of denizens and natural born subjects, to all 
intents and purposes, as if they had been abiding and 
born within the realm of England. 

"3. Resolved, That the taxation of the people by 
themselves or by persons chosen by themselves to re 
present them, who can only know what taxes the people 
are able to bear, and the easiest mode of raising them, 
and are equally affected by such taxes themselves, is the 
distinguishing characteristic of British freedom, and 
without which the ancient constitution cannot subsist. 

" 4. Resolved, That his majesty s liege people of this 
most ancient colony have uninterruptedly enjoyed the 
right of being thus governed by their own Assembly in 
the article of their taxes and internal police, and that 
the same hath never been forfeited, or any other way 
given up, but hath been constantly recognized by the 
kings and people of Great Britain. 

" 5. Resolved, therefore, That the General Assembly 
of this colony have the only and sole exclusive right and 
power to lay taxes and impositions upon the inhabitants 
of this colony ; and that every attempt to vest such 
power in any person or persons whatsoever, other than 
the General Assembly aforesaid, has a manifest tendency 
to destroy British as well as American freedom. 


" 6. Resolved, That his majesty s liege people, the 
inhabitants of this colony, are not bound to yield obedi 
ence to any law or ordinance whatever, designed to im 
pose any taxation whatsoever upon them, other than the 
laws or ordinances of the General Assembly aforesaid. 

" 7. Resolved, That any person who shall, by speak 
ing or writing, assert or maintain that any person or 
persons, other than the General Assembly of this colony, 
have any right or power to impose or lay any taxation 
on the people here, shall be deemed an enemy to his 
majesty s colony." l 

No reader will find it hard to accept Jefferson s 
statement that the debate on these resolutions was 
"most bloody." "They were opposed by Kan- 
dolph, Bland, Pendleton, Nicholas, Wythe, and 
all the old members, whose influence in the House 
had till then been unbroken." 2 There was every 
reason, whether of public policy or of private feel 
ing, why the old party leaders in the House should 
now bestir themselves, and combine, and put forth 

1 Of this famous series of resolutions, the first five are here 
given precisely as they are given in Patrick Henry s own certified 
copy still existing in manuscript, and in the possession of Mr. W. 
W. Henry ; but as that copy evidently contains only that portion 
of the series which was reported from the committee of the whole, 
and was adopted by the House, I have here printed also what I 
believe to have been the preamble, and the last two resolutions in 
the series as first drawn and introduced by Patrick Henry. For 
this portion of the series, I depend on the copy printed in the Bos 
ton Gazette, for July 1, 1765, and reprinted in R. Frothingham, 
Rise of the Republic, ISO note. In Wirt s Life of Henry, 56-59, is 
a transcript of the first five resolutions as given in Henry s hand 
writing : but it is inaccurate in two places. 

2 Mem. by Jefferson, in Hist. Mag. for 1867, 91. 


all their powers in debate, to check, and if possible 
to rout and extinguish, this self-conceited but most 
dangerous young man. "Many threats were ut 
tered, and much abuse cast on me," said Patrick 
himself, long afterward. Logic, learning, elo 
quence, denunciation, derision, intimidation, were 
poured from all sides of the House upon the head 
of the presumptuous intruder; but alone, or almost 
alone, he confronted and defeated all his assail 
ants. "Torrents of sublime eloquence from Mr. 
Henry, backed by the solid reasoning of Johnston, 
prevailed." 1 

It was sometime in the course of this tremendous 
fight, extending through the 29th and 30th of 
May, that the incident occurred which has long 
been familiar among the anecdotes of the Revolu 
tion, and which may be here recalled as a reminis 
cence not only of his own consummate mastery of 
the situation, but of a most dramatic scene in an 
epoch-making debate. Reaching the climax of a 
passage of fearful invective, on the injustice and 
the impolicy of the Stamp Act, he said in tones 
of thrilling solemnity, "Caesar had his Brutus; 
Charles the First, his Cromwell; and George the 
Third [ Treason, shouted the speaker. Trea 
son, treason, rose from all sides of the room. 
The orator paused in stately defiance till these 
rude exclamations were ended, and then, rearing 

1 Mem. by Jefferson, in Hist. Mag. for 1867, 91. Henry was 
aided in this debate by Robert Munford, also, and by John Flem 
ing : W. W. Henry, Life, Corr. and Speeches of P. Henry, i. 82n. 


himself with a look and bearing of still prouder 
and fiercer determination, he so closed the sentence 
as to baffle his accusers, without in the least flinch 
ing from his own position,] and George the 
Third may profit by their example. If this be 
treason, make the most of it." 1 

Of this memorable struggle nearly all other 
details have perished with the men who took part 
in it. After the House, in committee of the 
whole, had, on the 29th of May, spent sufficient 
time in the discussion, " Mr. Speaker resumed the 
chair," says the Journal, "and Mr. Attorney re 
ported that the said committee had had the said 
matter under consideration, and had come to sev 
eral resolutions thereon, which he was ready to 
deliver in at the table. Ordered that the said re 
port be received to-morrow." It is probable that 
on the morrow the battle was renewed with even 
greater fierceness than before. The Journal pro- 

1 For this splendid anecdote we are indebted to Judge John 
Tyler, who, then a youth of eighteen, listened to the speech as 
he stood in the lobby by the side of Jeiferson. Edmund Ran 
dolph, in his History of Virginia, still in manuscript, has a some 
what different version of the language of the orator, as follows : 
"Caesar had his Brutus, Charles the First, his Cromwell, and 
George the Third Treason, Sir, exclaimed the Speaker ; to 
which Mr. Henry instantly replied, and George the Third, may 
he never have either. " The version furnished by John Tyler is, of 
course, the more effective and aharacteristic ; and as Tyler act 
ually heard the speech, and as, moreover, his account is con 
firmed by Jefferson who also heard it, his account can hardly be 
set aside by that of Randolph who did not hear it, and was indeed 
but a boy of twelve at the time it was made. L. G. Tyler, Let 
ters and Times of the Tylers, i. 56; Wirt, 65. 


ceeds: "May 30. Mr. Attorney, from the com 
mittee of the whole House, reported according to 
order, that the committee had considered the steps 
necessary to be taken in consequence of the resolu 
tions of the House of Commons of Great Britain, 
relative to the charging certain stamp duties in 
the colonies and plantations in America, and that 
they had come to several resolutions thereon, which 
he read in his place and then delivered at the 
table ; when they were again twice read, and agreed 
to by the House, with some amendments." Then 
were passed by the House, probably, the first five 
resolutions as offered by Henry in the committee, 
but "passed," as he himself afterward wrote, "by 
a very small majority, perhaps of one or two only." 
Upon this final discomfiture of the old leaders, 
one of their number, Peyton Randolph, swept 
angrily out of the house, and brushing past young 
Thomas Jefferson, who was standing in the door 
of the lobby, he swore, with a great oath, that he 
"would have given five hundred guineas for a sin 
gle vote." l On the afternoon of that day, Patrick 
Henry, knowing that the session was practically 
ended, and that his own work in it was done, 
started for his home. He was seen "passing along 
Duke of Gloucester Street, . . . wearing buck 
skin breeches, his saddle bags on his arm, leading 
a lean horse, and chatting with Paul Carrington, 
who walked by his side." 2 

1 Mem. by Jefferson, Hist. Mag. for 1867, 91. 
a Campbell, Hist. Fa. 542. 


That was on the 30th of May. The next morn 
ing, the terrible Patrick being at last quite out of 
the way, those veteran lawyers and politicians of 
the House, who had found this young protagonist 
alone too much for them all put together, made 
bold to undo the worst part of the work he had 
done the day before ; they expunged the fifth reso 
lution. In that mutilated form, without the pre 
amble, and with the last three of the original reso 
lutions omitted, the first four then remained on 
the journal of the House as the final expression of 
its official opinion. Meantime, on the wings of 
the wind, and on the eager tongues of men, had 
been borne, past recall, far northward and far 
southward, the fiery unchastised words of nearly 
the entire series, to kindle in all the colonies a 
great flame of dauntless purpose ; 1 while Patrick 

1 The subject of the Virginia resolutions presents several diffi 
culties which I have not thought it best to discuss in the text, 
where I have given merely the results of my own rather careful 
and repeated study of the question. In brief, my conclusion is 
this : That the series as given above, consisting of a preamble and 
seven resolutions, is the series as originally prepared by Patrick 
Henry, and introduced by him on Wednesday, May 29, in the com 
mittee of the whole, and probably passed by the committee on that 
day ; that at once, without waiting for the action of the House 
iipon the subject, copies of the series got abroad, and were soon 
published in the newspapers of the several colonies, as though actu 
ally adopted by the House ; that on Thursday, May 30, the series 
was cut down in the House by rejection of the preamble and the 
resolutions 6 and 7, and by the adoption of only the first five as 
given above ; that on the day after that, when Patrick Henry had 
gone home, the House still further cut down the series by expun 
ging the resolution which is above numbered as 5 : and that, many 


himself, perhaps then only half conscious of the 
fateful work he had just been doing, travelled 
homeward along the dusty highway, at once the 
j oiliest, the most popular, and the least pretentious 
man in all Virginia, certainly its greatest orator, 
possibly even its greatest statesman. 

years afterwards, when Patrick Henry came to prepare a copy for 
transmission to posterity, he gave the resolutions just as they stood 
when adopted by the House on May 30, and not as they stood 
when originally introduced by him in committee of the whole on 
the day before, nor as they stood when mutilated by the cowardly 
act of the House on the day after. It will be noticed, therefore, 
that the so-called resolutions of Virginia, which were actually 
published and known to the colonies in 1765, and which did so 
much to fire their hearts, were not the resolutions as adopted by 
the House, but were the resolutions as first introduced, and proba 
bly passed, in committee of the whole ; and that even this copy of 
them was inaccurately given, since it lacked the resolution num 
bered above as 3, probably owing to an error in the first hurried 
transcription of them. Those who care to study the subject fur 
ther will find the materials in Prior Documents, 6, 7 ; Marshall, 
Life of Washington, i. note iv. ; Frothingham, Eise of the Eepub- 
lic, 180 note; Gordon, Hist. Am. Rev., i. 129-139; Works of Jef 
ferson, vi. 366, 367 ; Wirt, Life of Henry, 56-63 ; Everett, Life 
of Henry, 265-273, with important note by Jared Sparks in Ap 
pendix, 391-398. It may be mentioned that the narrative given 
in Burk, Hist. Va., iii. 305-310, is untrustworthy. 


SELDOM has a celebrated man shown more in 
difference to the preservation of the records and 
credentials of his career than did Patrick Henry. 
While some of his famous associates in the Revo 
lution diligently kept both the letters they received, 
and copies of the letters they wrote, and made, for 
the benefit of posterity, careful memoranda con 
cerning the events of their lives, Patrick Henry 
did none of these things. Whatever letters he 
wrote, he wrote at a dash, and then parted with 
them utterly; whatever letters were written to 
him, were invariably handed over by him to the 
comfortable custody of luck; and as to the correct 
historic perpetuation of his doings, he seems al 
most to have exhausted his interest in each one of 
them so soon as he had accomplished it, and to 
have been quite content to leave to other people 
all responsibility for its being remembered cor 
rectly, or even remembered at all. 

To this statement, however, a single exception 
has to be made. It relates to the great affair de 
scribed in the latter part of the previous chapter. 

Of course, it was perceived at the time that 


the passing of the Virginia resolutions against the 
Stamp Act was a great affair ; but just how great 
an affair it was, neither Patrick Henry nor any 
other mortal man could tell until years had gone 
by, and had unfolded the vast sequence of world- 
resounding events, in which that affair was proved 
to be a necessary factor. It deserves to be par 
ticularly mentioned that, of all the achievements 
of his life, the only one which he has taken the 
pains to give any account of is his authorship of 
the Virginia resolutions, and his successful cham 
pionship of them. With reference to this achieve 
ment, the account he gave of it was rendered with 
so much solemnity and impressiveness as to indi 
cate that, in the final survey of his career, he re 
garded this as the one most important thing he 
ever did. But before we cite the words in which 
he thus indicated this judgment, it will be well for 
us to glance briefly at the train of historic incidents 
which now set forth the striking connection be 
tween that act of Patrick Henry and the early 
development of that intrepid policy which culmi 
nated in American independence. 

It was on the 29th of May, 1765, as will be re 
membered, that Patrick Henry moved in the com 
mittee of the whole the adoption of his series of 
resolutions against the Stamp Act; and before the 
sun went down that day, the entire series, as is 
probable, was adopted by the committee. On the 
following day, the essential portion of the series 
was adopted, likewise, by the House. But what 


was the contemporary significance of these resolu 
tions? As the news of them swept from colony 
to colony, why did they so stir men s hearts to 
excitement, and even to alarm? It was not that 
the language of those resolutions was more radical 
or more trenchant than had been the language 
already used on the same subject, over and over 
again, in the discussions of the preceding twelve 
months. It was that, in the recent change of the 
political situation, the significance of that language 
had changed. Prior to the time referred to, what 
ever had been said on the subject, in any of the 
colonies, had been said for the purpose of dissuad 
ing the government from passing the Stamp Act. 
But the government had now passed the Stamp 
Act ; and, accordingly, these resolutions must have 
been meant for a very different purpose. They 
were a virtual declaration of resistance to the 
Stamp Act; a declaration of resistance made, not 
by an individual writer, nor by a newspaper, but 
by the legislature of a great colony; and, more 
over, they were the very first declaration of resist 
ance which was so made. 1 

This it is which gives us the contemporary key 
to their significance, and to the vast excitement 
produced by them, and to the enormous influence 
they had upon the trembling purposes of the colo 
nists at that precise moment. Hence it was, as 
a sagacious writer of that period has told us, that 

1 See this view supported by Wirt, in his life by Kennedy, ii. 


merely upon the adoption of these resolves by the 
committee of the whole, men recognized their mo 
mentous bearing, and could not be restrained from 
giving publicity to them, without waiting for their 
final adoption by the House. "A manuscript of 
the unrevised resolves," says William Gordon, 
"soon reached Philadelphia, having been sent off 
immediately upon their passing, that the earliest 
information of what had been done might be ob 
tained by the Sons of Liberty. ... At New 
York the resolves were handed about with great 
privacy : they were accounted so treasonable, that 
the possessors of them declined printing them in 
that city." But a copy of them having been pro 
cured with much difficulty by an Irish gentleman 
resident in Connecticut, u he carried them to New 
England, where they were published and circulated 
far and wide in the newspapers, without any re 
serve, and proved eventually the occasion of those 
disorders which afterward broke out in the colo 
nies. . . . The Virginia resolutions gave a spring 
to all the disgusted ; and they began to adopt dif 
ferent measures." 1 

But while the tidings of these resolutions were 
thus moving toward New England, and before they 
had arrived there, the assembly of the great colony 
of Massachusetts had begun to take action. In 
deed, it had first met on the very day on which 
Patrick Henry had introduced his resolutions into 
the committee of the whole at Williamsburg. On 
1 Gordon, Hist, of Am. Rev. i. 131. 


the 8th of June, it had resolved upon a circular 
letter concerning the Stamp Act, addressed to all 
the sister colonies, and proposing that all should 
send delegates to a congress to be held at New 
York, on the first Tuesday of the following Octo 
ber, to deal with the perils and duties of the situa 
tion. This circular letter at once started upon its 

The first reception of it, however, was discour 
aging. From the speaker of the New Jersey as 
sembly came the reply that the members of that 
body were "unanimously against uniting on the 
present occasion; " and for several weeks there 
after, "no movement appeared in favor of the 
great and wise measure of convening a congress." 
At last, however, the project of Massachusetts 
began to feel the accelerating force of a mighty 
impetus. The Virginia resolutions, being at last 
divulged throughout the land, "had a marked effect 
on public opinion." They were "heralded as the 
voice of a colony . . . The fame of the resolves 
spread as they were circulated in the journals. 
. . . The Virginia action, like an alarum, roused 
the patriots to pass similar resolves." 1 On the 
8th of July, "The Boston Gazette" uttered this 
most significant sentence: "The people of Vir 
ginia have spoken very sensibly, and the frozen 
politicians of a more northern government say they 
have spoken treason." 2 On the same day, in that 

1 Frothingham, Else of the Eepublic, 178-181. 

2 Cited in Frothingham, 181. 


same town of Boston, an aged lawyer and patriot l 
lay upon his death bed; and in his admiration for 
the Virginians on account of these resolves, he ex 
claimed, "They are men; they are noble spirits." 2 
On the 13th of August, the people of Providence 
instructed their representatives in the legislature 
to vote in favor of the congress, and to procure 
the passage of a series of resolutions in which 
were incorporated those of Virginia. 3 On the 15th 
of August, from Boston, Governor Bernard wrote 
home to the ministry: "Two or three months ago, 
I thought that this people would submit to the 
Stamp Act. Murmurs were indeed continually 
heard; but they seemed to be such as would die 
away. But the publishing of the Virginia resolves 
proved an alarm bell to the disaffected." 4 On 
the 23d of September, General Gage, the com 
mander of the British forces in America, wrote 
from New York to Secretary Conway that the 
Virginia resolves had given "the signal for a 
general outcry over the continent." 5 And finally, 
in the autumn of 1774, an able loyalist writer, 
looking back over the political history of the colo 
nies from the year of the Stamp Act, singled out 
the Virginia resolves as the baleful cause of all 
the troubles that had then come upon the land. 
"After it was known," said he, "that the Stamp 

1 Oxenbridge Thacher. 

2 Works of John Adams, x. 287. 
8 Frothingham, 181. 

4 Cited by Sparks, in Everett, Life of Henry, 396. 
6 Frothingham, Else of the Republic, 181. 


Act was passed, some resolves of the House of 
Burgesses in Virginia, denying the right of Parlia 
ment to tax the colonies, made their appearance. 
We read them with wonder; they savored of inde 
pendence ; they flattered the human passions ; the 
reasoning was specious; we wished it conclusive. 
The transition to believing it so was easy ; and we, 
and almost all America, followed their example, 
in resolving that Parliament had no such right." 1 

All these facts, and many more that might be 
produced, seem to point to the Virginia resolutions 
of 1765 as having come at a great primary crisis 
of the Revolution, a crisis of mental confusion 
and hesitation, and as having then uttered, with 
trumpet voice, the very word that was fitted to the 
hour, and that gave to men s minds clearness of 
vision, and to their hearts a settled purpose. It 
must have been in the light of such facts as these 
that Patrick Henry, in his old age, reviewing his 
own wonderful career, determined to make a sort 
of testamentary statement concerning his relation 
to that single transaction, so vitally connected 
with the greatest epoch in American history. 

Among the papers left by him at his death was 
one significantly placed by the side of his will, 
carefully sealed, and bearing this superscription: 
"Inclosed are the resolutions of the Virginia As 
sembly in 1765, concerning the Stamp Act. Let 
my executors open this paper." On opening the 

1 Daniel Leonard, in Novanglus and Massachusettensis, 147, 



document, his executors found on one side of the 
sheet the first five resolutions in the famous series 
introduced by him; and on the other side, these 
weighty words : 

The within resolutions passed the House of Burgesses 
in May, 1765. They formed the first opposition to the 
Stamp Act, and the scheme of taxing America by the 
British parliament. All the colonies, either through fear, 
or want of opportunity to form an opposition, or from 
influence of some kind or other, had remained silent. I 
had been for the first time elected a Burgess a few days 
before ; was young, inexperienced, unacquainted with 
the forms of the House, and the members that composed 
it. Finding the men of weight averse to opposition, and 
the commencement of the tax at hand, and that no per 
son was likely to step forth, I determined to venture ; 
and alone, unadvised, and unassisted, on a blank leaf of 
an old law book, wrote the within. 1 Upon offering them 

1 As the historic importance of the Virginia resolutions became 
more and more apparent, a disposition was manifested to deny to 
Patrick Henry the honor of having written them. As early as 
1790, Madison, between whom and Henry there was nearly always 
a sharp hostility, significantly asked Edmund Pendleton to tell him 
" where the resolutions proposed by Mr. Henry really originated." 
Letters and Other Writings of Madison, i. 515. Edmund Randolph 
is said to have asserted that they were written by William Flem 
ing ; a statement of which Jefferson remarked, "It is to me in 
comprehensible." Works, vi. 484. But to Jefferson s own testi 
mony on the same subject, I would apply the same remark. In 
his Memorandum, he says without hesitation that the resolutions 
" were drawn up by George Johnston, a lawyer of the Northern 
Neck, a very able, logical, and correct speaker." Hist. Mag. for 
1867, 91. But in another paper, written at about the same time, 
Jefferson said : " I can readily enough believe these resolutions 
were written by Mr. Henry himself. They bear the stamp of his 


to the House, violent debates ensued. Many threats 
were uttered, and much abuse cast on me by the party 
for submission. After a long and warm contest, the re 
solutions passed by a very small majority, perhaps of 
one or two only. The alarm spread throughout America 
with astonishing quickness, and the ministerial party 
were overwhelmed. The great point of resistance to 
British taxation was universally established in the colo 
nies. This brought on the war, which finally separated 
the two countries, and gave independence to ours. 

Whether this will prove a blessing or a curse, will de 
pend upon the use our people make of the blessings 
which a gracious God hath bestowed on us. If they are 
wise, they will be great and happy. If they are of a con 
trary character, they will be miserable. Righteousness 
alone can exalt them as a nation. 

Reader ! whoever thou art, remember this ; and in 
thy sphere practice virtue thyself, and encourage it in 
others. P. HENRY. 1 

But while this renowned act in Patrick Henry s 
life had consequences so notable in their bearing 
on great national and international movements, it 
is interesting to observe, also, its immediate effects 
on his own personal position in the world, and on 

mind, strong-, without precision. That they were written by John 
ston, who seconded them, was only the rumor of the day, and 
very possibly unfounded." Works, vi. 484. In the face of all 
this tissue of rumor, guesswork, and self-contradiction, the delib 
erate statement of Patrick Henry himself that he wrote the five 
resolutions referred to by him, and that he wrote them " alone, 
unadvised, and unassisted," must close the discussion. 

1 Verified from the original manuscript, now in possession of 
Mr. W. W. Henry. 


the development of his career. We can hardly be 
surprised to find, on the one hand, that his act 
gave deep offence to one very considerable class of 
persons in Virginia, the official representatives 
of the English government, and their natural al 
lies, those thoughtful and conscientious colonists 
who, by temperament and conviction, were inclined 
to lay a heavy accent on the principle of civil au 
thority and order. Of course, as the official head 
of this not ignoble class, stood Francis Fauquier, 
the lieutenant-governor of the colony; and his 
letter to the lords of trade, written from Williams- 
burg a few days after the close of the session, 
contains a striking narrative of this stormy pro 
ceeding, and an almost amusing touch of official 
undervaluation of Patrick Henry : " In the course 
of the debate, I have heard that very indecent lan 
guage was used by a Mr. Henry, a young lawyer, 
who had not been above a month a member of the 
House, and who carried all the young members 
with him." 1 But a far more specific and intense 
expression of antipathy came, a few weeks later, 
from the Reverend William Robinson, the colonial 
commissary of the Bishop of London. Writing, 
on the 12th of August, to his metropolitan, he 
gave an account of Patrick Henry s very offensive 
management of the cause against the parsons, be 
fore becoming a member of the House of Bur 
gesses ; and then added : 

1 Cited by Sparks, in Everett, Life of Ilenry, 392. 


" He has since been chosen a representative for one of 
the counties, in which character he has lately distinguished 
himself in the House of Burgesses on occasion of the ar 
rival of an act of Parliament for stamp duties, while the 
Assembly was sitting. He blazed out in a violent speech 
against the authority of Parliament and the king, compar 
ing his majesty to a Tarquin, a Caesar, and a Charles the 
First, and not sparing insinuations that he wished another 
Cromwell would arise. He made a motion for several 
outrageous resolves, some of which passed and were 
again erased as soon as his back was turned. . . . Mr. 
Henry, the hero of whom I have been writing, is gone 
quietly into the upper parts of the country to recommend 
himself to his constituents by spreading treason and en 
forcing firm resolutions against the authority of the Brit 
ish Parliament." J 

Such was Patrick Henry s introduction to the 
upper spheres of English society, spheres in 
which his name was to become still better known 
as time rolled on, and for conduct not likely to 
efface the impression of this bitter beginning. 

As to his reputation in the colonies outside of 
Virginia, doubtless the progress of it, during this 
period, was slow and dim; for the celebrity ac 
quired by the resolutions of 1765 attached to the 
colony rather than to the person. Moreover, the 
boundaries of each colony, in those days, were in 
most cases the boundaries likewise of the personal 
reputations it cherished. It was not until Patrick 
Henry came forward, in the Congress of 1774, 

1 Perry, Hist. Coll. i. 514, 515. 


upon an arena that may be called national, that his 
name gathered about it the splendor of a national 
fame. Yet, even before 1774, in the rather dull 
and ungossiping newspapers of that time, and in 
the letters and diaries of its public men, may be 
discovered an occasional allusion showing that al 
ready his name had broken over the borders of 
Virginia, had traveled even so far as to New Eng 
land, and that in Boston itself he was a person 
whom people were beginning to talk about. For 
example, in his Diary for the 22d of July, 1770, 
John Adams speaks of meeting some gentlemen 
from Virginia, and of going out to Cambridge 
with them. One of them is mentioned by name 
as having this distinction, that he "is an inti 
mate friend of Mr. Patrick Henry, the first mover 
of the Virginia resolves in 1765. "* Thus, even 
so early, the incipient revolutionist in New Eng 
land had got his thoughts on his brilliant political 
kinsman in Virginia. 

But it was chiefly within the limits of his own 
splendid and gallant colony, and among an eager 
and impressionable people whose habitual hatred 
of all restraints turned into undying love for this 
dashing champion of natural liberty, that Patrick 
Henry was now instantly crowned with his crown 
of sovereignty. By his resolutions against the 
Stamp Act, as Jefferson testifies, "Mr. Henry 
took the lead out of the hands of those who had 
heretofore guided the proceedings of the House, 
1 Works of John Adams, ii. 249. 


that is to say, of Pendleton, Wythe, Bland, Ban- 
dolph, and Nicholas." 1 Wirt does not put the 
case too strongly when he declares, that "after this 
debate there was no longer a question among the 
body of the people, as to Mr. Henry s being the 
first statesman and orator in Virginia. Those, 
indeed, whose ranks he had scattered, and whom 
he had thrown into the shade, still tried to brand 
him with the names of declaimer and demagogue. 
But this was obviously the effect of envy and mor 
tified pride. . . . From the period of which we 
have been speaking, Mr. Henry became the idol 
of the people of Virginia." 2 

1 Works of Jefferson, vi. 368. 

2 Life of Henry, 66. 



FROM the close of Patrick Henry s first term in 
the Virginia House of Burgesses, in the spring of 
1765, to the opening of his first term in the Conti 
nental Congress, in the fall of 1774, there stretches 
a period of about nine years, which, for the pur 
poses of our present study, may be rapidly glanced 
at and passed by. 

In general, it may be described as a period 
during which he had settled down to steady work, 
both as a lawyer and as a politician. The first 
five years of his professional life had witnessed his 
advance, as we have seen, by strides which only 
genius can make, from great obscurity to great 
distinction; his advance from a condition of uni 
versal failure to one of success so universal that 
his career may be said to have become within that 
brief period solidly established. At the bar, upon 
the hustings, in the legislature, as a master of 
policies, as a leader of men, he had already proved 
himself to be, of his kind, without a peer in all 
the colony of Virginia, a colony which was then 
the prolific mother of great men. With him, 
therefore, the period of training and of tentative 


struggle had passed : the period now entered upon 
was one of recognized mastership and of assured 
performance, along lines certified by victories that 
came gayly, and apparently at his slightest call. 

We note, at the beginning of this period, an 
event indicating substantial prosperity in his life : 
he acquires the visible dignity of a country-seat. 
Down to the end of 1763, and probably even to 
the summer of 1765, he had continued to live in 
the neighborhood of Hanover Court House. After 
coming back from his first term of service in the 
House of Burgesses, where he had sat as member 
for the county of Louisa, he removed his residence 
into that county, and established himself there 
upon an estate called Roundabout, purchased by 
him of his father. In 1768 he returned to Han 
over, and in 1771 he bought a place in that county 
called Scotch Town, which continued to be his seat 
until shortly after the Declaration of Independ 
ence, when, having become governor of the new 
State of Virginia, he took up his residence at 
Williamsburg, in the palace long occupied by the 
official representatives of royalty. 

For the practice of his profession, the earlier 
portion of this period was perhaps not altogether 
unfavorable. The political questions then in de 
bate were, indeed, exciting, but they had not quite 
reached the ultimate issue, and did not yet demand 
from him the complete surrender of his life. Those 
years seem to have been marked by great profes 
sional activity on his part, and by considerable 


growth in his reputation, even for the higher and 
more difficult work of the law. Of course, as the 
vast controversy between the colonists and Great 
Britain grew in violence, all controversies between 
one colonist and another began to seem petty, and 
to be postponed; even the courts ceased to meet 
with much regularity, and finally ceased to meet at 
all ; while Patrick Henry himself, forsaking his 
private concerns, became entirely absorbed in the 
concerns of the public. 

The fluctuations in his engagements as a lawyer, 
during all these years, may be traced with some 
certainty by the entries in his fee-books. For the 
year 1765, he charges fees in 547 cases; for 1766, 
in 114 cases; for 1767, in 554 cases; for 1768, in 
354 cases. With the next year there begins a 
great falling off in the number of his cases; and 
the decline continues till 1774, when, in the con 
vulsions of the time, his practice stops altogether. 
Thus, for 1769, there are registered 132 cases; 
for 1770, 94 cases; for 1771, 102 cases; for 1772, 
43 cases; for 1773, 7 cases; and for 1774, none. 1 

The character of the professional work done by 
him during this period deserves a moment s con 
sideration. Prior to 1769, he had limited himself 
to practice in the courts of the several counties. 
In that year he began to practice in the general 
court, the highest court in the colony, where 
of course were tried the most important and diffi 
cult causes, and where thenceforward he had 
1 MS. 


constantly to encounter the most learned and 
acute lawyers at the bar, including such men as 
Pendleton, Wythe, Blair, Mercer, John Randolph, 
Thompson Mason, Thomas Jefferson, and Robert 
C. Nicholas. 1 

There could never have been any doubt of his 
supreme competency to deal with such criminal 
causes as he had to manage in that court or in any 
other; and with respect to the conduct of other 
than criminal causes, all purely contemporaneous 
evidence, now to be had, implies that he had not 
ventured to present himself before the higher tri 
bunals of the land until he had qualified himself 
to bear his part there with success and honor. 
Thus, the instance may be mentioned of his ap 
pearing in the Court of Admiralty, "in behalf of 
a Spanish captain, whose vessel and cargo had 
been libeled. A gentleman who was present, and 
who was very well qualified to judge, was heard to 
declare, after the trial was over, that he never 
heard a more eloquent or argumentative speech in 
his life; that Mr. Henry was on that occasion 
greatly superior to Mr. Pendleton, Mr. Mason, or 
any other counsel who spoke to the subject; and 
that he was astonished how Mr. Henry could have 
acquired such a knowledge of the maritime law, to 
which it was believed he had never before turned 
his attention." 2 Moreover, in 1771, just two 
years from the time when Patrick Henry began 
practice in the General Court, Robert C. Nicholas, 

1 Wirt, 70, 71. 2 Wirt, 71, 72. 


then a veteran member of the profession, "who 
had enjoyed the first practice at the bar," had 
occasion to retire, and began looking about among 
the younger men for some competent lawyer to 
whom he might safely intrust the unfinished busi 
ness of his clients. He first offered his practice to 
Thomas Jefferson, who, however, was compelled 
to decline it. Afterward, he offered it to Patrick 
Henry, who accepted it; and accordingly, by pub 
lic advertisement, Nicholas informed his clients 
that he had committed to Patrick Henry the fur 
ther protection of their interests, 1 a perfectly 
conclusive proof, it should seem, of the real respect 
in which Patrick Henry s qualifications as a lawyer 
were then held, not only by the public but by the 
profession. Certainly such evidence as this can 
hardly be set aside by the supposed recollections 
of one old gentleman, of broken memory and un 
broken resentment, who long afterward tried to 
convince Wirt that, even at the period now in 
question, Patrick Henry was "wofully deficient as 
a lawyer," was unable to contend with his associ 
ates "on a mere question of law," and was "so 
little acquainted with the fundamental principles 
of his profession ... as not to be able to see the 
remote bearings of the reported cases." 2 The ex 
pressions here quoted are, apparently, Wirt s own 
paraphrase of the statements which were made to 
him by Jefferson, and which, in many of their 

1 Randall, Life of Jefferson, i. 49; Wirt, 77. 

2 Wirt, 71. 


details, can now be proved, on documentary evi 
dence, to be the work of a hand that had forgot, 
not indeed its cunning, but at any rate its accu 

As to the political history of Patrick Henry 
during this period, it may be easily described. 
The doctrine on which he had planted himself by 
his resolutions in 1765, namely, that the parlia 
mentary taxation of unrepresented colonies is un 
constitutional, became the avowed doctrine of Vir 
ginia, and of all her sister colonies ; and nearly all 
the men who, in the House of Burgesses, had, for 
reasons of propriety, or of expediency, or of per 
sonal feeling, opposed the passage of his resolu 
tions, soon took pains to make it known to their 
constituents that their opposition had not been to 
the principle which those resolutions expressed. 
Thenceforward, among the leaders in Virginian 
politics, there was no real disagreement on the 
fundamental question; only such disagreement 
touching methods as must always occur between 
spirits who are cautious and spirits who are bold. 
Chief among the former were Pendleton, Wythe, 
Bland, Peyton Randolph, and Nicholas. In the 
van of the latter always stood Patrick Henry, and 
with him Jefferson, Richard Henry Lee, the 
Pages, and George Mason. But between the two 
groups, after all, was surprising harmony, which 
is thus explained by one who in all that business 
had a great part and who never was a laggard : 

" Sensible, however, of the importance of unanimity 


among our constituents, although we often wished to 
have gone faster, we slackened our pace, that our less 
ardent colleagues might keep up with us ; and they, on 
their part, differing nothing from us in principle, quick 
ened their gait somewhat beyond that which their pru 
dence might of itself have advised, and thus consolidated 
the phalanx which hreasted the power of Britain. By 
this harmony of the bold with the cautious, we advanced 
with our constituents in undivided mass, and with fewer 
examples of separation than, perhaps, existed in any 
other part of the union." 1 

All deprecated a quarrel with Great Britain; 
all deprecated as a boundless calamity the possible 
issue of independence; all desired to remain in 
loyal, free, and honorable connection with the 
British empire; and against the impending danger 
of an assault upon the freedom, and consequently 
the honor, of this connection, all stood on guard. 

One result, however, of this practical unanimity 
among the leaders in Virginia was the absence, 
during all this period, of those impassioned and 
dramatic conflicts in debate, which would have 
called forth historic exhibitions of Patrick Henry s 
eloquence and of his gifts for conduct and com 
mand. He had a leading part in all the counsels 
of the time; he was sent to every session of the 
House of Burgesses; he was at the front in all 
local committees and conventions; he was made a 
member of the first Committee of Correspondence ; 
and all these incidents in this portion of his life 

1 Jefferson s Works, vi 368. 


culminated in his mission as one of the deputies 
from Virginia to the first Continental Congress. 

Without here going into the familiar story of 
the occasion and purposes of the Congress of 1774, 
we may briefly indicate Patrick Henry s relation 
to the events in Virginia which immediately pre 
ceded his appointment to that renowned assem 
blage. On the 24th of May, 1774, the House of 
Burgesses, having received the alarming news of 
the passage of the Boston Port Bill, designated 
the day on which that bill was to take effect the 
first day of June "as a day of fasting, humil 
iation, and prayer, devoutly to implore the Di 
vine interposition for averting the heavy calamity 
which threatens destruction to our civil rights, 
and the evils of civil war; to give us one heart 
and one mind firmly to oppose, by all just and 
proper means, every injury to American rights; 
and that the minds of his majesty and his parlia 
ment may be inspired from above with wisdom, 
moderation, and justice, to remove from the loyal 
people of America all cause of danger, from a 
continued pursuit of measures pregnant with their 
ruin." 1 Two days afterward, the governor, Lord 
Dunmore, having summoned the House to the 
council chamber, made to them this little speech : 

" Mr. Speaker and gentlemen of the House of Bur 
gesses, I have in my hand a paper published by order of 
your House, conceived in such terms as reflect highly 
upon his majesty and the Parliament of Great Britain, 
i 4 Am. Arch. i. 350. 


which makes it necessary for me to dissolve you, and 
you are dissolved accordingly." 1 

At ten o clock on the following day, May 27, 
the members of the late House met by agreement 
at the Raleigh Tavern, and there promptly passed 
a nobly- worded resolution, deploring the policy 
pursued by Parliament and suggesting the estab 
lishment of an annual congress of all the colonies, 
"to deliberate on those general measures which 
the united interests of America may from time to 
time require." 2 

During the anxious days and nights immediately 
preceding the dissolution of the House, its promi 
nent members held many private conferences with 
respect to the course to be pursued by Virginia. 
In all these conferences, as we are told, " Patrick 
Henry was the leader;" 3 and a very able man, 
George Mason, who was just then a visitor at 
Williamsburg, and was admitted to the consulta 
tions of the chiefs, wrote at the time concerning 
him : " He is by far the most powerful speaker I 
ever heard. . . . But his eloquence is the smallest 
part of his merit. He is, in my opinion, the first 
man upon this continent, as well in abilities as 
public virtues." 4 

1 Campbell, Hist. Va. 573. 

2 4 Am. Arch. i. 350, 351. The narrative of these events as given 
by Wirt and by Campbell has several errors. They seem to have 
been misled by Jefferson, who, in his account of the business 
(Works, i. 122, 123), is, if possible, rather more inaccurate than 

3 Campbell, Hist. Va. 573. 

4 Mason to Martin Cockburn, Va. Hist. Eeg. iii. 27-29. 


In response to a recommendation made by lead 
ing members of the recent House of Burgesses, a 
convention of delegates from the several counties 
of Virginia assembled at Williamsburg, on August 
1, 1774, to deal with the needs of the hour, and 
especially to appoint deputies to the proposed 
congress at Philadelphia. The spirit in which 
this convention transacted its business is sufficiently 
shown in the opening paragraphs of the letter of 
instructions which it gave to the deputies whom it 
sent to the congress : 

"The unhappy disputes between Great Britain and 
her American colonies, which began about the third year 
of the reign of his present majesty, and since, continu 
ally increasing, have proceeded to lengths so dangerous 
and alarming as to excite just apprehensions in the 
minds of his majesty s faithful subjects of this colony 
that they are in danger of being deprived of their nat 
ural, ancient, constitutional, and chartered rights, have 
compelled them to take the same into their most serious 
consideration ; and being deprived of their usual and 
accustomed mode of making known their grievances, 
have appointed us their representatives, to consider what 
is proper to be done in this dangerous crisis of American 

" It being our opinion that the united wisdom of North 
America should be collected in a general congress of all 
the colonies, we have appointed the honorable Peyton 
Randolph, Esquire, Richard Henry Lee, George Wash 
ington, Patrick Henry, Richard Bland, Benjamin Harri 
son, and Edmund Pendleton, Esquires, deputies to 
represent this colony in the said congress, to be held at 


Philadelphia on the first Monday in September next. 
And that they may be the better informed of our senti 
ments touching the conduct we wish them to observe on 
this important occasion, we desire that they will express, 
in the first place, our faith and true allegiance to his 
majesty King George the Third, our lawful and rightful 
sovereign ; and that we are determined, with our lives 
and fortunes, to support him in the legal exercise of all 
his just rights and prerogatives ; and however misrepre 
sented, we sincerely approve of a constitutional connec 
tion with Great Britain, and wish most ardently a return 
of that intercourse of affection and commercial connec 
tion that formerly united both countries ; which can only 
be effected by a removal of those causes of discontent 
which have of late unhappily divided us. ... The 
po\v-er assumed by the British Parliament to bind Amer 
ica by their statutes, in all cases whatsoever, is unconsti 
tutional, and the source of these unhappy differences." 1 

The convention at William sburg, of which, of 
course, Patrick Henry was a member, seems to 
have adjourned on Saturday, the 6th of August. 
Between that date and the time for his departure 
to attend the congress at Philadelphia, we may 
imagine him as busily engaged in arranging his 
affairs for a long absence from home, and even 
then as not getting ready to begin the long journey 
until many of his associates had nearly reached 
the end of it. 

1 The full text of this letter of instructions is given in 4 Am. 
Arch. i. 689, 690. With this should be compared note C. in Jef 
ferson s Works, i. 122-142. 



ON the morning of Tuesday, the 30th of August, 
Patrick Henry arrived on horseback at Mt. Ver- 
non, the home of his friend and colleague, George 
Washington ; and having remained there that day 
and night, he set out for Philadelphia on the fol 
lowing morning, in the company of Washington 
and of Edmund Pendleton. From the jottings in 
Washington s diary, 1 we can so far trace the pro 
gress of this trio of illustrious horsemen, as to 
ascertain that on Sunday, the 4th of September, 
they "breakfasted at Christiana Ferry; dined at 
Chester; " and reached Philadelphia for supper 
thus arriving in town barely in time to be present 
at the first meeting of the Congress on the morn 
ing of the 5th. 

John Adams had taken pains to get upon the 
ground nearly a week earlier ; and carefully gath 
ering all possible information concerning his future 
associates, few of whom he had then ever seen, he 
wrote in his diary that the Virginians were said 
to "speak in raptures about Richard Henry Lee 
1 Washington s Writings, ii. 503. 


and Patrick Henry, one the Cicero, and the other 
the Demosthenes, of the age." 1 

Not far from the same time, also, a keen-witted 
Virginian, Roger Atkinson, at his home near Pe 
tersburg, was writing to a friend about the men 
who had gone to represent Virginia in the great 
Congress ; and this letter of his, though not meant 
for posterity, has some neat, off-hand portraits 
which posterity may, nevertheless, be glad to look 
at. Peyton Randolph is "a venerable man . . . 
an honest man; has knowledge, temper, experi 
ence, judgment, above all, integrity ; a true 
Roman spirit." Richard Bland is "a wary, old, 
experienced veteran at the bar and in the senate ; 
has something of the look of old musty parchments, 
which he handleth and studieth much. He for 
merly wrote a treatise against the Quakers on 
water-baptism." Washington "is a soldier, a 
warrior; he is a modest man; sensible; speaks 
little; in action cool, like a bishop at his prayers." 
Pendleton "is an humble and religious man, and 
must be exalted. He is a smooth-tongued speaker, 
and, though not so old, may be compared to old 

Experienced Nestor, in persuasion skilled, 
Words sweet as honey from his lips distilled. " 

But Patrick Henry "is a real half -Quaker, 
your brother s man, moderate and mild, and in 
religious matters a saint; but the very devil in 
politics; a son of thunder. He will shake the 

1 Works of John Adams, ii. 357. 


Senate. Some years ago he had liked to have 
talked treason into the House." 1 

Few of the members of this Congress had ever 
met before ; and if all had arrived upon the scene 
as late as did these three members from Virginia, 
there might have been some difficulty, through a 
lack of previous consultation and acquaintance, in 
organizing the Congress on the day appointed, and 
in entering at once upon its business. In fact, 
however, more than a week before^ the time for the 
first meeting, the delegates had begun to make 
their appearance in Philadelphia; thenceforward 
with each day the arrivals continued; by Thurs 
day, the 1st of September, twenty-five delegates, 
nearly one half of the entire body elected, were in 
town; 2 and probably, during all that week, no 
day and no night had passed without many an in 
formal conference respecting the business before 
them, and the best way of doing it. 

Concerning these memorable men of the first 
Continental Congress, it must be confessed that as 
the mists of a hundred years of glorifying oratory 
and of semi-poetic history have settled down upon 
them, they are now enveloped in a light which 
seems to distend their forms to proportions almost 
superhuman, and to cast upon their faces a gravity 
that hardly belongs to this world; and it may, 
perhaps, help us to bring them and their work 
somewhat nearer to the plane of natural human 

1 Meade, Old Churches and Families of Va. i. 220, 221. 

2 Works of John Adams, ii. 361. 


life and motive, and into a light that is as the 
light of reality, if, turning to the daily memoranda 
made at the time by one of their number, we can 
see how merrily, after all, nay, with what flowing 
feasts, with what convivial communings, passed 
those days and nights of preparation for the diffi 
cult business they were about to take in hand. 

For example, on Monday, the 29th of August, 
when the four members of the Massachusetts dele 
gation had arrived within five miles of the city, 
they were met by an escort of gentlemen, partly 
residents of Philadelphia, and partly delegates 
from other colonies, who had come out in carriages 
to greet them. 

" We were introduced," writes John Adams, " to all 
these gentlemen, and most cordially welcomed to Phila 
delphia. We then rode into town, and dirty, dusty, and 
fatigued as we were, we could not resist the importunity 
to go to the tavern, the most genteel one in America. 
There we were introduced to a number of other gentle 
men of the city, . . . and to Mr. Lynch and Mr. Gads- 
den, of South Carolina. Here we had a fresh welcome 
to the city of Philadelphia ; and after some time spent 
in conversation, a curtain was drawn, and in the other 
half of the chamber a supper appeared as elegant as ever 
was laid upon a table. About eleven o clock we retired. 

" 30, Tuesday. Walked a little about town ; visited 
the market, the State House, the Carpenters Hall, where 
the Congress is to sit, etc. ; then called at Mr. Mifflm s, 
a grand, spacious, and elegant house. Here we had 
much conversation with Mr. Charles Thomson, who is 
. . . the Sam Adams of Philadelphia, the life of the 


cause of liberty, they say. A Friend, Collins, came to 
see us, and invited us to dine on Thursday. We re 
turned to our lodgings, and Mr. Lynch, Mr. Gadsden, 
Mr. Middleton, and young Mr. Rutledge came to visit us. 

" 31, Wednesday. Breakfasted at Mr. Bayard s, of 
Philadelphia, with Mr. Sprout, a Presbyterian minister. 
Made a visit to Governor Ward of Rhode Island, at his 
lodgings. There we were introduced to several gentle 
men. Mr. Dickinson, the Farmer of Pennsylvania, 
came in his coach with four beautiful horses to Mr. 
Ward s lodgings, to see us. ... We dined with Mr. 
Lynch, his lady and daughter, at their lodgings, . . . 
and a very agreeable dinner and afternoon we had, not 
withstanding the violent heat. We were all vastly 
pleased with Mr. Lynch. He is a solid, firm, judicious 

" September 1, Thursday. This day we breakfasted 
at Mr. Mifflin s. Mr. C. Thomson came in, and soon 
after Dr. Smith, the famous Dr. Smith, the provost of 
the college. . . . We then went to return visits to the 
gentlemen who had visited us. We visited a Mr. Cad- 
wallader, a gentleman of large fortune, a grand and ele 
gant house and furniture. We then visited Mr. Powell, 
another splendid seat. We then visited the gentlemen 
from South Carolina, and, about twelve, were introduced 
to Mr. Galloway, the speaker of the House in Pennsylva 
nia. We dined at Friend Collins . . . with Governor 
Hopkins, Governor Ward, Mr. Galloway, Mr. Rhoades, 
etc. In the evening all the gentlemen of the Congress 
who were arrived in town, met at Smith s, the new city 
tavern, and spent the evening together. Twenty-five 
members were come. Virginia, North Carolina, Mary 
land, and the citv of New York were not arrived. 


"2, Friday. Dined at Mr. Thomas Mifflin s with 
Mr. Lynch, Mr. Middleton, and the two Rutledges with 
their ladies. . . . We were very sociable and happy. 
After coffee we went to the tavern, where we were in 
troduced to Peyton Randolph, Esquire, speaker of Vir 
ginia, Colonel Harrison, Richard Henry Lee, Esquire, 
and Colonel Bland. . . . These gentlemen from Vir 
ginia appear to be the most spirited and consistent of 
any. Harrison said he would have come on foot rather 
than not come. Bland said he would have gone, upon 
this occasion, if it had been to Jericho. 

"3, Saturday. Breakfasted at Dr. Shippen s ; Dr. 
Witherspoon was there. Col. R. H. Lee lodges there ; 
he is a masterly man. . . . We went with Mr. William 
Barrell to his store, and drank punch, and ate dried 
smoked sprats with him ; read the papers and our let 
ters from Boston ; dined with Mr. Joseph Reed, the 
lawyer; . . . spent the evening at Mr. Mifflin s, with 
Lee and Harrison from Virginia, the two Rutledges, Dr. 
Witherspoon, Dr. Shippen, Dr. Steptoe, and another 
gentleman ; an elegant supper, and we drank sentiments 
till eleven o clock. Lee and Harrison were very high. 
Lee had dined with Mr. Dickinson, and drank Burgundy 
the whole afternoon." l 

Accordingly, at 10 o clock on Monday morning, 
the 5th of September, when the delegates assem 
bled at their rendezvous, the city tavern, and 
marched together through the streets to Carpenters 
Hall, for most of them the stiffness of a first in 
troduction was already broken, and they could 
greet one another that morning with something of 
1 Works of John Adams, ii. 357-364. 


the freedom and good fellowship of boon compan 
ions. Moreover, they were then ready to proceed 
to business under the advantage of having arranged 
beforehand an outline of what was first to be done. 
It had been discovered, apparently, that the first 
serious question which would meet them after 
their formal organization, was one relating to the 
method of voting in the Congress, namely, whether 
each deputy should have a vote, or only each col 
ony; and if the latter, whether the vote of each 
colony should be proportioned to its population 
and property. 

Having arrived at the hall, and inspected it, 
and agreed that it would serve the purpose, the 
delegates helped themselves to seats. Then Mr. 
Lynch of South Carolina arose, and nominated 
Mr. Peyton Randolph of Virginia for president. 
This nomination having been unanimously adopted, 
Mr. Lynch likewise proposed Mr. Charles Thom 
son for secretary, which was carried without oppo 
sition; but as Mr. Thomson was not a delegate, 
and of course was not then present, the doorkeeper 
was instructed to go out and find him, and say to 
him that his immediate attendance was desired by 
the Congress. 

Next came the production and inspection of cre 
dentials. The roll indicated that of the fifty -two 
delegates appointed, forty -four were already upon 
the ground, constituting an assemblage of repre 
sentative Americans, which, for dignity of character 
and for intellectual eminence, was undoubtedly the 


most imposing that the colonies had ever seen. 
In that room that clay were such men as John 
Sullivan, John and Samuel Adams, Stephen Hop 
kins, Roger Sherman, James Duane, John Jay, 
Philip and William Livingston, Joseph Galloway, 
Thomas Mifflin, Caesar Rodney, Thomas McKean, 
George Read, Samuel Chase, John and Edward 
Rutledge, Christopher Gadsden, Henry Middleton, 
Edmund Pendleton, George Washington, and 
Patrick Henry. 

Having thus got through with the mere routine 
of organization, which must have taken a consider 
able time, James Duane, of New York, moved the 
appointment of a committee "to prepare regula 
tions for this Congress." To this several gentle 
men objected; whereupon John Adams, thinking 
that Duane s purpose might have been misunder 
stood, "asked leave of the president to request of 
the gentleman from New York an explanation, 
and that he would point out some particular regu 
lations which he had in his mind." In reply to 
this request, Duane "mentioned particularly the 
method of voting, whether it should be by colonies, 
or by the poll, or by interests." 1 Thus Duane 
laid his finger on perhaps the most sensitive nerve 
in that assemblage; but as he sat down, the dis 
cussion of the subject which he had mentioned was 
interrupted by a rather curious incident. This 
was the return of the doorkeeper, having under his 
escort Mr. Charles Thomson. The latter walked 

1 Works of John Adams, ii. 365. 


up the aisle, and standing opposite to the president, 
said, with a bow, that he awaited his pleasure. 
The president replied : " Congress desire the favor 
of you, sir, to take their minutes." Without a 
word, only bowing his acquiescence, the secretary 
took his seat at his desk, and began those modest 
but invaluable services from which he did not 
cease until the Congress of the Confederation was 
merged into that of the Union. 

The discussion, into which this incident had 
fallen as a momentary episode, was then resumed. 
"After a short silence," says the man who was 
thus inducted into office, "Patrick Henry arose to 
speak. I did not then know him. He was dressed 
in a suit of parson s gray, and from his appearance 
I took him for a Presbyterian clergyman, used to 
haranguing the people. He observed that we were 
here met in a time and on an occasion of great 
difficulty and distress; that our public circum 
stances were like those of a man in deep embarrass 
ment and trouble, who had called his friends to 
gether to devise what was best to be done for his 
relief ; one would propose one thing, and another 
a different one, whilst perhaps a third would think 
of something better suited to his unhappy circum 
stances, which he would embrace, and think no 
more of the rejected schemes with which he would 
have nothing to do." 

1 Am. Quarterly Review, i. 30, whence it is quoted in Works of 
John Adams, iii. 29, 30, note. As regards the value of this testi 
mony of Charles Thomson, we should note that it is something 


Such is the rather meagre account, as given by 
one ear-witness, of Patrick Henry s first speech in 
the Congress of 1774. From another ear-witness, 
we have another account, likewise very meagre, 
but giving, probably, a somewhat more adequate 
idea of the drift and point of what he said : 

"Mr. Henry then arose, and said this was the first 
general congress which had ever happened ; that no 
former congress could be a precedent ; that we should 
have occasion for more general congresses, and therefore 
that a precedent ought to be established now; that it 
would be a great injustice if a little colony should have 
the same weight in the councils of America as a great 
one ; and therefore he was for a committee." l 

The notable thing about both these accounts is 
that they agree in showing Patrick Henry s first 
speech in Congress to have been not, as has been 
represented, an impassioned portrayal of "general 
grievances," but a plain and quiet handling of a 
mere "detail of business." In the discussion he 
was followed by John Sullivan, who merely ob 
served that "a little colony had its all at stake as 
well as a great one." The floor was then taken 
by John Adams, who seems to have made a search 
ing and vigorous argument, exhibiting the great 
difficulties attending any possible conclusion to 
which they might come respecting the method of 

alleged to have been said by him at the age of ninety, in a con 
versation with a friend, and by the latter reported to the author 
of the article above cited in the Am, Quart. Rev. 
1 Works of John Adams, ii. 365. 


voting. At the end of his speech, apparently, the 
House adjourned, to resume the consideration of 
the subject on the following day. 1 

Accordingly, on Tuesday morning the discussion 
was continued, and at far greater length than on 
the previous day ; the first speaker being Patrick 
Henry himself, who seems now to have gone into 
the subject far more broadly, and with much greater 
intensity of thought, than in his first speech. 

" Government, said he, is dissolved. Fleets and 
armies and the present state of things show that govern 
ment is dissolved. Where are your landmarks, your 
boundaries of colonies ? We are in a state of nature, 
sir. I did propose that a scale should be laid down ; 
that part of North America which was once Massachu 
setts Bay, and that part which was once Virginia, ought 
to be considered as having a weight. Will not people 
complain, "Ten thousand Virginians have not out 
weighed one thousand others ? " 

" I will submit, however ; I am determined to submit, 
if I am overruled. 

" * A worthy gentleman near me [John Adams] seemed 
to admit the necessity of obtaining a more adequate 

1 It seems to me that the second paragraph on page 366 of vol 
ume ii. of the Works of John Adams must be taken as his memo 
randum of his own speech ; and that what follows on that page, 
as well as on page 367, and the first half of page 368, is errone 
ously understood by the editor as belonging to the first day s 
debate. It must have been an outline of the second day s debate. 
This is proved partly by the fact that it mentions Lee as taking 
part in the debate ; but according to the journal, Lee did not 
appear in Congress until the second day. 4 Am. Arch. i. 898. 


" * I hope future ages will quote our proceedings with 
applause. It is one of the great duties of the demo- 
cratical part of the constitution to keep itself pure. It 
is known in my province that some other colonies are 
not so numerous or rich as they are. I am for giving 
all the satisfaction in my power. 

" * The distinctions between Virginians, Pennsylvani- 
ans. New Yorkers, and New Englanders are no more. 
I am not a Virginian, but an American. 

" Slaves are to be thrown out of the question ; and if 
the freemen can be represented according to their num 
bers, I am satisfied. 

" The subject was then debated at length by Lynch, 
Rutledge, Ward, Richard Henry Lee, Gadsden, Bland, 
and Pendleton, when Patrick Henry again rose : 

" * I agree that authentic accounts cannot be had, if 
by authenticity is meant attestations of officers of the 
crown. I go upon the supposition that government is at 
an end. All distinctions are thrown down. All Amer 
ica is thrown into one mass. We must aim at the minu 
tiae of rectitude. " 

Patrick Henry was then followed by John Jay, 
who seems to have closed the debate, and whose 
allusion to what his immediate predecessor had 
said gives us some hint of the variations in Kevo- 
lutionary opinion then prevailing among the mem 
bers, as well as of the advanced position always 
taken by Patrick Henry : 

" * Could I suppose that we came to frame an American 
constitution, instead of endeavoring to correct the faults 
in an old one, I can t yet think that all government is 
at an end. The measure of arbitrary power is not full ; 


and I think it must run over, before we undertake to 
frame a new constitution. To the virtue, spirit, and 
abilities of Virginia we owe much. I should always, 
therefore, from inclination as well as justice, be for giv 
ing Virginia its full weight. I am not clear that we 
ought not to be bound by a majority, though ever so 
small ; but I only mentioned it as a matter of danger 
worthy of consideration. " l 

Of this entire debate, the most significant issue 
is indicated by the following passage from the 
journal for Tuesday, the 6th of September : 

" Resolved, that in determining questions in this Con 
gress, each colony or province shall have one vote ; the 
Congress not being possessed of, or at present able to 
procure, proper materials for ascertaining the impor 
tance of each colony." 2 

So far as it is now possible to ascertain it, such 
was Patrick Henry s part in the first discussion 
held by the first Continental Congress, a dis 
cussion occupying parts of two days, and relating 
purely to methods of procedure by that body, and 
not to the matters of grievance between the colo 
nies and Great Britain. We have a right to infer 
something as to the quality of the first impression 
made upon his associates by Patrick Henry in 
consequence of his three speeches in this discussion, 
from the fact that when, at the close of it, an 
order was taken for the appointment of two grand 
committees, one "to state the rights of the colo- 

1 Works of John Adams, ii. 366-368. 

2 4 Am. Arch. i. 898, 899. 


nies," the other "to examine and report the several 
statutes which affect the trade and manufactures 
of the colonies," Patrick Henry was chosen to 
represent Virginia on the latter committee, 1 a 
position not likely to have been selected for a man 
who, however eloquent he may have seemed, had 
not also shown business-like and lawyer-like quali 

The Congress kept steadily at work from Mon 
day, the 5th of September, to Wednesday, the 
26th of October, just seven weeks and two days. 
Though not a legislative body, it resembled all 
legislative bodies then in existence, in the fact 
that it sat with closed doors, and that it gave to 
the public only such results as it chose to give. 
Upon the difficult and exciting subjects which 
came before it, there were, very likely, many 
splendid passages of debate ; and we cannot doubt 
that in all these discussions Patrick Henry took 
his usually conspicuous and powerful share. Yet 
no official record was kept of what was said by any 
member; and it is only from the hurried private 
memoranda of two of his colleagues that we are 
able to learn anything more respecting Patrick 
Henry s participation in the debates of those seven 

For example, just two weeks after the opening 

of this Congress, one of its most critical members, 

Silas Deane of Connecticut, in a letter to his wife, 

gave some capital sketches of his more prominent 

1 4 Am. Arch. I 899. - 


associates there, especially those from the South, 
as Randolph, Harrison, Washington, Pendle- 
ton, Richard Henry Lee, and Patrick Henry. 
The latter he describes as "a lawyer, and the 
completest speaker I ever heard. If his future 
speeches are equal to the small samples he has 
hitherto given us, they will be worth preserving ; 
but in a letter I can give you no idea of the music 
of his voice, or the high-wrought yet natural ele 
gance of his style and manner." l 

It was on the 28th of September that Joseph 
Galloway brought forward his celebrated plan for 
a permanent reconciliation between Great Britain 
and her colonies. This was simply a scheme for 
what we should now call home rule, on a basis of 
colonial confederation, with an American parlia 
ment to be elected every three years by the legis 
latures of the several colonies, and with a gover 
nor-general to be appointed by the crown. The 
plan came very near to adoption. 2 The member 
who introduced it was a man of great ability and 
great influence ; it was supported by James Duane 
and John Jay; it was pronounced by Edward Rut- 
ledge to be "almost a perfect plan;" and in the 
final trial it was lost only by a vote of six colonies 
to five. Could it have been adopted, the disrup 
tion of the British empire would certainly have 
been averted for that epoch, and, as an act of vio- 

1 Conn. Hist. Soc. Coll. ii. 181. 

2 The text of Galloway s plan is given in 4 Am. Arch. i. 905, 


lence and of unkindness, would perhaps have been 
averted forever; while the thirteen English colo 
nies would have remained English colonies, with 
out ceasing to be free. 

The plan, however, was distrusted and resisted, 
with stern and implacable hostility, by the more 
radical members of the Congress, particularly by 
those from Massachusetts and Virginia; and an 
outline of what Patrick Henry said in his assault 
upon it, delivered on the very day on which it was 
introduced, is thus given by John Adams : 

" The original constitution of the colonies was founded 
on the broadest and most generous base. The regula 
tion of our trade was compensation enough for all the 
protection we ever experienced from her. 

"We shall liberate our constituents from a corrupt 
House of Commons, but throw them into the arms of an 
American legislature, that may be bribed by that nation 
which avows, in the face of the world, that bribery is a 
part of her system of government. 

" Before we are obliged to pay taxes as they do, let 
us be as free as they ; let us have our trade open with 
all the world. 

"We are not to consent by the representatives of 

" I am inclined to think the present measures lead to 
war." * 

The only other trace to be discovered of Patrick 
Henry s activity in the debates of this Congress 
belongs to the day just before the one on which 

1 Works of John Adams, ii. 390. 


Galloway s plan was introduced. The subject 
then under discussion was the measure for non 
importation and non-exportation. On considera 
tions of forbearance, Henry tried to have the date 
for the application of this measure postponed from 
November to December, saying, characteristically, 
"We don t mean to hurt even our rascals, if we 
have any." l 

Probably the most notable work done by this 
Congress was its preparation of those masterly 
state papers in which it interpreted and affirmed 
the constitutional attitude of the colonies, and 
which, when laid upon the table of the House of 
Lords, drew forth the splendid encomium of Chat 
ham. 2 In many respects the most important, and 
certainly the most difficult, of these state papers, 
was the address to the king. The motion for such 
an address was made on the 1st of October. On 
the same day the preparation of it was entrusted 
to a very able committee, consisting of Richard 
Henry Lee, John Adams, Thomas Johnson, Pat 
rick Henry, and John Rutledge; and on the 21st 
of October the committee was strengthened by the 
accession of John Dickinson, who had entered the 
Congress but four days before. 3 Precisely what 
part Patrick Henry took in the preparation of this 
address is not now known; but there is no evidence 
whatever for the assertion 4 that the first draft, 

1 Works of John Adams, ii. 385. 

2 Hansard, Part. Hist, xviii. 155, 156 note, 157. 
8 4 Am. Arch. i. 906, 907, 927. 

* Wirt, 109. 


which, when submitted to Congress, proved to be 
unsatisfactory, was the work of Patrick Henry. 
That draft, as is now abundantly proved, was pre 
pared by the chairman of the committee, Richard 
Henry Lee, but after full instructions from Con 
gress and from the committee itself. 1 In its final 
form, the address was largely moulded by the ex 
pert and gentle hand of John Dickinson. 2 No one 
can doubt, however, that even though Patrick 
Henry may have contributed nothing to the liter 
ary execution of this fine address, he was not in 
active in its construction, 3 and that he was not 
likely to have suggested any abatement from its 
free and manly spirit. 

The only other committee on which he is known 
to have served during this Congress was one to 
which his name was added on the 19th of Septem 
ber, " the committee appointed to state the rights 
of the colonies," 4 an object, certainly, far better 
suited to the peculiarities of his talents and of his 
temper than that of the committee for the concilia 
tion of a king. 

Of course, the one gift in which Patrick Henry 
excelled all other men of his time and neighbor 
hood was the gift of eloquence ; and it is not to be 

1 Works of John Adams, x. 79 ; ii. 396, note ; Lee s Life of R. 
H. Lee, i. 116-118, 270-272. 

2 Political Writings, ii. 19-29. 

8 Thus John Adams, on llth October, writes: "Spent the 
evening with Mr. Henry at his lodgings consulting about a peti 
tion to the king." Works, ii. 396. 

* 4 Am. Arch. i. 904. 


doubted that in many other forms of effort, involv 
ing, for example, plain sense, practical experience, 
and knowledge of details, he was often equaled, 
and perhaps even surpassed, by men who had not 
a particle of his genius for oratory. This fact, 
the analogue of which is common in the history of 
all men of genius, seems to be the basis of an an 
ecdote which, possibly, is authentic, and which, at 
any rate, has been handed down by one who was 
always a devoted friend 1 of the great orator. It 
is said that, after Henry and Lee had made their 
first speeches, Samuel Chase of Maryland was so 
impressed by their superiority that he walked over 
to the seat of one of his colleagues and said : " We 
might as well go home ; we are not able to legislate 
with these men." But some days afterward, per 
haps in the midst of the work of the committee on 
the statutes affecting trade and commerce, the 
same member was able to relieve himself by the 
remark: "Well, after all, I find these are but 
men, and, in mere matters of business, but very 
common men." 2 

It seems hardly right to pass from these studies 
upon the first Continental Congress, and upon 
Patrick Henry s part in it, without some reference 
to Wirt s treatment of the subject in a book which 
has now been, for nearly three quarters of a cen 
tury, the chief source of public information con- 

1 Judge John Tyler, in Wirt, 109, note. 

2 For another form of this tradition, see Curtis s Life of Web 
ster, i. 588. 


cerning Patrick Henry. There is perhaps no other 
portion of this book which is less worthy of re 
spect. 1 It is not only unhistoric in nearly all the 
very few alleged facts of the narrative, but it does 
great injustice to Patrick Henry by representing 
him virtually as a mere declaimer, as an ill-in 
structed though most impressive rhapsodist in de 
bate, and as without any claim to the character of 
a serious statesman, or even of a man of affairs ; 
while, by the somewhat grandiose and melodra 
matic tone of some portion of the narrative, it is 
singularly out of harmony with the real tone of 
that famous assemblage, an assemblage of An 
glo-Saxon lawyers, politicians, and men of busi 
ness, who were probably about as practical and 
sober-minded a company as had been got together 
for any manly undertaking since that of Runny- 

Wirt begins by convening his Congress one day 
too soon, namely, on the 4th of September, which 
was Sunday; and he represents the members as 
"personally strangers" to one another, and as sit 
ting, after their preliminary organization, in a 
"long and deep silence," the members meanwhile 
looking around upon each other with a sort of 
helpless anxiety, " every individual " being reluc 
tant "to open a business so fearfully momentous." 

" in the midst of this deep and death-like silence, and 
just when it was beginning to become painfully embar- 
i Pages 105-113. 


rassing, Mr. Henry arose slowly, as if borne down by 
the weight of the subject. After faltering, according 
to his habit, through a most impressive exordium, in 
which he merely echoed back the consciousness of every 
other heart in deploring his inability to do justice to 
the occasion, he launched gradually into a recital of the 
colonial wrongs. Rising, as he advanced, with the gran 
deur of his subject, and glowing at length with all the 
majesty and expectation of the occasion, his speech 
seemed more than that of mortal man. Even those who 
had heard him in all his glory in the House of Burgesses 
of Virginia were astonished at the manner in which his 
talents seemed to swell and expand themselves to fill the 
vaster theatre in which he was now placed. There was 
no rant, no rhapsody, no labor of the understanding, no 
straining of the voice, no confusion of the utterance. 
His countenance was erect, his eye steady, his action 
noble, his enunciation clear and firm, his mind poised on 
its centre, his views of his subject comprehensive and 
great, and his imagination coruscating with a magnifi 
cence and a variety which struck even that assembly 
with amazement and awe. He sat down amidst mur 
murs of astonishment and applause ; and, as he had 
been before proclaimed the greatest orator of Virginia, 
he was now on every hand admitted to be the first ora 
tor of America." 1 

This great speech from Patrick Henry, which 
certainly was not made on that occasion, and prob 
ably was never made at all, Wirt causes to be fol 
lowed by a great speech from Richard Henry Lee, 
although the journal could have informed him that 
1 Wirt, 105, 106. 


Lee was not even in the House on that day. 
Moreover, he makes Patrick Henry to be the 
author of the unfortunate first draft of the address 
to the king, a document which was written by 
another man; and on this fiction he founds two 
or three pages of lamentation and of homily with 
reference to Patrick Henry s inability to express 
himself in writing, in consequence of "his early 
neglect of literature. " Finally, he thinks it due " to 
historic truth to record that the superior powers " 
of Patrick Henry "were manifested only in de 
bate;" and that, although he and Richard Henry 
Lee "took the undisputed lead in the Assembly," 
"during the first days of the session, while general 
grievances were the topic," yet they were both 
"completely thrown into the shade" "when called 
down from the heights of declamation to that 
severer test of intellectual excellence, the details 
of business," the writer here seeming to forget 
that "general grievances " were not the topic 
"during the first days of the session," and that 
the very speeches by which these two men are said 
to have made their mark there, were speeches on 
mere rules of the House relating to methods of 
procedure. 1 

Since the death of Wirt, and the publication of 
the biography of him by Kennedy, it has been 
possible for us to ascertain just how the genial 
author of "The Life and Character of Patrick 

1 The exact rules under debate during those first two days are 
given in 4 Am. Arch. i. 898, 899. 


Henry " came to be so gravely misled in this part 
of his book. "The whole passage relative to the 
first Congress" appears to have been composed 
from data furnished by Jefferson, who, however, 
was not a member of that Congress; and in the 
original manuscript the very words of Jefferson 
were surrounded with quotation marks, and were 
attributed to him by name. When, however, that 
great man, who loved not to send out calumnies 
into the world with his own name attached to 
them, came to inspect this portion of Wirt s manu 
script, he was moved by his usual prudence to 
write such a letter as drew from Wirt the follow 
ing consolatory assurance : 

" Your repose shall never be endangered by any act 
of mine, if I can help it. Immediately on the receipt of 
your last letter, and before the manuscript had met any 
other eye, I wrote over again the whole passage relative 
to the first Congress, omitting the marks of quotation, 
and removing your name altogether from the communi 
cation." ] 

The final adjournment of the first Continental 
Congress, it will be remembered, did not occur 
until its members had spent together more than 
seven weeks of the closest intellectual intimacy. 
Surely, no mere declaimer however enchanting, no 
sublime babbler on the rights of man, no political 
charlatan strutting about for the display of his 
preternatural gift of articulate wind, could have 
grappled in keen debate, for all those weeks, on 

1 Kennedy, Mem. of Wirt, i. 364. 


the greatest of earthly subjects, with fifty of the 
ablest men in America, without exposing to their 
view all his own intellectual poverty, and without 
losing the very last shred of their intellectual re 
spect for him. Whatever may have been the im 
pression formed of Patrick Henry as a mere orator 
by his associates in that Congress, nothing can be 
plainer than that those men carried with them to 
their homes that report of him as a man of extra 
ordinary intelligence, integrity, and power, which 
was the basis of his subsequent fame for many 
years among the American people. Long after 
ward, John Adams, who formed his estimate of 
Patrick Henry chiefly from what he saw of him in 
that Congress, and who was never much addicted 
to bestowing eulogiums on any man but John 
Adams, wrote to Jefferson that "in the Congress 
of 1774 there was not one member, except Patrick 
Henry, who appeared . . . sensible of the preci 
pice, or rather the pinnacle, on which we stood, 
and had candor and courage enough to acknow 
ledge it." 1 To Wirt likewise, a few years later, 
the same hard critic of men testified that Patrick 
Henry always impressed him as a person "of deep 
reflection, keen sagacity, clear foresight, daring 
enterprise, inflexible intrepidity, and untainted 
integrity, with an ardent zeal for the liberties, the 
honor, and felicity of his country and his species." 2 
Of the parting interview between these two 
men, at the close of that first period of thorough 

1 Works of John Adams, x. 78. 2 Ibid. x. 277. 


personal acquaintance, there remains from the 
hand of one of them a graphic account that reveals 
to us something of the conscious kinship which 
seems ever afterward to have bound together their 
robust and impetuous natures. 

" When Congress," says John Adams, " had finished 
their business, as they thought, in the autumn of 1774, 
I had with Mr. Henry, before we took leave of each 
other, some familiar conversation, in which I expressed 
a full conviction that our resolves, declarations of rights, 
enumeration of wrongs, petitions, remonstrances, and 
addresses, associations, and non-importation agreements, 
however they might be expected by the people in Amer 
ica, and however necessary to cement the union of the 
colonies, would be but waste paper in England. Mr. 
Henry said they might make some impression among the 
people of England, but agreed with me that they would 
be totally lost upon the government. I had but just 
received a short and hasty letter, written to me by 
Major Hawley, of Northampton, containing a few 
broken hints, as he called them, of what he thought was 
proper to be done, and concluding J with these words : 
After all, we must fight. This letter I read to Mr. 
Henry, who listened with great attention ; and as soon 
as I had pronounced the words, After all, we must 
fight, he raised his head, and with an energy and vehe 
mence that I can never forget, broke out with : By 
God, I am of that man s mind ! " 2 

1 As a matter of fact, the letter from Hawley began with these 
words, instead of " concluding " with them. 

2 Works of John Adams, x. 277, 278. 


This anecdote, it may be mentioned, contains 
the only instance on record, for any period of Pat 
rick Henry s life, implying his use of what at first 
may seem a profane oath. John Adams, upon 
whose very fallible memory in old age the story 
rests, declares that he did not at the time regard 
Patrick Henry s words as an oath, but rather as 
a solemn asseveration, affirmed religiously, upon 
a very great occasion. At any rate, that assevera 
tion proved to be a prophecy; for from it there 
then leaped a flame that lighted up for an instant 
the next inevitable stage in the evolution of events, 
the tragic and bloody outcome of all these wary 
lucubrations and devices of the assembled political 
wizards of America. 

It is interesting to note that, at the very time 
when the Congress at Philadelphia was busy with 
its stern work, the people of Virginia were grap 
pling with the peril of an Indian war assailing 
them from beyond their western mountains. There 
has recently been brought to light a letter written 
at Hanover, on the 15th of October, 1774, by the 
aged mother of Patrick Henry, to a friend living 
far out towards the exposed district ; and this letter 
is a touching memorial both of the general anxiety 
over the two concurrent events, and of the motherly 
pride and piety of the writer : 

" My son Patrick has been gone to Philadelphia near 
seven weeks. The affairs of Congress are kept with 
great secrecy, nobody being allowed to be present. I 


assure you we have our lowland troubles and fears with 
respect to Great Britain. Perhaps our good God may 
bring good to us out of these many evils which threaten 
us, not only from the mountains but from the seas." 1 

1 Peyton, History of Augusta County, 345, where will be found 
the entire letter. 


WE now approach that brilliant passage in the 
life of Patrick Henry when, in the presence of 
the second revolutionary convention of Virginia, 
he proclaimed the futility of all further efforts 
for peace, and the instant necessity of preparing for 

The speech which he is said to have made on 
that occasion has been committed to memory and 
declaimed by several generations of American 
schoolboys, and is now perhaps familiarly known to 
a larger number of the American people than any 
other considerable bit of secular prose in our lan 
guage. The old church at Richmond, in which he 
made this marvelous speech, is in our time visited 
every year, as a patriotic shrine, by thousands of 
pilgrims, who seek curiously the very spot upon 
the floor where the orator is believed to have stood 
when he uttered those words of flame. It is chiefly 
the tradition of that one speech which to-day keeps 
alive, in millions of American homes, the name of 
Patrick Henry, and which lifts him, in the popu 
lar faith, almost to the rank of some mythical hero 
of romance. 


In reality, that speech, and the resolutions in 
support of which that speech was made, constituted 
Patrick Henry s individual declaration of war 
against Great Britain. But the question is: To 
what extent, if any, was he therein original, or 
even in advance of his fellow-countrymen, and 
particularly of his associates in the Virginia con 
vention ? 

It is essential to a just understanding of the 
history of that crisis in revolutionary thought, and 
it is of very high importance, likewise, to the his 
toric position of Patrick Henry, that no mistake 
be committed here ; especially that he be not made 
the victim of a disastrous reaction from any over 
statement 1 respecting the precise nature and extent 
of the service then rendered by him to the cause 
of the Revolution. 

We need, therefore, to glance for a moment at 
the period between October, 1774, and March, 
1775, with the purpose of tracing therein the more 
important tokens of the growth of the popular 
conviction that a war with Great Britain had be 
come inevitable, and was to be immediately pre 
pared for by the several colonies, two proposi 
tions which form the substance of all that Patrick 
Henry said on the great occasion now before us. 

As early as the 21st of October, 1774, the first 
Continental Congress, after having suggested all 

1 For an example of such overstatement, see Wirt, 114-123. 
See, also, the damaging comments thereon by Rives, Life of Madi 
son, i. 63, 64. 


possible methods for averting war, made this sol 
emn declaration to the people of the colonies: 
" We think ourselves bound in duty to observe to 
you that the schemes agitated against these colo 
nies have been so conducted as to render it prudent 
that you should extend your views to mournful 
events, and be in all respects prepared for every 
emergency." 1 Just six days later, John Dickin 
son, a most conservative and peace-loving member 
of that Congress, wrote to an American friend in 
England: "I wish for peace ardently; but must 
say, delightful as it is, it will come more grateful 
by being unexpected. The first act of violence on 
the part of administration in America, or the at 
tempt to reinforce General Gage this winter or 
next year, will put the whole continent in arms, 
from Nova Scotia to Georgia." 2 On the following 
day, the same prudent statesman wrote to another 
American friend, also in England: "The most 
peaceful provinces are now animated; and a civil 
war is unavoidable, unless there be a quick change 
of British measures." 3 On the 29th of October, 
the eccentric Charles Lee, who was keenly watch 
ing the symptoms of colonial discontent and resist 
ance, wrote from Philadelphia to an English noble 
man: "Virginia, Rhode Island, and Carolina are 
forming corps. Massachusetts Bay has long had 
a sufficient number instructed to become instruc 
tive of the rest. Even this Quakering province is 

1 4 Am. Arch. I 928. 2 4 Ibid. i. 947. 

8 Ibid. 


following the example. ... In short, unless the 
banditti at Westminster speedily undo everything 
they have done, their royal paymaster will hear of 
reviews and manoeuvres not quite so entertaining 
as those he is presented with in Hyde Park and 
Wimbledon Common." 1 On the 1st of Novem 
ber, a gentleman in Maryland wrote to a kinsman 
in Glasgow : " The province of Virginia is raising 
one company in every county. . . . This province 
has taken the hint, and has begun to raise men in 
every county also; and to the northward they have 
large bodies, capable of acquitting themselves with 
honor in the field." 2 At about the same time, 
the General Assembly of Connecticut ordered that 
every town should at once supply itself with "dou 
ble the quantity of powder, balls, and flints " that 
had been hitherto required by law. 3 On the 5th 
of November, the officers of the Virginia troops 
accompanying Lord Dunmore on his campaign 
against the Indians held a meeting at Fort Gower, 
on the Ohio River, and passed this resolution : 
"That we will exert every power within us for the 
defence of American liberty, and for the support 
of her just rights and privileges, not in any pre 
cipitate, riotous, or tumultuous manner, but when 
regularly called forth by the unanimous voice of 
our countrymen." 4 Not far from the same time, 
the people of Rhode Island carried off to Provi 
dence from the batteries at Newport forty-four 

1 4 Am. Arch. i. 949, 950. 2 Ibid. i. 953. 

3 Ibid. 858. 4 Ibid. i. 963. 


pieces of cannon; and the governor frankly told 
the commander of a British naval force near at 
hand that they had done this in order to prevent 
these cannon from falling into his hands, and with 
the purpose of using them against "any power that 
might offer to molest the colony." 1 Early in 
December, the Provincial Convention of Maryland 
recommended that all persons between sixteen and 
fifty years of age should form themselves into mili 
tary companies, and "be in readiness to act on any 
emergency," with a sort of grim humor prefa 
cing their recommendation by this exquisite morsel 
of argumentative irony : 

" Resolved unanimously, that a well-regulated militia, 
composed of the gentlemen freeholders and other free 
men, is the natural strength and only stable security of 
a free government ; and that such militia will relieve 
our mother country from any expense in our protection 
and defence, will obviate the pretence of a necessity for 
taxing us on that account, and render it unnecessary to 
keep any standing army ever dangerous to liberty 
in this province." 2 

The shrewdness of this courteous political thrust 
on the part of the convention of Maryland seems 
to have been so heartily relished by others that it 
was thenceforward used again and again by similar 
conventions elsewhere; and in fact, for the next 
few months, these sentences became almost the 
stereotyped formula by which revolutionary assem 
blages justified the arming and drilling of the mi- 
i Hildreth, iii. 52. 2 4 Am. Arch. i. 1032. 


litia, as, for example, that of Newcastle County, 
Delaware, 1 on the 21st of December; that of Fair 
fax County, Virginia, 2 on the 17th of January, 
1775; and that of Augusta County, Virginia, 3 on 
the 22d of February. 

In the mean time Lord Dunmore was not blind 
to all these military preparations in Virginia; 
and so early as the 24th of December, 1774, he 
had written to the Earl of Dartmouth: "Every 
county, besides, is now arming a company of men, 
whom they call an independent company, for the 
avowed purpose of protecting their committees, 
and to be employed against government, if occa 
sion require." 4 Moreover, this alarming fact of 
military preparation, which Lord Dunmore had 
thus reported concerning Virginia, could have 
been reported with equal truth concerning nearly 
every other colony. In the early part of January, 
1775, the Assembly of Connecticut gave order that 
the entire militia of that colony should be mustered 
every week. 5 In the latter part of January, the 
provincial convention of Pennsylvania, though re 
presenting a colony of Quakers, boldly proclaimed 
that, if the administration "should determine by 
force to effect a submission to the late arbitrary 
acts of the British Parliament," it would "resist 
such force, and at every hazard . . . defend the 
rights and liberties of America." 6 On the 15th 

1 4 Am. Arch. i. 1022. 2 Ibid. i. 1145. 

8 Ibid. i. 1254. 4 Ibid. i. 1062. 

6 Ibid. i. 1139. 6 Ibid. i. 1171. 


of February, the Provincial Congress of Massa 
chusetts urged the people to "spare neither time, 
pains, nor expense, at so critical a juncture, in 
perfecting themselves forthwith in military disci 
pline." 1 

When, therefore, so late as Monday, the 20th 
of March, 1775, the second revolutionary conven 
tion of Virginia assembled at Richmond, its mem 
bers were well aware that one of the chief measures 
to come before them for consideration must be 
that of recognizing the local military preparations 
among their own constituents, and of placing them 
all under some common organization and control. 
Accordingly, on Thursday, the 23d of March, after 
three days had been given to necessary preliminary 
subjects, the inevitable subject of military prepa 
rations was reached. Then it was that Patrick 
Henry took the floor and moved the adoption of 
the following resolutions, supporting his motion, 
undoubtedly, with a speech : - 

"Resolved, That a well-regulated militia, composed 
of gentlemen and yeomen, is the natural strength and 
only security of a free government ; that such a militia 
in this colony would forever render it unnecessary for 
the mother country to keep among us for the purpose 
of our defence any standing army of mercenary forces, 
always subversive of the quiet and dangerous to the lib 
erties of the people, and would obviate the pretext of 
taxing us for their support. 

" Resolved, That the establishment of such a militia 

l 4 Am. Arch. i. 1340. 


is at this time peculiarly necessary, by the state of our 
laws for the protection and defence of the country, some 
of which have already expired, and others will shortly 
do so ; and that the known remissness of government in 
calling us together in a legislative capacity, renders it 
too insecure, in this time of danger and distress, to rely 
that opportunity will be given of renewing them in gen 
eral assembly, or making any provision to secure our 
inestimable rights and liberties from those further viola 
tions with which they are threatened. 

"Resolved, therefore, That this colony be immediately 
put into a posture of defence ; and that ... be a com 
mittee to prepare a plan for the embodying, arming, and 
disciplining such a number of men as may be sufficient 
for that purpose." * 

No one who reads these resolutions in the light 
of the facts just given, can find in them anything 
by which to account for the opposition which they 
are known to have met with in that assemblage. 
For that assemblage, it must be remembered, was 
not the Virginia legislature : it was a mere conven 
tion, and a revolutionary convention at that, gath 
ered in spite of the objections of Lord Dunmore, 
representing simply the deliberate purpose of those 
Virginians who meant not finally to submit to 
unjust laws; some of its members, likewise, being 
under express instructions from their constituents 
to take measures for the immediate and adequate 
military organization of the colony. Not a man, 
probably, was sent to that convention, not a man 
1 4 Am. Arch. ii. 167, 168. 


surely would have gone to it, who was not in sub 
stantial sympathy with the prevailing revolutionary 

Of course, even they who were in sympathy with 
that spirit might have objected to Patrick Henry s 
resolutions, had those resolutions been marked by 
any startling novelty in doctrine, or by anything 
extreme or violent in expression. But, plainly, 
they were neither extreme nor violent; they were 
not even novel. They contained nothing essential 
which had not been approved, in almost the same 
words, more than three months before, by similar 
conventions in Maryland and in Delaware ; which 
had not been approved, in almost the same words, 
many weeks before, by county conventions in Vir 
ginia, in one instance, by a county convention 
presided over by Washington himself; which had 
not been approved, in other language, either weeks 
or months before, by Massachusetts, Rhode Island, 
Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and other colonies; 
which was not sanctioned by the plainest prudence 
on the part of all persons who intended to make 
any further stand whatsoever against the encroach 
ments of Parliament. It is safe to say that no 
man who had within him enough of the revolution 
ary spirit to have prompted his attendance at a 
revolutionary convention could have objected to 
any essential item in Patrick Henry s resolutions. 

Why, then, were they objected to? Why was 
their immediate passage resisted? The official 
journal of the convention throws no light upon the 


question: it records merely the adoption of the 
resolutions, and is entirely silent respecting any 
discussion that they may have provoked. Thirty 
years afterward, however, St. George Tucker, 
who, though not a member of this convention, had 
yet as a visitor watched its proceedings that day, 
gave from memory some account of them; and to 
him we are indebted for the names of the principal 
men who stood out against Patrick Henry s mo 
tion. "This produced," he says, "an animated 
debate, in which Colonel Kichard Bland, Mr. 
Nicholas, the treasurer, and I think Colonel Har 
rison, of Berkeley, and Mr. Pendleton, were op 
posed to the resolution, as conceiving it to be 
premature;" 1 all these men being prudent politi 
cians, indeed, but all fully committed to the cause 
of the Ee volution. 

At first, this testimony may seem to leave us as 
much in the dark as before ; and yet all who are 
familiar with the politics of Virginia at that period 
will see in this cluster of names some clew to the 
secret of their opposition. It was an opposition to 
Patrick Henry himself, and as far as possible to 
any measure of which he should be the leading 
champion. Yet even this is not enough. What 
ever may have been their private motives in resist 
ing a measure advocated by Patrick Henry, they 
must still have had some reason which they would 
be willing to assign. St. George Tucker tells us 
that they conceived his resolutions to be "prema- 
1 MS. 


ture." But in themselves his resolutions, so far 
from being premature, were rather tardy; they 
lagged weeks and even months behind many of the 
best counties in Virginia itself, as well as behind 
those other colonies to which in political feeling 
Virginia was always most nearly akin. 

The only possible explanation of the case seems 
to be found, not in the resolutions themselves, but 
in the special interpretation put upon them by 
Patrick Henry in the speech which, according to 
parliamentary usage, he seems to have made in 
moving their adoption. What was that interpre 
tation? In the true answer to that question, no 
doubt, lies the secret of the resistance which his 
motion encountered. For, down to that day, no 
public body in America, and no public man, had 
openly spoken of a war with Great Britain in any 
more decisive way than as a thing highly probable, 
indeed, but still not inevitable. At last Patrick 
Henry spoke of it, and he wanted to induce the 
convention of Virginia to speak of it, as a thing 
inevitable. Others had said, "The war must come, 
and will come, unless certain things are done." 
Patrick Henry, brushing away every prefix or suffix 
of uncertainty, every half -despairing "if," every 
fragile and pathetic "unless," exclaimed, in the 
hearing of all men: "Why talk of things being 
now done which can avert the war? Such things 
will not be done. The war is coming : it has come 
already." Accordingly, other conventions in the 
colonies, in adopting similar resolutions, had merely 


announced the probability of war. Patrick Henry 
would have this convention, by adopting his reso 
lutions, virtually declare war itself. 

In this alone, it is apparent, consisted the real 
priority and offensiveness of Patrick Henry s posi 
tion as a revolutionary statesman on the 23d of 
March, 1775. In this alone were his resolutions 
"premature." The very men who opposed them 
because they were to be understood as closing the 
door against the possibility of peace, would have 
favored them had they only left that door open, or 
even ajar. But Patrick Henry demanded of the 
people of Virginia that they should treat all fur 
ther talk of peace as mere prattle ; that they should 
seize the actual situation by a bold grasp of it in 
front; that, looking upon the war as a fact, they 
should instantly proceed to get ready for it. And 
therein, once more, in revolutionary ideas, was 
Patrick Henry one full step in advance of his con 
temporaries. Therein, once more, did he justify 
the reluctant praise of Jefferson, who was a mem 
ber of that convention, and who, nearly fifty years 
afterward, said concerning Patrick Henry to a 
great statesman from Massachusetts: "After all, 
it must be allowed that he was our leader in the 
measures of the Revolution in Virginia, and in that 
respect more is due to him than to any other per 
son. . . . He left all of us far behind." 1 

Such, at any rate, we have a right to suppose, 
was the substantial issue presented by the resolu- 

i Curtis, Life of Webster, i. 585. 


tions of Patrick Henry, and by Lis introductory 
speech in support of them; and upon this issue 
the little group of politicians able and patriotic 
men, who always opposed his leadership then 
arrayed themselves against him, making the most, 
doubtless, of everything favoring the possibility 
and the desirableness of a peaceful adjustment of 
the great dispute. But their opposition to him 
only produced the usual result, of arousing him 
to an effort which simply overpowered and scattered 
all further resistance. It was in review of their 
whole quivering platoon of hopes and fears, of 
doubts, cautions, and delays, that he then made 
the speech which seems to have wrought astonish 
ing effects upon those who heard it, and which, 
though preserved in a most inadequate report, now 
fills so great a space in the traditions of revolution 
ary eloquence : 

" * No man, Mr. President, thinks more highly than I 
do of the patriotism, as well as the abilities, of the very 
honorable gentlemen who have just addressed the House. 
But different men often see the same subject in different 
lights ; and, therefore, I hope it will not be thought dis 
respectful to those gentlemen if, entertaining, as I do, 
opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, I should 
speak forth my sentiments freely, and without reserve. 
This is no time for ceremony. The question before the 
house is one of awful moment to this country. For my 
own part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of 
freedom or slavery. And in proportion to the magni 
tude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the de- 


bate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive 
at truth, and fulfil the great responsibility which we 
hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my 
opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offence, 
I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards 
my country, and of an act of disloyalty towards the maj 
esty of Heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings. 

" l Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge in the 
illusions of Hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against 
a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till 
she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise 
men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for lib 
erty ? Are we disposed to be of the number of those 
who, having eyes, see not, and having ears, hear not, 
the things which so nearly concern their temporal salva 
tion ? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may 
cost, I am willing to know the whole truth ; to know 
the worst, and to provide for it. 

" I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, 
and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way 
of judging of the future but by the past. Arid, judging 
by the past, I wish to know what there has been in the 
conduct of the British ministry, for the last ten years, 
to justify those hopes with which gentlemen have been 
pleased to solace themselves and the House. Is it that 
insidious smile with which our petition has been lately 
received ? Trust it not, sir ; it will prove a snare to 
your feet. Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a 
kiss. Ask yourselves how this gracious reception of 
our petition comports with those warlike preparations 
which cover our waters and darken our land. Are fleets 
and armies necessary to a work of love and reconcilia 
tion? Have we shown ourselves so unwilling to be 


reconciled, that force must be called in to win back our 
love ? Let us not deceive ourselves, sir. These are the 
implements of war and subjugation, the last argu 
ments to which kings resort. 

" < I ask gentlemen, sir, what means this martial array, 
if its purpose be not to force us to submission ? Can 
gentlemen assign any other possible motive for it ? Has 
Great Britain any enemy in this quarter of the world, 
to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies ? 
No, sir, she has none. They are meant for us : they 
can be meant for no other. They are sent over to bind 
and rivet upon us those chains which the British minis 
try have been so long forging. 

" t And what have we to oppose to them ? Shall we 
try argument ? Sir, we have been trying that for the 
last ten years. Have we anything new to offer upon 
the subject ? Nothing. We have held the subject up 
in every light of which it is capable ; but it has been all 
in vain. Shall we resort to entreaty, and humble sup 
plication ? What terms shall we find which have not 
been already exhausted ? 

" Let us not, I beseech you, sir, deceive ourselves 
longer. Sir, 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 sup 
plicated ; we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, 
and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyranni 
cal hands of the ministry and Parliament. Our petitions 
have been slighted ; our remonstrances have produced 
additional violence and insult ; our supplications have 
been disregarded ; and we have been spurned with con 
tempt from the foot of the throne. 

" In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond 


hope of peace and reconciliation. There is no longer 
any room for hope. If we wish to be free ; if we mean 
to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for 
which we have been so long contending ; if we mean not 
basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have 
been so long engaged, and which we have pledged our 
selves never to abandon until the glorious object of our 
contest shall be obtained, we must fight ! I repeat 
it, sir, we must fight ! An appeal to arms, and to 
the God of hosts, is all that is left us. " 

Up to this point in his address, the orator seems 
to have spoken with great deliberation and self- 
restraint. St. George Tucker, who was present, 
and who has left a written statement of his recol 
lections both of the speech and of the scene, says : 

" It was on that occasion that I first felt a full im 
pression of Mr. Henry s powers. In vain should I 
attempt to give any idea of his speech. He was calm 
and collected ; touched upon the origin and progress of 
the dispute between Great Britain and the colonies, the 
various conciliatory measures adopted by the latter, and 
the uniformly increasing tone of violence and arrogance 
on the part of the former." 

Then follows, in Tucker s narrative, the passage 
included in the last two paragraphs of the speech 
as given above, after which he adds : 

"Imagine to yourself this speech delivered with all 
the calm dignity of Cato of Utica ; imagine to yourself 
the Roman senate assembled in the capitol when it was 
entered by the profane Gauls, who at first were awed 
by their presence as if they had entered an assembly of 


the gods ; imagine that you heard that Cato addressing 
such a senate ; imagine that you saw the handwriting on 
the wall of Belshazzar s palace ; imagine you heard a 
voice as from heaven uttering the words, We must 
fight ! as the doom of fate, and you may have some 
idea of the speaker, the assembly to whom he addressed 
himself, and the auditory of which I was one." * 

But, by a comparison of this testimony of St. 
George Tucker with that of others who heard the 
speech, it is made evident that, as the orator then 
advanced toward the conclusion and real climax of 
his argument, he no longer maintained "the calm 
dignity of Cato of Utica," but that his manner 
gradually deepened into an intensity of passion 
and a dramatic power which were overwhelming. 
He thus continued : 

" They tell us, sir, that we are weak, unable to cope 
with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we 
be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next 
year ? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and 
when a British guard shall be stationed in every house ? 
Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction ? 
Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by 
lying supinely on our backs, and hugging the delusive 
phantom of Hope, until our enemies shall have bound 
us hand and foot ? 

" Sir, we are not weak, if we make a proper use of 
those means which the God of nature hath placed in our 
power. Three millions of people armed in the holy 
cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we 

i MS. 


possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy 
can send against us. 

" Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. 
There is a just God who presides over the destinies of 
nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles 
for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone : it is 
to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we 
have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, 
it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is 
no retreat but in submission and slavery. Our chains 
are forged. Their clanking may be heard on the plains 
of Boston. The war is inevitable. And let it come ! I 
repeat it, sir, let it come ! 

" It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentle 
men may cry peace, peace, but there is no peace. The 
war is actually begun. The next gale that sweeps from 
the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding 
arms. Our brethren are already in the field. Why 
stand we here idle ? What is it that gentlemen wish ? 
what would they have? 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 ! 

Of this tremendous speech there are in existence 
two traditional descriptions, neither of which is 
inconsistent with the testimony given by St. George 
Tucker. He, as a lawyer and a judge, seems to 
have retained the impression of that portion of the 
speech which was the more argumentative and un- 
impassioned: the two other reporters seem to have 
remembered especially its later and more emotional 


passages. Our first traditional description was 
obtained by Henry Stephens Randall from a 
clergyman, who had it from an aged friend, also a 
clergyman, who heard the speech itself: 

" Henry rose with an unearthly fire burning in his 
eye. He commenced somewhat calmly, but the smo 
thered excitement began more and more to play upon his 
features and thrill in the tones of his voice. The ten 
dons of his neck stood out white and rigid like whip 
cords. His voice rose louder and louder, until the walls 
of the building, and all within them, seemed to shake 
and rock in its tremendous vibrations. Finally, his pale 
face and glaring eye became terrible to look upon. Men 
leaned forward in their seats, with their heads strained 
forward, their faces pale, and their eyes glaring like the 
speaker s. His last exclamation, * Give me liberty, or 
give me death ! was like the shout of the leader which 
turns back the rout of battle. The old man from whom 
this tradition was derived added that, * when the orator 
sat down, he himself felt sick with excitement. Every 
eye yet gazed entranced on Henry. It seemed as if a 
word from him would have led to any wild explosion of 
violence. Men looked beside themselves. " 1 

The second traditional description of the speech 
is here given from a manuscript 2 of Edward Fon 
taine, who obtained it in 1834 from John Roane, 
who himself heard the speech. Roane told Fon 
taine that the orator s "voice, countenance, and 
gestures gave an irresistible force to his words, 

1 Randall, Life of Jefferson, i. 101, 102. 

2 Now in the library of Cornell University. 


which no description could make intelligible to 
one who had never seen him, nor heard him 
speak;" but, in order to convey some notion of 
the orator s manner, Roane described the delivery 
of the closing sentences of the speech : 

" You remember, sir, the conclusion of the speech, so 
often declaimed in various ways by school-boys, 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 ! He gave each of 
these words a meaning which is not conveyed by the 
reading or delivery of them in the ordinary way. When 
he said, Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be pur 
chased at the price of chains and slavery ? he stood in 
the attitude of a condemned galley slave, loaded with 
fetters, awaiting his doom. His form was bowed ; his 
wrists were crossed ; his manacles were almost visible as 
he stood like an embodiment of helplessness and agony. 
After a solemn pause, he raised his eyes and chained 
hands towards heaven, and prayed, in words and tones 
which thrilled every heart, Forbid it, Almighty God ! 
He then turned towards the timid loyalists of the House, 
who were quaking with terror at the idea of the conse 
quences of participating in proceedings which would be 
visited with the penalties of treason by the British crown ; 
and he slowly bent his form yet nearer to the earth, and 
said, I know not what course others may take, and he 
accompanied the words with his hands still crossed, 
while he seemed to be weighed down with additional 
chains. The man appeared transformed into an op 
pressed, heart-broken, and hopeless felon. After re- 


maining in this posture of humiliation long enough to 
impress the imagination with the condition of the colony 
under the iron heel of military despotism, he arose 
proudly, and exclaimed, l but as for me, and the 
words hissed through his clenched teeth, while his body 
was thrown back, and every muscle and tendon was 
strained against the fetters which bound him, and, with 
his countenance distorted by agony and rage, he looked 
for a moment like Laocoon in a death struggle with 
coiling serpents ; then the loud, clear, triumphant notes, 

* Give me liberty, electrified the assembly. It was not 
a prayer, but a stern demand, which would submit to no 
refusal or delay. The sound of his voice, as he spoke 
these memorable words, was like that of a Spartan paean 
on the field of Plataea ; and, as each syllable of the word 

* liberty echoed through the building, his fetters were 
shivered ; his arms were hurled apart ; and the links of 
his chains were scattered to the winds. When he spoke 
the word liberty with an emphasis never given it be 
fore, his hands were open, and his arms elevated and ex 
tended ; his countenance was radiant ; he stood erect and 
defiant ; while the sound of his voice and the sublimity of 
his attitude made him appear a magnificent incarnation 
of Freedom, and expressed all that can be acquired or 
enjoyed by nations and individuals invincible and free. 
After a momentary pause, only long enough to permit 
the echo of the word * liberty to cease, he let his left 
hand fall powerless to his side, and clenched his right 
hand firmly, as if holding a dagger with the point aimed 
at his breast. He stood like a Roman senator defying 
Caesar, while the unconquerable spirit of Cato of Utica 
flashed from every feature; and he closed the grand 
appeal with the solemn words, or give me death ! which 


sounded with the awful cadence of a hero s dirge, fear 
less of ^death, and victorious in death ; and he suited the 
action to the word by a blow upon the left breast with 
the right hand, which seemed to drive the dagger to the 
patriot s heart." 1 

Before passing from this celebrated speech, it 
is proper to say something respecting the authen 
ticity of the version of it which has come down to 
us, and which is now so universally known in 
America. The speech is given in these pages sub 
stantially as it was given by Wirt in his "Life of 
Henry." Wirt himself does not mention whence 
he obtained his version ; and all efforts to discover 
that version as a whole, in any writing prior to 
Wirt s book, have thus far been unsuccessful. 
These facts have led even so genial a critic as 
Grigsby to incline to the opinion that "much of 
the speech published by Wirt is apocryphal." 2 
It would, indeed, be an odd thing, and a source 
of no little disturbance to many minds, if such 
should turn out to be the case, and if we should 
have to conclude that an apocryphal speech writ 
ten by Wirt, and attributed by him to Patrick 
Henry fifteen years after the great orator s death, 
had done more to perpetuate the renown of Pat 
rick Henry s oratory than had been done by any 
and all the words actually spoken by the orator 
himself during his lifetime. On the other hand, 
it should be said that Grigsby himself admits that 
"the outline of the argument" and "some of its 
1 MS. 2 Va . Conv . of 1776 ^ 150j note> 


expressions" are undoubtedly "authentic." That 
this is so is apparent, likewise, from the written 
recollections of St. George Tucker, wherein the 
substance of the speech is given, besides one entire 
passage in almost the exact language of the ver 
sion by Wirt. Finally, John Koane, in 1834, in 
his conversation with Edward Fontaine, is said 
to have "verified the correctness of the speech as 
it was written by Judge Tyler for Mr. Wirt." 1 
This, unfortunately, is the only intimation that 
has anywhere been found attributing Wirt s ver 
sion to the excellent authority of Judge John 
Tyler. If the statement could be confirmed, it 
would dispel every difficulty at once. But, even 
though the statement should be set aside, enough 
would still remain to justify us in thinking that 
Wirt s version of the famous speech by no means 
deserves to be called "apocryphal," in any such 
sense as that word has when applied, for example, 
to the speeches in Livy and in Thucydides, or in 
Botta. In the first place, Wirt s version certainly 
gives the substance of the speech as actually made 
by Patrick Henry on the occasion named; and, 
for the form of it, Wirt seems to have gathered 
testimony from all available living witnesses, and 
then, from such sentences or snatches of sentences 
as these witnesses could remember, as well as from 
his own conception of the orator s method of ex 
pression, to have constructed the version which he 
has handed down to us. Even in that case, it is 
i MS. 


probably far more accurate and authentic than are 
most of the famous speeches attributed to public 
characters before reporters galleries were opened, 
and before the art of reporting was brought to its 
present perfection. 

Keturning, now, from this long account of Pat 
rick Henry s most celebrated speech, to the assem 
blage in which it was made, it remains to be men 
tioned that the resolutions, as offered by Patrick 
Henry, were carried; and that the committee, 
called for by those resolutions, to prepare a plan 
for "embodying, arming, and disciplining" the 
militia, 1 was at once appointed. Of this commit 
tee Patrick Henry was chairman; and with him 
were associated Richard Henry Lee, Nicholas, 
Harrison, Riddick, Washington, Stephen, Lewis, 
Christian, Pendleton, Jefferson, and Zane. On 
the following day, Friday, the 24th of March, the 
committee brought in its report, which was laid 
over for one day, and then, after some amendment, 
was unanimously adopted. 

The convention did not close its labors until 
Monday, the 27th of March. The contempora 
neous estimate of Patrick Henry, not merely as a 
leader in debate, but as a constitutional lawyer, 
and as a man of affairs, may be partly gathered 
from the fact of his connection with each of the 
two other important committees of this convention, 
-the committee "to inquire whether his majesty 
may of right advance the terms of granting lands 
1 4 Am. Arch. ii. 168. 


in this colony," 1 on which his associates were the 
great lawyers, Bland, Jefferson, Nicholas, and 
Pendleton ; and the committee " to prepare a plan 
for the encouragement of arts and manufactures 
in this colony," 2 on which his associates were 
Nicholas, Bland, Mercer, Pendleton, Gary, Carter 
of Stafford, Harrison, Richard Henry Lee, Clap- 
ham, Washington, Holt, and Newton. 

l 4 Am. Arch. ii. 1742. lbidt 170 . 



SEVERAL of the famous men of the Revolution, 
whose distinction is now exclusively that of civil 
ians, are supposed to have cherished very decided 
military aspirations; to have been rather envious 
of the more vivid renown acquired by some of 
their political associates who left the senate for 
the field; and, indeed, to have made occasional 
efforts to secure for themselves the opportunity 
for glory in the same pungent and fascinating 
form. A notable example of this class of Revolu 
tionary civilians with abortive military desires, is 
John Hancock. In June, 1775, when Congress 
had before it the task of selecting one who should 
be the military leader of the uprisen colonists, 
John Hancock, seated in the president s chair, 
gave unmistakable signs of thinking that the choice 
ought to fall upon himself. While John Adams 
was speaking in general terms of the military situ 
ation, involving, of course, the need of a com- 
mander-in-chief, Hancock heard him "with visible 
pleasure; " but when the orator came to point out 
Washington as the man best fitted for the leader 
ship, "a sudden and striking change" came over 


the countenance of the president. "Mortification 
and resentment were expressed as forcibly as his 
face could exhibit them; " l and it is probable that, 
to the end of his days, he was never able entirely 
to forgive Washington for having carried off the 
martial glory that he had really believed to be 
within his own reach. But even John Adams, 
who so pitilessly unveiled the baffled military de 
sires of Hancock, was perhaps not altogether un 
acquainted with similar emotions in his own soul. 
Fully three weeks prior to that notable scene in 
Congress, in a letter to his wife in which he was 
speaking of the amazing military spirit then run 
ning through the continent, and of the military 
appointments then held by several of his Philadel 
phia friends, he exclaimed in his impulsive way, 
"Oh that I were a soldier! I will be." 2 And on 
the very day on which he joined in the escort of 
the new generals, Washington, Lee, and Schuyler, 
on their first departure from Philadelphia for the 
American camp, he sent off to his wife a charac 
teristic letter revealing something of the anguish 
with which he, a civilian, viewed the possibility 
of his being at a disadvantage with these military 
men in the race for glory : 

" The three generals were all mounted on horseback, 
accompanied by Major Mifflin, who is gone in the char 
acter of aide-de-camp. All the delegates from the Mas 
sachusetts, with their servants and carriages, attended. 
Many others of the delegates from the Congress ; a large 

1 Works of John Adams, ii. 415-417. 

2 Letters of John Adams to his Wife, i. 40. 


troop of light horse in their uniforms ; many officers of 
militia, besides, in theirs ; music playing, etc., etc. Such 
is the pride and pomp of war. I, poor creature, worn 
out with scribbling for my bread and my liberty, low in 
spirits and weak in health, must leave to others to wear 
the laurels which I have sown ; others to eat the bread 
which I have earned." 1 

Of Patrick Henry, however, it may be said that 
his permanent fame as an orator and a statesman 
has almost effaced the memory of the fact that, 
in the first year of the war, he had considerable 
prominence as a soldier; that it was then believed 
by many, and very likely by himself, that, having 
done as much as any man to bring on the war, he 
was next to do as much as any man in the actual 
conduct of it, and was thus destined to add to a 
civil renown of almost unapproached brilliance, a 
similar renown for splendid talents in the field. 
At any rate, the "first overt act of war" in Vir 
ginia, as Jefferson testifies, 2 was committed by 
Patrick Henry. The first physical resistance to 
a royal governor, which in Massachusetts was made 
by the embattled farmers at Lexington and Con 
cord, was made in Virginia almost as early, under 
the direction and inspiration of Patrick Henry s 
leadership. In the first organization of the Kevo- 
lutionary army in Virginia, the chief command 
was given to Patrick Henry. Finally, that he 
never had the opportunity of proving in battle 

1 Letters of John Adams to his Wife, i. 47, 48. 

2 Works of Jefferson, i. 116. 


whether or not he had military talents, and that, 
after some months of nominal command, he was 
driven by a series of official slights into an aban 
donment of his military career, may have been 
occasioned solely by a proper distrust of his mili 
tary capacity on the part of the Virginia Committee 
of Safety, or it may have been due in some mea 
sure to the un slumbering jealousy of him which 
was at the time attributed to the leading members 
of that committee. The purpose of this chapter, 
and of the next, will be to present a rapid group 
ing of these incidents in his life, incidents which 
now have the appearance of a mere episode, but 
which once seemed the possible beginnings of a 
deliberate and conspicuous military career. 

Within the city of Williamsburg, at the period 
now spoken of, had long been kept the public 
storehouse for gunpowder and arms. In the dead 
of the night 1 preceding the 21st of April, 1775, 
a little less than a month, therefore, after the 
convention of Virginia had proclaimed the inevi 
table approach of a war with Great Britain, a 
detachment of marines from the armed schooner 
Magdalen, then lying in the James River, stealth 
ily visited this storehouse, and, taking thence fif 
teen half -barrels of gunpowder, 2 carried them off 
in Lord Dunmore s wagon to Burwell s Ferry, 
and put them on board their vessel. Of course, 
the news of this exploit flew fast through the col 
ony, and everywhere awoke alarm and exaspera- 

1 4 Am. Arch. ii. 1227. 2 Ibid. iii. 390. 


tion. Soon some thousands of armed men made 
ready to march to the capital to demand the resto 
ration of the gunpowder. On Tuesday, the 25th 
of April, the independent company of Fredericks- 
burg notified their colonel, George Washington, 
that, with his approbation, they would be prepared 
to start for Williamsburg on the following Satur 
day, "properly accoutred as light -horsemen," and 
in conjunction with "any other bodies of armed 
men who" might be "willing to appear in support 
of the honor of Virginia." 1 

Similar messages were promptly sent to Wash 
ington from the independent companies of Prince 
William 2 and Albemarle counties. 3 On Wednes 
day, the 26th of April, the men in arms who 
had already arrived at Fredericksburg sent to the 
capital a swift messenger "to inquire whether the 
gunpowder had been replaced in the public maga 
zine." 4 On Saturday, the 29th, being the day 
already fixed for the march upon Williamsburg, 
one hundred and two gentlemen, representing 
fourteen companies of light-horse, met in council 
at Fredericksburg, and, after considering a letter 
from the venerable Peyton Randolph which their 
messenger had brought back with him, particularly 
Randolph s assurance that the affair of the gun 
powder was to be satisfactorily arranged, came to 
the resolution that they would proceed no further 
at that time ; adding, however, this solemn decla- 

1 4 Am. Arch. ii. 387. 2 Ibid. ii. 395. 

Ibid. ii. 442, 443. * Ibid. ii. 426. 


ration : " We do now pledge ourselves to each other 
to be in readiness, at a moment s warning, to reas 
semble, and by force of arms to defend the law, 
the liberty, and rights of this or any sister colony 
from unjust and wicked invasion." 1 

It is at this point that Patrick Henry comes 
upon the scene. Thus far, during the trouble, he 
appears to have been watching events from his 
home in Hanover County. As soon, however, as 
word was brought to him of the tame conclusion 
thus reached by the assembled warriors at Freder- 
icksburg, his soul took fire at the lamentable mis 
take which he thought they had made. To him it 
seemed on every account the part of wisdom that 
the blow, which would have to be "struck sooner 
or later, should be struck at once, before an over 
whelming force should enter the colony; " that the 
spell by which the people were held in a sort of 
superstitious awe of the governor should be broken; 
"that the military resources of the country should 
be developed; " that the people should be made to 
"see and feel their strength by being brought out 
together; that the revolution should be set in ac 
tual motion in the colony ; that the martial prowess 
of the country should be awakened, and the soldiery 
animated by that proud and resolute confidence 
which a successful enterprise in the commencement 
of a contest never fails to inspire." 2 

1 4 Am. Arch. ii. 443. 

2 Patrick Henry s reasons were thus stated by him at the time 
to Colonel Richard Morris and Captain George Dabney, and by 
the latter were communicated to Wirt, 130, 137. 


Accordingly, lie resolved that, as the troops 
lately rendezvoused at Fredericksburg had forborne 
to strike this needful blow, he would endeavor to 
repair the mistake by striking it himself. At 
once, therefore, he despatched expresses to the 
officers and men of the independent company of 
his own county, "requesting them to meet him in 
arms at New Castle on the second of May, on 
business of the highest importance to American 
liberty." 1 He also summoned the county commit 
tee to meet him at the same time and place. 

At the place and time appointed his neighbors 
were duly assembled ; and when he had laid before 
them, in a speech of wonderful eloquence, his view 
of the situation, they instantly resolved to put 
themselves under his command, and to march at 
once to the capital, either to recover the gunpowder 
itself, or to make reprisals on the king s property 
sufficient to replace it. Without delay the march 
began, Captain Patrick Henry leading. By sun 
set of the following day, they had got as far as to 
Doncastle s Ordinary, about sixteen miles from 
Williamsburg, and there rested for the night. 
Meantime, the news that Patrick Henry was 
marching with armed men straight against Lord 
Dunmore, to demand the restoration of the gun 
powder or payment for it, carried exhilaration or 
terror in all directions. On the one hand, many 
prudent and conservative gentlemen were horrified 
at his rashness, and sent messenger after messen- 
1 Wirt, 137, 138. 


ger to beg him to stay his fearful proceeding, to 
turn about, and to go home. 1 On the other hand, 
as the word flew from county to county that Pat 
rick Henry had taken up the people s cause in 
this vigorous fashion, five thousand men sprang to 
arms, and started across the country to join the 
ranks of his followers, and to lend a hand in case 
of need. At Williamsburg, the rumor of his ap 
proach brought on a scene of consternation. The 
wife and family of Lord Dunmore were hurried 
away to a place of safety. Further down the 
river, the commander of his majesty s ship Fowey 
was notified that "his excellency the Lord Dun- 
more, governor of Virginia," was "threatened 
with an attack at daybreak, ... at his palace at 
Williamsburg;" and for his defence was speedily 
sent off a detachment of marines. 2 Before day 
break, however, the governor seems to have come 
to the prudent decision to avert, by a timely settle 
ment with Patrick Henry, the impending attack; 
and accordingly, soon after daybreak, a messenger 
arrived at Doncastle s Ordinary, there to tender 
immediate satisfaction in money for the gunpowder 
that had been ravished away. 3 The troops, having 
already resumed their march, were halted; and 
soon a settlement of the trouble was effected, ac 
cording to the terms of the following singular 
document: - 

1 Wirt, 141. 2 4 Am. Arch. ii. 504 

Cooke, Virginia, 432. 


Received from the Honorable Richard Corbin, Esq., 
his majesty s receiver-general, 330, as a compensation 
for the gunpowder lately taken out of the public maga 
zine by the governor s order ; which money I promise to 
convey to the Virginia delegates at the General Congress, 
to be under their direction laid out in gunpowder for 
the colony s use, and to be stored as they shall direct, 
until the next colony convention or General Assembly ; 
unless it shall be necessary, in the mean time, to use the 
same in defence of this colony. It is agreed, that in 
case the next convention shall determine that any part 
of the said money ought to be returned to his majesty s 
receiver-general, that the same shall be done accord 


The chief object for which Patrick Henry and 
his soldiers had taken the trouble to come to that 
place having been thus suddenly accomplished, 
there was but one thing left for them to do before 
they should return to their homes. Robert Carter 
Nicholas, the treasurer of the colony, was at 
Williamsburg ; and to him Patrick Henry at once 
despatched a letter informing him of the arrange 
ment that had been made, and offering to him any 
protection that he might in consequence require : 

May 4, 1775. 

SIR, The affair of the powder is now settled, so as 
to produce satisfaction in me, and I earnestly wish to 
the colony in general. The people here have it in charge 

1 4 Am. Arch. ii. 540. 


from the Hanover committee, to tender their services to 
you as a public officer, for the purpose of escorting the 
public treasury to any place in this colony where the 
money would be judged more safe than in the city of 
Williamsburg. The reprisal now made by the Hanover 
volunteers, though accomplished in a manner least liable 
to the imputation of violent extremity, may possibly be 
the cause of future injury to the treasury. If, there 
fore, you apprehend the least danger, a sufficient guard 
is at your service. I beg the return of the bearer may 
be instant, because the men wish to know their destina 

With great regard, I am, sir, 

Your most humble servant, 

To ROBERT CARTER NICHOLAS, Esq., Treasurer. 1 

Patrick Henry s desire for an immediate answer 
from the respectable Mr. Nicholas was gratified, 
although it came in the form of a dignified rebuff : 
Mr. Nicholas "had no apprehension of the neces 
sity or propriety of the proffered service." 2 

No direct communication seems to have been 
had at that time with Lord Dunmore; but two 
days afterward his lordship, having given to Pat 
rick Henry ample time to withdraw to a more 
agreeable distance, sent thundering after him this 
portentous proclamation : 

Whereas I have been informed from undoubted au 
thority that a certain Patrick Henry, of the county of 
Hanover, and a number of deluded followers, have taken 
i 4 Am. Arch. ii. 541. 2 Ibid. 


up arms, chosen their officers, and styling themselves an 
independent company, have marched out of their county, 
encamped, and put themselves in a posture of war, and 
have written and dispatched letters to divers parts of 
the country, exciting the people to join in these outra 
geous and rebellious practices, to the great terror of all 
his majesty s faithful subjects, and in open defiance of 
law and government ; and have committed other acts of 
violence, particularly in extorting from his majesty s 
receiver-general the sum of three hundred and thirty 
pounds, under pretence of replacing the powder I thought 
proper to order from the magazine ; whence it undeni 
ably appears that there is no longer the least security 
for the life or property of any man : wherefore, I have 
thought proper, with the advice of his majesty s council, 
and in his majesty s name, to issue this my proclama 
tion, strictly charging all persons, upon their allegiance, 
not to aid, abet, or give countenance to the said Patrick 
Henry, or any other persons concerned in such unwar 
rantable combinations, but on the contrary to oppose 
them and their designs by every means ; which designs 
must, otherwise, inevitably involve the whole country in 
the most direful calamity, as they will call for the ven 
geance of offended majesty and the insulted laws to be 
exerted here, to vindicate the constitutional authority of 

Given under my hand and the seal of the colony, at 
"William sburg, this 6th day of May, 1775, and in the 
fifteenth year of his majesty s reign. 


God save the king. 1 

i 4 Am. Arch. ii. 516. 


Beyond question, there were in Virginia at that 
time many excellent gentlemen who still trusted 
that the dispute with Great Britain might be com 
posed without bloodshed, and to whom Patrick 
Henry s conduct in this affair must have appeared 
foolhardy, presumptuous, and even criminal. The 
mass of the people of Virginia, however, did not 
incline to take that view of the subject. They 
had no faith any longer in timid counsels, in hesi 
tating measures. They believed that their most 
important earthly rights were in danger. They 
longed for a leader with vigor, promptitude, cour 
age, caring less for technical propriety than for 
justice, and not afraid to say so, by word or deed, 
to Lord Dunmore and to Lord Dunmore s master. 
Such a leader they thought they saw in Patrick 
Henry. Accordingly, even on his march home 
ward from Doncastle s Ordinary, the heart of Vir 
ginia began to go forth to him in expressions of 
love, of gratitude, and of homage, such as no 
American colonist perhaps had ever before re 
ceived. Upon his return home, his own county 
greeted him with its official approval. 1 On the 8th 
of May, the county of Louisa sent him her thanks ; 2 
and on the following day, messages to the same 
effect were sent from the counties of Orange and 
Spottsylvania. 3 On the 19th of May, an address 
"to the inhabitants of Virginia," under the signa 
ture of " Brutus," saluted Patrick Henry as "his 

1 4 Am. Arch. ii. 540, 541. 2 Ibid. ii. 529. 

8 Ibid. ii. 539, 540. 


country s and America s unalterable and unap- 
palled great advocate and friend." 1 On the 22d 
of May, Prince William County declared its thanks 
to be "justly due to Captain Patrick Henry, and 
the gentlemen volunteers who attended him, for 
their proper and spirited conduct." 2 On the 26th 
of May, Loudoun County declared its cordial 
approval. 3 On the 9th of June, the volunteer 
company of Lancaster County resolved " that every 
member of this company do return thanks to the 
worthy Captain Patrick Henry and the volunteer 
company of Hanover, for their spirited conduct on 
a late expedition, and they are determined to pro 
tect him from any insult that may be offered him, 
on that account, at the risk of life and fortune."* 
On the 19th of June, resolutions of gratitude and 
confidence were voted by the counties of Prince 
Edward and of Frederick, the latter saying : 

u We should blush to be thus late in our commenda 
tions of, and thanks to, Patrick Henry, Esquire, for his 
patriotic and spirited behavior in making reprisals for 
the powder so unconstitutionally . . . taken from the 
public magazine, could we have entertained a thought 
that any part of the colony would have condemned a 
measure calculated for the benefit of the whole ; but as 
we are informed this is the case, we beg leave . . * 
to assure that gentleman that we did from the first, and 
still do, most cordially approve and commend his con 
duct in that affair. The good people of this county will 

1 4 Am. Arch. ii. 641. 2 Ibid. ii. 667. 

8 Ibid. ii. 710, 711. * Ibid. ii. 938. 


never fail to approve and support him to the utmost of 
their powers in every action derived from so rich a 
source as the love of his country. We heartily thank 
him for stepping forth to convince the tools of despotism 
that freeborn men are not to be intimidated, by any 
form of danger, to submit to the arbitrary acts of their 
rulers." 1 

On the 10th of July, the county of Fincastle pro 
longed the strain of public affection and applause 
by assuring Patrick Henry that it would support 
and justify him at the risk of life and fortune. 2 

In the mean time, the second Continental Con 
gress had already convened at Philadelphia, begin 
ning its work on the 10th of May. The journal 
mentions the presence, on that day, of all the dele 
gates from Virginia, excepting Patrick Henry, 
who, of course, had been delayed in his prepara 
tions for the journey by the events which we have 
just described. Not until the llth of May was he 
able to set out from his home; and he was then 
accompanied upon his journey, to a point beyond 
the borders of the colony, by a spontaneous escort 
of armed men, a token, not only of the popular 
love for him, but of the popular anxiety lest Dun- 
more should take the occasion of an unprotected 
journey to put him under arrest. "Yesterday," 

1 4 Am. Arch. ii. 1024. 

2 Ibid. ii. 1620, 1621. For notable comments on Patrick 
Henry s "striking and lucky coup de main," see Rives, Life of 
Madison, i. 93, 94 ; Works of Jefferson, i. 116, 117 ; Charles Mac- 
kay, Founders of the American Republic, 232-234 ; 327. 


says a document dated at Hanover, May the 12th, 
1775, "Patrick Henry, one of the delegates for 
this colony, escorted by a number of respectable 
young gentlemen, volunteers from this and King 
William and Caroline counties, set out to attend 
the General Congress. They proceeded with him 
as far as Mrs. Hooe s ferry, on the Potomac, by 
whom they were most kindly and hospitably enter 
tained, and also provided with boats and hands to 
cross the river; and after partaking of this lady s 
beneficence, the bulk of the company took their 
leave of Mr. Henry, saluting him with two pla 
toons and repeated huzzas. A guard accompanied 
that worthy gentleman to the Maryland side, who 
saw him safely landed; and committing him to 
the gracious and wise Disposer of all human events, 
to guide and protect him whilst contending for a 
restitution of our dearest rights and liberties, they 
wished him a safe journey, and happy return to 
his family and friends." 1 

1 4 Am. Arch. ii. 541. 



ON Thursday, the 18th of May, Patrick Henry 
took his seat in the second Continental Congress ; 
and he appears thenceforward to have continued 
in attendance until the very end of the session, 
which occurred on the 1st of August. From the 
official journal of this Congress, it is impossible 
to ascertain the full extent of any member s par 
ticipation in its work. Its proceedings were trans 
acted in secret f and only such results were an 
nounced to the public as, in the opinion of Congress, 
it was desirable that the public should know. Then, 
too, from the private correspondence and the dia 
ries of its members but little help can be got. As 
affecting Patrick Henry, almost the only non -offi 
cial testimony that has been found is that of Jef 
ferson, who, however, did not enter this Congress 
until its session was half gone, and who, forty 
years afterward, wrote what he probably supposed 
to be his recollections concerning his old friend s 
deportment and influence in that body : 

" I found Mr. Henry to be a silent and almost unmed- 
dling member in Congress. On the original opening of 
that body, while general grievances were the topic, he 


was in his element, and captivated all by his bold and 
splendid eloquence. But as soon as they came to spe 
cific matters, to sober reasoning and solid argumenta 
tion, he had the good sense to perceive that his declama 
tion, however excellent in its proper place, had no weight 
at all in such an assembly as that, of cool-headed, re 
flecting, judicious men. He ceased, therefore, in a great 
measure, to take any part in the business. He seemed, 
indeed, very tired of the place, and wonderfully relieved 
when, by appointment of the Virginia convention to be 
colonel of their first regiment, he was permitted to leave 
Congress about the last of July." 1 

Perhaps the principal value of this testimony is 
to serve as an illustration of the extreme fragility 
of any man s memory respecting events long passed, 
even in his own experience. Thus, Jefferson here 
remembers how "wonderfully relieved" Patrick 
Henry was at being "permitted to leave Congress " 
on account of his appointment by the Virginia 
convention "to be colonel of their first regiment." 
But, from the official records of the time, it can 
now be shown that neither of the things which 
Jefferson thus remembers, ever had any existence 
in fact. In the first place, the journal of the Vir 
ginia convention 2 indicates that Patrick Henry s 
appointment as colonel could not have been the 
occasion of any such relief from congressional du 
ties as Jefferson speaks of ; for that appointment 
was not made until five days after Congress itself 

1 Hist. Mag. for Aug. 1867, 92. 

2 4 Am. Arch. iii. 375. 


had adjourned, when, of course, Patrick Henry 
and his fellow delegates, including Jefferson, were 
already far advanced on their journey back to Vir 
ginia. In the second place, the journal of Con 
gress l indicates that Patrick Henry had no such 
relief from congressional duties, on any account, 
but was bearing his full share in its business, even 
in the plainest and most practical details, down to 
the very end of the session. 

Any one who now recalls the tremendous events 
that were taking place in the land while the second 
Continental Congress was in session, and the im 
mense questions of policy and of administration 
with which it had to deal, will find it hard to be 
lieve that its deliberations were out of the range 
of Patrick Henry s sympathies or capacities, or 
that he could have been the listless, speechless, 
and ineffective member depicted by the later pen 
of Jefferson. When that Congress first came to 
gether, the blood was as yet hardly dry on the 
grass in Lexington Common ; on the very morning 
on which its session opened, the colonial troops 
burst into the stronghold at Ticonderoga; and 
when the session had lasted but six weeks, its 
members were conferring together over the ghastly 
news from Bunker Hill. The organization of some 
kind of national government for thirteen colonies 
precipitated into a state of war; the creation of a 
national army; the selection of a commander-in- 
chief , and of the officers to serve under him ; the 

i 4 Am. Arch. ii. 1902. 


hurried fortification of coasts, harbors, cities ; the 
supply of the troops with clothes, tents, weapons, 
ammunition, food, medicine; protection against 
the Indian tribes along the frontier of nearly every 
colony ; the goodwill of the people of Canada, and 
of Jamaica; a solemn, final appeal to the king 
and to the people of England; an appeal to the 
people of Ireland; finally, a grave statement to all 
mankind of "the causes and necessity of their 
taking up arms," these were among the weighty 
and soul-stirring matters which the second Conti 
nental Congress had to consider and to decide 
upon. For any man to say, forty years afterward, 
even though he say it with all the authority of the 
renown of Thomas Jefferson, that, in the presence 
of such questions, the spirit of Patrick Henry was 
dull or unconcerned, and that, in a Congress which 
had to deal with such questions, he was "a silent 
and almost unmeddling member," is to put a strain 
upon human confidence which it is unable to bear. 
The formula by which the daily labors of this 
Congress are frequently described in its own jour 
nal is, that "Congress met according to adjourn 
ment, and, agreeable to the order of the day, again 
resolved itself into a committee of the whole to 
take into consideration the state of America ; and 
after some time spent therein, the president re 
sumed the chair, and Mr. Ward, from the com 
mittee, reported that they had proceeded in the 
business, but, not having completed it, desired 
him to move for leave to sit again." 1 And al- 

1 4 Am. Arch. ii. 1834. 


though, from the beginning to the end of the ses 
sion, no mention is made of any word spoken in 
debate by any member, we can yet glean, even 
from that meagre record, enough to prove that 
upon Patrick Henry was laid about as much labor 
in the form of committee-work as upon any other 
member of the House, a fair test, it is believed, 
of any man s zeal, industry, and influence in any 
legislative body. 

Further, it will be noted that the committee- 
work to which he was thus assigned was often of 
the homeliest and most prosaic kind, calling not 
for declamatory gifts, but for common sense, dis 
crimination, experience, and knowledge of men 
and things. He seems, also, to have had special 
interest and authority in the several anxious phases 
of the Indian question as presented by the exigen 
cies of that awful crisis, and to have been placed 
on every committee that was appointed to deal 
with any branch of the subject. Thus, on the 
16th of June, he was placed with General Schuy- 
ler, James Duane, James Wilson, and Philip 
Livingston, on a committee "to take into consid 
eration the papers transmitted from the convention 
of New York, relative to Indian affairs, and re 
port what steps, in their opinion, are necessary to 
be taken for securing and preserving the friend 
ship of the Indian nations." 1 On the 19th of 
June, he served with John Adams and Thomas 
Lynch on a committee to inform Charles Lee of 
i 4 Am. Arch. ii. 1849. 


his appointment as second major-general ; and when 
Lee s answer imported that his situation and cir 
cumstances as a British officer required some fur 
ther and very careful negotiations with Congress, 
Patrick Henry was placed upon the special commit 
tee to which this delicate business was intrusted. 1 
On the 21st of June, the very day on which, ac 
cording to the journal, "Mr. Thomas Jefferson 
appeared as a delegate for the colony of Virginia, 
and produced his credentials," his colleague, Pat 
rick Henry, rose in his place and stated that Wash 
ington "had put into his hand sundry queries, to 
which he desired the Congress would give an an 
swer." These queries necessarily involved subjects 
of serious concern to the cause for which they were 
about to plunge into war, and would certainly re 
quire for their consideration " cool-headed, reflect 
ing, and judicious men." The committee appointed 
for the purpose consisted of Silas Deane, Patrick 
Henry, John Rutledge, Samuel Adams, and Rich 
ard Henry Lee. 2 On the 10th of July, "Mr. 
Alsop informed the Congress that he had an in 
voice of Indian goods, which a gentleman in this 
town had delivered to him, and which the said 
gentleman was willing to dispose of to the Con 
gress." The committee "to examine the said in 
voice and report to the Congress " was composed 
of Philip Livingston, Patrick Henry, and John 
Alsop. 3 On the 12th of July, it was resolved to 

1 4 Am. Arch. ii. 1850, 1851. 2 Ibid. ii. 1852. 

8 Ibid. ii. 1878. 


organize three departments for the management of 
Indian affairs, the commissioners to "have power 
to treat with the Indians in their respective depart 
ments, in the name and on behalf of the United 
Colonies, in order to preserve peace and friendship 
with the said Indians, and to prevent their taking 
any part in the present commotions." On the 
following day the commissioners for the middle 
department were elected, namely, Franklin, Pat 
rick Henry, and James Wilson. 1 On the 17th of 
July, a committee was appointed to negotiate with 
the Indian missionary, the Rev. Samuel Kirkland, 
respecting his past and future services among the 
Six Nations, "in order to secure their friendship, 
and to continue them in a state of neutrality with 
respect to the present controversy between Great 
Britain and these colonies." This committee con 
sisted of Thomas Gushing, Patrick Henry, and 
Silas Deane. 2 Finally, on the 31st of July, next 
to the last day of the session, a committee consist 
ing of one member for each colony was appointed 
to serve in the recess of Congress, for the very 
practical and urgent purpose of inquiring "in all 
the colonies after virgin lead and leaden ore, and 
the best methods of collecting, smelting, and re 
fining it;" also, after "the cheapest and easiest 
methods of making salt in these colonies." This 
was not a committee on which any man could be 
useful who had only "declamation" to contribute 
to its work; and the several colonies were repre- 
1 4 Am. Arch. ii. 1879, 1883. 2 Ibid. ii. 1884, 1885. 


sented upon it by their most sagacious and their 
weightiest men, as New Hampshire by Langdon, 
Massachusetts by John Adams, Khode Island by 
Stephen Hopkins, Pennsylvania by Franklin, Dela 
ware by Rodney, South Carolina by Gadsden, Vir 
ginia by Patrick Henry. 1 

On the day on which this committee was ap 
pointed, Patrick Henry wrote to Washington, then 
at the headquarters of the army near Boston, a 
letter which denoted on the part of the writer a 
perception, unusual at that time, of the gravity 
and duration of the struggle on which the colonies 
were just entering : 

PHILADELPHIA, July 31st, 1775. 

SIR, Give me leave to recommend the bearer, Mf 
Frazer, to your notice and regard. He means to enter 
the American camp, and there to gain that experience, 
of which the general cause may be avail d. It is my 
earnest wish that many Virginians might see service. 
It is not unlikely that in the fluctuation of things our 
country may have occasion for great military exertions. 
For this reason I have taken the liberty to trouble you 
with this and a few others of the same tendency. The 
public good which you, sir, have so eminently promoted, 
is my only motive. That you may enjoy the protection 
of Heaven and live long and happy is the ardent wish 
of, Sir, 

Yf mo. ob? hbl. serv., 


His Excellency, GENL. WASHINGTON. 

1 4 Am. Arch. ii. 1902. 2 MS. 


On the following day Congress adjourned. As 
soon as possible after its adjournment, the Virginia 
delegates seem to have departed for home, to take 
their places in the convention then in session at 
Richmond; for the journal of that convention 
mentions that on Wednesday, August the 9th, 
"Patrick Henry, Edmund Pendleton, Benjamin 
Harrison, and Thomas Jefferson, Esquires, ap 
peared in convention, and took their seats." 1 On 
the next day an incident occurred in the conven 
tion implying that Patrick Henry, during his ab 
sence in Congress, had been able to serve his col 
ony by other gifts as well as by those of "bold and 
splendid eloquence: " it was resolved that "the 
powder purchased by Patrick Henry, Esquire, for 
the use of this colony, be immediately sent for." 2 
On the day following that, the convention resolved 
unanimously that "the thanks of this convention 
are justly due to his excellency, George Washing 
ton, Esquire, Patrick Henry, and Edmund Pen 
dleton, Esquires, three of the worthy delegates 
who represented this colony in the late Continen 
tal Congress, for their faithful discharge of that 
important trust; and this body are only induced 
to dispense with their future services of the like 
kind, by the appointment of the two former to 
other offices in the public service, incompatible 
with their attendance on this, and the infirm state 
of health of the latter." 3 

1 4 Am. Arch. iii. 377. 2 Ibid. iii. 377, 378. 

8 Ibid. iii. 378. 


Of course, the two appointments here referred 
to are of Washington as commander-in-chief of 
the forces of the United Colonies, and of Patrick 
Henry as commander-in-chief of the forces of Vir 
ginia, the latter appointment having been made 
by the Virginia convention on the 5th of August. 
The commission, which passed the convention on 
the 28th of that month, constituted Patrick Henry 
"colonel of the first regiment of regulars, and 
commander-in-chief of all the forces to be raised 
for the protection and defence of this colony;" 
and while it required "all officers and soldiers, 
and every person whatsoever, in any way concerned, 
to be obedient" to him, "in all things touching 
the due execution of this commission," it also re 
quired him to be obedient to "all orders and in 
structions which, from time to time," he might 
"receive from the convention or Committee of 
Safety." 1 Accordingly, Patrick Henry s control 
of military proceedings in Virginia was, as it 
proved, nothing more than nominal : it was a su 
preme command on paper, tempered in actual ex 
perience by the incessant and distrustful interfer 
ence of an ever-present body of civilians, who had 
all power over him. 

A newspaper of Williamsburg for the 23d of 
September announces the arrival there, two days 
before, of "Patrick Henry, Esquire, commander- 
in-chief of the Virginia forces. He was met and 
escorted to town by the whole body of volunteers, 

1 4 Am. Arch. in. 393. See, also, his oath of office, ibid. iii. 411. 


who paid him every mark of respect and distinc 
tion in their power." 1 Thereupon he inspected 
the grounds about the city ; and as a place suitable 
for the encampment, he fixed upon a site in the 
rear of the College of William and Mary. Soon 
troops began to arrive in considerable numbers, 
and to prepare themselves for whatever service 
might be required of them. 2 There was, however, 
a sad lack of arms and ammunition. On the 15th 
of October, Pendleton, who was at the head of the 
Committee of Safety, gave this account of the situ 
ation in a letter to Richard Henry Lee, then in 
Congress at Philadelphia : 

" Had we arms and ammunition, it would give vigor 
to our measures. . . . Nine companies of regulars are 
here, and seem very clever men ; others, we hear, are 
ready, and only wait to collect arms. Lord Dunmore s 
forces are only one hundred and sixty as yet, intrenched 
at Gosport, and supported by the ships drawn up before 
that and Norfolk." 8 

On the 30th of November, Lord Dunmore, who 
had been compelled by the smallness of his land 
force to take refuge upon his armed vessels off the 
coast, thus described the situation, in a letter to 
General Sir William Howe, then in command at 
Boston : 

" I must inform you that with our little corps, I think 
we have done wonders. We have taken and destroyed 
above four score pieces of ordnance, and, by landing in 

1 4 Am. Arch. Hi. 776. 2 Wirt, 159. 

8 4 Am. Arch. iii. 1067. 


different parts of the country, we keep them in continual 
hot water. . . . Having heard that a thousand chosen 
men belonging to the rebels, great part of whom were 
riflemen, were on their march to attack us here, or to 
cut off our provisions, I determined to take possession of 
the pass at the Great Bridge, which secures us the 
greatest part of two counties to supply us with provi 
sions. I accordingly ordered a stockade fort to be 
erected there, which was done in a few days ; and I put 
an officer and twenty-five men to garrison it, with some 
volunteers and negroes, who have defended it against all 
the efforts of the rebels for these eight days. We have 
killed several of their men ; and I make no doubt we 
shall now be able to maintain our ground there ; but 
should we be obliged to abandon it, we have thrown up 
an intrenchment on the land side of Norfolk, which I 
hope they will never be able to force. Here we are, 
with only the small part of a regiment contending 
against the extensive colony of Virginia." 1 

But who were these "thousand chosen men be 
longing to the rebels," who, on their march to 
attack Lord Dunmore at Norfolk, had thus been 
held in check by his little fort at the Great Bridge ? 
We are told by Dunmore himself that they were 
Virginia troops. But why was not Patrick Henry 
in immediate command of them ? Why was Pat 
rick Henry held back from this service, the only 
active service then to be had in the field ? And 
why was the direction of this important enterprise 
given to his subordinate, Colonel William Wood- 
ford, of the second regiment? There is abundant 
1 4 Am. Arch. iii. 1713-1715. 


evidence that Patrick Henry had eagerly desired 
to conduct this expedition ; that he had even soli 
cited the Committee of Safety to permit him to do 
so; but that they, distrusting his military capa 
city, overruled his wishes, and gave this fine op 
portunity for military distinction to the officer next 
below him in command. Moreover, no sooner had 
Colonel Woodford departed upon the service, than 
he began to ignore altogether the commander-in- 
chief, and to make his communications directly to 
the Committee of Safety, a course in which he 
was virtually sustained by that body, on appeal 
being made to them. Furthermore, on the 9th of 
December, Colonel Woodford won a brilliant vic 
tory over the enemy at the Great Bridge, 1 thus 
apparently justifying to the public the wisdom of 
the committee in assigning the work to him, and 
also throwing still more into the background the 
commander-in-chief , who was then chafing in camp 
over his enforced retirement from this duty. But 
this was not the only cup of humiliation which 
was pressed to his lips. Not long afterward, there 
arrived at the seat of war a few hundred North 
Carolina troops, under command of Colonel Robert 
Howe; and the latter, with the full consent of 
Woodford, at once took command of their united 
forces, and thenceforward addressed his official 
letters solely to the convention of Virginia, or to 
the Committee of Safety, paying not the slightest 

1 Graphic contemporary accounts of this battle may be found in 
4 Am. Arch. iv. 224, 228, 229. 


attention to the commander-in-chief. 1 Finally, on 
the 28th of December, Congress decided to raise 
in Virginia six battalions to be taken into conti 
nental pay ; 2 and, by a subsequent vote, it likewise 
resolved to include within these six battalions the 
first and the second Virginia regiments already 
raised. 3 A commission was accordingly sent to 
Patrick Henry as colonel of the first Virginia bat 
talion, 4 an official intimation that the expected 
commission of a brigadier-general for Virginia 
was to be given to some one else. 

On receiving this last affront, Patrick Henry 
determined to lay down his military appointments, 
which he did on the 28th of February, 1776, and 
at once prepared to leave the camp. As soon as 
this news got abroad among the troops, they all, 
according to a contemporary account, 5 "went into 
mourning, and, under arms, waited on him at his 
lodgings," when his officers presented to him art 
affectionate address : 

Deeply impressed with a grateful sense of the obliga 
tions we lie under to you for the polite, humane, and 
tender treatment manifested to us throughout the whole 
of your conduct, while we have had the honor of being 
under your command, permit us to offer to you our sin 
cere thanks, as the only tribute we have in our power to 
pay to your real merits. Notwithstanding your with* 

1 Wirt, 178. 2 4 Am. Arch. iii. 1962. 

8 Ibid. iv. 1669. * Ibid. iv. 1517. 

6 Ibid. iv. 1515, 1516. 


drawing yourself from service fills us with the most 
poignant sorrow, as it at once deprives us of our father 
and general, yet, as gentlemen, we are compelled to ap 
plaud your spirited resentment to the most glaring in 
dignity. May your merit shine as conspicuous to the 
world in general as it hath done to us, and may Heaven 
shower its choicest blessings upon you. 
WILLIAMSBUKG, February 29, 1776. 

His reply to this warm-hearted message was in 
the following words : 

GENTLEMEN, I am extremely obliged to you for 
your approbation of my conduct. Your address does 
me the highest honor. This kind testimony of your 
regard to me would have been an ample reward for 
services much greater than I have had the power to per 
form. I return you, and each of you, gentlemen, my 
best acknowledgments for the spirit, alacrity, and zeal 
you have constantly shown in your several stations. I 
am unhappy to part with you. I leave the service, but 
I leave my heart with you. May God bless you, and 
give you success and safety, and make you the glorious 
instruments of saving our country. 1 

The grief and indignation thus exhibited by the 
officers who had served under Patrick Henry soon 
showed itself in a somewhat violent manner among 
the men. The "Virginia Gazette" for that time 
states that, " after the officers had received Colonel 
Henry s kind answer to their address, they insisted 
upon his dining with them at the Kaleigh Tavern, 
before his departure ; and after the dinner, a num- 
1 4 Am. Arch. iv. 1516 ; also, Wirt, 180, 181. 


ber of them proposed escorting him out of town, 
but were prevented by some uneasiness getting 
among the soldiery, who assembled in a tumultuous 
manner and demanded their discharge, and de 
clared their unwillingness to serve under any other 
commander. Upon which Colonel Henry found it 
necessary to stay a night longer in town, which he 
spent in visiting the several barracks; and used 
every argument in his power with the soldiery to 
lay aside their imprudent resolution, and to con 
tinue in the service, which he had quitted from 
motives in which his honor alone was concerned." 1 
Moreover, several days after he had left the camp 
altogether and had returned to his home, he was 
followed by an address signed by ninety officers 
belonging not only to his own regiment, but to 
that of Colonel Woodford, a document which 
has no little value as presenting strongly one side 
of contemporary military opinion respecting Pat 
rick Henry s career as a soldier, and the treatment 
to which he had been subjected. 

SIR, Deeply concerned for the good of our coun 
try, we sincerely lament the unhappy necessity of your 
resignation, and with all the warmth of affection assure 
you that, whatever may have given rise to the indignity 
lately offered to you, we join with the general voice of 
the people, and think it our duty to make this public 
declaration of our high respect for your distinguished 
merit. To your vigilance and judgment, as a senator, 
this United Continent bears ample testimony, while she 

1 4 Am. Arch. iv. 1516. 


prosecutes her steady opposition to those destructive 
ministerial measures which your eloquence first pointed 
out and taught to resent, and your resolution led for 
ward to resist. To your extensive popularity the ser 
vice, also, is greatly indebted for the expedition with 
which the troops were raised ; and while they were con 
tinued under your command, the firmness, candor, and 
politeness, which formed the complexion of your con 
duct towards them, obtained the signal approbation of 
the wise and virtuous, and will leave upon our minds 
the most grateful impression. 

Although retired from the immediate concerns of 
war, we solicit the continuance of your kindly attention. 
We know your attachment to the best of causes ; we 
have the fullest confidence in your abilities, and in the 
rectitude of your views ; and, however willing the envi 
ous may be to undermine an established reputation, we 
trust the day will come when justice shall prevail, and 
thereby secure you an honorable and happy return to 
the glorious employment of conducting our councils and 
hazarding your life in the defence of your country. 1 

The public agitation over the alleged wrong 
which had thus been done to Patrick Henry during 
his brief military career, and which had brought 
that career to its abrupt and painful close, seems 
to have continued for a considerable time. Through 
out the colony the blame was openly and bluntly 
laid upon the Committee of Safety, who, on ac 
count of envy, it was said, had tried "to bury in 
obscurity his martial talents." 2 On the other 
hand, the course pursued by that committee was 
1 4 Am. Arch. iv. 1516, 1517. 2 Ibid. iv. 1518. 


ably defended by many, on the ground that Pat 
rick Henry, with all his great gifts for civil life, 
really had no fitness for a leading military posi 
tion. One writer asserted that even in the con 
vention which had elected Patrick Henry as com- 
mander-in-chief, it was objected that "his studies 
had been directed to civil and not to military pur 
suits; that he was totally unacquainted with the 
art of war, and had no knowledge of military dis 
cipline ; and that such a person was very unfit to 
be at the head of troops who were likely to be 
engaged with a well-disciplined army, commanded 
by experienced and able generals." 1 In the very 
middle of the period of his nominal military ser 
vice, this opinion of his unfitness was still more 
strongly urged by the chairman of the Committee 
of Safety, who, on the 24th of December, 1775, 
said in a letter to Colonel Woodf ord : 

" Believe me, sir, the unlucky step of calling that gen 
tleman from our councils, where he was useful, into the 
field, in an important station, the duties of which he 
must, in the nature of things, be an entire stranger to, 
has given me many an anxious and uneasy moment. In 
consequence of this mistaken step, which can t now be 
retracted or remedied, for he has done nothing worthy 
of degradation, and must keep his rank, we must be 
deprived of the service of some able officers, whose honor 
and former ranks will not suffer them to act under him 
in this juncture, when we so much need their services." 8 

This seems to have been, in substance, the impres- 

1 4 Am. Arch. iv. 1519. 2 Wirt, 175. 


sion concerning Patrick Henry held at that time 
by at least two friendly and most competent ob 
servers, who were then looking on from a distance, 
and who, of course, were beyond the range of any 
personal or partisan prejudice upon the subject. 
Writing from Cambridge, on the 7th of March, 
1776, before he had received the news of Henry s 
resignation, Washington said to Joseph Reed, then 
at Philadelphia: "I think my countrymen made 
a capital mistake when they took Henry out of the 
senate to place him in the field ; and pity it is that 
he does not see this, and remove every difficulty 
by a voluntary resignation." l On the 15th of that 
month, Reed, in reply, gave to Washington this 
bit of news : " We have some accounts from Vir 
ginia that Colonel Henry has resigned in disgust 
at not being made a general officer ; but it rather 
gives satisfaction than otherwise, as his abilities 
seem better calculated for the senate than the 
field." 2 

Nevertheless, in all these contemporary judg 
ments upon the alleged military defects of Patrick 
Henry, no reader can now fail to note an embar 
rassing lack of definiteness, and a tendency to infer 
that, because that great man was so great in civil 
life, as a matter of course, he could not be great, 
also, in military life, a proposition that could 
be overthrown by numberless historical examples 
to the contrary. It would greatly aid us if we 

1 Writings of Washington, iii. 309. 

2 W. B. Reed, Life of Joseph Eeed, i. 173. 


could know precisely what, in actual experience, 
were the defects found in Patrick Henry as a mili 
tary man, and precisely how these defects were 
exhibited by him in the camp at Williamsburg. 
In the writings of that period, no satisfaction upon 
this point seems thus far to have been obtained. 
There is, however, a piece of later testimony, 
derived by authentic tradition from a prominent 
member of the Virginia Committee of Safety, 
which really helps one to understand what may 
have been the exact difficulty with the military 
character of Patrick Henry, and just why, also, 
it could not be more plainly stated at the time. 
Clement Carrington, a son of Paul Carrington, 
told Hugh Blair Grigsby that the real ground of 
the action of the Committee of Safety "was the 
want of discipline in the regiment under the com 
mand of Colonel Henry. None doubted his cour 
age, or his alacrity to hasten to the field; but it 
was plain that he did not seem to be conscious of 
the importance of strict discipline in the army, but 
regarded his soldiers as so many gentlemen who 
had met to defend their country, and exacted from 
them little more than the courtesy that was proper 
among equals. To have marched to the sea-board 
at that time with a regiment of such men, would 
have been to insure their destruction ; and it was 
a thorough conviction of this truth that prompted 
the decision of the committee." 1 

Yet, even with this explanation, the truth re- 

1 Grigsby, Va. Conv. of 1776, 52, 53, note. 


mains that Patrick Henry, as conamander-in-cliief 
of the Virginia forces, never was permitted to take 
command, or to see any real service in the field, 
or to look upon the face of an armed enemy, or to 
show, in the only way in which it could be shown, 
whether or not he had the gifts of a military leader 
in action. As an accomplished and noble-minded 
Virginian of our own time has said : 

" It may be doubted whether he possessed those quali 
ties which make a wary partisan, and which are so often 
possessed in an eminent degree by uneducated men. 
Regular fighting there was none in the colony, until near 
the close of the war. . . . The most skilful partisan in 
the Virginia of that day, covered as it was with forests, 
cut up by streams, and beset by predatory bands, would 
have been the Indian warrior ; and as a soldier ap 
proached that model, would he have possessed the proper 
tactics for the time. That Henry would not have made 
a better Indian fighter than Jay, or Livingston, or the 
Adamses, that he might not have made as dashing a 
partisan as Tarleton or Simcoe, his friends might readily 
afford to concede ; but that he evinced, what neither 
Jay, nor Livingston, nor the Adamses did evince, a de 
termined resolution to stake his reputation and his life 
on the issue of arms, and that he resigned his commis 
sion when the post of imminent danger was refused 
him, exhibit a lucid proof that, whatever may have been 
his ultimate fortune, he was not deficient in two grand 
elements of military success, personal enterprise, and 
unquestioned courage." 1 

* Grigsby, Fa. Cony, p/1776, 151, 152. 



UPON this mortifying close of a military career 
which had opened with so much expectation and 
even eclat, Patrick Henry returned, early in 
March, 1776, to his home in the county of Han 
over, a home on which then rested the shadow 
of a great sorrow. In the midst of the public en 
gagements and excitements which absorbed him 
during the previous year, his wife, Sarah, the wife 
of his youth, the mother of his six children, had 
passed away. His own subsequent release from 
public labor, however bitter in its occasion, must 
have brought to him a great solace in the few 
weeks of repose which he then had under his own 
roof, with the privilege of ministering to the hap 
piness of his motherless children, and of enjoying 
once more their loving companionship and sym 

But in such a crisis of his country s fate, such 
a man as Patrick Henry could not be permitted 
long to remain in seclusion; and the promptness 
and the heartiness with which he was now sum 
moned back into the service of the public as a 
civilian, after the recent humiliations of his mili- 


tary career, were accented, perhaps, on the part 
of his neighbors, by something of the fervor of in 
tended compensation, if not of intended revenge. 
For, in the mean time, the American colonies had 
been swiftly advancing, along a path strewn with 
corpses and wet with blood, towards the doctrine 
that a total separation from the mother-country, 
a thing hitherto contemplated by them only as a 
disaster and a crime, might after all be neither, 
but on the contrary, the only resource left to them 
in their desperate struggle for political existence. 
This supreme question, it was plain, was to con 
front the very next Virginia convention, which 
was under appointment to meet early in the com 
ing May. Almost at once, therefore, after his 
return home, Patrick Henry was elected by his 
native county to represent it in that convention. 

On Monday morning, the 6th of May, the con 
vention gathered at Williamsburg for its first 
meeting. On its roll of members we see many of 
those names which have become familiar to us in 
the progress of this history, the names of those 
sturdy and well-trained leaders who guided Virginia 
during all that stormy period, Pendleton, Gary, 
Mason, Nicholas, Bland, the Lees, Mann Page, 
Dudley Digges, Wythe, Edmund Randolph, and 
a few others. For the first time also, on such a 
roll, we meet the name of James Madison, an 
accomplished young political philosopher, then but 
four years from the inspiring instruction of Presi 
dent Witherspoon at Princeton. But while a few 


very able men had places in that convention, it 
was, at the time, by some observers thought to 
contain an unusually large number of incompetent 
persons. Three days after the opening of the ses 
sion Landon Carter wrote to Washington : 

" I could have wished that ambition had not so visibly 
seized so mush ignorance all over the colony, as it seems 
to have done ; for this present convention abounds with 
too many of the inexperienced creatures to navigate our 
bark on this dangerous coast ; so that I fear the few skilful 
pilots who have hitherto done tolerably well to keep her 
clear from destruction, will not be able to conduct her 
with common safety any longer." * 

The earliest organization of the House was, on 
the part of the friends of Patrick Henry, made 
the occasion for a momentary flash of resentment 
against Edmund Pendleton, as the man who was 
believed by them to have been the guiding mind 
of the Committee of Safety in its long series of 
restraints upon the military activity of their chief. 
At the opening of the convention Pendleton was 
nominated for its president, a most suitable 
nomination, and one which under ordinary circum 
stances would have been carried by acclamation. 
Thomas Johnson, however, a stanch follower of 
Patrick Henry, at once presented an opposing can 
didate; and although Pendleton was elected, he 
was not elected without a contest, or without this 
significant hint that the fires of indignation against 
1 4 Am. Arch. vi. 390. 


him were still burning in the hearts of a strong 
party in that house and throughout the colony. 

The convention lasted just two months lacking 
a day; and in all the detail and drudgery of its 
business, as the journal indicates, Patrick Henry 
bore a very large part. In the course of the ses 
sion, he seems to have served on perhaps a majo 
rity of all its committees. On the 6th of May, he 
was made a member of the committee of privileges 
and elections; on the 7th, of a committee "to 
bring in an ordinance to encourage the making of 
salt, saltpetre, and gunpowder;" on the 8th, of 
the committee on "propositions and grievances;" 
on the 21st, of a committee "to inquire for a 
proper hospital for the reception and accommoda 
tion of the sick and wounded soldiers; " on the 
22d, of a committee to inquire into the truth of 
a complaint made by the Indians respecting en 
croachments on their lands ; on the 23d, of a com 
mittee to bring in an ordinance for augmenting 
the ninth regiment, for enlisting four troops of 
horse, and for raising men for the defence of the 
frontier counties; on the 4th of June, of a com 
mittee to inquire into the causes for the deprecia 
tion of paper money in the colony, and into the 
rates at which goods are sold at the public store; 
on the 14th of June, of a committee to prepare an 
address to be sent by Virginia to the Shawanese 
Indians ; on the 15th of June, of a committee to 
bring in amendments to the ordinance for prescrib 
ing a mode of punishment for the enemies of 


America in this colony ; and on the 22d of June, 
of a committee to prepare an ordinance "for ena 
bling the present magistrates to continue the admin 
istration of justice, and for settling the genera] 
mode of proceedings in criminal and other cases." 
The journal also mentions his frequent activity in 
the House in the presentation of reports from some 
of these committees : for example, from the com 
mittee on propositions and grievances, on the 16th 
of May, on the 22d of May, and on the 15th of 
June. On the latter occasion, he made to the 
House three detailed reports on as many different 
topics. 1 

Of course, the question overshadowing all others 
in that convention was the question of independ 
ence. General Charles Lee, whose military du 
ties just then detained him at Williamsburg, and 
who was intently watching the currents of political 
thought in all the colonies, assured Washington, 
in a letter written on the 10th of May, that "a 
noble spirit" possessed the convention; and that 
the members were "almost unanimous for inde 
pendence," the only disagreement being "in their 
sentiments about the mode." 2 That Patrick 
Henry was in favor of independence hardly needs 
to be mentioned ; yet it does need to be mentioned 
that he was among those who disagreed with some 
of his associates "about the mode." While he 
was as eager and as resolute for independence as 

1 The journal of this convention is in 4 Am. Arch. vi. 1509-1616. 

2 4 Am. Arch. vi. 406. 


any man, he doubted whether the time had then 
fully come for declaring independence. He thought 
that the declaration should be so timed as to secure, 
beyond all doubt, two great conditions of success, 
first, the firm union of the colonies themselves, 
and secondly, the friendship of foreign powers, 
particularly of France and Spain. For these rea 
sons, he would have had independence delayed 
until a confederation of the colonies could be es 
tablished by written articles, which, he probably 
supposed, would take but a few weeks; and also 
until American agents could have time to negotiate 
with the French and Spanish courts. 

On the first day of the session, General Charles 
Lee, who was hot for an immediate declaration of 
independence, seems to have had a conversation 
upon the subject with Patrick Henry, during which 
the latter stated his reasons for some postponement 
of the measure. This led General Lee, on the 
following day, to write to Henry a letter which is 
really remarkable, some passages from which will 
help us the better to understand the public situa 
tion, as well as Patrick Henry s attitude towards 

WILLIAMSBURG, May 7, 1776. 

DEAR SIR, If I had not the highest opinion of your 
character and liberal way of thinking, I should not ven 
ture to address myself to you. And if I were not equally 
persuaded of the great weight and influence which the 
transcendent abilities you possess must naturally confer, 
I should not give myself the trouble of writing, nor you 


the trouble of reading this long letter. Since our con 
versation yesterday, my thoughts have been solely em 
ployed on the great question, whether independence 
ought or ought not to be immediately declared. Having 
weighed the argument on both sides, I am clearly of the 
opinion that we must, as we value the liberties of Amer 
ica, or even her existence, without a moment s delay 
declare for independence. . . . The objection you made 
yesterday, if I understood you rightly, to an immediate 
declaration, was by many degrees the most specious, 
indeed, it is the only tolerable, one that I have yet heard. 
You say, and with great justice, that we ought previously 
to have felt the pulse of France and Spain. I more than 
believe, I am almost confident, that it has been done. . . . 
But admitting that we are utter strangers to their senti 
ments on the subject, and that we run some risk of this 
declaration being coldly received by these powers, such 
is our situation that the risk must be ventured. 

On one side there are the most probable chances of 
our success, founded on the certain advantages which 
must manifest themselves to French understandings by 
a treaty of alliance with America. . . . The superior 
commerce and marine force of England were evidently 
established on the monopoly of her American trade. 
The inferiority of France, in these two capital points, 
consequently had its source in the same origin. Any 
deduction from this monopoly must bring down her 
rival in proportion to this deduction. The French are 
and always have been sensible of these great truths. . . . 
But allowing that there can be no certainty, but mere 
chances, in our favor, I do insist upon it that these 
chances render it our duty to adopt the measure, as, by 
procrastination, our ruin is inevitable. Should it now 


be determined to wait the result of a previous formal 
negotiation with France, a whole year must pass over 
our heads before we can be acquainted with the result. 
In the mean time, we are to struggle through a cam 
paign, without arms, ammunition, or any one necessary 
of war. Disgrace and defeat will infallibly ensue ; the 
soldiers and officers will become so disappointed that 
they will abandon their colors, and probably never be 
persuaded to make another effort. 

But there is another consideration still more cogent. 
I can assure you that the spirit of the people cries out 
for this declaration ; the military, in particular, men 
and officers, are outrageous on the subject ; and a man 
of your excellent discernment need not be told how 
dangerous it would be, in our present circumstances, to 
dally with the spirit, or disappoint the expectations, of 
the bulk of the people. May not despair, anarchy, and 
final submission be the bitter fruits ? I am firmly per 
suaded that they will ; and, in this persuasion, I most 
devoutly pray that you may not merely recommend, but 
positively lay injunctions on, your servants in Congress 
to embrace a measure so necessary to our salvation. 
Yours, most sincerely, 


Just eight days after that letter was written, 
the Virginia convention took what may, at first 
glance, seem to be the precise action therein de 
scribed as necessary; and moreover, they did so 
under the influence, in part, of Patrick Henry s 

1 5 Am. Arch. i. 95-97. Campbell, in his History of Virginia, 
645, 646, commits a rather absurd error in attributing this letter 
to Thomas Nelson, Jr. 


powerful advocacy of it. On the 15th of May, 
after considerable debate, one hundred and twelve 
members being present, the convention unani 
mously resolved, 

" That the delegates appointed to represent this colony 
in General Congress be instructed to propose to that re 
spectable body to declare the United Colonies free and 
independent States, absolved from all allegiance to, or 
dependence upon, the crown or Parliament of Great Bri 
tain ; and that they give the assent of this colony to such 
declaration, and to whatever measures may be thought 
proper and necessary by the Congress for forming foreign 
alliances and a confederation of the colonies, at such 
time, and in the manner, as to them shall seem best : 
provided, that the power of forming government for, 
and the regulations of the internal concerns of, each 
colony, be left to the respective colonial legislatures." ] 

On the testimony of Edmund Randolph, who 
was a member of the convention, it is now known 
that this momentous resolution "was drawn by 
Pendleton, was offered in convention by Nelson, 
and was advocated on the floor by Henry." 2 Any 
one who will carefully study it, however, will dis 
cover that this resolution was the result of a com 
promise; and especially, that it is so framed as to 
meet Patrick Henry s views, at least to the extent 
of avoiding the demand for an immediate declara- 

1 4 Am. Arch. vi. 1524. 

2 Randolph s address at the funeral of Pendleton, in Va. Gazette 
for 2 Nov. 1803, and cited by Grigsby, Va. Conv. of 1776, 203, 


tion, and of leaving it to Congress to determine 
the time and manner of making it. Accordingly, 
in letters of his, written five days afterward to his 
most intimate friends in Congress, we see that his 
mind was still full of anxiety about the two great 
prerequisites, a certified union among the colo 
nies, and a friendly arrangement with France. 
"Ere this reaches you," he wrote to Richard 
Henry Lee, "our resolution for separating from 
Britain will be handed you by Colonel Nelson. 
Your sentiments as to the necessary progress of 
this great affair correspond with mine. For may 
not France, ignorant of the great advantages to 
her commerce we intend to offer, and of the 
permanency of that separation which is to take 
place, be allured by the partition you mention? 
To anticipate, therefore, the efforts of the enemy 
by sending instantly American ambassadors to 
France, seems to me absolutely necessary. Delay 
may bring on us total ruin. But is not a confed 
eracy of our States previously necessary? " 

On the same day, he wrote, also, a letter to 
John Adams, in which he developed still more 
vigorously his views as to the true order in which 
the three great measures, confederation, foreign 
alliances, and independence, should be dealt 
with : 

" Before this reaches you, the resolution for finally 
separating from Britain will be handed to Congress by 

1 S. Lit. Messenger for 1842 ; thence given in Campbell, Hist. 
Va. 647,648. 


Colonel Nelson. I put up with it in the present form 
for the sake of unanimity. T is not quite so pointed as 
I could wish. Excuse me for telling you of what I think 
of immense importance ; t is to anticipate the enemy at 
the French court. The half of our continent offered to 
France, may induce her to aid our destruction, which 
she certainly has the power to accomplish. I know the 
free trade with all the States would be more beneficial 
to her than any territorial possessions she might acquire. 
But pressed, allured, as she will be, but, above all, 
ignorant of the great thing we mean to offer, may we 
not lose her ? The consequence is dreadful. Excuse 
me again. The confederacy : that must precede an 
open declaration of independency and foreign alliances. 
Would it not be sufficient to confine it, for the present, 
to the objects of offensive and defensive nature, and a 
guaranty of the respective colonial rights ? If a minute 
arrangement of things is attempted, such as equal repre 
sentation, etc., etc., you may split and divide ; certainly 
will delay the French alliance, which with me is every 
thing." * 

In the mean time, however, many of the people 
of Virginia had received with enthusiastic approval 
the news of the great step taken by their conven 
tion on the 15th of May. Thus "on the day fol 
lowing," says the "Virginia Gazette," published 
at Williamsburg, "the troops in this city, with 
the train of artillery, were drawn up and went 
through their firings and various other military 
manoeuvres, with the greatest exactness; a conti 
nental union flag was displayed upon the capitol; 
1 Works of John Adams, iv. 201. 


and in the evening many of the inhabitants illu 
minated their houses." l Moreover, the great step 
taken by the Virginia convention, on the day just 
mentioned, committed that body to the duty of 
taking at once certain other steps of supreme im 
portance. They were about to cast off the govern 
ment of Great Britain : it was necessary for them, 
therefore, to provide some government to be put 
in the place of it. Accordingly, in the very same 
hour in which they instructed their delegates in 
Congress to propose a declaration of independence, 
they likewise resolved, "That a committee be ap 
pointed to prepare a declaration of rights, and 
such a plan of government as will be most likely 
to maintain peace and order in this colony, and 
secure substantial and equal liberty to the people." 2 
Of this committee, Patrick Henry was a mem 
ber ; and with him were associated Archibald Gary, 
Henry Lee, Nicholas, Edmund Randolph, Bland, 
Dudley Digges, Paul Carrington, Mann Page, 
Madison, George Mason, and others. The two 
tasks before the committee that of drafting a 
statement of rights, and that of drafting a consti 
tution for the new State of Virginia must have 
pressed heavily upon its leading members. In the 
work of creating a new state government, Vir 
ginia was somewhat in advance of the other colo 
nies; and for this reason, as well as on account of 
its general preeminence among the colonies, the 
course which it should take in this crisis was 
1 4 Am. Arch. vi. 462. 2 4 Am. Arch. vi. 1524. 


watched with extraordinary attention. John 
Adams said, at the time, "We all look up to Vir 
ginia for examples." 1 Besides, in Virginia itself, 
as well as in the other colonies, there was an un 
settled question as to the nature of the state gov 
ernments which were then to be instituted. Should 
they be strongly aristocratic and conservative, with 
a possible place left for the monarchical feature ; 
or should the popular elements in each colony be 
more largely recognized, and a decidedly demo 
cratic character given to these new constitutions? 
On this question, two strong parties existed in 
Virginia. In the first place, there were the old 
aristocratic families, and those who sympathized 
with them. These people, numerous, rich, culti 
vated, influential, in objecting to the unfair en 
croachments of British authority, had by no means 
intended to object to the nature of the British 
constitution, and would have been pleased to see 
that constitution, in all its essential features, re 
tained in Virginia. This party was led by such 
men as Robert Carter Nicholas, Carter Braxton, 
and Edmund Pendleton. In the second place, 
there were the democrats, the reformers, the radi 
cals, who were inclined to take the opportunity 
furnished by Virginia s rejection of British autho 
rity as the occasion for rejecting, within the new 
State of Virginia, all the aristocratic and monar 
chical features of the British Constitution itself. 
This party was led by such men as Patrick Henry, 

1 Works of John Adams, ix. 387. 


Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, and George 
Mason. Which party was to succeed in stamping 
its impress the more strongly on the new plan for 
government in Virginia? 

Furthermore, it is important to observe that, on 
this very question then at issue in Virginia, two 
pamphlets, taking opposite sides, were, just at that 
moment, attracting the notice of Virginians, 
both pamphlets being noble in tone, of consider 
able learning, very suggestive, and very well ex 
pressed. The first, entitled "Thoughts on Gov 
ernment," though issued anonymously, was soon 
known to be by John Adams. It advocated the 
formation of state constitutions on the democratic 
model; a lower house elected for a single year by 
the people ; this house to elect an upper house of 
twenty or thirty members, who were to have a 
negative on the lower house, and to serve, likewise, 
for a single year; these two houses to elect a gov 
ernor, who was to have a negative on them both, 
and whose term of office should also end with the 
year; while the judges, and all other officers, civil 
or military, were either to be appointed by the 
governor with the advice of the upper house, or to 
be chosen directly by the two houses themselves. 1 
The second pamphlet, which was in part a reply 
to the first, was entitled " Address to the Conven 
tion of the Colony and Ancient Dominion of Vir 
ginia, on the subject of Government in general, 
and recommending a particular form to their con- 

1 John Adams s pamphlet is given in his Works, iv. 189-200. 


sideratlon." It purported to be by "A native of 
the Colony." Although the pamphlet was sent 
into Virginia under strong recommendations from 
Carter Braxton, one of the Virginian delegates in 
Congress, the authorship was then unknown to the 
public. It advocated the formation of state con 
stitutions on a model far less democratic : first, a 
lower house, the members of which were to be 
elected for three years by the people; secondly, 
an upper house of twenty-four members, to be 
elected for life by the lower house; thirdly, a 
governor, to be elected for life by the lower house ; 
fourthly, all judges, all military officers, and all 
inferior civil ones, to be appointed by the gover 
nor. 1 

Such was the question over which the members 
of the committee, appointed on the 15th of May, 
must soon have come into sharp conflict. At its 
earliest meetings, apparently, Henry found the 
aristocratic tendencies of some of his associates so 
strong as to give him considerable uneasiness ; and 
by his letter to John Adams, written on the 20th 
of the month, we may see that he was then com 
plaining of the lack of any associate of adequate 
ability on his own side of the question. When 
we remember, however, that both James Madison 
and George Mason were members of that commit 
tee, we can but read Patrick Henry s words with 
some astonishment. 2 The explanation is probably 

1 The pamphlet is given in 4 Am. Arch. vi. 748-754. 

2 See the unfavorable comment of Rives, Life and Times of 
Madison, i. 147, 148. 


to be found in the fact that Madison was not placed 
on the committee until the 16th, and, being very 
young and very unobtrusive, did not at first make 
his true weight felt ; while Mason was not placed 
on the committee until the working day just before 
Henry s letter was written, and very likely had 
not then met with it, and may not, at the moment, 
have been remembered by Henry as a member of 
it. At any rate, this is the way in which our 
eager Virginia democrat, in that moment of anx 
ious conflict over the form of the future govern 
ment of his State, poured out his anxieties to his 
two most congenial political friends in Congress. 
To- Richard Henry Lee he wrote : 

" The grand work of forming a constitution for Vir 
ginia is now before the convention, where your love of 
equal liberty and your skill in public counsels might so 
eminently serve the cause of your country. Perhaps 
I m mistaken, but I fear too great a bias to aristocracy 
prevails among the opulent. I own myself a democratic 
on the plan of our admired friend, J. Adams, whose 
pamphlet I read with great pleasure. A performance 
from Philadelphia is just come here, ushered in, I m 
told, by a colleague of yours, B , and greatly re 
commended by him. I don t like it. Is the author a 
Whig ? One or two expressions in the book make me 
ask. I wish to divide you, and have you here to ani 
mate, by your manly eloquence, the sometimes drooping 
spirits of our country, and in Congress to be the orna 
ment of your native country, and the vigilant, deter 
mined foe of tyranny. To give you colleagues of kin 
dred sentiments, is my wish. I doubt you have them 


not at present. A confidential account of the matter to 
Colonel Tom, 1 desiring him to use it according to his 
discretion, might greatly serve the public and vindicate 
Virginia from suspicions. Vigor, animation, and all 
the powers of mind and body must now be summoned 
and collected together into one grand effort. Modera 
tion, falsely so called, hath nearly brought on us final 
ruin. And to see those, who have so fatally advised us, 
still guiding, or at least sharing, our public counsels, 
alarms me." 2 

On the same day, he wrote as follows to John 
Adams : 

WILLIAMSBURG, May 20, 1776. 

MY DEAR SIR, Your favor, with the pamphlet, 
came safe to hand. I am exceedingly obliged to you 
for it ; and I am not without hopes it may produce good 
here, where there is among most of our opulent families 
a strong bias to aristocracy. I tell my friends you are 
the author. Upon that supposition, I have two reasons 
for liking the book. The sentiments are precisely the 
same I have long since taken up, and they come recom 
mended by you. Go on, my dear friend, to assail the 
strongholds of tyranny ; and in whatever form oppres 
sion may be found, may those talents and that firmness, 
which have achieved so much for America, be pointed 
against it. ... 

Our convention is now employed in the great work of 
forming a constitution. My most esteemed republican 
form has many and powerful enemies. A silly thing, 
published in Philadelphia, by a native of Virginia, has 

1 Probably Thomas Ludwell Lee. 

2 S. Lit. Messenger for 1842. Reprinted in Campbell, Hist. Va. 


just made its appearance here, strongly recommended, 
t is said, by one of our delegates now with you, Brax- 
ton. His reasonings upon and distinction between pri 
vate and public virtue, are weak, shallow, evasive, and 
the whole performance an affront and disgrace to this 
country ; and, by one expression, I suspect his whiggism. 

Our session will be very long, during which I cannot 
count upon one coadjutor of talents equal to the task. 
Would to God you and your Sam Adams were here ! 
It shall be my incessant study so to form our portrait of 
government that a kindred with New England may be 
discerned in it ; and if all your excellences cannot be 
preserved, yet I hope to retain so much of the likeness, 
that posterity shall pronounce us descended from the 
same stock. I shall think perfection is obtained, if we 
have your approbation. 

I am forced to conclude ; but first, let me beg to be 
presented to my ever-esteemed S. Adams. Adieu, my 
dear sir ; may God preserve you, and give you every 
good thing. 


P. S. Will you and S. A. now and then write ? l 

To this hearty and even brotherly letter John 
Adams wrote from Philadelphia, on the 3d of 
June, a fitting reply, in the course of which he 
said, with respect to Henry s labors in making a 
constitution for Virginia : " The subject is of infi 
nite moment, and perhaps more than adequate to 
the abilities of any man in America. I know of 
none so competent to the task as the author of the 
first Virginia resolutions against the Stamp Act, 
1 Works of John Adams, iv. 201, 202. 


who will have the glory with posterity of begin 
ning and concluding this great revolution. Happy 
Virginia, whose constitution is to be framed by so 
masterly a builder!" Then, with respect to the 
aristocratic features in the Constitution, as pro 
posed by "A Native of the Colony," John Adams 
exclaims : 

" The dons, the bashaws, the grandees, the patricians, 
the sachems, the nabobs, call them by what name you 
please, sigh, and groan, and fret, and sometimes stamp, 
and foam, and curse, but all in vain. The decree is 
gone forth, and it cannot be recalled, that a more equal 
liberty than has prevailed in other parts of the earth, 
must be established in America. That exuberance of 
pride which has produced an insolent domination in a 
few, a very few, opulent, monopolizing families, will be 
brought down nearer to the confines of reason and mod 
eration than they have been used to. ... I shall ever 
be happy in receiving your advice by letter, until I can 
be more completely so in seeing you here in person, 
which I hope will be soon." l 

On the 12th of June, the convention adopted 
without a dissenting voice its celebrated "declara 
tion of rights," a compact, luminous, and power 
ful statement, in sixteen articles, of those great 
fundamental rights that were henceforth to be 
"the basis and foundation of government" in 
Virginia, and were to stamp their character upon 
that constitution on which the committee were even 
then engaged. Perhaps no political document of 
l Works of John Adams, ix. 386-388. 


that time is more worthy of study in connection 
with the genesis, not only of our state constitu 
tions, but of that of the nation likewise. That 
the first fourteen articles of the declaration were 
written by George Mason has never been disputed : 
that he also wrote the fifteenth and the sixteenth 
articles is now claimed by his latest and ablest 
biographer, 1 but in opposition to the testimony of 
Edmund Randolph, who was a member both of 
the convention itself and of the particular commit 
tee in charge of the declaration, and who has left 
on record the statement that those articles were 
the work of Patrick Henry. 2 The fifteenth article 
was in these words: "That no free government, 
or the blessings of liberty, can be preserved to any 
people but by a firm adherence to justice, modera 
tion, temperance, frugality, and virtue, and by 
frequent recurrence to fundamental principles." 
The sixteenth article is an assertion of the doctrine 
of religious liberty, the first time that it was 
ever asserted by authority in Virginia. The origi 
nal draft, in which the writer followed very closely 
the language used on that subject by the Inde 
pendents in the Assembly of Westminster, stood as 
follows : 

" That religion, or the duty we owe our Creator, and 
the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by 
reason and conviction, and not by force or violence ; and, 

1 Kate Mason Rowland, Life of Mason, i. 228-241. 

2 Edmund Randolph, MS. Hist. Va. See, also, W. W. Henry, 
Life of P. Henry, i. 422-436. 


therefore, that all men should enjoy the fullest toleration 
in the exercise of religion, according to the dictates of 
conscience, unpunished and unrestrained by the magis 
trate, unless, under color of religion, any man disturb 
the peace, the happiness, or the safety of society ; and 
that it is the mutual duty of all to practise Christian for 
bearance, love, and charity towards each other." ] 

The historic significance of this stately assertion 
of religious liberty in Virginia can be felt only by 
those who remember that, at that time, the Church 
of England was the established church of Virginia, 
and that the laws of Virginia then restrained the 
exercise there of every form of religious dissent, 
unless compliance had been made with the condi 
tions of the toleration act of the first year of Wil 
liam and Mary. At the very moment, probably, 
when the committee were engaged in considering 
the tremendous innovation contained in this arti 
cle, "sundry persons of the Baptist church in the 
county of Prince William " were putting their 
names to a petition earnestly imploring the con 
vention, "That they be allowed to worship God 
in their own way, without interruption ; that they 
be permitted to maintain their own ministers and 
none others; that they may be married, buried, 
and the like, without paying the clergy of other 
denominations; " and that, by the concession to 
them of such religious freedom, they be enabled 
to "unite with their brethren, and to the utmost 

i Edmund Randolph, MS. Hist. Va. See, also, W. W. Henry, 
Life of P. Henry, i. 422-436. 


of their ability promote the common cause " of 
political freedom. 1 Of course the adoption of the 
sixteenth article virtually carried with it every 
privilege which these people asked for. The au 
thor of that article, whether it was George Mason 
or Patrick Henry, was a devout communicant of 
the established church of Virginia; and thus, the 
first great legislative act for the reform of the 
civil constitution of that church, and for its deliv 
erance from the traditional duty and curse of per 
secution, was an act which came from within the 
church itself. 

On Monday, the 24th of June, the committee, 
through Archibald Gary, submitted to the conven 
tion their plan of a constitution for the new State 
of Virginia; and on Saturday, the 29th of June, 
this plan passed its third reading, and was unani 
mously adopted. A glance at the document will 
show that in the sharp struggle between the aristo 
cratic and the democratic forces in the convention, 
the latter had signally triumphed. It provided 
for a lower House of Assembly, whose members 
were to be elected annually by the people, in the 
proportion of two members from each county; for 
an upper House of Assembly to consist of twenty- 
four members, who were to be elected annually by 
the people, in the proportion of one member from 
each of the senatorial districts into which the sev 
eral counties should be grouped; for a governor, 
to be elected annually by joint ballot of both 
i 4 Am. Arch. vi. 1582. 


houses, and not to "continue in that office longer 
than three years successively," nor then to be eli 
gible again for the office until after the lapse of 
four years from the close of his previous term ; for 
a privy council of eight members, for delegates in 
Congress, and for judges in the several courts, all 
to be elected by joint ballot of the two Houses ; for 
justices of the peace to be appointed by the gov 
ernor and the privy council; and, finally, for an 
immediate election, by the convention itself, of a 
governor, and a privy council, and such other offi 
cers as might be necessary for the introduction of 
the new government. 1 

In accordance with the last provision of this 
Constitution, the convention at once proceeded to 
cast their ballots for governor, with the following 
result : 

For Patrick Henry 60 

For Thomas Nelson 45 

For John Page 1 

By resolution, Patrick Henry was then formally 
declared to be the governor of the commonwealth 
of Virginia, to continue in office until the close of 
that session of the Assembly which should be held 
after the end of the following March. 

On the same day on which this action was taken, 
he wrote, in reply to the official notice of his elec 
tion, the following letter of acceptance, a grace 
ful, manly, and touching composition : 

1 Am. Arch. vi. 1598-1601, note. 



GENTLEMEN, The vote of this day, appointing me 
governor of this commonwealth, has been notified to 
me, in the most polite and obliging manner, by George 
Mason, Henry Lee, Dudley Digges, John Blair, and 
Bartholomew Dandridge, Esquires. 

A sense of the high and unmerited honor conferred 
upon me by the convention fills my heart with gratitude, 
which I trust my whole life will manifest. I take this 
earliest opportunity to express my thanks, which I wish 
to convey to you, gentlemen, in the strongest terms of 

When I reflect that the tyranny of the British king 
and parliament hath kindled a formidable war, now ra 
ging throughout the wide-extended continent, and in the 
operations of which this commonwealth must bear so 
great a part, and that from the events of this war the 
lasting happiness or misery of a great proportion of the 
human species will finally result ; that, in order to pre 
serve this commonwealth from anarchy, and its attend 
ant ruin, and to give vigor to our councils and effect to 
all our measures, government hath been necessarily as 
sumed and new modelled ; that it is exposed to number 
less hazards and perils in its infantine state ; that it can 
never attain to maturity or ripen into firmness, unless 
it is guarded by affectionate assiduity, and managed by 
great abilities, I lament my want of talents ; I feel 
my mind filled with anxiety and uneasiness to find my 
self so unequal to the duties of that important station to 
which I am called by favor of my fellow citizens at this 
truly critical conjuncture. The errors of my conduct 


shall be atoned for, so far as I am able, by unwearied 
endeavors to secure the freedom and happiness of our 
common country. 

I shall enter upon the duties of my office whenever 
you, gentlemen, shall be pleased to direct, relying upon 
the known wisdom and virtue of your honorable house 
to supply my defects, and to give permanency and suc 
cess to that system of government which you have 
formed, and which is so wisely calculated to secure equal 
liberty, and advance human happiness. 

I have the honor to be, gentlemen, your most obedi 
ent and very humble servant, 

WILLIAMSBUKG, June 29, 1776. * 

1 4 Am. Arch. vi. 1129, 1130. 



ON Friday, the 5th of July, 1776, Patrick 
Henry took the oath of office, 1 and entered upon 
his duties as governor of the commonwealth of 
Virginia. The salary attached to the position was 
fixed at one thousand pounds sterling for the year ; 
and the governor was invited to take up his resi 
dence in the palace at Williamsburg. No one 
had resided in the palace since Lord Dunmore 
had fled from it; and the people of Virginia could 
hardly fail to note the poetic retribution whereby 
the very man whom, fourteen months before, Lord 
Dunmore had contemptuously denounced as "a 
certain Patrick Henry of Hanover County," should 
now become Lord Dunmore s immediate successor 
in that mansion of state, and should be able*, if he 
chose, to write proclamations against Lord Dun- 
more upon the same desk on which Lord Dunmore 
had so recently written the proclamation against 

Among the first to bring their congratulations 
to the new governor, were his devoted friends, the 
first and second regiments of Virginia, who told 
1 Burk, Hist. Va. iv. 154. 


him that they viewed "with the sincerest senti 
ments of respect and joy " his accession to the 
highest office in the State, and who gave to him 
likewise this affectionate assurance: "our hearts 
are willing, and arms ready, to maintain your 
authority as chief magistrate." 1 On the 29th of 
July, the erratic General Charles Lee, who was 
then in Charleston, sent on his congratulations in 
a letter amusing for its tart cordiality and its pep 
pery playfulness : 

" I most sincerely congratulate you on the noble con 
duct of your countrymen ; and I congratulate your coun 
try on having citizens deserving of the high honor to 
which you are exalted. For the being elected to the 
first magistracy of a free people is certainly the pinnacle 
of human glory ; and I am persuaded that they could 
not have made a happier choice. Will you excuse me, 
but I am myself so extremely democratical, that I think 
it a fault in your constitution that the governor should be 
eligible for three years successively. It appears to me 
that a government of three years may furnish an oppor 
tunity of acquiring a very dangerous influence. But this 
is not the worst. ... A man who is fond of office, and 
has his eye upon reelection, will be courting favor and 
popularity at the expense of his duty. . . . There is a 
barbarism crept in among us that extremely shocks me : 
I mean those tinsel epithets with which (I come in for 
my share) we are so beplastered, his excellency/ 
and his honor, the honorable president of the honor 
able congress, or * the honorable convention. This ful 
some, nauseating cant may be well enough adapted to 
1 4 Am. Arch. vi. 1602, 1603, note. 


barbarous monarchies, or to gratify the adulterated pride 
of the magnifici in pompous aristocracies ; but in a 
great, free, manly, equal commonwealth, it is quite 
abominable. For my own part, I would as lief they 
would put ratsbane in my mouth as the * excellency 
with which I am daily crammed. How much more true 
dignity was there in the simplicity of address amongst 
the Romans, Marcus Tullius Cicero, Decimo Bruto 
Imperatori, or Caio Marcello Consuli, than to his 
excellency Major-General Noodle, or to the honorable 
John Doodle. ... If, therefore, I should sometimes 
address a letter to you without the * excellency tacked, 
you must not esteem it a mark of personal or official dis 
respect, but the reverse." 3 

Of all the words of congratulation which poured 
in upon the new governor, probably none came so 
straight from the heart, and none could have been 
quite so sweet to him, as those which, on the 12th 
of August, were uttered by some of the persecuted 
dissenters in Virginia, who, in many an hour of 
need, had learned to look up to Patrick Henry as 
their strong and splendid champion, in the legis 
lature and in the courts. On the date just men 
tioned, "the ministers and delegates of the Baptist 
churches" of the State, being met in convention 
at Louisa, sent to him this address : 

vancement to the honorable and important station as 
governor of this commonwealth affords us unspeakable 
pleasure, we beg leave to present your excellency with 
our most cordial congratulations. 

1 5 Am. Arch. i. 631. 


Your public virtues are such that we are under no 
temptation to flatter you. Virginia has done honor to 
her judgment in appointing your excellency to hold the 
reins of government at this truly critical conjuncture, 
as you have always distinguished yourself by your zeal 
and activity for her welfare, in whatever department has 
been assigned you. 

As a religious community, we have nothing to request 
of you. Your constant attachment to the glorious cause 
of liberty and the rights of conscience, leaves us no 
room to doubt of your excellency s favorable regards 
while we worthily demean ourselves. 

May God Almighty continue you long, very long, a 
public blessing to this your native country, and, after 
a life of usefulness here, crown you with immortal feli 
city in the world to come. 

Signed by order : JEREMIAH WALKER, Moderator. 

To these loving and jubilant words, the gov 
ernor replied in an off-hand letter, the deep feeling 
of which is not the less evident because it is re 
strained, a letter which is as choice and noble 
in diction as it is in thought : 


GENTLEMEN, I am exceedingly obliged to you for 
your very kind address, and the favorable sentiments 
you are pleased to entertain respecting my conduct and 
the principles which have directed it. My constant en 
deavor shall be to guard the rights of all my fellow-citi 
zens from every encroachment. 


I am happy to find a catholic spirit prevailing in our 
country, and that those religious distinctions, which 
formerly produced some heats, are now forgotten. 
Happy must every friend to virtue and America feel 
himself, to perceive that the only contest among us, at 
this most critical and important period, is, who shall be 
foremost to preserve our religious and civil liberties. 

My most earnest wish is, that Christian charity, for 
bearance, and love, may unite all our different persua 
sions, as brethren who must perish or triumph together ; 
and I trust that the time is not far distant when we 
shall greet each other as the peaceable possessors of that 
just and equal system of liberty adopted by the last con 
vention, and in support of which may God crown our 
arms with success. 

I am, gentlemen, your most obedient and very humble 
servant, P. HENRY, JuN. 1 

August 13, 1776. 

On the day on which Governor Henry was sworn 
into office, the convention finally adjourned, hav 
ing made provision for the meeting of the General 
Assembly on the first Monday of the following Oc 
tober. In the mean time, therefore, all the inter 
ests of the State were to be in the immediate keep 
ing of the governor and privy council ; and, for a 
part of that time, as it turned out, the governor 
himself was disabled for service. For we now en 
counter in the history of Patrick Henry, the first 
mention of that infirm health from which he seems 
to have suffered, in some degree, during the re 
maining twenty-three years of his life. Before 
i 5 Am. Arch. i. 905, 900. 


taking full possession of the governor s palace, 
which had to be made ready for his use, he had 
likewise to prepare for this great change in his life 
by returning to his home in the county of Han 
over. There he lay ill for some time ; * and upon 
his recovery he removed with his family to Wil- 
liamsburg, which continued to be their home for 
the next three years. 

The people of Virginia had been accustomed, for 
more than a century, to look upon their governors 
as personages of very great dignity. Several of 
those governors had been connected with the Eng 
lish peerage ; all had served in Virginia in a vice 
regal capacity ; many had lived there in a sort of 
vice-regal pomp and magnificence. It is not to be 
supposed that Governor Henry would be able or 
willing to assume so much state and grandeur as 
his predecessors had done; and yet he felt, and 
the people of Virginia felt, that in the transition 
from royal to republican forms the dignity of that 
office should not be allowed to decline in any im 
portant particular. Moreover, as a contemporary 
observer mentions, Patrick Henry had been "ac 
cused by the big-wigs of former times as being a 
coarse and common man, and utterly destitute of 
dignity ; and perhaps he wished to show them that 
they were mistaken." 2 At any rate, by the testi 
mony of all, he seems to have displayed his usual 
judgment and skill in adapting himself to the re- 

1 George Rogers Clark s Campaign in the Illinois, 11. 

2 Spencer Roane, MS. 


quirements of his position ; and, while never losing 
his gentleness and his simplicity of manner, to 
have borne himself as the impersonation, for the 
time being, of the executive authority of a great and 
proud commonwealth. He ceased to appear fre 
quently upon the streets; and whenever he did 
appear, he was carefully arrayed in a dressed wig, 
in black small-clothes, and in a scarlet cloak; and 
his presence and demeanor were such as to sustain, 
in the popular mind, the traditional respect for 
his high office. 

He had so far recovered from the illness which 
had prostrated him during the summer, as to be 
at his post of duty when the General Assembly 
of the State began its first session, on Monday, 
the 7th of October, 1776. His health, however, 
was still extremely frail; for on the 30th of that 
month he was obliged to notify the House "that 
the low state of his health rendered him unable to 
attend to the duties of his office, and that his phy 
sicians had recommended to him to retire there 
from into the country, till he should recover his 
strength." 1 His absence seems not to have been 
very long. By the 16th of November, as one may 
infer from entries in the journal of the House, 2 he 
was able to resume his official duties. 

The summer and autumn of that year proved to 
be a dismal period for the American cause. Be 
fore our eyes, as we now look back over those 
days, there marches this grim procession of dates : 
1 Jour. Va. House Del. 32. 2 Ibid. 57-59. 


August 27, the battle of Long Island; August 29, 
Washington s retreat across East River; Septem 
ber 15, the panic among the American troops at 
Kip s Bay, and the American retreat from New 
York; September 16, the battle of Harlem Plains; 
September 20, the burning of New York; October 
28, the battle of White Plains; November 16, the 
surrender of Fort Washington ; November 20, the 
abandonment of Fort Lee, followed by Washing 
ton s retreat across the Jerseys. In the midst of 
these disasters, Washington found time to write, 
from the Heights of Harlem, on the 5th of Octo 
ber, to his old friend, Patrick Henry, congratu 
lating him on his election as governor of Virginia 
and on his recovery from sickness; explaining the 
military situation at headquarters; advising him 
about military appointments in Virginia; and es 
pecially giving to him important suggestions con 
cerning the immediate military defence of Virginia 
"against the enemy s ships and tenders, which," 
as Washington says to the governor, "may go up 
your rivers in quest of provisions, or for the pur 
pose of destroying your towns." 1 Indeed, Vir 
ginia was just then exposed to hostile attacks on 
all sides ; 2 and it was so plain that any attack by 
water would have found an easy approach to Wil- 
liamsburg, that, in the course of the next few 
months, the public records and the public stores 

1 Writings of Washington, iv. 138. 

2 See Letters from the president of Va. Privy Council ahd from 
General Lewis, in 5 Am. Arch. i. 736. 


were removed to Richmond, as being, on every 
account, a "more secure site." 1 Apparently, how 
ever, the prompt recognition of this danger by 
Governor Henry, early in the autumn of 1776, 
and his vigorous military preparations against it, 
were interpreted by some of his political enemies 
as a sign both of personal cowardice and of official 
self-glorification, as is indicated by a letter writ 
ten by the aged Landon Carter to General Wash 
ington, on the 31st of October, and filled with all 
manner of caustic garrulity and insinuation, a 
letter from which it may be profitable for us to 
quote a few sentences, as qualifying somewhat that 
stream of honeyed testimony respecting Patrick 
Henry which commonly flows down upon us so 
copiously from all that period. 

" If I don t err in conjecture," says Carter, " I can t 
help thinking that the head of our Commonwealth has 
as great a palace of fear and apprehension as can possess 
the heart of any being ; and if we compare rumor with 
actual movements, I believe it will prove itself to every 
sensible man. As soon as the Congress sent for our 
first, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth regiments to assist 
you in contest against the enemy where they really were 
. . . there got a report among the soldiery that Dignity 
had declared it would not reside in Williamsburg with 
out two thousand men under arms to guard him. This 
had like to have occasioned a mutiny. A desertion of 
many from the several companies did follow ; boisterous 
fellows resisting, and swearing they would not leave their 
1 Burk, Hist. Va. iv. 229. 


county. . . . What a finesse of popularity was this ? 
. . . As soon as the regiments were gone, this great man 
found an interest with the council of state, perhaps tim 
orous as himself, to issue orders for the militia of twenty- 
six counties, and five companies of a minute battalion, to 
march to Williamsburg, to protect him only against his 
own fears ; and to make this the more popular, it was 
endeavored that the House of Delegates should give it a 
countenance, but, as good luck would have it, it was 
with difficulty refused. 1 . . . Immediately then, ... a 
bill is brought in to remove the seat of government, 
some say, up to Hanover, to be called Henry-Town." 2 

This gossip of a disappointed Virginian aristo 
crat, in vituperation of the public character of 
Governor Henry, naturally leads us forward in 
our story to that more stupendous eruption of gos 
sip which relates, in the first instance, to the latter 
part of December, 1776, and which alleges that a 
conspiracy was then formed among certain mem 
bers of the General Assembly to make Patrick 
Henry the dictator of Virginia. The first intima 
tion ever given to the public concerning it, was 
given by Jefferson several years afterward, in his 
"Notes on Virginia," a fascinating brochure which 
was written by him in 1781 and 1782, was first 
printed privately in Paris in 1784, and was first 
published in England in 1787, in America in 
1788. 3 The essential portions of his statement are 
as follows : 

1 Compare Jour. Va. House Del. 8. 

2 5 Am. Arch. ii. 1305-1306. 

8 Randall, Life of Jefferson, 1. 363, 413; and Hist. Mag. i. 52. 


" In December, 1776, our circumstances being much 
distressed, it was proposed in the House of Delegates to 
create a dictator, invested with every power legislative, 
executive, and judiciary, civil and military, of life and 
death, over our persons and over our properties. . . . 
One who entered into this contest from a pure love of 
liberty, and a sense of injured rights, who determined to 
make every sacrifice and to meet every danger, for the 
reestablishment of those rights on a firm basis, . . . 
must stand confounded and dismayed when he is told 
that a considerable portion of " the House " had medi 
tated the surrender of them into a single hand, and in 
lieu of a limited monarchy, to deliver him over to a des 
potic one. . . . The very thought alone was treason 
against the people ; was treason against man in general ; 
as riveting forever the chains which bow down their 
necks, by giving to their oppressors a proof, which they 
would have trumpeted through the universe, of the im 
becility of republican government, in times of pressing 
danger, to shield them from harm. . . . Those who 
meant well, of the advocates of this measure (and most 
of them meant well, for I know them personally, had 
been their fellow-laborer in the common cause, and had 
often proved the purity of their principles), had been se 
duced in their judgment by the example of an ancient 
republic, whose constitution and circumstances were 
fundamentally different." 1 

With that artistic tact and that excellent pru 
dence which seem never to have failed Jefferson in 
any of his enterprises for the disparagement of his 

1 Writings of Jefferson, viii. 368-371; also Phila. ed. of Notes, 
1825, 172-176. 


associates, he here avoids, as will be observed, all 
mention of the name of the person for whose fatal 
promotion this classic conspiracy was formed, 
leaving that interesting item to come out, as it did 
many years afterward, when the most of those who 
could have borne testimony upon the subject were 
in their graves, and when the damning stigma 
could be comfortably fastened to the name of Pat 
rick Henry without the direct intervention of Jef 
ferson s own hands. Accordingly, in 1816, a 
French gentleman, Girardin, a near neighbor of 
Jefferson s, who enjoyed "the incalculable benefit 
of a free access to Mr. Jefferson s library," 1 and 
who wrote the continuation of Burk s "History of 
Virginia " under Jefferson s very eye, 2 gave in 
that work a highly wrought account of the alleged 
conspiracy of December, 1776, as involving "no 
thing less than the substitution of a despotic in 
lieu of a limited monarch;" and then proceeded 
to bring the accusation down from those lurid 
generalities of condemnation in which Jefferson 
himself had cautiously left it, by adding this sen 
tence : " That Mr. Henry was the person in view 
for the dictatorship, is well ascertained." 3 

Finally, in 1817, William Wirt, whose "Life 
of Henry " was likewise composed under nearly 
the same inestimable advantages as regards in- 

1 Burk, Hist. Va. iv. Pref. Rem. vi. 

2 See Jefferson s explicit endorsement of Girardin s book in his 
own Writings, i. 50. 

8 Burk, Hist. Va. 189, 190. 


struction and oversight furnished by Jefferson, 
repeated the fearful tale, and added some particu 
lars ; but, in doing so, Wirt could not fail good 
lawyer and just man, as he was to direct atten 
tion to the absence of all evidence of any collusion 
on the part of Patrick Henry with the projected 
folly and crime. 

" Even the heroism of the Virginia legislature," says 
Wirt, " gave way ; and, in a season of despair, the mad 
project of a dictator was seriously meditated. That Mr. 
Henry was thought of for this office, has been alleged, 
and is highly probable ; but that the project was sug 
gested by him, or even received his countenance, I have 
met with no one who will venture to affirm. There is a 
tradition that Colonel Archibald Gary, the speaker of the 
Senate, was principally instrumental in crushing this pro 
ject; that meeting Colonel Syme, the step-brother of 
Colonel Henry, in the lobby of the House, he accosted 
him very fiercely in terms like these : * I am told that 
your brother wishes to be dictator. Tell him from me, 
that the day of his appointment shall be the day of his 
death ; for he shall feel my dagger in his heart before 
the sunset of that day. And the tradition adds that 
Colonel Syme, in great agitation, declared that * if such 
a project existed, his brother had no hand in it ; for that 
nothing could be more foreign to him, than to counte 
nance any office which could endanger, in the most dis 
tant manner, the liberties of his country. The intre 
pidity and violence of Colonel Gary s character renders 
the tradition probable ; but it furnishes no proof of Mr. 
Henry s implication in the scheme." 1 

1 Wirt, Life of Henry, 204-205. 


A disinterested study of this subject, in the 
light of all the evidence now attainable, will be 
likely to convince any one that this enormous scan 
dal must have been very largely a result of the 
extreme looseness at that time prevailing in the 
use of the word "dictator," and of its being em 
ployed, on the one side, in an innocent sense, and, 
on the other side, in a guilty one. In strict pro 
priety, of course, the word designates a magistrate 
created in an emergency of public peril, and clothed 
for a time with unlimited power. It is an extreme 
remedy, and in itself a remedy extremely danger 
ous, and can never be innocently resorted to except 
when the necessity for it is indubitable; and it 
may well be questioned whether, among people 
and institutions like our own, a necessity can ever 
arise which would justify the temporary grant of 
unlimited power to any man. If this be true, it 
follows that no man among us can, without dire 
political guilt, ever consent to bestow such power; 
and that no man can, without the same guilt, ever 
consent to receive it. 

Yet it is plain that even among us, between the 
years 1776 and 1783, emergencies of terrific public 
peril did arise, sufficient to justify, nay, even to 
compel, the bestowment either upon the governor 
of some State, or upon the general of the armies, 
not of unlimited power, certainly, but of extraor 
dinary power, such extraordinary power, for 
example, as was actually conferred by the Conti 
nental Congress, more than once, on Washington; 


as was conferred by the legislature of South Caro 
lina on Governor John Rutledge ; as was repeatedly 
conferred by the legislature of Virginia upon Gov 
ernor Patrick Henry ; and afterward, in still higher 
degree, by the same legislature, on Governor 
Thomas Jefferson himself. Nevertheless, so loose 
was the meaning then attached to the word "dicta 
tor," that it was not uncommon for men to speak 
of these very cases as examples of the bestowment 
of a dictatorship, and of the exercise of dictatorial 
power; although, in every one of the cases men 
tioned, there was lacking the essential feature of 
a true dictatorship, namely, the grant of unlimited 
power to one man. It is perfectly obvious, like 
wise, that when, in those days, men spoke thus of 
a dictatorship, and of dictatorial power, they at 
tached no suggestion of political guilt either to the 
persons who bestowed such power, or to the per 
sons who severally accepted it, the tacit under 
standing being that, in every instance, the public 
danger required and justified some grant of extraor 
dinary power; that no more power was granted 
than was necessary; and that the man to whom, 
in any case, the grant was made, was a man to 
whom, there was good reason to believe, the grant 
could be made with safety. Obviously, it was 
upon this tacit understanding of its meaning that 
the word was used, for instance, by Edmund Kan- 
dolph, in 1788, in the Virginia Constitutional 
Convention, when, alluding to the extraordinary 
power bestowed by Congress on Washington, he 


said: "We had an American dictator in 1781." 
Surely, Kandolph did not mean to impute political 
crime, either to the Congress which made Wash 
ington a dictator, or to Washington himself who 
consented to be made one. It was upon the same 
tacit understanding, also, that Patrick Henry, in 
reply to Kandolph, took up the word, and extolled 
the grant of dictatorial power to Washington on 
the occasion referred to: "In making a dictator," 
said Henry, "we followed the example of the most 
glorious, magnanimous, and skilful nations. In 
great dangers, this power has been given. Rome 
has furnished us with an illustrious example. 
America found a person for that trust : she looked 
to Virginia for him. We gave a dictatorial power 
to hands that used it gloriously, and which were 
rendered more glorious by surrendering it up." 1 

Thus it is apparent that the word "dictator " was 
frequently used in those times in a sense perfectly 
innocent. As all men know, however, the word 
is one capable of suggesting the possibilities of 
dreadful political crime ; and it is not hard to see 
how, when employed by one person to describe 
the bestowment and acceptance of extraordinary 
power, implying a perfectly innocent proposi 
tion, it could be easily taken by another person as 
describing the bestowment and acceptance of un 
limited power, implying a proposition which 
among us, probably, would always be a criminal 

1 Elliot s Debates, iii. 160. 


With the help which this discussion may give 
us, let us now return to the General Assembly of 
Virginia, at Williamsburg, approaching the close 
of its first session, in the latter part of December, 
1776. It was on the point of adjourning, not to 
meet again until the latter part of March, 1777. 
At that moment, by the arrival of most alarming 
news from the seat of war, it was forced to make 
special provision for the public safety during the 
interval which must elapse before its next session. 
Its journal indicates that, prior to the 20th of 
December, it had been proceeding with its business 
in a quiet way, under no apparent consciousness 
of imminent peril. On that day, however, there 
are traces of a panic; for, on that day, "The Vir 
ginia Gazette " announced to them the appalling 
news of "the crossing of the Delaware by the Brit 
ish forces, from twelve to fifteen thousand strong ; 
the position of General Washington, at Bristol, on 
the south side of the river, with only six thousand 
men;" and the virtual flight of Congress from 
Philadelphia. 1 At this rate, how long would it 
be before the Continental army would be dispersed 
or captured, and the troops of the enemy sweeping 
in vengeance across the borders of Virginia? Ac 
cordingly, the House of Delegates immediately 
resolved itself into "a committee to take into their 
consideration the state of America; " but not being 
able to reach any decision that day, it voted to 
resume the subject on the day following, and for 

1 Cited by William Wirt Henry, Hist. Mag. for 1873, 349. 


that purpose to meet an hour earlier than usual. 
So, on Saturday, the 21st of December, the House 
passed a series of resolutions intended to provide 
for the crisis into which the country was plunged, 
and, among the other resolutions, this : 

" And whereas the present imminent danger of Amer 
ica, and the ruin and misery which threatens the good 
people of this Commonwealth, and their posterity, calls 
for the utmost exertion of our strength, and it is become 
necessary for the preservation of the State that the usual 
forms of government be suspended during a limited time, 
for the more speedy execution of the most vigorous and 
effectual measures to repel the invasion of the enemy ; 

" Resolved, therefore, That the governor be, and he is 
hereby fully authorized and empowered, by and with 
the advice and consent of the privy council, from hence 
forward, until ten days next after the first meeting of 
the General Assembly, to carry into execution such re 
quisitions as may be made to this Commonwealth by the 
American Congress for the purpose of encountering or 
repelling the enemy ; to order the three battalions on the 
pay of this Commonwealth to march, if necessary, to join 
the Continental army, or to the assistance of any of our 
sister States ; to call forth any and such greater military 
force as they shall judge requisite, either by embodying 
and arraying companies or regiments of volunteers, or 
by raising additional battalions, appointing and commis 
sioning the proper officers, and to direct their opera 
tions within this Commonwealth, under the command of 
the Continental generals or other officers according to 
their respective ranks, or order them to march to join 
and act in concert with the Continental army, or the 


troops of any of the American States ; and to provide 
for their pay, supply of provisions, arras, and other 
necessaries, at the charge of this Commonwealth, by 
drawing on the treasurer for the money which may be 
necessary from time to time ; and the said treasurer is 
authorized to pay such warrants out of any public 
money which may be in his hands, and the General As 
sembly will, at their next session, make ample provision 
for any deficiency which may happen. But that this 
departure from the constitution of government, being 
in this instance founded only on the most evident and 
urgent necessity, ought not hereafter to be drawn into 

These resolutions, having been pressed rapidly 
through the forms of the House, were at once 
carried up to the Senate for its concurrence. The 
answer of the Senate was promptly returned, agree 
ing to all the resolutions of the lower House, but 
proposing an important amendment in the phrase 
ology of the particular resolution which we have 
just quoted. Instead of this clause "the usual 
forms of government should be suspended," it sug 
gested the far more accurate and far more prudent 
expression which here follows, "additional pow 
ers be given to the governor and council." This 
amendment was assented to by the House; and 
almost immediately thereafter it adjourned until 
the last Thursday in March, 1777, "then to meet 
in the city of Williamsburg, or at such other place 
as the governor and council, for good reasons, may 
appoint." 1 

1 Jour. Va. House of Del 106-106. 


Such, undoubtedly, was the occasion on which, 
if at any time during that session, the project for 
a dictatorship in Virginia was under consideration 
by the House of Delegates. The only evidence 
for the reality of such a project is derived from 
the testimony of Jefferson ; and Jefferson, though 
a member of the House, was not then in attend 
ance, having procured, on the 29th of the previ 
ous month, permission to be absent during the 
remainder of the session. 1 Is it not probable that 
the whole terrible plot, as it afterward lay in the 
mind of Jefferson, may have originated in reports 
which reached him elsewhere, to the effect that, in 
the excitement of the House over the public danger 
and over the need of energetic measures against 
that danger, some members had demanded that 
the governor should be invested with what they 
perhaps called dictatorial power, meaning thereby 
no more than extraordinary power; and that all 
the criminal accretions to that meaning, which 
Jefferson attributed to the project, were simply 
the work of his own imagination, always sensitive 
and quick to take alarm on behalf of human lib 
erty, and, on such a subject as this, easily set on 
fire by examples of awful political crime which 
would occur to him from Roman history? This 
suggestion, moreover, is not out of harmony with 
one which has been made by a thorough and most 
candid student of the subject, who says: "I am 
very much inclined to think that some sneering 

1 Jour. Va. H. Del 75 ; and Randall, Life of Jefferson, i. 205. 


remark of Colonel Gary, on that occasion, has 
given rise to the whole story about a proposed 
dictator at that time." 1 

At any rate, this must not be forgotten : if the 
project of a dictatorship, in the execrable sense 
affirmed by Jefferson, was, during that session, 
advocated by any man or by any cabal in the As 
sembly, history must absolve Patrick Henry of all 
knowledge of it, and of all responsibility for it. 
Not only has no tittle of evidence been produced, 
involving his connivance at such a scheme, but the 
Assembly itself, a few months later, unwittingly 
furnished to posterity the most conclusive proof 
that no man in that body could have believed him 
to be smirched with even the suggestion of so hor 
rid a crime. Had Patrick Henry been suspected, 
during the autumn and early winter of 1776, of 
any participation in the foul plot to create a despot 
ism in Virginia, is it to be conceived that, at its 
very next session, in the spring of 1777, that As 
sembly, composed of nearly the same members as 
before, would have reflected to the governorship 
so profligate and dangerous a man, and that too 
without any visible opposition in either House? 
Yet that is precisely what the Virginia Assembly 
did in May, 1777. Moreover, one year later, this 
same Assembly reflected this same profligate and 
dangerous politician for his third and last permis 
sible year in the governorship, and it did so with 
the same unbroken unanimity. Moreover, during 
1 William Wirt Henry, Hist. Mag. for 1873, 350. 


all that time, Thomas Jefferson was a member, 
and a most conspicuous and influential member, 
of the Virginia Assembly. If, indeed, he then 
believed that his old friend, Patrick Henry, had 
stood ready in 1776, to commit "treason against 
the people " of America, and "treason against 
mankind in general," why did he permit the traitor 
to be twice reflected to the chief magistracy, with 
out the record of even one brave effort against him 
on either occasion ? 

On the 26th of December, 1776, in accordance 
with the special authority thus conferred upon him 
by the General Assembly, Governor Henry issued a 
vigorous proclamation, declaring that the "critical 
situation of American affairs " called for "the 
utmost exertion of every sister State to put a 
speedy end to the cruel ravages of a haughty and 
inveterate enemy, and secure our invaluable rights," 
and "earnestly exhorting and requiring" all the 
good people of Virginia to assist in the formation 
of volunteer companies for such service as might 
be required. 1 The date of that proclamation was 
also the date of Washington s famous matutinal 
surprise of the Hessians at Trenton, a bit of 
much-needed good luck, which was followed by 
his fortunate engagement with the enemy near 
Princeton, on the 3d of January, 1777. On these 
and a very few other extremely small crumbs of 
comfort, the struggling revolutionists had to nour 
ish their burdened hearts for many a month there- 
1 5 Am. Arch. iii. 1425-1426. 


after; Washington himself, during all that time, 
with his little army of tattered and barefoot war 
riors, majestically predominating over the scene 
from the heights of Morristown; while the good- 
humored British commander, Sir William Howe, 
considerately abstained from any serious military 
disturbance until the middle of the following sum 
mer. Thus the chief duty of the governor of Vir 
ginia, during the winter and spring of 1777, as it 
had been in the previous autumn, was that of try 
ing to keep in the field Virginia s quota of troops, 
and of trying to furnish Virginia s share of mili 
tary supplies, no easy task, it should seem, in 
those times of poverty, confusion, and patriotic 
languor. The official correspondence of the gov 
ernor indicates the unslumbering anxiety, the en 
ergy, the fertility of device with which, in spite 
of defective health, he devoted himself to these 
hard tasks. 1 

In his great desire for exact information as to 
the real situation at headquarters, Governor Henry 
had sent to Washington a secret messenger by 
the name of Walker, who was to make his obser 
vations at Morristown and to report the results to 
himself. Washington at once perceived the em 
barrassments to which such a plan might lead; 
and accordingly, on the 24th of February, 1777, 

1 I refer, for example, to his letters of Oct. 11, 1776; of Nov. 
19, 1776; of Dec. 6, 1776; of Jan. 8, 1777; of March 20, 1777 ; 
of March 28, 1777 ; of June 20, 1777 ; besides the letters cited in 
the text. 


he wrote to the governor, gently explaining why 
he could not receive Mr. Walker as a mere visit 
ing observer : 

" To avoid the precedent, therefore, and from your 
character of Mr. Walker, and the high opinion I myself 
entertain of his abilities, honor, and prudence, I have 
taken him into my family as an extra aide-de-camp, and 
shall be happy if, in this character, he can answer your 
expectations. I sincerely thank you, sir, for your kind 
congratulations on the late success of the Continental 
arms (would to God it may continue), and for your po 
lite mention of me. Let me earnestly entreat that the 
troops raised in Virginia for this army be forwarded on 
by companies, or otherwise, without delay, and as well 
equipped as possible for the field, or we shall be in no 
condition to open the campaign." 1 

On the 29th of the following month, the gov 
ernor wrote to Washington of the overwhelming 
difficulty attending all his efforts to comply with 
the request mentioned in the letter just cited : 

" I am very sorry to inform you that the recruiting 
business of late goes on so badly, that there remains but 
little prospect of filling the six new battalions from this 
State, voted by the Assembly. The Board of Council 
see this with great concern, and, after much reflection 
on the subject, are of opinion that the deficiency in our 
regulars can no way be supplied so properly as by enlist 
ing volunteers. There is reason to believe a consider 
able number of these may be got to serve six or eight 
months. ... I believe you can receive no assistance by 

1 Writings of Washington, iv. 330. 


drafts from the militia. From the battalions of the 
Commonwealth none can be drawn as yet, because they 
are not half full. . . . Virginia will find some apology 
with you for this deficiency in her quota of regulars, 
when the difficulties lately thrown in our way are con 
sidered. The Georgians and Carolinians have enlisted 
[in Virginia] probably two battalions at least. A regi 
ment of artillery is in great forwardness. Besides these, 
Colonels Baylor and Grayson are collecting regiments ; 
and three others are forming for this State. Add to all 
this our Indian wars and marine service, almost total 
want of necessaries, the false accounts of deserters, 
many of whom lurk here, the terrors of the small 
pox and the many deaths occasioned by it, and the defi 
cient enlistments are accounted for in the best manner I 
can. As no time can be spared, I wish to be honored 
with your answer as soon as possible, in order to pro 
mote the volunteer scheme, if it meets your approbation. 
I should be glad of any improvements on it that may 
occur to you. I believe about four of the six battalions 
may be enlisted, but have seen no regular [return] of 
their state. Their scattered situation, and being many 
of them in broken quotas, is a reason for their slow 
movement. I have issued repeated orders for their 
march long since." 

The General Assembly of Virginia, at its session 
in the spring of 1777, was required to elect a gov 
ernor, to serve for one year from the day on which 
that session should end. As no candidate was 
named in opposition to Patrick Henry, the Senate 
proposed to the House of Delegates that he should 
1 Sparks, Corr. Rev. i. 301, 362. 


be reappointed without ballot. This, accordingly, 
was done, by resolution of the latter body on the 
29th of May, and by that of the Senate on the 
1st of June. On the 5th of June, the committee 
appointed to inform the governor of this action 
laid before the House his answer : 

GENTLEMEN, The signal honor conferred on me 
by the General Assembly, in their choice of me to be 
governor of this Commonwealth, demands my best ac 
knowledgments, which I beg the favor of you to convey 
to them in the most acceptable manner. 

I shall execute the duties of that high station to which 
I am again called by the favor of my fellow-citizens, 
according to the best of my abilities, and I shall rely 
upon the candor and wisdom of the Assembly to excuse 
and supply my defects. The good of the Commonwealth 
shall be the only object of my pursuit, and I shall mea 
sure my happiness according to the success which shall 
attend my endeavors to establish the public liberty. I 
beg to be presented to the Assembly, and that they and 
you will be assured that I am, with every sentiment of 
the highest regard, their and your most obedient and 
very humble servant, 

P. HENRY. 1 

After a perusal of this nobly written letter, the 
gentle reader will have no difficulty in concluding 
that, if indeed the author of it was then lying in 
wait for an opportunity to set up a despotism in 
Virginia, he had already become an adept in the 
hypocrisy which enabled him, not only to conceal 
the fact, but to convey an impression quite the 

1 Jour. Va. House Dd. 61. 



PATRICK HENRY S second term as governor ex 
tended from the 28th of June, 1777, to the 28th of 
June, 1778: a twelvemonth of vast and even de 
cisive events in the struggle for national inde 
pendence, its awful disasters being more than 
relieved by the successes, both diplomatic and mil 
itary, which were compressed within that narrow 
strip of time. Let us try, by a glance at the chief 
items in the record of that year, to bring before 
our eyes the historic environment amid which the 
governor of Virginia then wrought at his heavy 
tasks: July 6, 1777, American evacuation of Ticon- 
deroga at the approach of Burgoyne ; August 6, 
defeat of Herkimer by the British under St. Leger ; 
August 16, Stark s victory over the British at Ben- 
nington ; September 11, defeat of Washington at 
Brandywine ; September 27, entrance of the Brit 
ish into Philadelphia ; October 4, defeat of Wash 
ington at Germantown ; October 16, surrender of 
Burgoyne and his entire army; December 11, 
Washington s retirement into winter quarters at 
Valley Forge ; February 6, 1778, American treaty 
of alliance with France ; May 11, death of Lord 


Chatham ; June 13, Lord North s peace commis 
sioners propose to Congress a cessation of hostili 
ties ; June 18, the British evacuate Philadelphia ; 
June 28, the battle of Monmouth. 

The story of the personal life of Patrick Henry 
during those stern and agitating months is lighted 
up by the mention of his marriage, on the 9th 
of October, 1777, to Dorothea Dandridge, a grand 
daughter of the old royal governor, Alexander 
Spotswood, a lady who was much younger than 
her husband, and whose companionship proved to 
be the solace of all the years that remained to him 
on earth. 

The pressure of official business upon him can 
hardly have been less than during the previous 
year. The General Assembly was in session from 
the 20th of October, 1777, until the 24th of Janu 
ary, 1778, and from the 4th of May to the 1st of 
June, 1778, involving, of course, a long strain 
of attention by the governor to the work of the two 
houses. Moreover, the prominence of Virginia 
among the States, and, at the same time, her ex 
emption from the most formidable assaults of the 
enemy, led to great demands being made upon her 
both for men and for supplies. To meet these 
demands, either by satisfying them or by explain 
ing his failure to do so, involved a copious and 
laborious correspondence on the part of Governor 
Henry, not only with his own official subordinates 
in the State, but with the president of Congress, 
with the board of war, and with the general of the 


army. The official letters which he thus wrote are 
a monument of his ardor and energy as a war gov 
ernor, his attention to details, his broad practical 
sense, his hopefulness and patience under galling 
disappointments and defeats. 1 

Perhaps nothing in the life of Governor Henry 
during his second term of office has so touching an 
interest for us now, as has the course which he 
took respecting the famous intrigue, which was de 
veloped into alarming proportions during the win 
ter of 1777 and 1778, for the displacement of 
Washington, and for the elevation of the shallow 
and ill-balanced Gates to the supreme command of 
the armies. It is probable that several men of 
prominence in the army, in Congress, and in the 
several state governments, were drawn into this 
cabal, although most of them had too much caution 
to commit themselves to it by any documentary 
evidence which could rise up and destroy them in 
case of its failure. The leaders in the plot very 
naturally felt the great importance of securing the 
secret support of men of high influence in Wash 
ington s own State ; and by many it was then be- 

1 Of the official letters of Governor Henry, doubtltess many have 
perished ; a few have been printed in Sparks, Force, Wirt, and 
elsewhere ; a considerable number, also, are preserved in manu 
script in the archives of the Department of State at Washington. 
Copies of the latter are before me as I write. As justifying 1 the 
statement made in the text, I would refer to his letters of Au 
gust 30, 1777 ; of October 29, 1777 ; of October 30, 1777 ; of De 
cember 6, 1777 ; of December 9, 1777 ; of January 20, 1778 ; of 
January 28, 1778 ; and of June 18, 1778. 


lieved that they had actually won over no less a 
man than Richard Henry Lee. Of course, if also 
the sanction of Governor Patrick Henry could be 
secured, a prodigious advantage would be gained. 
Accordingly, from the town of York, in Pennsyl 
vania, whither Congress had fled on the advance of 
the enemy towards Philadelphia, the following let 
ter was sent to him, a letter written in a dis 
guised hand, without signature, but evidently by a 
personal friend, a man of position, and a master of 
the art of plausible statement : 

YOKKTOWN, 12 January, 1778. 

DEAR SIR, The common danger of our country 
first brought you and me together. I recollect with 
pleasure the influence of your conversation and elo 
quence upon the opinions of this country in the begin 
ning of the present controversy. You first taught us to 
shake off our idolatrous attachment to royalty, and to 
oppose its encroachments upon our liberties with our 
very lives. By these means you saved us from ruin. 
The independence of America is the offspring of that 
liberal spirit of thinking and acting, which followed the 
destruction of the sceptres of kings, and the mighty 
power of Great Britain. 

But, Sir, we have only passed the Red Sea. A 
dreary wilderness is still before us ; and unless a Moses 
or a Joshua are raised up in our behalf, we must perish 
before we reach the promised land. We have nothing 
to fear from our enemies on the way. General Howe, 
it is true, has taken Philadelphia, but he has only 
changed his prison. His dominions are bounded on all 
sides by his out-sentries. America can only be undone 


by herself. She looks up to her councils and arms for 
protection ; but, alas ! what are they ? Her representa 
tion in Congress dwindled to only twenty-one members ; 
her Adams, her Wilson, her Henry are no more among 
them. Her councils weak, and partial remedies applied 
constantly for universal diseases. Her army, what is 
it ? A major-general belonging to it called it a few 
days ago, in my hearing, a mob. Discipline unknown 
or wholly neglected. The quartermaster s and commis 
sary s departments filled with idleness, ignorance, and 
peculation ; our hospitals crowded with six thousand 
sick, but half provided with necessaries or accommoda 
tions, and more dying in them in one month than per 
ished in the field during the whole of the last campaign. 
The money depreciating, without any effectual measures 
being taken to raise it ; the country distracted with the 
Don Quixote attempts to regulate the price of provi 
sions ; an artificial famine created by it, and a real one 
dreaded from it ; the spirit of the people failing through 
a more intimate acquaintance with the causes of our 
misfortunes ; many submitting daily to General Howe ; 
and more wishing to do it, only to avoid the calamities 
which threaten our country. But is our case desperate ? 
By no means. We have wisdom, virtue and strength 
enough to save us, if they could be called into action. 
The northern army has shown us what Americans are 
capable of doing with a General at their head. The 
spirit of the southern army is no way inferior to the 
spirit of the northern. A Gates, a Lee, or a Conway, 
would in a few weeks render them an irresistible body 
of men. The last of the above officers has accepted of 
the new office of inspector-general of our army, in order 
to reform abuses ; but the remedy is only a palliative 


one. In one of his letters to a friend he says, * A great 
and good God hath decreed America to be free, or the 
[General] and weak counsellors would have ruined her 
long ago. You may rest assured of each of the facts 
related in this letter. The author of it is one of your 
Philadelphia friends. A hint of his name, if found out 
by the handwriting, must not be mentioned to your most 
intimate friend. Even the letter must be thrown into the 
fire. But some of its contents ought to be made public, 
in order to awaken, enlighten, and alarm our country. 
I rely upon your prudence, and am, dear Sir, with my 
usual attachment to you, and to our beloved independ 

Yours sincerely. 

How was Patrick Henry to deal with such a let 
ter as this ? Even though he should reject its rea 
soning, and spurn the temptation with which it 
assailed him, should he merely burn it, and be 
silent? The incident furnished a fair test of his 
loyalty in friendship, his faith in principle, his 
soundness of judgment, his clear and cool grasp of 
the public situation, in a word, of his manliness 
and his statesmanship. This is the way in which 
he stood the test : 


WILLIAMSBUKG, 20 February, 1778. 

DEAR SIR, You will, no doubt, be surprised at 
seeing the enclosed letter, in which the encomiums be 
stowed on me are as undeserved, as the censures aimed 
at you are unjust. I am sorry there should be one man 
who counts himself my friend, who is not yours. 


Perhaps I give you needless trouble in handing you 
this paper. The writer of it may be too insignificant to 
deserve any notice. If I knew this to be the case, I 
should not have intruded on your time, which is so pre 
cious. But there may possibly be some scheme or party 
forming to your prejudice. The enclosed leads to such 
a suspicion. Believe, me, Sir, I have too high a sense 
of the obligations America has to you, to abet or coun 
tenance so unworthy a proceeding. The most exalted 
merit has ever been found to attract envy. But I please 
myself with the hope that the same fortitude and great 
ness of mind, which have hitherto braved all the diffi 
culties and dangers inseparable from your station, will 
rise superior to every attempt of the envious partisan. 
I really cannot tell who is the writer of this letter, which 
not a little perplexes me. The handwriting is altogether 
strange to me. 

To give you the trouble of this gives me pain. It 
would suit my inclination better to give you some assist 
ance in the great business of the war. But I will not con 
ceal anything from you, by which you may be affected ; 
for I really think your personal welfare and the happi 
ness of America are intimately connected. I beg you 
will be assured of that high regard and esteem with 
which I ever am, dear sir, your affectionate friend and 
very humble servant. 

Fifteen days passed after the dispatch of that 
letter, when, having as yet no answer, but with a 
heart still full of anxiety respecting this mysterious 
and ill-boding cabal against his old friend, Gov 
ernor Henry wrote again : 



WLLLIAMSBURG, 5 March, 1778. 

DEAR SIR, By an express, which Colonel Finnie 
sent to camp, I enclosed to you an anonymous letter 
which I hope got safe to hand. I am anxious to hear 
something that will serve to explain the strange affair, 
which I am now informed is taken up respecting you. 
Mr. Custis has just paid us a visit, and by him I learn 
sundry particulars concerning General Mifflin, that much 
surprised me. It is very hard to trace the schemes and 
windings of the enemies to America. I really thought 
that man its friend ; however, I am too far from him to 
judge of his present temper. 

While you face the armed enemies of our liberty in 
the field, and by the favor of God have been kept un 
hurt, I trust your country will never harbor in her bosom 
the miscreant, who would ruin her best supporter. I 
wish not to flatter ; but when arts, unworthy honest men, 
are used to defame and traduce you, I think it not 
amiss, but a duty, to assure you of that estimation in 
which the public hold you. Not that I think any testi 
mony I can bear is necessary for your support, or pri 
vate satisfaction ; for a bare recollection of what is past 
must give you sufficient pleasure in every circumstance 
of life. But I cannot help assuring you, on this occa 
sion, of the high sense of gratitude which all ranks of 
men in this our native country bear to you. It will give 
me sincere pleasure* to manifest my regards, and render 
my best services to you or yours. I do not like to make 
a parade of these things, and I know you are not fond 
of it ; however, I hope the occasion will plead my ex 
cuse. Wishing you all possible felicity, I am, my dear 


Sir, your ever affectionate friend and very humble ser 

Before Washington received this second letter, 
he had already begun to write the following reply 
to the first : 


VALLEY FOBGB, 27 March, 1778. 

DEAR SIR, Ahout eight days ago I was honored 
with your favor of the 20th ultimo. Your friendship, 
sir, in transmitting to me the anonymous letter you had 
received, lays me under the most grateful obligations, 
and if my acknowledgments can be due for anything 
more, it is for the polite and delicate terms in which 
you have been pleased to communicate the matter. 

I have ever been happy in supposing that I had a 
place in your esteem, and the proof you have afforded 
on this occasion makes me peculiarly so. The favorable 
light in which you hold me is truly flattering ; but I 
should feel much regret, if I thought the happiness of 
America so intimately connected with my personal wel 
fare, as you so obligingly seem to consider it. All I can 
say is, that she has ever had, and I trust she ever will 
have, my honest exertions to promote her interest. I 
cannot hope that my services have been the best ; but 
my heart tells me they have been the best that I could 

That I may have erred in using the means in my 
power for accomplishing the objects of the arduous, ex 
alted station with which I am honored, I cannot doubt ; 
nor do I wish my conduct to be exempted from repre 
hension farther than it may deserve. Error is the por 
tion of humanity, and to censure it, whether committed 


by this or that public character, is the prerogative of 
freemen. However, being intimately acquainted with 
the man I conceive to be the author of the letter trans 
mitted, and having always received from him the strong 
est professions of attachment and regard, I am con 
strained to consider him as not possessing, at least, a 
great degree of candor and sincerity, though his views 
in addressing you should have been the result of convic 
tion, and founded in motives of public good. This is 
not the only secret, insidious attempt that has been 
made to wound my reputation. There have been others 
equally base, cruel, and ungenerous, because conducted 
with as little frankness, and proceeding from views, per 
haps, as personally interested. I am, dear sir, with 
great esteem and regard, your much obliged friend, etc. 

The writing of the foregoing letter was not 
finished, when Governor Henry s second letter 
reached him ; and this additional proof of friend 
ship so touched the heart of Washington that, on 
the next day, he wrote again, this time with far 
less self-restraint than before : 


CAMP, 28 March, 1778. 

DEAR SIR, Just as I was about to close my letter 
of yesterday, your favor of the 5th instant came to 
hand. I can only thank you again, in the language of 
the most undissembled gratitude, for your friendship ; 
and assure you, that the indulgent disposition, which 
Virginia in particular, and the States in general, enter 
tain towards me, gives me the most sensible pleasure. 
The approbation of my country is what I wish ; and as 


far as my abilities and opportunities will permit, I hope 
I shall endeavor to deserve it. It is the highest reward 
to a feeling mind ; and happy are they, who so conduct 
themselves as to merit it. 

The anonymous letter with which you were pleased 
to favor me, was written by Dr. Rush, so far as I can 
judge from a similitude of hands. This man has been 
elaborate and studied in his professions of regard for 
me ; and long since the letter to you. My caution to 
avoid anything which could injure the service, pre 
vented me from communicating, but to a very few of 
my friends, the intrigues of a faction which I know was 
formed against me, since it might serve to publish our 
internal dissensions ; but their own restless zeal to ad 
vance their views has too clearly betrayed them, and 
made concealment on my part fruitless. I cannot pre 
cisely mark the extent of their views, but it appeared, 
in general, that General Gates was to be exalted on the 
ruin of my reputation and influence. This I am au 
thorized to say, from undeniable facts in my own pos 
session, from publications, the evident scope of which 
could not be mistaken, and from private detractions in 
dustriously circulated. General Mifflin, it is commonly 
supposed, bore the second part in the cabal ; and Gen 
eral Conway, I know, was a very active and malignant 
partisan ; but I have good reason to believe that their 
machinations have recoiled most sensibly upon them 
selves. With sentiments of great esteem and regard, 
I am, dear sir, your affectionate humble servant. 1 

This incident in the lives of Washington and 
Patrick Henry is to be noted by us, not only for 

1 Writings of Washington, v. 495-497 ; 512-515. 


its own exquisite delicacy and nobility, but like 
wise as the culminating fact in the growth of a 
very deep and true friendship between the two 
men, a friendship which seems to have begun 
many years before, probably in the House of Bur 
gesses, and which lasted with increasing strength 
and tenderness, and with but a single episode of 
estrangement, during the rest of their lives. 
Moreover, he who tries to interpret the later ca 
reer of Patrick Henry, especially after the estab 
lishment of the government under the Constitution, 
and who leaves out of the account Henry s pro 
found friendship for Washington, and the basis 
of moral and intellectual congeniality on which 
that friendship rested, will lose an important clew 
to the perfect naturalness and consistency of 
Henry s political course during his last years. A 
fierce partisan outcry was then raised against him 
in Virginia, and he was bitterly denounced as a 
political apostate, simply because; in the parting 
of the ways of Washington and of Jefferson. Pat 
rick Henry no longer walked with Jefferson. In 
truth, Patrick Henry was never Washington s fol 
lower nor Jefferson s : he was no man s follower. 
From the beginning, he had always done for him 
self his own thinking, whether right or wrong. 
At the same time, a careful student of the three 
men may see that, in his thinking, Patrick Henry 
had a closer and a truer moral kinship with Wash 
ington than with Jefferson. At present, however, 
we pause before the touching incident that has just 


been narrated in the relations between Washington 
and Henry, in order to mark its bearing on their 
subsequent intercourse. Washington, in whose 
nature confidence was a plant of slow growth, and 
who was quick neither to love nor to cease from 
loving, never forgot that proof of his friend s 
friendship. Thenceforward, until that one year in 
which they both died, the letters which passed be 
tween them, while never effusive, were evidently 
the letters of two strong men who loved and 
trusted each other without reserve. 

Not long before the close of the governor s 
second term in office, he had occasion to write to 
Richard Henry Lee two letters, which are of con 
siderable interest, not only as indicating the cor 
dial intimacy between these two great rivals in 
oratory, but also for the light they throw both 
on the under-currents of bitterness then ruffling 
the politics of Virginia, and on Patrick Henry s 
attitude towards the one great question at that 
time uppermost in the politics of the nation. Dur 
ing the previous autumn, it seems, also, Lee had 
fallen into great disfavor in Virginia, from which 
he had so far emerged by the 23d of January, 
1778, as to be then reflected to Congress, to fill 
out an unexpired term. 1 Shortly afterward, how 
ever, harsh speech against him was to be heard in 
Virginia once more, of which his friend, the gov 
ernor, thus informed him, in a letter dated April 4, 
1778 : - 

1 Jour. Va. House Del. 131. 


" You are again traduced by a certain set who have 
drawn in others, who say that you are engaged in a 
scheme to discard General Washington. I know you 
too well to suppose that you would engage in anything 
not evidently calculated to serve the cause of whiggism. 
. . . But it is your fate to suffer the constant attacks of 
disguised Tories who take this measure to lessen you. 
Farewell, my dear friend. In praying for your welfare, 
I pray for that of my country, to which your life and 
service are of the last moment." * 

Furthermore, on the 30th of May, the General 
Assembly made choice of their delegates in Con 
gress for the following year. Lee was again 
elected, but by so small a vote that his name stood 
next to the lowest on the list. 2 Concerning this 
stinging slight, he appears to have spoken in his 
next letters to the governor ; for, on the 18th of 
June, the latter addressed to him, from Williams- 
burg, this reply : 

MY DEAR SIB, Both your last letters came to 
hand to-day. I felt for you, on seeing the order in 
which the balloting placed the delegates in Congress. 
It is an effect of that rancorous malice that has so long 
followed you, through that arduous path of duty which 
you have invariably travelled, since America resolved to 
resist her oppressors. 

Is it any pleasure to you to remark, that at the same 
era in which these men figure against you, public spirit 
seems to have taken its flight from Virginia ? It is too 

1 Given in Grigsby, Va. Cony, of 1776, 142 note. 

2 Jour. Va. House Del. 27, 33. 


much the case ; for the quota of our troops is not half 
made up, and no chance seems to remain for completing 
it. The Assembly voted three hundred and fifty horse, 
and two thousand men, to be forthwith raised, and to 
join the grand army. Great bounties are offered ; but, 
I fear, the only effect will be to expose our state to con 
tempt, for I believe no soldiers will enlist, especially 
in the infantry. 

Can you credit it ? no effort was made for support 
ing or restoring public credit. I pressed it warmly on 
some, but in vain. This is the reason we get no soldiers. 

We shall issue fifty or sixty thousand dollars in cash 
to equip the cavalry, and their time is to expire at 
Christmas. I believe they will not be in the field be 
fore that time. 

Let not Congress rely on Virginia for soldiers. I 
tell you my opinion : they will not be got here, until a 
different spirit prevails. 

In the next paragraph of his letter, the gov 
ernor passes from these local matters to what was 
then the one commanding topic in national affairs. 
Lord North s peace commissioners had already ar 
rived, and were seeking to win back the Americans 
into free colonial relations with the mother coun 
try, and away from their new-formed friendship 
with perfidious France. With what energy Pat 
rick Henry was prepared to reject all these British 
blandishments, may be read in the passionate sen 
tences which conclude his letter : 

I look at the past condition of America, as at a 
dreadful precipice, from which we have escaped by 


means of the generous French, to whom I will be ever 
lastingly bound by the most heartfelt gratitude. But I 
must mistake matters, if some of those men who traduce 
you, do not prefer the offers of Britain. You will have 
a different game to play now with the commissioners. 
How comes Governor Johnstone there ? I do not see 
how it comports with his past life. 

Surely Congress will never recede from our French 
friends. Salvation to America depends upon our hold 
ing fast our attachment to them. I shall date our ruin 
from the moment that it is exchanged for anything 
Great Britain can say, or do. She can never be cordial 
with us. Baffled, defeated, disgraced by her colonies, 
she will ever meditate revenge. We can find no safety 
but in her ruin, or, at least, in her extreme humiliation ; 
which has not happened, and cannot happen, until she 
is deluged with blood, or thoroughly purged by a revo 
lution, which shall wipe from existence the present king 
with his connections, and the present system with those 
who aid and abet it. 

For God s sake, my dear sir, quit not the councils of 
your country, until you see us forever disjoined from 
Great Britain. The old leaven still works. The flesh- 
pots of Egypt are still savory to degenerate palates. 
Again we are undone, if the French alliance is not re 
ligiously observed. Excuse my freedom. I know your 
love to our country, and this is my motive. May 
Heaven give you health and prosperity. 
I am yours affectionately, 


Before coming to the end of our story of Gov- 

1 Lee, Life of Richard Henry Lee, i. 195 196. 


ernor Henry s second term, it should be mentioned 
that twice during this period did the General As 
sembly confide to him those extraordinary powers 
which by many were spoken of as dictatorial ; first, 
on the 22d of January, 1778, 1 and again, on the 
28th of May, of the same year. 2 Finally, so safe 
had been this great trust in his hands, and so effi 
ciently had he borne himself, in all the labors and 
responsibilities of his high office, that, on the 29th 
of May, the House of Delegates, by resolution, 
unanimously elected him as- governor for a third 
term, an act in which, on the same day, the 
Senate voted its concurrence. On the 30th of 
May, Thomas Jefferson, from the committee ap 
pointed to notify the governor of his reelection, re 
ported to the House the following answer : 

GENTLEMEN, The General Assembly, in again elect 
ing me governor of this commonwealth, have done me 
very signal honor. I trust that their confidence, thus 
continued in me, will not be misplaced. I beg you 
will be pleased, gentlemen, to present me to the Gen 
eral Assembly in terms of grateful acknowledgment for 
this fresh instance of their favor towards me ; and to 
assure them, that my best endeavors shall be used to 
promote the public good, in that station to which they 
have once more been pleased to call me. 8 

1 Jour. Va. House Del. 72, 81, 85, 125, 126. 

2 Ibid. 15, 16, 17. 
8 Ibid. 26, 30. 



GOVERNOR HENRY S third official year was 
marked, in the great struggle then in progress, by 
the arrival of the French fleet, and by its futile 
attempts to be of any use to those hard-pressed 
rebels whom the king of France had undertaken 
to encourage in their insubordination ; by awful 
scenes of carnage and desolation in the outlying 
settlements at Wyoming, Cherry Valley, and Scho- 
harie ; by British predatory expeditions along the 
Connecticut coast ; by the final failure and depar 
ture of Lord North s peace commissioners ; and by 
the transfer of the chief seat of war to the South, 
beginning with the capture of Savannah by the 
British on the 29th of December, 1778, followed 
by their initial movement on Charleston, in May, 
1779. In the month just mentioned, likewise, the 
enemy, under command of General Matthews and 
of Sir George Collier, suddenly swooped down on 
Virginia, first seizing Portsmouth and Norfolk, 
and then, after a glorious military debauch of rob 
bery, ruin, rape, and murder, and after spreading 
terror and anguish among the undefended popula 
tions of Suffolk, Kemp s Landing, Tanner s Creek, 


and Gosport, as suddenly gathered up their booty, 
and went back in great glee to New York. 

In the autumn of 1778, the governor had the 
happiness to hear of the really brilliant success of 
the expedition which, with statesmanlike sagacity, 
he had sent out under George Rogers Clark, into 
the Illinois country, in the early part of the year. 1 
Some of the more important facts connected with 
this expedition, he thus announced to the Virginia 
delegates in Congress : 

WILLIAMSBUKO, November 14, 1778. 

GENTLEMEN, The executive power of this State 
having been impressed with a strong apprehension of 
incursions on the frontier settlements from the savages 
situated about the Illinois, and supposing the danger 
would be greatly obviated by an enterprise against the 
English forts and possessions in that country, which 
were well known to inspire the savages with their bloody 
purposes against us, sent a detachment of militia, con 
sisting of one hundred and seventy or eighty men 
commanded by Colonel George Rogers Clark, on that 
service some time last spring. By despatches which I 
have just received from Colonel Clark, it appears that 
his success has equalled the most sanguine expectations. 
He has not only reduced Fort Chartres and its depend 
encies, but has struck such a terror into the Indian 
tribes between that settlement and the lakes that no less 
than five of them, viz., the Puans, Sacks, Renards, Pow- 
towantanies, and Miamis, who had received the hatchet 
from the English emissaries, have submitted to our arms 

1 Clark s Campaign in the Illinois, 95-07, where Governor 
Henry s public and private instructions are given in full. 


all their English presents, and bound themselves by 
treaties and promises to be peaceful in the future. 

The great Blackbird, the Chappowow chief, has also 
sent a belt of peace to Colonel Clark, influenced, he 
supposes, by the dread of Detroit s being reduced by 
American arms. This latter place, according to Colonel 
Clark s representation, is at present defended by so in 
considerable a garrison and so scantily furnished with 
provisions, for which they must be still more distressed 
by the loss of supplies from the Illinois, that it might 
be reduced by any number of men above five hundred. 
The governor of that place, Mr. Hamilton, was exerting 
himself to engage the savages to assist him in retaking 
the places that had fallen into our hands ; but the favor 
able impression made on the Indians in general in that 
quarter, the influence of the .French on them, and the 
reenforcement of their militia Colonel Clark expected, 
flattered him that there was little danger to be appre 
hended. ... If the party under Colonel Clark can 
cooperate in any respect with the measures Congress are 
pursuing or have in view, I shall with pleasure give 
him the necessary orders. In order to improve and 
secure the advantages gained by Colonel Clark, I pro 
pose to support him with a reenforcement of militia. 
But this will depend on- the pleasure of the Assembly, to 
whose consideration the measure is submitted. 

The French inhabitants have manifested great zeal 
and attachment to our cause, and insist on garrisons re 
maining with them under Colonel Clark. This I am 
induced to agree to, because the safety of our own fron 
tiers as well as that of these people demands a compli 
ance with this request. Were it possible to secure the 
St. Lawrence and prevent the English attempts up that 


river by seizing some post on it, peace with the Indians 
would seem to me to be secured. 

With great regard I have the honor to be, Gent", 
Your most obedient servant, 

P. HENRY. 1 

During the autumn session of the General As 
sembly, that body showed its continued confidence 
in the governor by passing several acts conferring 
on him extraordinary powers, in addition to those 
already bestowed. 2 

A letter which the governor wrote at this period 
to the president of Congress, respecting military 
aid from Virginia to States further south, may give 
us some idea, not only of his own practical discern 
ment in the matters involved, but of the confusion 
which, in those days, often attended military plans 
issuing from a many-headed executive : 

WILLIAMSBUBG, November 28, 1778. 

SIR, Your favor of the 16th instant is come to 
hand, together with the acts of Congress of the 26th of 
August for establishing provision for soldiers and sailors 
maimed or disabled in the public service, of the 26th 
of September for organizing the treasury, a proclama 
tion for a general thanksgiving, and three copies of the 
alliance between his most Christian Majesty and these 
United States. 

I lost no time in laying your letter before the privy 
council, and in deliberating with them on the subject of 

1 MS. 

2 Jour. Fa. House Del. 30, 36, 66; also Hening, ix. 474-476; 
477-478; 530-532; 584-585. 


sending 1000 militia to Charlestown, South Carolina. I 
beg to assure Congress of the great zeal of every mem 
ber of th e executive here to give full efficacy to their 
designs on every occasion. But on the present, I am 
very sorry to observe, that obstacles great and I fear 
unsurmountable are opposed to the immediate march of 
the men. Upon requisition to the deputy quartermaster- 
general in this department for tents, kettles, blankets, 
and wagons, he informs they cannot be had. The sea 
son when the march must begin will be severe and in 
clement, and, without the forementioned necessaries, 
impracticable to men indifferently clad and equipped as 
they are in the present general scarcity of clothes. 

The council, as well as myself, are not a little per 
plexed on comparing this requisition to defend South 
Carolina and Georgia from the assaults of the enemy, 
with that made a few days past for galleys to conquer 
East Florida. The galleys have orders to rendezvous at 
Charlestown, which I was taught to consider as a place 
of acknowledged safety; and I beg leave to observe, 
that there seems some degree of inconsistency in march 
ing militia such a distance in the depth of winter, under 
the want of necessaries, to defend a place which the for 
mer measures seemed to declare safe. 

The act of Assembly whereby it is made lawful to 
order their march, confines the operations to measures 
merely defensive to a sister State, and of whose danger 
there is certain information received. 

However, as Congress have not been pleased to ex 
plain the matters herein alluded to, and altho a good 
deal of perplexity remains with me on the subject, I 
have by advice of the privy council given orders for 
1000 men to be instantly got into readiness to march to 


Charlestown, and they will march as soon as they are 
furnished with tents, kettles, and wagons. In the mean 
time, if intelligence is received that their march is es 
sential to the preservation of either of the States of 
South Carolina or Georgia the men will encounter every 
difficulty, and have orders to proceed in the best way 
they can without waiting to be supplied with those 
necessaries commonly afforded to troops even on a sum 
mer s march. 

I have to beg that Congress will please to remember 
the state of embarrassment in which I must necessarily 
remain with respect to the ordering galleys to Charles- 
town, in their way to invade Florida, while the militia 
are getting ready to defend the States bordering on it, 
and that they will please to favor me with the earliest 
intelligence of every circumstance that is to influence the 
measures either offensive or defensive. 

I have the honor to be, Sir, your most obedient and 
very humble servant, 

P. HENKY. 1 

By the early spring of 1779, it became still more 
apparent that the purpose of the enemy was to 
shift the scene of their activity from the middle 
States to the South, and that Virginia, whose soil 
had never thus far been bruised by the tread of 
a hostile army, must soon experience that dire 
calamity. Perhaps no one saw this more clearly 
than did Governor Henry. At the same time, he 
also saw that Virginia must in part defend herself 
by helping to defend her sister States at the South, 
across whose territories the advance of the enemy 
1 MS. 


into Virginia was likely to be attempted. His 
clear grasp of the military situation, in all the 
broad relations of his own State to it, is thus re 
vealed in a letter to Washington, dated at Wil- 
liamsburg, 13th of March, 1779 : 

" My last accounts from the South are unfavorable. 
Georgia is said to be in full possession of the enemy, 
and South Carolina in great danger. The number of 
disaffected there is said to be formidable, and the Creek 
Indians inclining against us. One thousand militia are 
ordered thither from our southern counties ; but a doubt 
is started whether they are by law obliged to march. I 
have also proposed a scheme to embody volunteers for 
this service ; but I fear the length of the march, and a 
general scarcity of bread, which prevails in some parts 
of North Carolina and this State, may impede this ser 
vice. About five hundred militia are ordered down the 
Tennessee River, to chastise some new settlements of 
renegade Cherokees that infest our southwestern fron 
tier, and prevent our navigation on that river, from 
which we began to hope for great advantages. Our 
militia have full possession of the Illinois and the posts 
on the Wabash; and I am not without hopes that the 
same party may overawe the Indians as far as Detroit. 
They are independent of General Mclntosh, whose num 
bers, although upwards of two thousand, I think could 
not make any great progress, on account, it is said, of 
the route they took, and the lateness of the season. 

" The conquest of Illinois and Wabash was effected 
with less than two hundred men, who will soon be re- 
enforced ; and, by holding posts on the back of the In 
dians, it is hoped may intimidate them. Forts Natchez 


and Morishac are again in the enemy s hands ; and 
from thence they infest and ruin our trade on the Mis 
sissippi, on which river the Spaniards wish to open a 
very interesting commerce with us. I have requested 
Congress to authorize the conquest of those two posts, 
as the possession of them will give a colorable pretence 
to retain all West Florida, when a treaty may be 
opened." J 

Within two months after that letter was written, 
the dreaded warships of the enemy were ploughing 
the waters of Virginia : it was the sorrow-bringing 
expedition of Matthews and Sir George Collier. 
The news of their arrival was thus conveyed by 
Governor Henry to the president of Congress : - 

WILLIAMSBUKG, 11 May, 1779. 

S IRj _On Saturday last, in the evening, a British 
fleet amounting to about thirty sail . . . came into the 
Bay of Chesapeake, and the next day proceeded to 
Hampton Road, where they anchored and remained 
quiet until yesterday about noon, when several of the 
ships got under way, and proceeded towards Ports 
mouth, which place I have no doubt they intend to at 
tack by water or by land or by both, as they have many 
flat-bottomed boats with them for the purpose of landing 
their troops. As I too well know the weakness of that 
garrison, I am in great pain for the consequences, there 
being great quantities of merchandise, the property of 
French merchants and others in this State, at that place, 
as well as considerable quantities of military stores, 
which, tho measures some time since were taken to 
1 Sparks, C&rr. Rev. ii. 261-2C2. 


remove, may nevertheless fall into the enemy s hands. 
Whether they may hereafter intend to fortify and 
maintain this post is at present unknown to me, but 
the consequences which will result to this State and 
to the United States finally if such a measure should 
be adopted must be obvious. Whether it may be in the 
power of Congress to adopt any measures which can in 
any manner counteract the design of the enemy is sub-- 
mitted to their wisdom. At present, I cannot avoid 
intimating that I have the greatest reason to think that 
many vessels from France with public and private mer 
chandise may unfortunately arrive while the enemy re 
main in perfect possession of the Bay of Chesapeake, 
and fall victims unexpectedly. 

Every precaution will be taken to order lookout boats 
on the seacoasts to furnish proper intelligence ; but the 
success attending this necessary measure will be precari 
ous in the present situation of things. 1 

On the next day the governor had still heavier 
tidings for the same correspondent : 

WILLIAMSBUKG, May 12, 1779. 

SIR, I addressed you yesterday upon a subject of 
the greatest consequence. The last night brought me 
the fatal account of Portsmouth being in possession of 
the enemy. Their force was too great to be resisted, 
and therefore the fort was evacuated after destroying 
one capital ship belonging to the State and one or two 
private ones loaded with tobacco. Goods and merchan 
dise, however, of very great value fall into the enemy s 
hands. If Congress could by solicitations procure a 
1 MS. 


fleet superior to the enemy s force to enter Chesapeake 
at this critical period, the prospect of gain and advan 
tage would be great indeed. I have the honor to be, 
with the greatest regard, Sir, 

Your most humble and obedient servant, 

P. HENRY. 1 

To meet this dreadful invasion, the governor at 
tempted to arouse and direct vigorous measures, in 
part by a proclamation, on the 14th of May, an 
nouncing to the people of Virginia the facts of the 
case, " and requiring the county lieutenants and 
other military officers in the Commonwealth, and 
especially those on the navigable waters, to hold 
their respective militias in readiness to oppose the 
attempts of the enemy wherever they might be 
made." 2 

On the 21st of the month, in a letter to the 
president of Congress, he reported the havoc then 
wrought by the enemy : 

WILLIAMSBUKG, May 21, 1779. 

g IR5 Being in the greatest haste to dispatch your 
express, I have not time to give you any very particu 
lar information concerning the present invasion. Let it 
suffice therefore to inform Congress that the number of 
the enemy s ships are nearly the same as was mentioned 
in my former letter ; with regard to the number of 
the troops which landed and took Portsmouth, and af 
terwards proceeded and burnt, plundered, and destroyed 
Suffolk, committing various barbarities, etc., we are 
still ignorant, as the accounts from the deserters differ 
1 MS. 2 Burk, Hist. Va. iv. 338. 


widely; perhaps, however, it may not exceed 2000 or 
2500 men. 

I trust that a sufficient number of troops are em 
bodied and stationed in certain proportions at this place, 
York, Hampton, and on the south side of James River. 
. . . When any further particulars come to my know 
ledge they shall be communicated to Congress without 

I have the honor to be, Sir, your humble servant, 


P. S. I am pretty certain that the land forces are 
commanded by Gen l Matthews and the fleet by Sir 
George Collier. 1 

In the very midst of this ugly storm, it was re 
quired that the ship of state should undergo a 
change of commanders. The third year for which 
Governor Henry had been elected was nearly at 
an end. There were some members of the Assem 
bly who thought him eligible as governor for still 
another year, on the ground that his first election 
was by the convention, and that the year of office 
which that body gave to him " was merely provi 
sory," and formed no proper part of his constitu 
tional term. 2 Governor Henry himself, however, 
could not fail to perceive the unfitness of any strug 
gle upon such a question at such a time, as well as 
the futility which would attach to that high office, 
if held, amid such perils, under a clouded title. 
Accordingly, on the 28th of May, he cut short all 
discussion by sending to the speaker of the House 
of Delegates the following letter : 

1 MS. 2 Burk, Hist. Va. iv. 350~ 


May 28, 1779. 

SIR, The term for which I had the honor to be 
elected governor by the late Assembly being just about 
to expire, and the Constitution, as I think, making me 
ineligible to that office, I take the liberty to communi 
cate to the Assembly through you, Sir, my intention to 
retire in four or five days. 

I have thought it necessary to give this notification of 
my design, in order that the Assembly may have the 
earliest opportuity of deliberating upon the choice of a 
successor to me in office. 

With great regard, I have the honor to be, Sir, your 
most obedient servant, P. HENRY.* 

On the first of June, Thomas Jefferson was 
elected to succeed him in office, but by a majority 
of only six votes out of one hundred and twenty- 
eight. 2 On the following day Patrick Henry, hav 
ing received certain resolutions from the General 
Assembly 3 commending him for his conduct while 
governor, graciously closed this chapter of his offi 
cial life by the following letter : 

GENTLEMEN, The House of Delegates have done 
me very great honor in the vote expressive of their ap 
probation of my public conduct. I beg the favor of 
you, gentlemen, to convey to that honorable house my 
most cordial acknowledgments, and to assure them that 
I shall ever retain a grateful remembrance of the high 
honor they have now conferred on me. 4 

1 Wirt, 225. 2 Jour. Fa. House Del 29. 

8 Burk, Hist. Fa. 350. 4 Jour. Fa. House Del. 32. 


In the midst of these frank voices of public ap 
preciation over the fidelity and efficiency of his 
service as governor, there were doubtless the usual 
murmurs of partisan criticism or of personal ill- 
will. For example, a few days after Jefferson had 
taken his seat in the stately chair which Patrick 
Henry had just vacated, St. George Tucker, in a 
letter to Theophilus Bland, gave expression to this 
sneer : " Sub rosa, I wish his excellency s activity 
may be equal to the abilities he possesses in so 
eminent a degree. . . . But if he should tread in 
the steps of his predecessor, there is not much, to 
be expected from the brightest talents." l Over 
against a taunt like this, one can scarcely help 
placing the fact that the general of the armies 
who, for three stern years, had been accustomed to 
lean heavily for help on this governor of Virginia, 
and who never paid idle compliments, nevertheless 
paid many a tribute to the intelligence, zeal, and 
vigorous activity of Governor Henry s administra 
tion. Thus, on the 27th of December, 1777, Wash 
ington writes to him : " In several of my late let 
ters I addressed you on the distress of the troops 
for want of clothing. Your ready exertions to re 
lieve them have given me the highest satisfac 
tion." 2 On the 19th of February, 1778, Wash 
ington again writes to him : " I address myself to 
you, convinced that our alarming distresses will 
engage your most serious consideration, and that 
the full force of that zeal and vigor you have man- 

1 Bland Papers, ii. 11. 2 MS. 


ifested upon every other occasion, will now operate 
for our relief, in a matter that so nearly affects 
the very existence of our contest." : On the 19th 
of April, 1778, Washington once more writes to 
him : " I hold myself infinitely obliged to the legis 
lature for the ready attention which they have paid 
to my representation of the wants of the army, and 
to you for the strenuous manner in which you have 
recommended to the people an observance of my 
request." 2 Finally, if any men had even better 
opportunities than Washington for estimating cor 
rectly Governor Henry s efficiency in his great 
office, surely those men were his intimate associ 
ates, the members of the Virginia legislature. It 
is quite possible that their first election of him as 
governor may have been in ignorance of his real 
qualities as an executive officer; but this cannot 
be said of their second and of their third elections 
of him, each one of which was made, as we have 
seen, without one audible lisp of opposition. Is it 
to be believed that, if he had really shown that lack 
of executive efficiency which St. George Tucker s 
sneer implies, such a body of men, in such a crisis 
of public danger, would have twice and thrice 
elected him to the highest executive office in the 
State, and that, too, without one dissenting vote ? 
To say so, indeed, is to fix a far more damning 
censure upon them than upon him. 

1 MS. 2 MS. 



THE high official rank which Governor Henry 
had borne during the first three years of American 
independence was so impressive to the imaginations 
of the French allies who were then in the country, 
that some of them addressed their letters to him 
as " Son Altesse Royale, Monsieur Patrick Henri, 
Gouverneur de 1 Etat de Virginie." l From this 
titular royalty he descended, as we have seen, 
about the 1st of June, 1779 ; and for the subse 
quent five and a half years, until his recall to the 
governorship, he is to be viewed by us as a very 
retired country gentleman in delicate health, with 
episodes of labor and of leadership in the Virginia 
House of Delegates. 

A little more than a fortnight after his descent 
from the governor s chair, he was elected by the 
General Assembly as a delegate in Congress. 2 It 
is not known whether he at any time thought it 
possible for him to accept this appointment ; but, 
on the 28th of the following October, the body 
that had elected him received from him a letter 

1 Rives, Life of Madison, i. 189, note. 

2 Jour. Va. House Del. 54. 


declining the service. 1 Moreover, in spite of all 
invitations and entreaties, Patrick Henry never 
afterwards served in any public capacity outside 
the State of Virginia. 

During his three years in the governorship, he 
had lived in the palace at Williamsburg. In the 
course of that time, also, he had sold his estate of 
Scotchtown, in Hanover County, and had pur 
chased a large tract of land in the new county 
of Henry, a county situated about two hundred 
miles southwest from Richmond, along the North 
Carolina boundary, and named, of course, in honor 
of himself. To his new estate there, called Lea- 
therwood, consisting of about ten thousand acres, 
he removed early in the summer of 1779. This 
continued to be his home until he resumed the 
office of governor in November, 1784. 2 

After the storm and stress of so many years of 
public life, and of public life in an epoch of revo 
lution, the invalid body, the care-burdened spirit, 
of Patrick Henry must have found great refresh 
ment in this removal to a distant, wild, and moun 
tainous solitude. In undisturbed seclusion, he 
there remained during the summer and autumn 
of 1779, and even the succeeding winter and 
spring, scarcely able to hear the far-off noises of 
the great struggle in which he had hitherto borne 
so rugged a part, and of which the victorious issue 
was then to be seen by him, though dimly, through 
many a murky rack of selfishness, cowardice, and 

1 Jour. Fa. House Del. 27. 2 MS. 


His successor in the office of governor was 
Thomas Jefferson, the jovial friend of his own 
jovial youth, bound to him still by that hearty 
friendship which was founded on congeniality of 
political sentiment, but was afterward to die away, 
at least on Jefferson s side, into alienation and 
hate. To this dear friend Patrick Henry wrote 
late in that winter, from his hermitage among the 
eastward fastnesses of the Blue Ridge, a remark 
able letter, which has never before been in print, 
and which is full of interest for us on account of 
its impulsive and self-revealing words. Its tone of 
despondency, almost of misanthropy, so unnat 
ural to Patrick Henry, is perhaps a token of 
that sickness of body which had made the soul sick 
too, and had then driven the writer into the wilder 
ness, and still kept him there : 


LEATHEBWOOD, 15th Feby., 1780. 

DEAR SIR, I return you many thanks for your 
favor by Mr. Sanders. The kind notice you were 
pleased to take of me was particularly obliging, as I 
have scarcely heard a word of public matters since 
I moved up in the retirement where I live. 

I have had many anxieties for our commonwealth, 
principally occasioned by the depreciation of our money. 
To judge by this, which somebody has called the pulse 
of the state, I have feared that our body politic was 
dangerously sick. God grant it may not be unto death. 
But I cannot forbear thinking, the present increase of 
prices is in great part owing to a kind of habit, which 


is now of four or five years growth, which is fostered 
by a mistaken avarice, and like other habits hard to 
part with. For there is really very little money here 

What you say of the practice of our distinguished 
Tories perfectly agrees with my own observation, and 
the attempts to raise prejudices against the French, I 
know, were begun when I lived below. What gave me 
the utmost pain was to see some men, indeed very many, 
who were thought good Whigs, keep company with the 
miscreants, wretches who, I am satisfied, were labor 
ing our destruction. This countenance shown them is 
of fatal tendency. They should be shunned and ex 
ecrated, and this is the only way to supply the place of 
legal conviction and punishment. But this is an effort 
of virtue, small as it seems, of which our countrymen 
are not capable. 

Indeed, I will own to you, my dear Sir, that observ 
ing this impunity and even respect, which some wicked 
individuals have met with while their guilt was clear 
as the sun, has sickened me, and made me sometimes 
wish to be in retirement for the rest of my life. I will, 
however, be down, on the next Assembly, if I am 
chosen. My health, I am satisfied, will never again 
permit a close application to sedentary business, and 
I even doubt whether I can remain below long enough 
to serve in the Assembly. I will, however, make the 

But tell me, do you remember any instance where 
tyranny was destroyed and freedom established on its 
ruins, among a people possessing so small a share of 
virtue and public spirit? I recollect none, and this, 
more than the British arms, makes me fearful of final 


success without a reform. But when or how this is to 
be effected, I have not the means of judging. I most 
sincerely wish you health and prosperity. If you can 
spare time to drop me a line now and then, it will be 
highly obliging to, dear Sir, your affectionate friend 
and obedient servant, P. HENRY. 1 

The next General Assembly, which he thus 
promised to attend in case he should be chosen, 
met at Kichmond on the 1st of May, 1780. It 
hardly needs to be mentioned that the people of 
Henry County were proud to choose him as one of 
their members in that body ; but he seems not to 
have taken his seat there until about the 19th of 
May. 2 From the moment of his arrival in the 
House of Delegates, every kind of responsibility 
and honor was laid upon him. This was his first 
appearance in such an assembly since the procla 
mation of independence ; and the prestige attach 
ing to his name, as well as his own undimmed 
genius for leadership, made him not only the most 
conspicuous person in the house, but the nearly 
absolute director of its business in every detail 
of opinion and of procedure on which he should 
choose to express himself, his only rival, in any 
particular, being Richard Henry Lee. It helps 
one now to understand the real reputation he had 
among his contemporaries for practical ability, and 
for a habit of shrinking from none of the common 
place drudgeries of legislative work, that during 
the first few days after his accession to the House 

1 MS. 2 Jour , y a 


he was placed on the committee of ways and 
means ; on a committee " to inquire into the pre 
sent state of the account of the commonwealth 
against the United States, and the most speedy 
and effectual method of finally settling the same ; " 
on a committee to prepare a bill for the repeal of 
a part of the act " for sequestering British pro 
perty, enabling those indebted to British subjects 
to pay off such debts, and directing the proceedings 
in suits where such subjects are parties ; " on three 
several committees respecting the powers and du 
ties of high sheriffs and of grand juries ; and, 
finally, on a committee to notify Jefferson of his 
reelection as governor, and to report his answer to 
the House. On the 7th of June, however, after a 
service of little more than two weeks, his own sad 
apprehensions respecting his health seem to have 
been realized, and he was obliged to ask leave to 
withdraw from the House for the remainder of the 
session. 1 

At the autumn session of the legislature he was 
once more in his place. On the 6th of November, 
the day on which the House was organized, he was 
made chairman of the committee on privileges and 
elections, and also of a committee " for the better 
defence of the southern frontier," and was likewise 
placed on the committee on propositions and griev 
ances, as well as on the committee on courts of 
justice. On the following day he was made a 
member of a committee for the defence of the east- 
1 Jour. Va. House Del. 14, 15, 18, 25, 28, 31, 39. 


ern frontier. On the 10th of November he was 
placed on a committee to bring in a bill relating 
to the enlistment of Virginia troops, and to the re 
demption of the state bills of credit then in circu 
lation, and the emission of new bills. On the 22d 
of November he was made a member of a commit 
tee to which was again referred the account be 
tween the State and the United States. On the 
9th of December he was made a member of a com 
mittee to draw up bills for the organization and 
maintenance of a navy for the State, and the pro 
tection of navigation and commerce upon its wa 
ters. On the 14th of December he was made 
chairman of a committee to draw up a bill for the 
better regulation and discipline of the militia, and 
of still another committee to prepare a bill " for 
supplying the army with clothes and provisions." 1 
On the 28th of December, the House having know 
ledge of the arrival in town of poor General Gates, 
then drooping under the burden of those Southern 
willows which he had so plentifully gathered at 
Camden, Patrick Henry introduced the following 
magnanimous resolution : 

" That a committee of four be appointed to wait on 
Major General Gates, and to assure him of the high re 
gard and esteem of this House ; that the remembrance 
of his former glorious services cannot be obliterated by 
any reverse of fortune ; but that this House, ever mind 
ful of his great merit, will omit no opportunity of testi 
fying to the world the gratitude which, as a member of 

1 Jour. Va. House Del. 7, 8, 10, 14, 24, 45, 50, 51. 


the American Union, this country owes to him in his 
military character." l 

On the 2d of January, 1781, the last day of the 
session, the House adopted, on Patrick Henry s 
motion, a resolution authorizing the governor to 
convene the next meeting of the legislature at 
some other place than Richmond, in case its as 
sembling in that city should " be rendered incon 
venient by the operations of an invading enemy," 2 
a resolution reflecting their sense of the peril then 
hanging over the State. 

Before the legislature could again meet, events 
proved that it was no imaginary danger against 
which Patrick Henry s resolution had been in 
tended to provide. On the 2d of January, 1781, 
the very day on which the legislature had ad 
journed, a hostile fleet conveyed into the James 
River a force of about eight hundred men under 
command of Benedict Arnold, whose eagerness to 
ravage Virginia was still further facilitated by the 
arrival, on the 26th of March, of two thousand 
men under General Phillips. Moreover, Lord 
Cornwallis, having beaten General Greene at 
Guildford, in North Carolina, on the 15th of 
March, seemed to be gathering force for a speedy 
advance into Virginia. That the roar of his guns 
would soon be heard in the outskirts of their capi 
tal, was what all Virginians then felt to be inevi 

1 Jour. Fa. House Del 71. 2 Ibid. 79. 


Under such circumstances, it is not strange that 
a session of the legislature, which is said to have 
been held on the 1st of March, 1 should have been 
a very brief one, or that when the 7th of May 
arrived the day for its reassembling at Rich- 
mond no quorum should have been present ; or 
that, on the 10th of May, the few members who 
had arrived in Richmond should have voted, in 
deference to " the approach of an hostile army," 2 
to adjourn to Charlottesville, a place of far 
greater security, ninety-seven miles to the north 
west, among the mountains of Albemarle. By 
the 20th of May, Cornwallis reached Petersburg, 
twenty-three miles south of Richmond ; and shortly 
afterward, pushing across the James and the Chick- 
ahominy, he encamped on the North Anna, in the 
county of Hanover. Thus, at last, the single 
county of Louisa then separated him from that 
county in which was the home of the governor of 
the State, and where was then convened its legisla 
ture, Patrick Henry himself being present and 
in obvious direction of all its business. The op 
portunity to bag such game, Lord Cornwallis was 
not the man to let slip. Accordingly, on Sunday, 
the 3d of June, he dispatched a swift expedition 
under Tarleton, to surprise and capture the mem 
bers of the legislature, " to seize on the person of 
the governor," and " to spread on his route devas 
tation and terror." 3 In this entire scheme, doubt- 

1 Burk, Hist. Va. iv. 491. 2 j OWm y a House 

8 Burk, Hist. Va. iv. 496-497. 


less, Tarleton would have succeeded, had it not 
been that as he and his troopers, on that fair Sab 
bath day, were hurrying past the Cuckoo tavern in 
Louisa, one Captain John Jouette, watching from 
behind the windows, espied them, divined their 
object, and mounting a fleet horse, and taking a 
shorter route, got into Charlottesville a few hours 
in advance of them, just in time to give the alarm, 
and to set the imperiled legislators a-flying to the 
mountains for safety. 

Then, by all accounts, was witnessed a display 
of the locomotive energies of grave and potent 
senators, such as this world has not often exhib 
ited. Of this tragically comical incident, of course, 
the journal of the House of Delegates makes only 
the most placid and forbearing mention. For 
Monday, June 4, its chief entry is as follows : 
" There being reason to apprehend an immediate 
incursion of the enemy s cavalry to this place, 
which renders it indispensable that the General 
Assembly should forthwith adjourn to a place of 
greater security ; resolved, that this House be ad 
journed until Thursday next, then to meet at the 
town of Staunton, in the county of Augusta," - 
a town thirty-nine miles farther west, beyond a 
chain of mountains, and only to be reached by 
them or their pursuers through difficult passes in 
the Blue Ridge. The next entry in the journal is 
dated at Staunton, on the 7th of June, and, very 
properly, is merely a prosaic and business-like 


record of the reassembling of the House according 
to the adjournment aforesaid. 1 

But as to some of the things that happened in 
that interval of panic and of scrambling flight, 
popular tradition has not been equally forbearing ; 
and while the anecdotes upon that subject, which 
have descended to our time, are very likely deco 
rated by many tassels of exaggeration and of 
myth, they yet have, doubtless, some slight frame 
work of truth, and do really portray for us the 
actual beliefs of many people in Virginia respect 
ing a number of their celebrated men, and espe 
cially respecting some of the less celebrated traits 
of those men. For example, it is related that on 
the sudden adjournment of the House, caused by 
this dusty and breathless apparition of the speed 
ful Jouette, and his laconic intimation that Tarle- 
ton was coming, the members, though somewhat 
accustomed to ceremony, stood not upon the order 
of their going, but went at once, taking first to 
their horses, and then to the woods; and that, 
breaking up into small parties of fugitives, they 
thus made their several ways, as best they could, 
through the passes of the mountains leading to the 
much-desired seclusion of Staunton. One of these 
parties consisted of Benjamin Harrison, Colonel 
William Christian, John Tyler, and Patrick Henry. 
Late in the day, tired and hungry, they stopped 
their horses at the door of a small hut, in a gorge 
of the hills, and asked for food. An old woman, 

1 Jour. Va. House Del 10. 


who came to the door, and who was alone in the 
house, demanded of them who they were, and 
where they were from. Patrick Henry, who acted 
as spokesman of the party, answered : " We are 
members of the legislature, and have just been 
compelled to leave Charlottesville on account of 
the approach of the enemy." " Kide on, then, ye 
cowardly knaves," replied she, in great wrath; 
"here have my husband and sons just gone to 
Charlottesville to fight for ye, and you running 
away with all your might. Clear out ye shall 
have nothing here." " But," rejoined Mr. Henry, 
in an expostulating tone, " we were obliged to fly. 
It would not do for the legislature to be broken 
up by the enemy. Here is Mr. Speaker Harrison ; 
you don t think he would have fled had it not been 
necessary ? " "I always thought a great deal of 
Mr. Harrison till now," answered the old woman ; 
"but he d no business to run from the enemy," 
and she was about to shut the door in their faces. 
" Wait a moment, my good woman," urged Mr. 
Henry ; " you would hardly believe that Mr. Tyler 
or Colonel Christian would take to flight if there 
were not good cause for so doing ? " " No, indeed, 
that I would n t," she replied. " But," exclaimed 
he, " Mr. Tyler and Colonel Christian are here." 
" They here ? Well, I never would have thought 
it ; " and she stood for a moment in doubt, but at 
once added," No matter. We love these gentlemen, 
and I did n t suppose they would ever run away 
from the British ; but since they have, they shall 


have nothing to eat in my house. You may ride 
along." In this desperate situation Mr. Tyler then 
stepped forward and said, " What would you say, 
my good woman, if I were to tell you that Patrick 
Henry fled with the rest of us ? " " Patrick Henry ! 
I should tell you there was n t a word of truth in 
it," she answered angrily ; " Patrick Henry would 
never do such a cowardly thing." " But this is 
Patrick Henry," said Mr. Tyler, pointing to him. 
The old woman was amazed ; but after some reflec 
tion, and with a convulsive twitch or two at her 
apron string, she said, " Well, then, if that s Pat 
rick Henry, it must be all right. Come in, and 
ye shall have the best I have in the house." 1 

The pitiless tongue of tradition does not stop 
here, but proceeds to narrate other alleged experi 
ences of this our noble, though somewhat discon 
certed, Patrick. Arrived at last in Staunton, and 
walking through its reassuring streets, he is said 
to have met one Colonel William Lewis, to whom 
the face of the orator was then unknown ; and to 
have told to this stranger the story of the flight 
of the legislature from Albemarle. " If Patrick 
Henry had been in Albemarle," was the stranger s 
comment, " the British dragoons never would have 
passed over the Rivanna River." 2 

The tongue of tradition, at last grown quite reck 
less, perhaps, of its own credit, still further relates 

1 L. G. Tyler, Letters and Times of the Tylers, i. 81-83, where it 
is said to be taken from Abel s Life of John Tyler. 

2 Peyton, Hist. Augusta Co. 211. 


that even at Staunton these illustrious fugitives 
did not feel entirely sure that they were beyond 
the reach of Tarleton s men. A few nights after 
their arrival there, as the story runs, upon some 
sudden alarm, several of them sprang from their 
beds, and, imperfectly clapping on their clothes, 
fled out of the town, and took refuge at the plan 
tation of one Colonel George Moffett, near which, 
they had been told, was a cave in which they might 
the more effectually conceal themselves. Mrs. 
Moffett, though not knowing the names of these 
flitting Solons, yet received them with true Vir 
ginian hospitality ; but the next morning, at break 
fast, she made the unlucky remark that there was 
one member of the legislature who certainly would 
not have run from the enemy. " Who is he ? " 
was then asked. Her reply was, " Patrick Henry." 
At that moment a gentleman of the party, himself 
possessed of but one boot, was observed to blush 
considerably. Futhermore, as soon as possible 
after breakfast, these imperiled legislators departed 
in search of the cave ; shortly after which a negro 
from Staunton rode up, carrying in his hand a 
solitary boot, and inquiring earnestly for Patrick 
Henry. In that way, as the modern reporter of 
this very debatable tradition unkindly adds, the 
admiring Mrs. Moffett ascertained who it was that 
the boot fitted ; and he further suggests that, what 
ever Mrs. Moffett s emotions were at that time, 
those of Patrick must have been, " Give me liberty, 
but not death." l 

1 Peyton, Hist. Augusta Co. 211. 


Passing by these whimsical tales, we have now 
to add that the legislature, having on the 7th of 
June entered upon its work at Staunton, steadily 
continued it there until the 23d of the month, when 
it adjourned in orderly fashion, to meet again in 
the following October. Governor Jefferson, whose 
second year of office had expired two days before 
the flight of himself and the legislature from Char- 
lottesville, did not accompany that body to Staun 
ton, but pursued his own way to Poplar Forest 
and to Bedford, where, " remote from the legisla 
ture," l he remained during the remainder of its 
session. On the 12th of June, Thomas Nelson was 
elected as his successor in office. 2 

It was during this period of confusion and ter 
ror that, as Jefferson alleges, the legislature once 
more had before it the project of a dictator, in the 
criminal sense of that word ; and, upon Jefferson s 
private authority, both Wirt and Girardin long 
afterward named Patrick Henry as the man who 
was intended for this profligate honor. 3 We need 
not here repeat what was said, in our narrative of 
the closing weeks of 1776, concerning this terrible 
posthumous imputation upon the public and private 
character of Patrick Henry. Nearly everything 
which then appeared to the discredit of this charge 
in connection with the earlier date, is equally appli- 

1 Randall, Life of Jefferson, i. 352. 

2 Jour. Va. House Del. 15. 

8 Jefferson s Writings, viii. 368 ; Wirt, 231 ; Girardin, in Burk, 
Hist. Va. iv. App. pp. xi.-xii. ; Randall, Life of Jefferson, i. 348- 


cable to it in connection with the later date also. 
Moreover, as regards this later date, there has re 
cently been discovered a piece of contemporaneous 
testimony which shows that, whatever may have 
been the scheme for a dictatorship in Virginia in 
1781, it was a great military chieftain who was 
wanted for the position ; and, apparently, that Pat 
rick Henry was not then even mentioned in the 
affair. On the 9th of June, 1781, Captain H. 
Young, though not a member of the House of 
Delegates, writes from Staunton to Colonel Wil 
liam Davies as follows : " Two days ago, Mr. Nich 
olas gave notice that he should this day move to 
have a dictator appointed. General Washington 
and General Greene are talked of. I dare say 
your knowledge of these worthy gentlemen will be 
sufficient to convince you that neither of them will, 
or ought to, accept of such an appointment. . . . 
We have but a thin House of Delegates ; but they 
are zealous, I think, in the cause of virtue." 1 Fur 
thermore, the journal of that House contains no 
record of any such motion having been made ; and 
it is probable that it never was made, and that the 
subject never came before the legislature in any 
such form as to call for its notice. 

Finally, with respect to both the dates mentioned 
by Jefferson for the appearance of the scheme, 
Edmund Randolph has left explicit testimony to 
the effect that such a scheme never had any sub 
stantial existence at all: "Mr. Jefferson, in his 
1 Calendar Va. State Papers, ii. 152. 


Notes on Virginia, speaks with great bitterness 
against those members of the Assembly in the years 
1776 and 1781, who espoused the erection of a 
dictator. Coming from such authority, the invec 
tive infects the character of the legislature, not- 


withstanding he has restricted the charge to less 
than a majority, and acknowledged the spotlessness 
of most of them. . . . The subject was never be 
fore them, except as an article of newspaper in 
telligence, and even then not in a form which called 
for their attention. Against this unfettered mon 
ster, which deserved all the impassioned reproba 
tion of Mr. Jefferson, their tones, it may be 
affirmed, would have been loud and tremendous." l 
For its autumn session, in 1781, the legislature 
did not reach an organization until the 19th of 
November, just one month after the surrender 
of Cornwallis. Eight days after the organization 
of the House, Patrick Henry took his seat ; 2 and 
after a service of less than four weeks, he obtained 
leave of absence for the remainder of the session. 3 
During 1782 his attendance upon the House seems 
to have been limited to the spring session. At 
the organization of the House, on the 12th of May, 
1783, he was in his place again, and during that 
session, as well as the autumnal one, his attendance 
was close and laborious. At both sessions of the 
House in 1784 he was present and in full force ; 

1 MS. Hist. Va. 

2 Jour. Va. House Del. for Nov. 27. 

3 Jour. Va. House Del. for Dec. 21. 


but in the very midst of these employments he was 
interrupted by his election as governor, on the 
17th of November, shortly after which, he with 
drew to his country-seat in order to remove his 
family thence to the capital. 

In the course of all these labors in the legislature, 
and amid a multitude of topics merely local and 
temporary, Patrick Henry had occasion to deal 
publicly, and under the peculiar responsibilities of 
leadership, with nearly all the most important and 
difficult questions that came before the American 
people during the later years of the war and the 
earlier years of the peace. The journal of the 
House for that period omits all mention of words 
spoken in debate ; and although it does occasionally 
enable us to ascertain on which side of certain 
questions Patrick Henry stood, it leaves us in total 
ignorance of his reasons for any position which 
he chose to take. In trying, therefore, to estimate 
the quality of his statesmanship when dealing with 
these questions, we lack a part of the evidence 
which is essential to any just conclusion ; and we 
are left peculiarly at the mercy of those sweeping 
censures which have been occasionally applied to 
his political conduct during that period. 1 

On the assurance of peace, in the spring of 1783, 
perhaps the earliest and the knottiest problem 
which had to be taken up was the one relating to 
that vast body of Americans who then bore the 

1 For example, Bland Papers, ii. 51 ; Hives, Life of Madison, 
L 536 ; ii. 240, note. 


contumelious name of Tories, those Americans 
who, against all loss and ignominy, had steadily 
remained loyal to the unity of the British empire, 
unflinching in their rejection of the constitutional 
heresy of American secession. How should these 
execrable beings the defeated party in a long 
and most rancorous civil war be treated by the 
party which was at last victorious ? Many of them 
were already in exile : should they be kept there ? 
Many were still in this country: should they be 
banished from it ? As a matter of fact, the exas 
peration of public feeling against the Tories was, 
at that time, so universal and so fierce that no 
statesman could then lift up his voice in their 
favor without dashing himself against the angriest 
currents of popular opinion and passion, and risk 
ing the loss of the public favor toward himself. 
Nevertheless, precisely this is what Patrick Henry 
had the courage to do. While the war lasted, no 
man spoke against the Tories more sternly than 
did he. The war being ended, and its great pur 
pose secured, no man, excepting perhaps Alexan 
der Hamilton, was so prompt and so energetic in 
urging that all animosities of the war should be 
laid aside, and that a policy of magnanimous 
forbearance should be pursued respecting these 
baffled opponents of American independence. It 
was in this spirit that, as soon as possible after the 
cessation of hostilities, he introduced a bill for the 
repeal of an act " to prohibit intercourse with, and 
the admission of British subjects into " Virginia, 1 

1 Jour. Va. House Del 42. 


- language well understood to refer to the Tories. 
This measure, we are told, not only excited sur 
prise, but " was, at first, received with a repug 
nance apparently insuperable." Even his intimate 
friend John Tyler, the speaker of the House, 
hotly resisted it in the committee of the whole, 
and in the course of his argument, turning to Pat 
rick Henry, asked "how he, above all other men, 
could think of inviting into his family an enemy 
from whose insults and injuries he had suffered so 
severely ? " 

In reply to this appeal, Patrick Henry declared 
that the question before them was not one of per 
sonal feeling ; that it was a national question ; and 
that in discussing it they should be willing to sac 
rifice all personal resentments, all private wrongs. 
He then proceeded to unfold the proposition that 
America had everything out of which to make a 
great nation except people. 

" Your great want, sir, is the want of men ; and these 
you must have, and will have speedily, if you are wise. 
Do you ask how you are to get them ? Open your 
doors, sir, and they will come in. The population of 
the Old World is full to overflowing ; that population 
is ground, too, by the oppressions of the governments 
under which they live. Sir, they are already standing 
on tiptoe upon their native shores, and looking to your 
coasts with a wishful and longing eye. . . . But gentle 
men object to any accession from Great Britain, and 
particularly to the return of the British refugees. Sir, 
I feel no objection to the return of those deluded 


people. They have, to be sure, mistaken their own 
interests most wofully, and most wofully have they 
suffered the punishment due to their offences. But the 
relations which we bear to them and to their native 
country are now changed. Their king hath acknow 
ledged our independence. The quarrel is over. Peace 
hath returned, and found us a free people. Let us have 
the magnanimity, sir, to lay aside our antipathies and 
prejudices, and consider the subject in a political light. 
Those are an enterprising, moneyed people. They will 
be serviceable in taking off the surplus produce of our 
lands, and supplying us with necessaries during the 
infant state of our manufactures. Even if they be 
inimical to us in point of feeling and principle, I can 
see no objection, in a political view, in making them 
tributary to our advantage. And, as I have no preju 
dices to prevent my making this use of them, so, sir, 
I have no fear of any mischief that they can do us. 
Afraid of them ? What, sir [said he, rising to one of 
his loftiest attitudes, and assuming a look of the most 
indignant and sovereign contempt], shall we, who have 
laid the proud British lion at our feet, now be afraid of 
his whelps?" 1 

In the same spirit he dealt with the restraints 
on British commerce imposed during the war, a 
question similar to the one just mentioned, at least 
in this particular, that it was enveloped in the 
angry prejudices born of the conflict just ended. 
The journal for the 13th of May, 1783, has this 
entry : " Mr. Henry presented, according to order, 
a bill to repeal the several Acts of Assembly for 

1 John Tyler, in Wirt, 233, 236. 


seizure and condemnation of British goods found 
on land ; and the same was received and read the 
first time, and ordered to be read a second time." 
In advocating this measure, he seems to have lifted 
the discussion clear above all petty considerations 
to the plane of high and permanent principle, and, 
according to one of his chief antagonists in that 
debate, to have met all objections by arguments 
that were " beyond all expression eloquent and 
sublime." After describing the embarrassments 
and distresses of the situation and their causes, he 
took the ground that perfect freedom was as neces 
sary to the health and vigor of commerce as it was 
to the health and vigor of citizenship. "Why 
should we fetter commerce ? If a man is in chains, 
he droops and bows to the earth, for his spirits are 
broken ; but let him twist the fetters from his legs, 
and he will stand erect. Fetter not commerce, sir. 
Let her be as free as air ; she will range the whole 
creation, and return on the wings of the four winds 
of heaven, to bless the land with plenty." l 

Besides these and other problems in the foreign 
relations of the country, there remained, of course, 
at the end of the war, several vast domestic 
problems for American statesmanship to grapple 
with, one of these being the relations of the 
white race to their perpetual neighbors, the In 
dians. In the autumn session of 1784, in a series 
of efforts said to have been marked by "irre 
sistible earnestness and eloquence," he secured the 

1 John Tyler, in Wirt, 237-238. 


favorable attention of the House to this ancient 
problem, and even to his own daring and states 
manlike solution of it. The whole subject, as 
he thought, had been commonly treated by the 
superior race in a spirit not only mean and hard, 
but superficial also ; the result being nearly two 
centuries of mutual suspicion, hatred, and slaughter. 
At last the time had come for the superior race 
to put an end to this traditional disaster and dis 
grace. Instead of tampering with the difficulty 
by remedies applied merely to the surface, he was 
for striking at the root of it, namely, at the deep 
divergence in sympathy and in interest between 
the two races. There was but one way in which 
to do this : it was for the white race to treat the 
Indians, consistently, as human beings, and as fast 
as possible to identify their interests with our own 
along the entire range of personal concerns, in 
property, government, society, and, especially, in 
domestic life. In short, he proposed to encourage, 
by a system of pecuniary bounties, the practice of 
marriage between members of the two races, be 
lieving that such ties, once formed, would be an 
inviolable pledge of mutual friendship, fidelity, 
and forbearance, and would gradually lead to the 
transformation of the Indians into a civilized and 
Chiistian people. His bill for this purpose, elab 
orately drawn up, was carried through its second 
reading and " engrossed for its final passage," 
when, by his sudden removal from the floor of the 
House to the governor s chair, the measure was 


deprived of its all-conquering champion, and, on 
the third reading, it fell a sacrifice to the Cauca 
sian rage and scorn of the members. 

It is proper to note, also, that during this period 
of service in the legislature Patrick Henry marched 
straight against public opinion, and jeoparded his 
popularity, on two or three other subjects. For 
example, the mass of the people of Virginia were 
then so angrily opposed to the old connection be 
tween church and state that they occasionally saw 
danger even in projects which in no way involved 
such a connection. This was the case with Patrick 
Henry s necessary and most innocent measure " for 
the incorporation of all societies of the Christian 
religion which may apply for the same ; " likewise, 
his bill for the incorporation of the clergy of the 
Episcopal Church ; and, finally, his more question 
able and more offensive resolution for requiring all 
citizens of the State to contribute to the expense of 
supporting some form of religious worship accord 
ing to their own preference. 

Whether, in these several measures, Patrick 
Henry was right or wrong, one thing, at least, is 
obvious : no politician who could thus beard in his 
very den the lion of public opinion can be accu 
rately described as a demagogue. 

With respect to those amazing gifts of speech 
by which, in the House of Delegates, he thus re 
peatedly swept all opposition out of his way, and 
made people think as he wished them to do, often 
in the very teeth of their own immediate interests 


or prepossessions, an amusing instance was men 
tioned, many years afterward, by President James 
Madison. During the war Virginia had paid her 
soldiers in certificates for the amounts due them, 
to be redeemed in cash at some future time. In 
many cases, the poverty of the soldiers had induced 
them to sell these certificates, for trifling sums in 
ready money, to certain speculators, who were thus 
making a traffic out of the public distress. For 
the purpose of checking this cruel and harmful 
business, Madison brought forward a suitable bill, 
which, as he told the story, Patrick Henry sup 
ported with an eloquence so irresistible that it 
was carried through the House without an opposing 
vote ; while a notorious speculator in these very 
certificates, having listened from the gallery to 
Patrick Henry s speech, at its conclusion so far 
forgot his own interest in the question as to ex 
claim, " That bill ought to pass." l 

Concerning his appearance and his manner of 
speech in those days, a bit of testimony comes 
down to us from Spencer Roane, who, as he tells 
us, first " met with Patrick Henry in the Assembly 
of 1783." He adds : - 

" I also then met with R. H. Lee. ... I lodged with 
Lee one or two sessions, and was perfectly acquainted 
with him, while I was yet a stranger to Mr. H. These 
two gentlemen were the great leaders in the House of 
Delegates, and were almost constantly opposed. Not 
withstanding my habits of intimacy with Mr. Lee, I 
1 Howe, Hist. Coll Va. 222. 


found myself obliged to vote with P. H. against him in 
83, and against Madison in 84, . . . but with several 
important exceptions. I voted against him (P. H.), I 
recollect, on the subject of the refugees, he was for 
permitting their return ; on the subject of a general 
assessment ; and the act incorporating the Episcopal 
Church. I voted with him, in general, because he was, 
I thought, a more practical statesman than Madison 
(time has made Madison more practical), and a less 
selfish one than Lee. As an orator, Mr. Henry de 
molished Madison with as much ease as Samson did the 
cords that bound him before he was shorn. Mr. Lee 
held a greater competition. . . . Mr. Lee was a polished 
gentleman. His person was not very good ; and he had 
lost the use of one of his hands ; but his manner was 
perfectly graceful. His language was always chaste, 
and, although somewhat too monotonous, his speeches 
were always pleasing ; yet he did not ravish your senses, 
nor carry away your judgment by storm. . . . Henry 
was almost always victorious. He was as much superior 
to Lee in temper as in eloquence. . . . Mr. Henry was 
inferior to Lee in the gracefulness of his action, and 
perhaps also in the chasteness of his language ; yet his 
language was seldom incorrect, and his address always 
striking. He had a fine blue eye ; and an earnest man 
ner which made it impossible not to attend to him. His 
speaking was unequal, and always rose with the subject 
and the exigency. In this respect, he entirely differed 
from Mr. Lee, who always was equal. At some times, 
Mr. Henry would seem to hobble, especially in the be 
ginning of his speeches ; and, at others, his tones would 
be almost disagreeable ; yet it was by means of his 
tones, and the happy modulation of his voice, that his 


speaking perhaps had its greatest effect. He had a 
happy articulation, and a clear, distinct, strong voice ; 
and every syllable was distinctly uttered. He was very 
unassuming as to himself, amounting almost to humility, 
and very respectful towards his competitor ; the conse 
quence was that no feeling of disgust or animosity was 
arrayed against him. His exordiums in particular were 
often hobbling and always unassuming. He knew man 
kind too well to promise much. . . . He was great at a 
reply, and greater in proportion to the pressure which 
was bearing upon him. The resources of his mind and 
of his eloquence were equal to any drafts which could 
be made upon them. He took but short notes of what 
fell from his adversaries, and disliked the drudgery of 
composition ; yet it is a mistake to say that he could 
not write well." * 




WE have now arrived at the second period of 
Patrick Henry s service as governor of Virginia, 
beginning with the 30th of November, 1784. For 
the four or five years immediately following that 
date, the salient facts in his career seem to group 
themselves around the story of his relation to that 
vast national movement which ended in an entire 
reorganization of the American Republic under a 
new Constitution. Whoever will take the trouble 
to examine the evidence now at hand bearing upon 
the case, can hardly fail to convince himself that 
the true story of Patrick Henry s opposition to 
that great movement has never yet been told. Men 
have usually misconceived, when they have not al 
together overlooked, the motives for his opposition, 
the spirit in which he conducted it, and the benefi 
cent effects which were accomplished by it ; while 
his ultimate and firm approval of the new Consti 
tution, after it had received the chief amendments 
called for by his criticisms, has been passionately 
described as an example of gross political fickle 
ness and inconsistency, instead of being, as it really 
was, a most logical proceeding on his part, and in 


perfect harmony with the principles underlying his 
whole public career. 

Before entering on a story so fascinating for the 
light it throws on the man and on the epoch, it is 
well that we should stay long enough to glance at 
what we may call the incidental facts in his life, 
for these four or five years now to be looked into. 

Not far from the time of his thus entering once 
more upon the office of governor, occurred the 
death of his aged mother, at the home of his 
brother-in-law, Colonel Samuel Meredith of Win- 
ton, who, in a letter to the governor, dated Novem 
ber 22, 1784, speaks tenderly of the long illness 
which had preceded the death of the venerable 
lady, and especially of the strength and beauty of 
her character : 

" She has been in my family upwards of eleven years ; 
and from the beginning of that time to the end, her life 
appeared to me most evidently to be a continued mani 
festation of piety and devotion, guided by such a great 
share of good sense as rendered her amiable and agree 
able to all who were so happy as to be acquainted with 
her. Never have I known a Christian character equal 
to hers." 1 

On bringing his family to the capital, in Novem 
ber, 1784, from the far-away solitude of Leather- 
wood, the governor established them, not within 
the city itself, but across the James River, at a 
place called Salisbury. What with children and 
with grandchildren, his family had now become 
1 MS. 


a patriarchal one ; and some slight glimpse of 
himself and of his manner of life at that time is 
given us in the memorandum of Spencer Roane. 
In deference to " the ideas attached to the office of 
governor, as handed down from the royal govern 
ment," he is said to have paid careful attention to 
his costume and personal bearing before the public, 
never going abroad except in black coat, waistcoat, 
and knee-breeches, in scarlet cloak, and in dressed 
wig. Moreover, his family " were furnished with 
an excellent coach, at a time when these vehicles 
were not so common as at present. They lived as- 
genteelly, and associated with as polished society, 
as that of any governor before or since has ever 
done. He entertained as much company as others, 
and in as genteel a style ; and when, at the end of 
two years, he resigned the office, he had greatly 
exceeded the salary, and [was] in debt, which was 
one cause that induced him to resume the practice 
of the law." i 

During his two years in the governorship, his 
duties concerned matters of much local importance, 
indeed, but of no particular interest at present. To 
this remark one exception may be found in some 
passages of friendly correspondence between the 
governor and Washington, the latter then enjoy 
ing the long-coveted repose of Mt. Vernon. In 
January, 1785, the Assembly of Virginia vested in 
Washington certain shares in two companies, just 
then formed, for opening and extending the navi- 
1 MS. 


gation of the James and Potomac rivers. 1 In re 
sponse to Governor Henry s letter communicating 
this act, Washington wrote on the 27th of Febru 
ary, stating his doubts about accepting such a gra 
tuity, but at the same time asking the governor as 
a friend to assist him in the matter by his advice. 
Governor Henry s reply is of interest to us, not 
only for its allusion to his own domestic anxieties 
at the time, but for its revelation of the frank and 
cordial relations between the two men : 

RICHMOND, March 12th, 1785. 

DEAR SIR, The honor you are pleased to do me, 
in your favor of the 27th ultimo, in which you desire my 
opinion in a friendly way concerning the act enclosed 
you lately, is very flattering to me. I did not receive 
the letter till Thursday, and since that my family has 
been very sickly. My oldest grandson, a fine boy in 
deed, about nine years old, lays at the point of death. 
Under this state of uneasiness and perturbation, I feel 
some unfitness to consider a subject of so delicate a na 
ture as that you have desired my thoughts on. Besides, 
I have some expectation of a conveyance more proper, 
it may be, than the present, when I would wish to send 
you some packets received from Ireland, which I fear 
the post cannot carry at once. If he does not take them 
free, I shan t send them, for they are heavy. Captain 
Boyle, who had them from Sir Edward Newenham, 
wishes for the honor of a line from you, which I have 
promised to forward to him. 

I will give you the trouble of hearing from me next 
1 Hening, xi. 525-526. 


post, if no opportunity presents sooner, and, in the mean 
time, I beg you to be persuaded that, with the most 
sincere attachment, I am, dear sir, your most obedient 

P. HENRY. 1 


The promise contained in this letter was fulfilled 
on the 19th of the same month, when the governor 
wrote to Washington a long and careful statement 
of the whole case, urging him to accept the shares, 
and closing his letter with an assurance of his 
" unalterable affection " and " most sincere attach 
ment," 2 a subscription not common among pub 
lic men at that time. 

On the 30th of November, 1786, having declined 
to be put in nomination for a third year, as per 
mitted by the Constitution, he finally retired from 
the office of governor. The House of Delegates, 
about the same time, by unanimous vote, crowned 
him with the public thanks, " for his wise, pru 
dent, and upright administration, during his last 
appointment of chief magistrate of this Common 
wealth ; assuring him that they retain a perfect 
sense of his abilities in the discharge of the duties 
of that high and important office, and wish him all 
domestic happiness on his return to private life." 3 

This return to private life meant, among other 


2 Sparks, Con: Eev. iv. 93-96. See, also, Washington s letter 
to Henry, for Nov. 30, 1785, in Writings of W. xii. 277-278. 
8 Jour. Va. House Del. for Nov. 25, 1786. 


things, his return, after an interruption of more 
than twelve years, to the practice of the law. For 
this purpose he deemed it best to give up his re 
mote home at Leatherwood, and to establish him 
self in Prince Edward County, a place about 
midway between his former residence and the cap 
ital, and much better suited to his convenience, as 
an active practitioner in the courts. Accordingly, 
in Prince Edward County he continued to reside 
from the latter part of 1786 until 1795. Further 
more, by that county he was soon elected as one of 
its delegates in the Assembly ; and, resuming there 
his old position as leader, he continued to serve in 
every session until the end of 1790, at which time 
he finally withdrew from all official connection 
with public life. Thus it happened that, by his 
retirement from the governorship in 1786, and by 
his almost immediate restoration to the House of 
Delegates, he was put into a situation to act most 
aggressively and most powerfully on public opinion 
in Virginia during the whole period of the struggle 
over the new Constitution. 

As regards his attitude toward that great busi 
ness, we need, first of all, to clear away some ob 
scurity which has gathered about the question of 
his habitual views respecting the relations of the 
several States to the general government. It has 
been common to suppose that, even prior to the 
movement for the new Constitution, Patrick Henry 
had always been an extreme advocate of the rights 
of the States as opposed to the central authority 


of the Union ; and that the tremendous resistance 
which he made to the new Constitution in all stages 
of the affair prior to the adoption of the first 
group of amendments is to be accounted for as the 
effect of an original and habitual tendency of his 
mind. 1 Such, however, seems not to have been the 

In general it may be said that, at the very outset 
of the Revolution, Patrick Henry was one of the 
first of our statesmen to recognize the existence 
and the imperial character of a certain cohesive 
central authority, arising from the very nature of 
the revolutionary act which the several colonies 
were then taking. As early as 1774, in the first 
Continental Congress, it was he who exclaimed : 
" All distinctions are thrown down. All America 
is thrown into one mass." " The distinctions be 
tween Virginians, Pennsylvanians, New Yorkers, 
and New Englanders are no more. I am not a 
Virginian, but an American." In the spring of 
1776, at the approach of the question of independ 
ence, it was he who even incurred reproach by his 
anxiety to defer independence until after the basis 
for a general government should have been estab 
lished, lest the several States, in separating from 
England, should lapse into a separation from one 
another also. As governor of Virginia from 1776 
to 1779, his official correspondence with the presi 
dent of Congress, with the board of war, and with 
the general of the army is pervaded by proofs of 
1 For example, Curtis, Hist. Const, ii. 553-554. 


his respect for the supreme authority of the gen 
eral government within its proper sphere. Finally, 
as a leader in the Virginia House of Delegates 
from 1780 to 1784, he was in the main a supporter 
of the policy of giving more strength and dignity 
to the general government. During all that period, 
according to the admission of his most unfriendly 
modern critic, Patrick Henry showed himself " much 
more disposed to sustain and strengthen the federal 
authority" than did, for example, his great rival in 
the House, Richard Henry Lee ; and for the time 
those two great men became " the living and active 
exponents of two adverse political systems in both 
state and national questions." l In 1784, by which 
time the weakness of the general government had 
become alarming, Patrick Henry was among the 
foremost in Virginia to express alarm, and to pro 
pose the only appropriate remedy. For example, 
on the assembling of the legislature, in May of 
that year, he took pains to seek an early interview 
with two of his prominent associates in the House 
of Delegates, Madison and Jones, for the express 
purpose of devising with them some method of giv 
ing greater strength to the Confederation. " I find 
him," wrote Madison to Jefferson immediately 
after the interview, "strenuous for invigorating 
the federal government, though without any pre 
cise plan." 2 A more detailed account of the same 
interview was sent to Jefferson by another corre- 

1 Rives, Life of Madison, i. 536-537. 

2 Madison, Letters, etc. i. 80. 


spondent. According to the latter, Patrick Henry 
then declared that " he saw ruin inevitable, unless 
something was done to give Congress a compulsory 
process on delinquent States ; " that " a bold ex 
ample set by Virginia " in that direction " would 
have influence on the other States ; " and that 
" this conviction was his only inducement for com 
ing into the present Assembly." Whereupon, it 
was then agreed between them that "Jones and 
Madison should sketch some plan for giving greater 
power to the federal government ; and Henry 
promised to sustain it on the floor." l Finally, such 
was the impression produced by Patrick Henry s 
political conduct during all those years that, as late 
as in December, 1786, Madison could speak of him 
as having " been hitherto the champion of the fed 
eral cause." 2 

Not far, however, from the date last mentioned 
Patrick Henry ceased to be " the champion of the 
federal cause," and became its chief antagonist, 
and so remained until some time during Washing 
ton s first term in the presidency. What brought 
about this sudden and total revolution ? It can be 
explained only by the discovery of some new influ 
ence which came into his life between 1784 and 
1786, and which was powerful enough to reverse 
entirely the habitual direction of his political 
thought and conduct. Just what that influence 
was can now be easily shown. 

1 Bancroft, Hist. Const, i. 162. 

2 Madison, Letters, etc. i. 264. 


On the 3d of August, 1786, John Jay, as sec 
retary for foreign affairs, presented to Congress 
some results of his negotiations with the Spanish 
envoy, Gardoqui, respecting a treaty with Spain ; 
and he then urged that Congress, in view of cer 
tain vast advantages to our foreign commerce, 
should consent to surrender the navigation of the 
Mississippi for twenty-five or thirty years, 1 a 
proposal which, very naturally, seemed to the six 
Southern States as nothing less than a cool invita 
tion to them to sacrifice their own most important 
interests for the next quarter of a century, in order 
to build up during that period the interests of the 
seven States of the North. The revelation of this 
project, and of the ability of the Northern States 
to force it through, sent a shock of alarm and of 
distrust into every Southern community. More 
over, full details of these transactions in Congress 
were promptly conveyed to Governor Henry by 
James Monroe, who added this pungent item, 
that a secret project was then under the serious 
consideration of "committees" of Northern men, 
for a dismemberment of the Union, and for setting 
the Southern States adrift, after having thus bar 
tered away from them the use of the Mississippi. 2 

On the same day that Monroe was writing 
from New York that letter to Governor Henry, 
Madison was writing from Philadelphia a letter to 
Jefferson. Having mentioned a plan for strength- 
ening the Confederation, Madison says : 

1 Secret Jour. Cong. iv. 44-63. 

2 Rives, Life of Madison, ii. 122. 


" Though my wishes are in favor of such an event, 
yet I despair so much of its accomplishment at the 
present crisis, that I do not extend my views beyond 
a commercial reform. To speak the truth, I almost 
despair even of this. You will find the cause in a mea 
sure now before Congress, ... a proposed treaty with 
Spain, one article of which shuts the Mississippi for 
twenty or thirty years. Passing by the other Southern 
States, figure to yourself the effect of such a stipulation 
on the Assembly of Virginia, already jealous of North 
ern politics, and which will be composed of thirty mem 
bers from the Western waters, of a majority of others 
attached to the Western country from interests of their 
own, of their friends, or their constituents. . . . Figure 
to yourself its effect on the people at large on the West 
ern waters, who are impatiently waiting for a favorable 
result to the negotiation with Gardoqui, and who will con 
sider themselves sold by their Atlantic brethren. Will 
it be an unnatural consequence if they consider them 
selves absolved from every federal tie, and court some 
protection for their betrayed rights ? " 

How truly Madison predicted the fatal construc 
tion which in the South, and particularly in Vir 
ginia, would be put upon the proposed surrender 
of the Mississippi, may be seen by a glance at 
some of the resolutions which passed the Virginia 
House of Delegates on the 29th of the following 
November : 

" That the common right of navigating the river 
Mississippi, and of communicating with other nations 
through that channel, ought to be considered as the 
1 Rives, Life of Madison, ii. 119-120. 


bountiful gift of nature to the United States, as proprie 
tors of the territories watered by the said river and its 
eastern branches, and as moreover secured to them by 
the late revolution. 

" That the Confederacy, having been formed on the 
broad basis of equal rights, in every part thereof, to the 
protection and guardianship of the whole, a sacrifice of 
the rights of any one part, to the supposed or real inter 
est of another part, would be a flagrant violation of jus 
tice, a direct contravention of the end for which the 
federal government was instituted, and an alarming in 
novation in the system of the Union." * 

One day after the passage of those resolutions, 
Patrick Henry ceased to be the governor of Vir 
ginia ; and five days afterward he was chosen by 
Virginia as one of its seven delegates to a conven 
tion to be held at Philadelphia in the following 
May for the purpose of revising the federal Con 
stitution. But amid the widespread excitement, 
amid the anger and the suspicion then prevailing 
as to the liability of the Southern States, even 
under a weak confederation, to be slaughtered, in 
all their most important concerns, by the superior 
weight and number of the Northern States, it is 
easy to see how little inclined many Southern 
statesmen would be to increase that liability by 
making this weak confederation a strong one. In 
the list of such Southern statesmen Patrick Henry 
must henceforth be reckoned ; and. as it was never 
his nature to do anything tepidly or by halves, his 
1 Jour. Va. House Del. 66-67. 


hostility to the project for strengthening the Con 
federation soon became as hot as it was compre 
hensive. On the 7th of December, only three 
days after he was chosen as a delegate to the 
Philadelphia convention, Madison, then at Rich 
mond, wrote concerning him thus anxiously to 
Washington : - 

" I am entirely convinced from what I observe here, 
that unless the project of Congress can be reversed, the 
hopes of carrying this State into a proper federal system 
will be demolished. Many of our most federal leading 
men are extremely soured with what has already passed. 
Mr. Henry, who has been hitherto the champion of the 
federal cause, has become a cold advocate, and, in the 
event of an actual sacrifice of the Mississippi by Con 
gress, will unquestionably go over to the opposite side." 3 

But in spite of this change in his attitude to 
ward the federal cause, perhaps he would still go 
to the great convention. On that subject he ap 
pears to have kept his own counsel for several 
weeks ; but by the 1st of March, 1787, Edmund 
Randolph, at Richmond, was able to send this 
word to Madison, who was back in his place in 
Congress : " Mr. Henry peremptorily refuses to 
go ; " and Randolph mentions as Henry s reasons 
for this refusal, not only his urgent professional 
duties, but his repugnance to the proceedings of 
Congress in the matter of the Mississippi. 2 Five 
days later, from the same city, John Marshall 

1 Madison, Letters, etc. i. 264. 

2 Rives, Life of Madison, ii. 238-239. 


wrote to Arthur Lee : " Mr. Henry, whose opin 
ions have their usual influence, has been heard to 
say that he would rather part with the Confedera 
tion than relinquish the navigation of the Missis 
sippi." i On the 18th of the same month, in a 
letter to Washington, Madison poured out his so 
licitude respecting the course which Henry was 
going to take: "I hear from Richmond, with 
much concern, that Mr. Henry has positively de 
clined his mission to Philadelphia. Besides the 
loss of his services on that theatre, there is danger, 
I fear, that this step has proceeded from a wish 
to leave his conduct unfettered on another theatre, 
where the result of the convention will receive its 
destiny from his omnipotence." 2 On the next day, 
Madison sent off to Jefferson, who was then in 
Paris, an account of the situation : " But although 
it appears that the intended sacrifice of the Mis 
sissippi will not be made, the consequences of the 
intention and the attempt are likely to be very 
serious. I have already made known to you the 
light in which the subject was taken up by Vir 
ginia. Mr. Henry s disgust exceeds all measure, 
and I am not singular in ascribing his refusal to 
attend the convention, to the policy of keeping 
himself free to combat or espouse the result of it 
according to the result of the Mississippi business, 
among other circumstances." 3 

1 R. H. Lee, Life of A. Lee, ii. 321. 

2 Sparks, Corr. Rev. iv. 168. 
8 Madison Papers, ii. 623. 


Finally, on the 25th of March Madison wrote to 
Randolph, evidently in reply to the information 
given by the latter on the 1st of the month : " The 
refusal of Mr. Henry to join in the task of revis 
ing the Confederation is ominous ; and the more 
so, I fear, if he means to be governed by the event 
which you conjecture." l 

That Patrick Henry did not attend the great 
convention, everybody knows ; but the whole mean 
ing of his refusal to do so, everybody may now 
understand somewhat more clearly, perhaps, than 

1 Madison Papers, 627. 



THE great convention at Philadelphia, after a 
session of four months, came to the end of its 
noble labors on the 17th of September, 1787. 
Washington, who had been not merely its presid 
ing officer but its presiding genius, then hastened 
back to Mt. Vernon, and, in his great anxiety to 
win over to the new Constitution the support of 
his old friend Patrick Henry, he immediately dis 
patched to him a copy of that instrument, accom 
panied by a very impressive and conciliatory let 
ter, 1 to which, about three weeks afterwards, was 
returned the following reply : 

RICHMOND, October 19, 1787. 

BEAR SIR, I was honored by the receipt of your 
favor, together with a copy of the proposed federal Con 
stitution, a few days ago, for which I beg you to accept 
my thanks. They are also due to you from me as a 
citizen, on account of the great fatigue necessarily at 
tending the arduous business of the late convention. 

I have to lament that I cannot bring my mind to 
accord with the proposed Constitution. The concern I 
1 Writings of Washington, ix. 265-266. 


feel on this account is really greater than I am able to 
express. Perhaps mature reflections may furnish me 
with reasons to change my present sentiments into a 
conformity with the opinions of those personages for 
whom I have the highest reverence. Be that as it may, 
I beg you will be persuaded of the unalterable regard 
and attachment with which I shall be, 

Dear Sir, your obliged and very humble servant, 

P. HENRY. 1 

Four days before the date of this letter the 
legislature of Virginia had convened at Richmond 
for its autumn session, and Patrick Henry had 
there taken his usual place on the most important 
committees, and as the virtual director of the 
thought and work of the House. Much solicitude 
was felt concerning the course which he might ad 
vise the legislature to adopt on the supreme ques 
tion then before the country, some persons even 
fearing that he might try to defeat the new Con 
stitution in Virginia by simply preventing the call 
of a state convention. Great was Washington s 
satisfaction on receiving from one of his corre 
spondents in the Assembly, shortly after the session 
began, this cheerful report : 

" I have not met with one in all my inquiries (and I 
have made them with great diligence) opposed to it, 
except Mr. Henry, who I have heard is so, but could 
only conjecture it from a conversation with him on the 
subject. . . . The transmissory note of Congress was 
before us to-day, when Mr. Henry declared that it 

1 MS. 


transcended our powers to decide on the Constitution, 
and that it must go before a convention. As it was in 
sinuated he would aim at preventing this, much pleasure 
was discovered at the declaration." 3 

On the 24th of October, from his place in Con 
gress, Madison sent over to Jefferson, in Paris, a 
full account of the results of the Philadelphia con 
vention, and of the public feeling with reference 
to its work : " My information from Virginia is 
as yet extremely imperfect. . . . The part which 
Mr. Henry will take is unknown here. Much will 
depend on it. I had taken it for granted, from a 
variety of circumstances, that he would be in the 
opposition, and still think that will be the case. 
There are reports, however, which favor a contrary 
supposition." 2 But, by the 9th of December, 
Madison was able to send to Jefferson a further 
report, which indicated that all doubt respecting 
the hostile attitude of Patrick Henry was then 
removed. After mentioning that a majority of 
the people of Virginia seemed to be in favor of the 
Constitution, he added : " What change may be 
produced by the united influence and exertions of 
Mr. Henry, Mr. Mason, and the governor, with 
some pretty able auxiliaries, is uncertain. . . . 
Mr. Henry is the great adversary who will render 
the event precarious. He is, I find, with his usual 
address, working up every possible interest into a 
spirit of opposition." 3 

1 Writings of Washington, ix. 273. 

2 Madison, Letters, etc. i. 356. 

3 Ibid. i. 364-365. 


Long before the date last mentioned, the legisla 
ture had regularly declared for a state convention, 
to be held at Richmond on the first Monday in 
June, 1788, then and there to determine whether 
or not Virginia would accept the new Constitution. 
In view of that event, delegates were in the mean 
time to be chosen by the people ; and thus, for the 
intervening months, the fight was to be transferred 
to the arena of popular debate. In such a contest 
Patrick Henry, being once aroused, was not likely 
to take a languid or a hesitating part ; and of the 
importance then attached to the part which he did 
take, we catch frequent glimpses in the correspond 
ence of the period. Thus, on the 19th of Febru 
ary, 1788, Madison, still at New York, sent this 
word to Jefferson : " The temper of Virginia, as 
far as I can learn, has undergone but little change 
of late. At first, there was an enthusiasm for the 
Constitution. The tide next took a sudden and 
strong turn in the opposite direction. The influ 
ence and exertions of Mr. Henry, Colonel Mason, 
and some others, will account for this. ... I am 
told that a very bold language is held by Mr. 
Henry and some of his partisans." 1 On the 10th 
of April, Madison, then returned to his home in 
Virginia, wrote to Edmund Randolph : " The de 
claration of Henry, mentioned in your letter, is a 
proof to me that desperate measures will be his 
game." 2 On the 22d of the same month Madison 
wrote to Jefferson: "The adversaries take very 

1 Madison, Letters, etc. i. 378. 2 Ibid. I 387. 


different grounds of opposition. Some are opposed 
to the substance of the plan ; others, to particular 
modifications only. Mr. Henry is supposed to aim 
at disunion." l On the 24th of April, Edward 
Carrington, writing from New York, told Jeffer 
son : " Mr. H. does not openly declare for a dis* 
memberment of the Union, but his arguments in 
support of his opposition to the Constitution go 
directly to that issue. He says that three confed 
eracies would be practicable, and better suited to 
the good of commerce than one." 2 On the 28th 
of April, Washington wrote to Lafayette on ac 
count of the struggle then going forward ; and 
after naming some of the leading champions of the 
Constitution, he adds sorrowfully: "Henry and 
Mason are its great adversaries." 3 Finally, as 
late as on the 12th of June, the Rev. John Blair 
Smith, at that time president of Hampden-Sidney 
College, conveyed to Madison, an old college friend, 
his own deep disapproval of the course which had 
been pursued by Patrick Henry in the management 
of the canvass against the Constitution : 

" Before the Constitution appeared, the minds of the 
people were artfully prepared against it; so that all 
opposition [to Mr. Henry] at the election of delegates to 
consider it, was in vain. That gentleman has descended 
to lower artifices and management on the occasion than 
I thought him capable of. ... If Mr. Innes has shown 

1 Madison, Letters, i. 388. 

2 Bancroft, Hist. Const, ii. 465. 

8 Writings of Washington, ix. 356. 


you a speech of Mr. Henry to his constituents, which I 
sent him, you will see something of the method he has 
taken to diffuse his poison. ... It grieves me to see 
such great natural talents abused to such purposes." l 

On Monday, the 2d of June, 1788, the long- 
expected convention assembled at Richmond. So 
great was the public interest in the event that a 
full delegation was present, even on the first day ; 
and in order to make room for the throngs of citi 
zens from all parts of Virginia and from other 
States, who had flocked thither to witness the im 
pending battle, it was decided that the convention 
should hold its meetings in the New Academy, on 
Shockoe Hill, the largest assembly-room in the 

Eight States had already adopted the Constitu 
tion. The five States which had yet to act upon 
the question were New Hampshire, Rhode Island, 
New York, North Carolina, and Virginia. For 
every reason, the course then to be taken by Vir 
ginia would have great consequences. Moreover, 
since the days of the struggle over independence, 
no question had so profoundly moved the people of 
Virginia ; none had aroused such hopes and such 
fears; none had so absorbed the thoughts, or so 
embittered the relations of men. It is not strange, 
therefore, that this convention, consisting of one 
hundred and seventy members, should have been 
thought to represent, to an unusual degree, the in 
telligence, the character, the experience, the repu- 
1 Rives, Life of Madison, ii. 544, note. 


tation of the State. Perhaps it would be true to 
say that, excepting Washington, Jefferson, and 
Richard Henry Lee, no Virginian of eminence was 
absent from it. 

Furthermore, the line of division, which from 
the outset parted into two hostile sections these 
one hundred and seventy Virginians, was something 
quite unparalleled. In other States it had been 
noted that the conservative classes, the men of edu 
cation and of property, of high office, of high social 
and professional standing, were nearly all on the 
side of the new Constitution. Such was not the 
case in Virginia. Of the conservative classes 
throughout that State, quite as many were against 
the new Constitution as were in favor of it. Of 
the four distinguished citizens who had been its 
governors, since Virginia had assumed the right to 
elect governors, Patrick Henry, Jefferson, Nel 
son, and Harrison, each in turn had denounced 
the measure as unsatisfactory and dangerous ; 
while Edmund Randolph, the governor then in 
office, having attended the great convention at 
Philadelphia, and having there refused to sign the 
Constitution, had published an impressive state 
ment of his objections to it, and, for several months 
thereafter, had been counted among its most for 
midable opponents. Concerning the attitude of the 
legal profession, a profession always inclined to 
conservatism, Madison had written to Jefferson : 
" The general and admiralty courts, with most of 
the bar, oppose the Constitution." 1 Finally, among 

1 Rives, Life of Madison, ii. 541. 


Virginians who were at that time particularly hon 
ored and trusted for patriotic services during the 
Eevolution, such men as these, Theodoric Bland, 
William Gray son, John Tyler, Meri wether Smith, 
James Monroe, George Mason, and Richard Henry 
Lee, had declared their disapproval of the docu 

Nevertheless, within the convention itself, at the 
opening of the session, it was claimed by the friends 
of the new government that they then outnum 
bered their opponents by at least fifty votes. 1 Their 
great champion in debate was James Madison, who 
was powerfully assisted, first or last, by Edmund 
Pendleton, John Marshall, George Nicholas, Fran 
cis Corbin, George Wythe, James Innes, General 
Henry Lee, and especially by that same Governor 
Randolph who, after denouncing the Constitution 
for " features so odious " that he could not " agree 
to it," 2 had finally swung completely around to its 

Against all this array of genius, learning, char 
acter, logical acumen, and eloquence, Patrick Henry 
held the field as protagonist for twenty-three days, 
his chief lieutenants in the fight being Mason, 
Gray son, and John Dawson, with occasional help 
from Harrison, Monroe, and Tyler. Upon him 
alone fell the brunt of the battle. Out of the 
twenty-three days of that splendid tourney, there 
were but five days in which he did not take the 

1 Hist. Mag. for 1873, 274. 

2 Elliot, Debates, i. 491 ; v. 502, 534-535. 


floor. On each of several days he made three 
speeches ; on one day he made five speeches ; on 
another day eight. In one speech alone, he was on 
his legs for seven hours. The words of all who 
had any share in that debate were taken down, 
according to the imperfect art of the time, by 
the stenographer, David Robertson, whose reports, 
however, are said to be little more than a pretty 
full outline of the speeches actually made : but in 
the volume which contains these abstracts, one of 
Patrick Henry s speeches fills eight pages, another 
ten pages, another sixteen, another twenty-one, 
another forty ; while, in the aggregate, his speeches 
constitute nearly one quarter of the entire book, 
a book of six hundred and sixty-three pages. 1 

Any one who has fallen under the impression, so 
industriously propagated by the ingenious enmity 
of Jefferson s old age, that Patrick Henry was a 
man of but meagre information and of extremely 
slender intellectual resources, ignorant especially 
of law, of political science, and of history, totally 
lacking in logical power and in precision of state 
ment, with nothing to offset these deficiencies ex 
cepting a strange gift of overpowering, dithyrambic 
eloquence, will find it hard, as he turns over the 
leaves on which are recorded the debates of the 
Virginia convention, to understand just how such 
a person could have made the speeches which are 
there attributed to Patrick Henry, or how a mere 
rhapsodist could have thus held his ground, in close 

1 Elliot, Debates, iii. 


hand-to-hand combat, for twenty-three days, against 
such antagonists, on all the difficult subjects of 
law, political science, and history involved in the 
Constitution of the United States, while showing 
at the same time every quality of good generalship 
as a tactician and as a party leader. " There has 
been, I am aware," says an eminent historian of 
the Constitution, " a modern scepticism concerning 
Patrick Henry s abilities ; but I cannot share it. 
. . . The manner in which he carried on the oppo 
sition to the Constitution in the convention of Vir 
ginia, for nearly a whole month, shows that he pos 
sessed other powers besides those of great natural 
eloquence." l 

But, now, what were Patrick Henry s objections 
to the new Constitution ? 

First of all, let it be noted that his objections 
did not spring from any hostility to the union of 
the thirteen States, or from any preference for a 
separate union of the Southern States. Undoubt 
edly there had been a time, especially under the 
provocations connected with the Mississippi busi 
ness, when he and many other Southern statesmen 
sincerely thought that there might be no security 
for their interests even under the Confederation, 
and that this lack of security would be even more 
glaring and disastrous under the new Constitution. 
Such, for example, seems to have been the opinion 
of Governor Benjamin Harrison, as late as Octo 
ber the 4th, 1787, on which date he thus wrote to 

1 Curtis, Ilist. Const, ii. 501, note. 


Washington : " I cannot divest myself of an opin 
ion that ... if the Constitution is carried into 
effect, the States south of the Potomac will be 
little more than appendages to those to the north 
ward of it." l It is very probable that this sen 
tence accurately reflects, likewise, Patrick Henry s 
mood of thought at that time. Nevertheless, what 
ever may have been his thought under the sectional 
suspicions and alarms of the preceding months, it 
is certain that, at the date of the Virginia conven 
tion, he had come to see that the thirteen States 
must, by all means, try to keep together. " I am 
persuaded," said he, in reply to Randolph, "of 
what the honorable gentleman says, that separate 
confederacies will ruin us. " Sir," he exclaimed 
on another occasion, " the dissolution of the Union 
is most abhorrent to my mind. The first thing I 
have at heart is American liberty; the second 
thing is American union." Again he protested : 
" I mean not to breathe the spirit, nor utter the 
language, of secession." 2 

In the second place, he admitted that there were 
great defects in the old Confederation, and that 
those defects ought to be cured by proper amend 
ments, particularly in the direction of greater 
strength to the federal government. But did the 
proposed Constitution embody such amendments ? 
On the contrary, that Constitution, instead of pro 
perly amending the old Confederation, simply anni- 

1 Writings of Washington, ix. 266, note. 

2 Elliot, Debates, iii. 161, 57, 63. 


hilated it, and replaced it by something radically 
different and radically dangerous. 

" The federal convention ought to have amended the 
old system ; for this purpose they were solely delegated ; 
the object of their mission extended to no other consid 
eration." " The distinction between a national govern 
ment and a confederacy is not sufficiently discerned. 
Had the delegates who were sent to Philadelphia a 
power to propose a consolidated government, instead of 
a confederacy ? " " Here is a resolution as radical as 
that which separated us from Great Britain. It is radi 
cal in this transition ; our rights and privileges are 
endangered, and the sovereignty of the States will be 
relinquished : and cannot we plainly see that this is 
actually the case ? The rights of conscience, trial by 
jury, liberty of the press, all your immunities and fran 
chises, all pretensions to human rights and privileges, 
are rendered insecure, if not lost, by this change, so 
loudly talked of by some, so inconsiderately by others." 
" A number of characters, of the greatest eminence in 
this country, object to this government for its consoli 
dating tendency. This is not imaginary. It is a formi 
dable reality. If consolidation proves to be as mischiev 
ous to this country as it has been to other countries, 
what will the poor inhabitants of this country do ? This 
government will operate like an ambuscade. It will 
destroy the state governments, and swallow the liberties 
of the people, without giving previous notice. If gentle 
men are willing to run the hazard, let them run it ; but 
I shall exculpate myself by my opposition and monitory 
warnings within these walls." ] 

1 Elliot, Debates, iii. 23, 52, 44, 156. 


But, in the third place, besides transforming the 
old confederacy into a centralized and densely con 
solidated government, and clothing that govern 
ment with enormous powers over States and over 
individuals, what had this new Constitution pro 
vided for the protection of States and of individu 
als ? Almost nothing. It had created a new and 
a tremendous power over us ; it had failed to cover 
us with any shield, or to interpose any barrier, by 
which, in case of need, we might save ourselves 
from the wanton and fatal exercise of that power. 
In short, the new Constitution had no bill of 
rights. But "a bill of rights," he declared, is 
" indispensably necessary." 

" A general positive provision should be inserted in 
the new system, securing to the States and the people 
every right which was not conceded to the general gov 
ernment." " I trust that gentlemen, on this occasion, 
will see the great objects of religion, liberty of the press, 
trial by jury, interdiction of cruel punishments, and 
every other sacred right, secured, before they agree to 
that paper." " Mr. Chairman, the necessity of a bill of 
rights appears to me to be greater in this government 
than ever it was in any government before. I have ob 
served already that the sense of European nations, and 
particularly Great Britain, is against the construction 
of rights being retained which are not expressly relin 
quished. I repeat, that all nations have adopted the 
construction, that all rights not expressly and unequivo 
cally reserved to the people are impliedly and inciden 
tally relinquished to rulers, as necessarily inseparable 
from delegated powers. . . . Let us consider the senti- 


ments which have been entertained by the people of 
America on this subject. At the Revolution, it must be 
admitted that it was their sense to set down those great 
rights which ought, in all countries, to be held inviolable 
and sacred. Virginia did so, we all remember. She 
made a compact to reserve, expressly, certain rights. . . . 
She most cautiously and guardedly reserved and secured 
those invaluable, inestimable rights and privileges which 
no people, inspired with the least glow of patriotic lib 
erty, ever did, or ever can, abandon. She is called 
upon now to abandon them, and dissolve that compact 
which secured them to her. . . . Will she do it ? This 
is the question. If you intend to reserve your unalien- 
able rights, you must have the most express stipulation ; 
for, if implication be allowed, you are ousted of those 
rights. If the people do not think it necessary to re 
serve them, they will be supposed to be given up. ... 
If you give up these powers, without a bill of rights, you 
will exhibit the most absurd thing to mankind that ever 
the world saw, a government that has abandoned all 
its powers, the powers of direct taxation, the sword, 
and the purse. You have disposed of them to Congress, 
without a bill of rights, without check, limitation, or 
control. And still you have checks and guards ; still 
you keep barriers pointed where ? Pointed against 
your weakened, prostrated, enervated, state govern 
ment ! You have a bill of rights to defend you against 
the state government which is bereaved of all power, 
and yet you have none against Congress though in 
full and exclusive possession of all power. Y^ou arm 
yourselves against the weak and defenceless, and expose 
yourselves naked to the armed and powerful. Is not 
this a conduct of unexampled absurdity ? " 

1 Elliot, Debates, iii. 150, 462, 445-446. 


Again and again, in response to his demand for 
an express assertion, in the instrument itself, of 
the rights of individuals and of States, he was told 
that every one of those rights was secured, since 
it was naturally and fairly implied. " Even say," 
he rejoined, " it is a natural implication, why 
not give us a right ... in express terms, in lan 
guage that could not admit of evasions or subter 
fuges ? If they can use implication for us, they 
can also use implication against us. We are giving 
power; they are getting power; judge, then, on 
which side the implication will be used." " Im 
plication is dangerous, because it is unbounded; 
if it be admitted at all, and no limits prescribed, 
it admits of the utmost extension." " The exist 
ence of powers is sufficiently established. If we 
trust our dearest rights to implication, we shall be 
in a very unhappy situation." : 

Then, in addition to his objections to the general 
character of the Constitution, namely, as a consoli 
dated government, unrestrained by an express guar 
antee of rights, he applied his criticisms in great 
detail, and with merciless rigor, to each department 
of the proposed government, the legislative, the 
executive, and the judicial; and with respect to 
each one of these he insisted that its intended 
functions were such as to inspire distrust and alarm. 
Of course, we cannot here follow this fierce critic 
of the Constitution into all the detail of his crit 
icisms; but, as a single example, we may cite a 

1 Elliot, Debates, iii. 149-150. 


portion of his assault upon the executive depart 
ment, an assault, as will be seen, far better suited 
to the political apprehensions of his own time than 
of ours : 

" The Constitution is said to have beautiful features ; 
but when I come to examine these features, sir, they 
appear to me horribly frightful. Among other deformi 
ties, it has an awful squinting ; it squints towards mon 
archy. And does not this raise indignation in the breast 
of every true American? Your president may easily 
become king. . . . Where are your checks in this gov 
ernment? Your strongholds will be in the hands of 
your enemies. It is on a supposition that your American 
governors shall be honest, that all the good qualities of 
this government are founded ; but its defective and im 
perfect construction puts it in their power to perpetrate 
the worst of mischiefs, should they be bad men. And, 
sir, would not all the world, from the eastern to the 
western hemispheres, blame our distracted folly in resting 
our rights upon the contingency of our rulers being good 
or bad? Show me that age and country where the 
rights and liberties of the people were placed on the sole 
chance of their rulers being good men, without a conse 
quent loss of liberty. ... If your American chief be 
a man of ambition and abilities, how easy is it for him 
to render himself absolute ! The army is in his hands ; 
and if he be a man of address, it will be attached to 
him, and it will be the subject of long meditation with 
him to seize the first auspicious moment to accomplish 
his design. And, sir, will the American spirit solely 
relieve you when this happens ? I would rather infinitely 
and I am sure most of this convention are of the 


same opinion have a king, lords, and commons, than 
a government so replete with such insupportable evils. 
If we make a king, we may prescribe the rules by which 
he shall rule his people, and interpose such checks as 
shall prevent him from infringing them ; but the presi 
dent, in the field, at the head of his army, can prescribe 
the terms on which he shall reign master, so far that 
it will puzzle any American ever to get his neck from 
under the galling yoke. . . . Will not the recollection 
of his crimes teach him to make one bold push for the 
American throne ? Will not the immense difference 
between being master of everything, and being ignomin- 
iously tried and punished, powerfully excite him to 
make this bold push? But, sir, where is the existing 
force to punish him ? Can he not, at the head of his 
army, beat down every opposition ? Away with your 
president ! we shall have a king. The army will salute 
him monarch. Your militia will leave you, and assist 
in making him king, and fight against you. And what 
have you to oppose this force ? What will then become 
of you and your rights ? Will not absolute despotism 
ensue ? " 

Without reproducing here, in further detail, 
Patrick Henry s objections to the new Constitution, 
it may now be stated that they all sprang from 
a single idea, and all revolved about that idea, 
namely, that the new plan of government, as it 
then stood, seriously endangered the rights and 
liberties of the people of the several States. And 
in holding this opinion he was not at all peculiar. 
Very many of the ablest and noblest statesmen of 
1 Elliot, Debates, iii. 58-60. 


the time shared it with him. Not to name again 
his chief associates in Virginia, nor to cite the lan 
guage of such men as Burke and Rawlins Lovvndes, 
of South Carolina; as Timothy Bloodworth, of 
North Carolina; as Samuel Chase and Luther 
Martin, of Maryland ; as George Clinton, of New 
York ; as Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and El- 
bridge Gerry, of Massachusetts ; as Joshua Ather- 
ton, of New Hampshire, it may sufficiently put us 
into the tone of contemporary opinion upon the 
subject, to recall certain grave words of Jefferson, 
who, watching the whole scene from the calm dis 
tance of Paris, thus wrote on the 2d of February, 
1788, to an American friend : 

" I own it astonishes me to find such a change wrought 
in the opinions of our countrymen since I left them, as 
that three fourths of them should be contented to live 
under a system which leaves to their governors the power 
of taking from them the trial by jury in civil cases, 
freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of 
commerce, the habeas corpus laws, and of yoking them 
with a standing army. That is a degeneracy in the 
principles of liberty, to which I had given four centuries, 
instead of four years." l 

Holding such objections to the proposed Consti 
tution, what were Patrick Henry and his associates 
in the Virginia convention to do ? Were they to 
reject the measure outright ? Admitting that it 
had some good features, they yet thought that the 
best course to be taken by Virginia would be to 
1 Bancroft, Hist. Const, ii. 459-460. 


remit the whole subject to a new convention of 
the States, a convention which, being summoned 
after a year or more of intense and universal dis 
cussion, would thus represent the later, the more 
definite, and the more enlightened desires of the 
American people. But despairing of this, Patrick 
Henry and his friends concentrated all their forces 
upon this single and clear line of policy : so to 
press their objections to the Constitution as to in 
duce the convention, not to reject it, but to post 
pone its adoption until they could refer to the other 
States in the American confederacy the following 
momentous proposition, namely, " a declaration of 
rights, asserting, and securing from encroachment, 
the great principles of civil and religious liberty, 
and the undeniable rights of the people, together 
with amendments to the most exceptionable parts 
of the said constitution of government." l 

Such, then, was the real question over which in 
that assemblage, from the first day to the last, the 
battle raged. The result of the battle was reached 
on Wednesday, the 25th of June ; and that result 
was a victory for immediate adoption, but by a 
majority of only ten votes, instead of the fifty votes 
that were claimed for it at the beginning of the 
session. Moreover, even that small majority for 
immediate adoption was obtained only by the help, 
first, of a preamble solemnly affirming it to be the 
understanding of Virginia in this act that it re 
tained every power not expressly granted to the 
1 Elliot, Debates, iii. 653. 


general government; and, secondly, of a subsid 
iary resolution promising to recommend to Con 
gress "whatsoever amendments may be deemed 

Just before the decisive question was put, Pat 
rick Henry, knowing that the result would be 
against him, and knowing, also, from the angry 
things uttered within that House and outside of it, 
that much solicitude was abroad respecting the 
course likely to be taken by the defeated party, 
then and there spoke these noble words : - 

" I beg pardon of this House for having taken up more 
time than came to my share, and I thank them for the 
patience and polite attention with which I have been 
heard. If I shall be in the minority, I shall have those 
painful sensations which arise from a conviction of 
being overpowered in a good cause. Yet I will be a 
peaceable citizen. My head, my hand, and my heart 
shall be at liberty to retrieve the loss of liberty, and re 
move the defects of that system in a constitutional way. 
I wish not to go to violence, but will wait, with hopes 
that the spirit which predominated in the Revolution is 
not yet gone, nor the cause of those who are attached to 
the Revolution yet lost. I shall therefore patiently wait 
in expectation of seeing that government changed, so as 
to be compatible with the safety, liberty, and happiness 
of the people." ] 

Those words of the great Virginian leader proved 
to be a message of reassurance to many an anxious 
citizen, in many a State, not least so to that 

1 Elliot, Debates, iii. 652. 


great citizen who, from the slopes of Mount Ver- 
nou, was then watching, night and day, for signs 
of some abatement in the storm of civil discord. 
Those words, too, have, in our time, won for the 
orator who spoke them the deliberate, and the 
almost lyrical, applause of the greatest historian 
who has yet laid hand on the story of the Constitu 
tion : " Henry showed his genial nature, free from 
all malignity. He was like a billow of the ocean 
on the first bright day after the storm, dashing 
itself against the rocky cliff, and then, sparkling 
with light, retreating to its home." J 

Long after the practical effects of the Virginia 
convention of 1788 had been merged in the gen 
eral political life of the country, that convention 
was still proudly remembered for the magnificent 
exertions of intellectual power, and particularly of 
eloquence, which it had called forth. So lately as 
the year 1857, there was still living a man who, in 
his youth, had often looked in upon that famous 
convention, and whose enthusiasm, in recalling its 
great scenes, was not to be chilled even by the 
frosts of his ninety winters : 

" The impressions made by the powerful arguments 
of Madison and the overwhelming eloquence of Henry 
can never fade from my mind. I thought them almost 
supernatural. They seemed raised up by Providence, 
each in his way, to produce great results : the one by 
his grave, dignified, and irresistible arguments to con 
vince and enlighten mankind ; the other, by his brilliant 

1 Bancroft, Hist. Const, ii. 316-317. 


and enrapturing eloquence to lead whithersoever he 
would." x 

Those who had heard Patrick Henry on the other 
great occasions of his career were ready to say 
that his eloquence in the convention of 1788 was, 
upon the whole, fully equal to anything ever exhib 
ited by him in any other place. The official reports 
of his speeches in that assemblage were always de 
clared to be inferior in " strength and beauty " to 
those actually made by him there. 2 " In forming 
an estimate of his eloquence," says one gentleman 
who there heard him, " no reliance can be placed 
on the printed speeches. No reporter whatever 
could take down what he actually said ; and if he 
could, it would fall far short of the original." 3 

In his arguments against the Constitution Pat 
rick Henry confined himself to no systematic order. 
The convention had indeed resolved that the docu 
ment should be discussed, clause by clause, in a 
regular manner ; but in spite of the complaints 
and reproaches of his antagonists, he continually 
broke over all barriers, and delivered his " multi 
form and protean attacks " in such order as suited 
the workings of his own mind. 

In the course of that long and eager controversy, 
he had several passages of sharp personal collision 
with his opponents, particularly with Governor 
Randolph, whose vacillating course respecting the 

1 Rives, Life of Madison, ii. 610. 

2 Kennedy, Life of Wirt, i. 345. 
8 Spencer Roane, MS. 


Constitution had left him exposed to the most 
galling comments, and who on one occasion, in his 
anguish, turned upon Patrick Henry with the ex 
clamation : " I find myself attacked in the most 
illiberal manner by the honorable gentleman. I 
disdain his aspersions and his insinuations. His 
asperity is warranted by no principle of parlia 
mentary decency, nor compatible with the least 
shadow of friendship ; and if our friendship must 
fall, let it fall, like Lucifer, never to rise again." l 
Like all very eloquent men, he was taunted, of 
course, for having more eloquence than logic ; for 
" his declamatory talents ; " for his " vague dis 
courses and mere sports of fancy ; " for discarding 
" solid argument ; " and for " throwing those bolts" 
which he had " so peculiar a dexterity at dischar 
ging." 2 On one occasion, old General Adam Ste 
phen tried to burlesque the orator s manner of 
speech ; 3 on another occasion, that same petulant 
warrior bluntly told Patrick that if he did " not 
like this government," he might " go and live 
among the Indians," and even offered to facilitate 
the orator s self-expatriation among the savages: 
" I know of several nations that live very happily ; 
and I can furnish him with a vocabulary of their 
language." 4 

Knowing, as he did, every passion and prejudice 
of his audience, he adopted, it appears, almost 
every conceivable method of appeal. " The va- 

1 Elliot, Debates, iii. 187. 2 Ibid. iii. 406, 104, 248, 177. 

8 St. George Tucker, MS. * Elliot, Debates, iii. 580. 


riety of arguments," writes one witness, "which 
Mr. Henry generally presented in his speeches, 
addressed to the capacities, prejudices, and indi 
vidual interests of his hearers, made his speeches 
very unequal. He rarely made in that convention 
a speech which Quintilian would have approved. 
If he soared at times, like the eagle, and seemed 
like the bird of Jove to be armed with thunder, he 
did not disdain to stoop like the hawk to seize his 
prey, but the instant that he had done it, rose 
in pursuit of another quarry." 1 

Perhaps the most wonderful example of his elo 
quence, if we may judge by contemporary descrip 
tions, was that connected with the famous scene of 
the thunder-storm, on Tuesday, the 24th of June, 
only one day before the decisive vote was taken. 
The orator, it seems, had gathered up all his forces 
for what might prove to be his last appeal against 
immediate adoption, and was portraying the disas 
ters which the new system of government, unless 
amended, was to bring upon his countrymen, and 
upon all mankind : " I see the awful immensity of 
the dangers with which it is pregnant. I see it. 
I feel it. I see beings of a higher order anxious 
concerning our decision. When I see beyond the 
horizon that bounds human eyes, and look at the 
final consummation of all human things, and see 
those intelligent beings which inhabit the ethereal 
mansions reviewing the political decisions and 
revolutions which, in the progress of time, will 
1 St. George Tucker, MS. 


happen in America, and the consequent happiness 
or misery of mankind, I am led to believe that 
much of the account, on one side or the other, will 
depend on what we now decide. Our own hap 
piness alone is not affected by the event. All 
nations are interested in the determination. We 
have it in our power to secure the happiness of one 
half of the human race. Its adoption may involve 
the misery of the other hemisphere." Thus far 
the stenographer had proceeded, when he suddenly 
stopped, and placed within brackets the following 
note : " [Here a violent storm arose, which put 
the House in such disorder, that Mr. Henry was 
obliged to conclude.] " 1 But the scene which is 
thus quietly despatched by the official reporter of 
the convention was again and again described, by 
many who were witnesses of it, as something most 
sublime and even appalling. After having deline 
ated with overpowering vividness the calamities 
which were likely to befall mankind from their 
adoption of the proposed frame of government, 
the orator, it is said, as if wielding an enchanter s 
wand, suddenly enlarged the arena of the debate 
and the number of his auditors ; for, peering 
beyond the veil which shuts in mortal sight, and 
pointing " to those celestial beings who were hov 
ering over the scene," he addressed to them "an 
invocation that made every nerve shudder with 
supernatural horror, when, lo ! a storm at that 
instant rose, which shook the whole building, and 
1 Elliot, Debates, iii. 625. 


the spirits whom he had called seemed to have 
come at his bidding. Nor did his eloquence, or 
the storm, immediately cease ; but availing himself 
of the incident, with a master s art, he seemed to 
mix in the fight of his ethereal auxiliaries, and, 
4 rising on the wings of the tempest, to seize upon 
the artillery of heaven, and direct its fiercest thun 
ders against the heads of his adversaries. The 
scene became insupportable ; and the House rose 
without the formality of adjournment, the mem 
bers rushing from their seats with precipitation 
and confusion." l 

1 Wirt, 296-297. Also Spencer Roane, MS. 



THUS, on the question of adopting the new Con 
stitution, the fight was over ; but on the question 
of amending that Constitution, now that it had 
been adopted, the fight, of course, was only just 

For how could this new Constitution be amended ? 
A way was provided, but an extremely strait 
and narrow way. No amendment whatsoever could 
become valid until it had been accepted by three 
fourths of the States ; and no amendment could be 
submitted to the States for their consideration 
until it had first been approved, either by two 
thirds of both houses of Congress, or else by a 
majority of a convention specially called by Con 
gress at the request of two thirds of the States. 

Clearly, the framers of the Constitution intended 
that the supreme law of the land, when once agreed 
to, should have within it a principle of fixedness 
almost invincible. At any rate, the process by 
which alone alterations can be made, involves so 
wide an area of territory, so many distinct groups 
of population, and is withal, in itself, so manifold 
and complex, so slow, and so liable to entire stop- 


page, that any proposition looking toward change 
must inevitably perish long before reaching the 
far-away goal of final endorsement, unless that pro 
position be really impelled by a public demand not 
only very energetic and persistent, but well-nigh 
universal. Indeed, the constitutional provision for 
amendments seemed, at that time, to many, to be 
almost a constitutional prohibition of amendments. 
It was, in part, for this very reason that Patrick 
Henry had urged that those amendments of the 
Constitution which, in his opinion, were absolutely 
necessary, should be secured before its adoption, 
and not be left to the doubtful chance of their be 
ing obtained afterward, as the result of a process 
ingeniously contrived, as it were, to prevent their 
being obtained at all. But at the close of that 
June day on which he and his seventy-eight asso 
ciates walked away from the convention wherein, 
on this very proposition, they had just been voted 
down, how did the case stand ? The Constitution, 
now become the supreme law of the land, was a 
Constitution which, unless amended, would, as they 
sincerely believed, effect the political ruin of the 
American people. As good citizens, as good men, 
what was left for them to do ? They had fought 
hard to get the Constitution amended before adop 
tion. They had failed. They must now fight hard 
to get it amended after adoption. Disastrous 
would it be, to assume that the needed amend 
ments would now be carried at any rate. True, 
the Virginia convention, like the conventions of 


several other States, had voted to recommend 
amendments. But the hostility to amendments, 
as Patrick Henry believed, was too deeply rooted 
to yield to mere recommendations. The necessary 
amendments would not find their way through all 
the hoppers and tubes and valves of the enormous 
mill erected within the Constitution, unless forced 
onward by popular agitation, and by popular 
agitation widespread, determined, vehement, even 
alarming. The powerful enemies of amendments 
must be convinced that, until amendments were 
carried through that mill, there would be no true 
peace or content among the surrounding inhab 

This gives us the clew to the policy steadily and 
firmly pursued by Patrick Henry as a party leader, 
from June, 1788, until after the ratification of the 
first ten amendments, on the 15th of December, 
1791. It was simply a strategic policy dictated 
by his honest view of the situation ; a bold, manly, 
patriotic policy ; a policy, however, which was 
greatly misunderstood, and grossly misrepresented, 
at the time ; a policy, too, which grieved the heart 
of Washington, and for several years raised be 
tween him and his ancient friend the one cloud of 
distrust that ever cast a shadow upon their inter 

In fact, at the very opening of the Virginia 
convention, and in view of the possible defeat of 
his demand for amendments, Patrick Henry had 
formed a clear outline of this policy, even to the 


extent of organizing throughout the State local 
societies for stirring up, and for keeping up, the 
needed agitation. All this is made evident by an 
important letter written by him to General John 
Lamb of New York, and dated at Richmond, 
June 9, 1788, when the convention had been in 
session just one week. In this letter, after some 
preliminary words, he says : 

It is matter of great consolation to find that the senti 
ments of a vast majority of Virginians are in unison 
with those of our Northern friends. I am satisfied four 
fifths of our inhabitants are opposed to the new scheme 
of government. Indeed, in the part of this country 
lying south of James River, I am confident, nine tenths 
are opposed to it. And yet, strange as it may seem, the 
numbers in convention appear equal on both sides : so 
that the majority, which way soever it goes, will be small. 
The friends and seekers of power have, with their usual 
subtilty, wriggled themselves into the choice of the 
people, by assuming shapes as various as the faces of 
the men they address on such occasions. 

If they shall carry their point, and preclude previous 
amendments, which we have ready to offer, it will be 
come highly necessary to form the society you mention. 
Indeed, it appears the only chance for securing a rem 
nant of those invaluable rights which are yielded by the 
new plan. Colonel George Mason has agreed to act 
as chairman of our republican society. His character I 
need not describe. He is every way fit ; and we have 
concluded to send you by Colonel Oswald a copy of the 
Bill of Rights, and of the particular amendments we 
intend to propose in our convention. The fate of them 


is altogether uncertain ; but of that you will be in 
formed. To assimilate our views on this great subject 
is of the last moment ; and our opponents expect much 
from our dissension. As we see the danger, I think it 
is easily avoided. 

I can assure you that North Carolina is more de 
cidedly opposed to the new government than Virginia. 
The people there seem rife for hazarding all, before 
they submit. Perhaps the organization of our system 
may be so contrived as to include lesser associations 
dispersed throughout the State. This will remedy in 
some degree the inconvenience arising from our dis 
persed situation. Colonel Oswald s short stay here pre 
vents my saying as much on the subject as I could 
otherwise have done. And after assuring you of my 
ardent wishes for the happiness of our common country, 
and the best interests of humanity, I beg leave to sub 
scribe myself, with great respect and regard, 

Sir, your obedient, humble servant, 

P. HENRY. 1 

On the 27th of June, within a few hours, very 
likely, after the final adjournment of the conven 
tion, Madison hastened to report to Washington 
the great and exhilarating result, but with this 
anxious and really unjust surmise respecting the 
course then to be pursued by Patrick Henry : 

" Mr. H y declared, previous to the final ques 
tion, that although he should submit as a quiet citizen, 
he should seize the first moment that offered for shak 
ing off the yoke in a constitutional way. I suspect the 
plan will be to encourage two thirds of the legislatures 
1 Leake, Life of Gen. John Lamb, 307-308. 


in the task of undoing the work ; or to get a Congress 
appointed in the first .instance that will commit suicide 
on their own authority." l 

At the same sitting, probably, Madison sent off 
to Hamilton, at New York, another report, in 
which his conjecture as to Patrick Henry s in 
tended policy is thus stated : 

" I am so uncharitable as to suspect that the ill-will 
to the Constitution will produce every peaceable effort 
to disgrace and destroy it. Mr. Henry declared . . . 
that he should wait with impatience for the favorable 
moment of regaining, in a constitutional way, the lost 
liberties of his country." 2 

Two days afterward, by which time, doubtless, 
Madison s letter had reached Mount Vernon, 
Washington wrote to Benjamin Lincoln of Mas 
sachusetts, respecting the result of the conven 
tion : 

" Our accounts from Richmond are that . . . the 
final decision exhibited a solemn scene, and that there 
is every reason to expect a perfect acquiescence therein 
by the minority. Mr. Henry, the great leader of it, has 
signified that, though he can never be reconciled to the 
Constitution in its present form, and shall give it every 
constitutional opposition in his power, yet he will sub 
mit to it peaceably." 8 

Thus, about the end of June, 1788, there came 
down upon the fierce political strife in Virginia a 

1 Madison, Letters, etc. i. 402. 

2 Works of Hamilton, i. 463. 

8 Writings of Washington, ix. 392. 


lull, which lasted until the 20th of October, at 
which time the legislature assembled for its autum 
nal session. Meantime, however, the convention of 
New York had adopted the Constitution, but after 
a most bitter fight, and by a majority of only three 
votes, and only in consequence of the pledge that 
every possible effort should be made to obtain 
speedily those great amendments that were at last 
called for by a determined public demand. One 
of the efforts contemplated by the New York con 
vention took the form of a circular letter to the 
governors of the several States, urging almost pa 
thetically that " effectual measures be immediately 
taken for calling a convention " to propose those 
amendments which are necessary for allaying " the 
apprehensions and discontents " then so prevalent. 1 
This circular letter " rekindled," as Madison 
then wrote to Jefferson, " an ardor among the op 
ponents of the federal Constitution for an immedi 
ate revision of it by another general convention. 
. . . Mr. Henry and his friends in Virginia enter 
with great zeal into the scheme." 2 In a letter 
written by Washington, nearly a month before the 
meeting of the legislature, it is plainly indicated 
that his mind was then grievously burdened by the 
anxieties of the situation, and that he was disposed 
to put the very worst construction upon the ex 
pected conduct of Patrick Henry and his party in 
the approaching session : 

1 Elliot, Debates, ii. 414. 

2 Madison, Letters, etc. i. 418. 


" Their expedient will now probably be an attempt to 
procure the election of so many of their own junto under 
the new government, as, by the introduction of local and 
embarrassing disputes, to impede or frustrate its opera 
tion. ... I assure you I am under painful apprehen 
sions from the single circumstance of Mr. H. having the 
whole game to play in the Assembly of this State ; and 
the effect it may have in others should be counteracted 
if possible." l 

No sooner had the Assembly met, than Patrick 
Henry s ascendency became apparent. His sway 
over that body was such that it was described as 
" omnipotent." And by the time the session had 
been in progress not quite a month, Washington 
informed Madison that " the accounts from Rich 
mond" were " very unpropitious to federal mea 
sures." " In one word," he added, " it is said that 
the edicts of Mr. H. are enregistered with less oppo 
sition in the Virginia Assembly than those of the 
grand monarch by his parliaments. He has only 
to say, Let this be law, and it is law." 2 Within 
ten days from the opening of the session, the House 
showed its sensitive response to Patrick Henry s 
leadership by adopting a series of resolutions, the 
chief purpose of which was to ask Congress to call 
immediately a national convention for proposing 
to the States the required amendments. In the 
debate on the subject, he is said to have declared 
" that he should oppose every measure tending to 

1 Writings of Washington, ix. 433. 

2 Bancroft, Hist. Const, ii. 483. 


the organization of the government, unless accom 
panied with measures for the amendment of the 
Constitution." l 

Some phrases in one of his resolutions were most 
offensive to those members of the House who had 
"befriended the new Constitution," and who, by 
implication at least, were held forth as " betrayers 
of the dearest rights of the people." "If Mr. 
Henry pleases," so wrote a correspondent of Wash 
ington, " he will carry the resolution in its present 
terms, than which none, in my opinion, can be more 
exceptionable or inflammatory ; though, as he is 
sometimes kind and condescending, he may per 
haps be induced to alter it." 2 

In accordance with these resolutions, a formal 
application to Congress for a national convention 
was prepared by Patrick Henry, and adopted by 
the House on the 14th of November. Every word 
of that document deserves now to be read, as his 
own account of the spirit and purpose of a mea 
sure then and since then so profoundly and so 
cruelly misinterpreted : 

" The good people of this commonwealth, in conven 
tion assembled, having ratified the Constitution sub 
mitted to their consideration, this legislature has, in 
conformity to that act, and the resolutions of the United 
States in Congress assembled to them transmitted, 
thought proper to make the arrangements that were 
necessary for carrying it into effect. Having thus shown 
themselves obedient to the voice of their constituents, all 

1 Corr. Rev. iv. 240-241. 2 Rid. iv. 241. 


America will find that, so far as it depends on them, 
that plan of government will be carried into immediate 

" But the sense of the people of Virginia would be 
but in part complied with, and but little regarded, if 
we went no further. In the very moment of adoption, 
and coeval with the ratification of the new plan of 
government, the general voice of the convention of 
this State pointed to objects no less interesting to the 
people we represent, and equally entitled to your atten 
tion. At the same time that, from motives of affection 
for our sister States, the convention yielded their as 
sent to the ratification, they gave the most unequivocal 
proofs that they dreaded its operation under the present 

" In acceding to a government under this impression, 
painful must have been the prospect, had they not de 
rived consolation from a full expectation of its imperfec 
tions being speedily amended. In this resource, there 
fore, they placed their confidence, a confidence that 
will continue to support them whilst they have reason to 
believe they have not calculated upon it in vain. 

" In making known to you the objections of the peo 
ple of this Commonwealth to the new plan of govern 
ment, we deem it unnecessary to enter into a particular 
detail of its defects, which they consider as involving all 
the great and unalienable rights of freemen : for their 
sense on this subject, we refer you to the proceedings 
of their late convention, and the sense of this General 
Assembly, as expressed in their resolutions of the day 

" We think proper, however, to declare that in our 
opinion, as those objections were not founded in specula- 


tive theory, but deduced from principles which have been 
established by the melancholy example of other nations, 
in different ages, so they will never be removed until the 
cause itself shall cease to exist. The sooner, therefore, 
the public apprehensions are quieted, and the govern 
ment is possessed of the confidence of the people, the 
more salutary will be its operations, and the longer its 

" The cause of amendments we consider as a common 
cause ; and since concessions have been made from po 
litical motives, which we conceive may endanger the 
republic, we trust that a commendable zeal will be shown 
for obtaining those provisions which, experience has 
taught us, are necessary to secure from danger the un- 
alienable rights of human nature. 

" The anxiety with which our countrymen press for 
the accomplishment of this important end, will ill admit 
of delay. The slow forms of congressional discussion 
and recommendation, if indeed they should ever agree 
to any change, would, we fear, be less certain of success. 
Happily for their wishes, the Constitution hath presented 
an alternative, by admitting the submission to a conven 
tion of the States. To this, therefore, we resort, as the 
source from whence they are to derive relief from their 
present apprehensions. We do, therefore, in behalf of 
our constituents, in the most earnest and solemn manner, 
make this application to Congress, that a convention be 
immediately called, of deputies from the several States, 
with full power to take into their consideration the 
defects of this Constitution, that have been suggested 
by the state conventions, and report such amendments 
thereto, as they shall find best suited to promote our 
common interests, and secure to ourselves and our latest 


posterity the great and unalienable rights of man 
kind." l 

Such was the purpose, such was the temper, 
of Virginia s appeal, addressed to Congress, and 
written by Patrick Henry, on behalf of immediate 
measures for curing the supposed defects of the 
Constitution. Was it not likely that this appeal 
would be granted ? One grave doubt haunted the 
mind of Patrick Henry. If, in the elections for 
senators and representatives then about to occur 
in the several States, very great care was not taken, 
it might easily happen that a majority of the mem 
bers of Congress would be composed of men who 
would obstruct, and perhaps entirely defeat, the 
desired amendments. With the view of doing his 
part towards the prevention of such a result, he 
determined that both the senators from Virginia, 
and as many as possible of its representatives, 
should be persons who could be trusted to help, 
and not to hinder, the great project. 

Accordingly, when the day came for the election 
of senators by the Assembly of Virginia, he just 
stood up in his place and named " Richard Henry 
Lee and William Grayson, Esquires," as the two 
men who ought to be elected as senators; and, 
furthermore, he named James Madison as the 
one man who ought not to be elected as senator. 
Whereupon the vote was taken ; " and after some 
time," as the journal expresses it, the committee 
to examine the ballot-boxes "returned into the 
1 Jour. Fa. House Del. 42-43. 


House, and reported that they had . . . found a 
majority of votes in favor of Richard Henry Lee 
and William Grayson, Esquires." 1 On the 8th of 
December, 1788, just one month afterward, Madi 
son himself, in a letter to Jefferson, thus alluded 
to the incident : " They made me a candidate for 
the Senate, for which I had not allotted my preten 
sions. The attempt was defeated by Mr. Henry, 
who is omnipotent in the present legislature, and 
who added to the expedients common on such 
occassions a public philippic against my federal 
principles." 2 

Virginia s delegation in the Senate was thus 
made secure. How about her delegation in the 
lower house? That, also, was an affair to be 
sharply looked to. Above all things, James Madi 
son, as the supposed foe of amendments, was to be 
prevented, if possible, from winning an election. 
Therefore the committee of the House of Delegates, 
which was appointed for the very purpose, among 
other things, of dividing the State into its ten con 
gressional districts, so carved out those districts as 
to promote the election of the friends of the good 
cause, and especially to secure, as was hoped, the 
defeat of its great enemy. Of this committee Pat 
rick Henry was not a member ; but as a majority 
of its members were known to be his devoted fol 
lowers, very naturally upon him, at the time, was 
laid the burden of the blame for practising this 

1 Jour. Va. House Del. 32. 

3 Madison, Letters, etc., i. 443-444. 


ignoble device in politics, a device which, when 
introduced into Massachusetts several years after 
ward, also by a Revolutionary father, came to be 
christened with the satiric name of " gerrymander 
ing." Surely it was a rare bit of luck, in the case 
of Patrick Henry, that the wits of Virginia did not 
anticipate the wits of Massachusetts by describing 
this trick as " henrymandering ; " and that he thus 
narrowly escaped the ugly immortality of having 
his name handed down from age to age in the 
coinage of a base word which should designate a 
base thing, one of the favorite, shabby manoeu 
vres of less scrupulous American politicians. 1 

Thus, however, within four weeks from the open 
ing of the session, he had succeeded in pressing 
through the legislature, in the exact form he 
wished, all these measures for giving effect to 
Virginia s demand upon Congress for amendments. 
This being accomplished, he withdrew from the 
service of the House for the remainder of the ses 
sion, probably on account of the great urgency of 
his professional engagements at that time. The 
journal of the House affords us no trace of his 
presence there after the 18th of November ; and 
although the legislature continued in session until 
the 13th of December, its business did not digress 
beyond local topics. To all these facts, rather 

1 For contemporary allusions to this first example of gerry 
mandering, see Writings of Washington, ix. 446-447 ; Writings of 
Jefferson, ii. 574 ; Rives, Life of Madison, ii. 653-655 ; Bancroft, 
Hist. Const, ii. 485. 


bitter allusion is made in a letter to the governor 
of New Hampshire, written from Mount Vernon, 
on the 31st of January, 1789, by the private secre 
tary of Washington, Tobias Lear, who thus re 
flected, no doubt, the mood of his chief : 

" Mr. Henry, the leader of the opposition in this State, 
finding himself beaten off the ground by fair argument 
in the state convention, and outnumbered upon the 
important question, collected his whole strength, and 
pointed his whole force against the government, in the 
Assembly. He here met with but a feeble opposition. 
. . . He led on his almost unresisted phalanx, and 
planted the standard of hostility upon the very battle 
ments of federalism. In plain English, he ruled a ma 
jority of the Assembly ; and his edicts were registered 
by that body with less opposition than those of the 
Grand Monarque have met with from his parliaments. 
He chose the two senators. . . . He divided the State 
into districts, . . . taking care to arrange matters so as 
to have the county, of which Mr. Madison is an inhab 
itant, thrown into a district of which a majority were 
supposed to be unfriendly to the government, and by 
that means exclude him from the representative body in 
Congress. He wrote the answer to Governor Clinton s 
letter, and likewise the circular letter to the executives 
of the several States. . . . And after he had settled 
everything relative to the government wholly, I suppose, 
to his satisfaction, he mounted his horse and rode home, 
leaving the little business of the State to be done by 
anybody who chose to give themselves the trouble of 
attending to it." 1 

1 Bancroft, Hist. Const, ii. 488-489. 


How great was the effect of these strategic mea 
sures, forced by Patrick Henry through the legis 
lature of Virginia in the autumn of 1788, was not 
apparent, of course, until after the organization of 
the first Congress of the United States, in the 
spring of 1789. Not until the 5th of May could 
time be found by that body for paying the least 
attention to the subject of amendments. On that 
day Theodoric Bland, from Virginia, presented to 
the House of Representatives the solemn applica 
tion of his State for a new convention ; and, after 
some discussion, this document was entered on the 
journals of the House. 1 The subject was then 
dropped until the 8th of June, when Madison, who 
had been elected to Congress in spite of Patrick 
Henry, and who had good reason to know how 
dangerous it would be for Congress to trifle with 
the popular demand for amendments, succeeded, 
against much opposition, in getting the House to 
devote that day to a preliminary discussion of the 
business. It was again laid aside for nearly six 
weeks, and again got a slight hearing on the 21st 
of July. On the 13th of August it was once more 
brought to the reluctant attention of the House, 
and then proved the occasion of a debate which 
lasted until the 24th of that month, when the 
House finished its work on the subject, and sent 
up to the Senate seventeen articles of amendment. 
Only twelve of these articles succeeded in passing 
the Senate ; and of these twelve, only ten received 

1 Gales, Debates, i. 258-261. 


from the States that approval which was necessary 
to their ratification. This was obtained on the 15th 
of December, 1791. 

The course thus taken by Congress, in itself pro 
posing amendments, was not at the time pleasing to 
the chiefs of that party which, in the several States, 
had been clamorous for amendments. 1 These men, 
desiring more radical changes in the Constitution 
than could be expected from Congress, had set 
their hearts on a new convention, which, un 
doubtedly, had it been called, would have recon 
structed, from top to bottom, the work done by the 
convention of 1787. Yet it should be noticed that 
the ten amendments, thus obtained under the ini 
tiative of Congress, embodied "nearly every ma 
terial change suggested by Virginia ;" 2 and that it 
was distinctly due, in no small degree, to the bitter 
and implacable urgency of the popular feeling in 
Virginia, under the stimulus of Patrick Henry s 
leadership, that Congress was induced by Madison 
to pay any attention to the subject. In the matter 
of amendments, therefore, Patrick Henry and his 
party did not get all that they demanded, nor in 
the way that they demanded ; but even so much as 
they did get, they would not then have got at all, 
had they not demanded more, and demanded more, 
also, through the channel of a new convention, the 
dread of which, it is evident, drove Madison and 

1 Marshall, Life of Washington, v. 209-210 ; Story, Const, i. 

2 Howison. Hist. Va. ii. 333. 


his brethren in Congress into the prompt conces 
sion of amendments which they themselves did not 
care for. Those amendments were really a tub to 
the whale ; but then that tub would not have been 
thrown overboard at all, had not the whale been 
there, and very angry, and altogether too trouble 
some with his foam-compelling tail, and with that 
huge head of his which could batter as well as 



THE incidents embraced within the last three 
chapters cover the period from 1786 to 1791, and 
have been thus narrated by themselves for the pur 
pose of exhibiting as distinctly as possible, and in 
unbroken sequence, Patrick Henry s relations to 
each succeeding phase of that immense national 
movement which produced the American Consti 
tution, with its first ten amendments. 

During those same fervid years, however, in 
which he was devoting, as it might seem, every 
power of body and mind to his great labors as a 
party leader, and as a critic and moulder of the 
new Constitution, he had resumed, and he was 
sturdily carrying forward, most exacting labors in 
the practice of the law. 

Late in the year 1786, as will be remembered, 
being then poor and in debt, he declined another 
election to the governorship, and set himself to the 
task of repairing his private fortunes, so sadly 
fallen to decay under the noble neglect imposed by 
his long service of the public. One of his kins 
men has left on record a pleasant anecdote to the 
effect that the orator happened to mention at that 


time to a friend how anxious he was under the 
great burden of his debts. " Go back to the bar," 
said his friend ; " your tongue will soon pay your 
debts. If you will promise to go, I will give you a 
retaining fee on the spot." l This course, in fact, 
he had already determined to take ; and thus at the 
age of fifty, at no time robust in health, and at that 
time grown prematurely old under the storm and 
stress of all those unquiet years, he again buckled 
on his professional armor, rusty from long disuse, 
and pluckily began his life over again, in the hope 
of making some provision for his own declining 
days, as well as for the honor and welfare of his 
great brood of children and grandchildren. To 
this task, accordingly, he then bent himself, with 
a grim wilfulness that would not yield either to 
bodily weakness, or to the attractions or the dis 
tractions of politics. It is delightful to be per 
mitted to add, that his energy was abundantly 
rewarded ; and that in exactly eight years there 
after, namely in 1794, he was able to retire, in com 
fort and wealth, from all public and professional 
employments of every sort. 

Of course the mere announcement, in 1786, that 
Patrick Henry was then ready once more to re 
ceive clients, was enough to excite the attention of 
all persons in Virginia who might have important 
interests in litigation. His great renown through 
out the country, his high personal character, his 
overwhelming gifts in argument, his incompara- 

1 Winston, in Wirt, 260. 


ble gifts in persuasion, were such as to ensure an 
almost dominant advantage to any cause which he 
should espouse before any tribunal. Confining 
himself, therefore, to his function as an advocate, 
and taking only such cases as were worth his atten 
tion, he was immediately called to appear in the 
courts in all parts of the State. 

It is not necessary for us to try to follow this 
veteran and brilliant advocate in his triumphal 
progress from one court-house to another, or to 
give the detail of the innumerable causes in which 
he was engaged during these last eight years of 
his practice at the bar. Of all the causes, how 
ever, in which he ever took part as a lawyer, in 
any period of his career, probably the most diffi 
cult and important, in a legal aspect, was the one 
commonly referred to as that of the British debts, 
argued by him in the Circuit Court of the United 
States at Richmond, first in 1791, and again, in 
the same place, in 1793. 1 

A glance at the origin of this famous cause will 
help us the better to understand the significance 
of his relation to it. By the treaty with Great 
Britain in 1783, British subjects were empowered 
u to recover debts previously contracted to them 
by our citizens, notwithstanding a payment of the 
debt into a state treasury had been made during 
the war, under the authority of a state law of 
sequestration." According to this provision a 

1 Ware, Administrator of Jones, Plaintiff in Error, v. Hylton et 
al., Curtis, Decisions, i. 164-229. 


British subject, one William Jones, brought an 
action of debt in the federal court at Richmond, 
against a citizen of Virginia, Thomas Walker, on 
a bond dated May, 1772. The real question was 
" whether payment of a debt due before the war 
of the Revolution, from a citizen of Virginia to 
British subjects, into the loan office of Virginia, 
pursuant to a law of that State, discharged the 

The case, as will readily be seen, involved many 
subtle and difficult points of law, municipal, na 
tional, and international ; and the defence was 
contained in the following five pleas : (1.) That 
of payment, generally ; (2.) That of the Virginia 
act of sequestration, October 20, 1777 ; (3.) That 
of the Virginia act of forfeiture, May 3, 1779 ; 
(4.) That of British violations of the treaty of 
1783 ; (5.) That of the necessary annulment of 
the debt, in consequence of the dissolution of the 
co-allegiance of the two parties, on the declaration 
of independence. 1 

Some idea of the importance attached to the 
case may be inferred from the assertion of Wirt, 
that " the whole power of the bar of Virginia was 
embarked " in it ; and that the " learning, argu 
ment, and eloquence " exhibited in the discussion 
were such "as to have placed that bar, in the esti 
mation of the federal judges, . . . above all others 
in the United States." 2 Associated with Patrick 
Henry, for the defendant, were John Marshall, 
Alexander Campbell, and James Innes. 

1 Wirt, 316-318. 2 Ibid. 312. 


For several weeks before the trial of this cause 
in 1791, Patrick Henry secluded himself from all 
other engagements, and settled down to intense 
study in the retirement of his home in the coun 
try. A grandson of the orator, Patrick Henry 
Fontaine, who was there as a student of the law, 
relates that he himself was sent off on a journey 
of sixty miles to procure a copy of VatteFs Law 
of Nations. From this and other works of inter 
national law, the old lawyer " made many quota 
tions ; and with the whole syllabus of notes and 
heads of arguments, he filled a manuscript volume 
more than an inch thick, and closely written; a 
book . . . bound with leather, and convenient for 
carrying in his pocket. He had in his yard . . . 
an office, built at some distance from his dwelling, 
and an avenue of fine black locusts shaded a walk 
in front of it. . . He usually walked and medi 
tated, when the weather permitted, in this shaded 
avenue. . . . For several days in succession, be 
fore his departure to Eichmond to attend the 
court," the orator was seen " walking frequently 
in this avenue, with his note-book in his hand, 
which he often opened and read; and from his 
gestures, while promenading alone in the shade of 
the locusts," it was supposed that he was commit 
ting his speech to memory. 1 According to another 
account, so eager was his application to this labor 
that, in one stage of it, " he shut himself up in 
his office for three days, during which he did not 

1 Edward Fontaine, MS. 


see his family ; bis food was handed by a servant 
through the office door." 1 Of all this preparation, 
not unworthy to be called Demosthenic, the result 
was, if we may accept the opinion of one eminent 
lawyer, that Patrick Henry " came forth, on this 
occasion, a perfect master of every law, national 
and municipal, which touched the subject of in 
vestigation in the most distant point." 2 

It was on the 14th of. November, 1791, that the 
cause came on to be argued in the court-house at 
Richmond, before Judges Johnson and Blair of 
the Supreme Court, and Judge Griffin of that dis 
trict. The case of the plaintiff was opened by Mr. 
Counsellor Baker, whose argument lasted till the 
evening of that day. Patrick Henry was to begin 
his argument in reply the next morning. 

" The legislature was then in session ; but when 
eleven o clock, the hour for the meeting of the court, 
arrived, the speaker found himself without a house to 
do business. All his authority and that of his sergeant 
at arms were unavailing to keep the members in their 
seats : every consideration of public duty yielded to the 
anxiety which they felt, in common with the rest of 
their fellow citizens, to hear this great man on this truly 
great and extensively interesting question. Accordingly, 
when the court was ready to proceed to business, the 
court-room of the capitol, large as it is, was insufficient 
to contain the vast concourse that was pressing to enter 
it. The portico, and the area in which the statue of 
Washington stands, were filled with a disappointed 
i Howe, Hist. Coll. Fa. 221. 2 Wirt, 312. 


crowd, who nevertheless maintained their stand without. 
In the court-room itself, the judges, through condescen 
sion to the public anxiety, relaxed the rigor of respect 
which they were in the habit of exacting, and permitted 
the vacant seats of the bench, and even the windows 
behind it, to be occupied by the impatient multitude. 
The noise and tumult occasioned by seeking a more fa 
vorable station was at length hushed, and the profound 
silence which reigned within the room gave notice to 
those without that the orator had risen, or was on the 
point of rising. Every eye in front of the bar was 
riveted upon him with the most eager attention ; and 
so still and deep was the silence that every one might 
hear the throbbing of his own heart. Mr. Henry, how 
ever, appeared wholly unconscious that all this prepa 
ration was on his account, and rose with as much sim 
plicity and composure as if the occasion had been one 
of ordinary occurrence. ... It may give the reader 
some idea of the amplitude of the argument, when he 
is told that Mr. Henry was engaged three days succes 
sively in its delivery ; and some faint conception of the 
enchantment which he threw over it, when he learns 
that although it turned entirely on questions of law, yet 
the audience, mixed as it was, seemed so far from being 
wearied, that they followed him throughout with in 
creased enjoyment. The room continued full to the 
last ; and such was the listening silence with which he 
was heard, that not a syllable that he uttered is believed 
to have been lost. When he finally sat down, the con 
course rose, with a general murmur of admiration ; the 
scene resembled the breaking up and dispersion of a 
great theatrical assembly, which had been enjoying, for 
the first time, the exhibition of some new and splendid 


drama ; the speaker of the House of Delegates was at 
length able to command a quorum for business ; and 
every quarter of the city, and at length every part of 
the State, was filled with the echoes of Mr. Henry s 
eloquent speech." 1 

In the spring of 1793 this cause was argued a 
second time, before the same district judge, and, in 
addition, before Mr. Chief Justice Jay, and Mr. 
Justice Iredell of the Supreme Court. On this 
occasion, apparently, there was the same eagerness 
to hear Patrick Henry as before, an eagerness 
which was shared in by the two visiting judges, as 
is indicated in part by a letter from Judge Iredell, 
who, on the 27th of May, thus wrote to his wife : 
" We began on the great British causes the second 
day of the court, and are now in the midst of them. 
The great Patrick Henry is to speak to-day." 2 
Among the throng of people who then poured into 
the court-room was John Randolph of Roanoke, 
then a stripling of twenty years, who, having got a 
position very close to the judges, was made aware 
of their conversation with one another as the case 
proceeded. He describes the orator as not expect 
ing to speak at that time ; "as old, very much 
wrapped up, and resting his head on the bar." 
Meanwhile the chief justice, who, in earlier days, 
had often heard Henry in the Continental Con 
gress, told Iredell that that feeble old gentleman 
in mufflers, with his head bowed wearily down 

1 Wirt, 320-321 ; 368-369. 

2 McRee, Life of Iredell, ii. 394. 


upon the bar, was " the greatest of orators." " Ire- 
dell doubted it ; and, becoming impatient to hear 
him, they requested him to proceed with his argu 
ment, before he had intended to speak. . . . As he 
arose, he began to complain that it was a hardship, 
too great, to put the laboring oar into the hands 
of a decrepit old man, trembling, with one foot in 
the grave, weak in his best days, and far inferior 
to the able associate by him." Kandolph then 
gives an outline of his progress through the earlier 
and somewhat tentative stages of his speech, com 
paring his movement to the exercise " of a first- 
rate, four-mile race-horse, sometimes displaying his 
whole power and speed for a few Leaps, and then 
taking up again." " At last," according to Ran 
dolph, the orator " got up to full speed ; and took 
a rapid view of what England had done, when she 
had been successful in arms ; and what would 
have been our fate, had we been unsuccessful. The 
color began to come and go in the face of the chief 
justice ; while Iredell sat with his mouth and eyes 
stretched open, in perfect wonder. Finally, Henry 
arrived at his utmost height and grandeur. He 
raised his hands in one of his grand and solemn 
pauses. . . . There was a tumultuous burst of ap 
plause ; and Judge Iredell exclaimed, Gracious 
God ! he is an orator indeed ! " l It is said, also, 
by another witness, that Henry happened that day 
to wear on his finger a diamond ring ; and that 

1 Memorandum of J. W. Bouldin, in Hist. Mag. for 1873, 274- 


in the midst of the supreme splendor of his elo 
quence, a distinguished English visitor who had 
been given a seat on the bench, said with signifi 
cant emphasis to one of the judges, " The diamond 
is blazing ! " l 

As examples of forensic eloquence, on a great 
subject, before a great and a fit assemblage, his 
several speeches in the case of the British debts 
were, according to all the testimony, of the highest 
order of merit. What they were as examples of 
legal learning and of legal argumentation, may be 
left for every lawyer to judge for himself, by read 
ing, if he so pleases, the copious extracts which 
have been preserved from the stenographic reports 
of these speeches, as taken by Robertson. Even 
from that point of view, they appear not to have 
suffered by comparison with the efforts made, in 
that cause, on the same side, by John Marshall 
himself. No inconsiderable portion of his auditors 
were members of the bar ; and those keen and 
competent critics are said to have acknowledged 
themselves as impressed " not less by the matter 
than the manner " of his speeches. 2 Moreover, 
though not expressly mentioned, Patrick Henry s 
argument is pointedly referred to in the high com 
pliment pronounced by Judge Iredell, when giving 
his opinion in this case : 

" The cause has been spoken to, at the bar, with a 
degree of ability equal to any occasion. ... I shall, as 

1 Howe, Hist. Coll. Fa. 222. 

2 Judge Spencer Roane, MS. 


long as I live, remember with pleasure and respect the 
arguments which I have heard in this case. They have 
discovered an ingenuity, a depth of investigation, and a 
power of reasoning fully equal to anything I have ever 
witnessed ; and some of them have been adorned with a 
splendor of eloquence surpassing what I have ever felt 
before. Fatigue has given way under its influence, and 
the heart has been warmed, while the understanding has 
been instructed." * 

It will be readily understood, however, that 
while Patrick Henry s practice included important 
causes turning, like the one just described, on pro 
positions of law, and argued by him before the 
highest tribunals, the larger part of the practice 
to be had in Virginia at that time must have been 
in actions tried before juries, in which his success 
was chiefly due to his amazing endowments of 
sympathy, imagination, tact, and eloquence. The 
testimony of contemporary witnesses respecting 
his power in this direction is most abundant, and 
also most interesting ; and, for obvious reasons, 
such portions of it as are now to be reproduced 
should be given in the very language of the per 
sons who thus heard him, criticised him, and made 
deliberate report concerning him. 

First of all, in the way of preliminary analysis 
of Henry s genius and methods as an advocate be 
fore juries, may be cited a few sentences of Wirt, 
who, indeed, never heard him, but who, being him 
self a very gifted and a very ambitious advocate, 
i McRee, Life of Iredell, ii. 395. 


eagerly collected and keenly scanned the accounts 
of many who had heard him : 

" He adapted himself, without effort, to the character 
of the cause ; seized with the quickness of intuition its 
defensible point, and never permitted the jury to lose 
sight of it. Sir Joshua Reynolds has said of Titian, 
that, by a few strokes of his pencil, he knew how to 
mark the image and character of whatever object he 
attempted ; and produced by this means a truer repre 
sentation than any of his predecessors, who finished 
every hair. In like manner Mr. Henry, by a few 
master-strokes upon the evidence, could in general 
stamp upon the cause whatever image or character he 
pleased ; and convert it into tragedy or comedy, at his 
sovereign will, and with a power which no efforts of his 
adversary could counteract. He never wearied the jury 
by a dry and minute analysis of the evidence ; he did 
not expend his strength in finishing the hairs ; he pro 
duced all his high effect by those rare master-touches, 
and by the resistless skill with which, in a very few 
words, he could mould and color the prominent facts of 
a cause to his purpose. He had wonderful address, too, 
in leading off the minds of his hearers from the contem 
plation of unfavorable points, if at any time they were 
too stubborn to yield to his power of transformation. 
... It required a mind of uncommon vigilance, and 
most intractable temper, to resist this charm with which 
he decoyed away his hearers ; it demanded a rapidity 
of penetration, which is rarely, if ever, to be found in 
the jury-box, to detect the intellectual juggle by which 
he spread his nets around them ; it called for a stub 
bornness and obduracy of soul which does not exist, to 


sit unmoved under the pictures of horror or of pity 
which started from his canvas. They might resolve, if 
they pleased, to decide the cause against him, and to 
disregard everything which he could urge in the de 
fence of his client. But it was all in vain. Some feint 
in an unexpected direction threw them off their guard, 
and they were gone ; some happy phrase, burning from 
the soul ; some image fresh from nature s mint, and 
bearing her own beautiful and genuine impress, struck 
them with delightful surprise, and melted them into 
conciliation ; and conciliation towards Mr. Henry was 
victory inevitable. In short, he understood the human 
character so perfectly ; knew so well all its strength and 
all its weaknesses, together with every path and by-way 
which winds around the citadel of the best fortified 
heart and mind, that he never failed to take them, 
either by stratagem or storm." l 

Still further, in the way of critical analysis, 
should be cited the opinion of a distinguished 
student and master of eloquence, the Rev. Archi 
bald Alexander of Princeton, who, having more 
than once heard Patrick Henry, wrote out, with a 
scholar s precision, the results of his own keen 
study into the great advocate s success in subduing 
men, and especially jurymen : 

" The power of Henry s eloquence was due, first, to 
the greatness of his emotion and passion, accompanied 
with a versatility which enabled him to assume at once 
any emotion or passion which was suited to his ends. 
Not less indispensable, secondly, was a matchless per- 

i Wirt, 75-76. 


fection of the organs of expression, including the entire 
apparatus of voice, intonation, pause, gesture, attitude, 
and indescribable play of countenance. In no instance 
did he ever indulge in an expression that was not in 
stantly recognized as nature itself ; yet some of his pene 
trating and subduing tones were absolutely peculiar, and 
as inimitable as they were indescribable. These were 
felt by every hearer, in all their force. His mightiest 
feelings were sometimes indicated and communicated 
by a long pause, aided by an eloquent aspect, and some 
significant use of his finger. The sympathy between 
mind and mind is inexplicable. Where the channels of 
communication are open, the faculty of revealing inward 
passion great, and the expression of it sudden and visi 
ble, the effects are extraordinary. Let these shocks of 
influence be repeated again and again, and all other 
opinions and ideas are for the moment absorbed or ex 
cluded ; the whole mind is brought into unison with that 
of the speaker ; and the spell-bound listener, till the 
cause ceases, is under an entire fascination. Then per 
haps the charm ceases, upon reflection, and the infatu 
ated hearer resumes his ordinary state. 

" Patrick Henry, of course, owed much to his singu 
lar insight into the feelings of the common mind. In 
great cases he scanned his jury, and formed his mental 
estimate ; on this basis he founded his appeals to their 
predilections and character. It is what other advocates 
do, in a lesser degree. When he knew that there were 
conscientious or religious men among the jury, he would 
most solemnly address himself to their sense of right, 
and would adroitly bring in scriptural citations. If this 
handle was not offered, he would lay bare the sensibility 
of patriotism. Thus it was, when he succeeded in rescu- 


ing the man who had deliberately shot down a neighbor ; 
who moreover lay under the odious suspicion of being a 
Tory, and who was proved to have refused supplies to a 
brigade of the American army." ] 

Passing now from these general descriptions to 
particular instances, we may properly request Dr. 
Alexander to remain somewhat longer in the wit 
ness-stand, and to give us, in detail, some of his 
own recollections of Patrick Henry. His testi- 
mony, accordingly, is in these words : 

" From my earliest childhood I had been accustomed 
to hear of the eloquence of Patrick Henry. On this 
subject there existed but one opinion in the country. 
The power of his eloquence was felt equally by the 
learned and the unlearned. No man who ever heard 
him speak, on any important occasion, could fail to ad 
mit his uncommon power over the minds of his hearers. 
. . . Being then a young man, just entering on a pro 
fession in which good speaking was very important, it 
was natural for me to observe the oratory of celebrated 
men. I was anxious to ascertain the true secret of their 
power ; or what it was which enabled them to sway the 
minds of hearers, almost at their will. 

" In executing a mission from the synod of Virginia, 
in the year 1794, I had to pass through the county 
of Prince Edward, where Mr. Henry then resided. 
Understanding that he was to appear before the circuit 
court, which met in that county, in defence of three 
men charged with murder, I determined to seize the 
opportunity of observing for myself the eloquence of 
this extraordinary orator. It was with some difficulty 

1 J. W. Alexander, Life of A. Alexander, 191-192. 


I obtained a seat in front of the bar, where I could 
have a full view of the speaker, as well as hear him 
distinctly. But I had to submit to a severe penance in 
gratifying my curiosity ; for the whole day was oc 
cupied with the examination of witnesses, in which Mr. 
Henry was aided by two other lawyers. In person, 
Mr. Henry was lean rather than fleshy. He was rather 
above than below the common height, but had a stoop 
in the shoulders which prevented him from appearing 
as tall as he really was. In his moments of animation, 
he had the habit of straightening his frame, and adding 
to his apparent stature. He wore a brown wig, which 
exhibited no indication of any great care in the dress 
ing. Over his shoulders he wore a brown camlet cloak. 
Under this his clothing was black, something the worse 
for wear. The expression of his countenance was that 
of solemnity and deep earnestness. His mind appeared 
to be always absorbed in what, for the time, occupied 
his attention. His forehead was high and spacious, and 
the skin of his face more than usually wrinkled for a 
man of fifty. His eyes were small and deeply set in 
his head, but were of a bright blue color, and twinkled 
much in their sockets. In short, Mr. Henry s appear 
ance had nothing very remarkable, as he sat at rest. 
You might readily have taken him for a common 
planter, who cared very little about his personal appear 
ance. In his manners he was uniformly respectful and 
courteous. Candles were brought into the court-house, 
when the examination of the witnesses closed ; and the 
judges put it to the option of the bar whether they 
would go on with the argument that night or adjourn 
until the next day. Paul Carrington, Junior, the at 
torney for the State, a man of large size, and uncommon 


dignity of person and manner, and also an accomplished 
lawyer, professed his willingness to proceed immedi 
ately, while the testimony was fresh in the minds of all. 
Now for the first time I heard Mr. Henry make any 
thing of a speech ; and though it was short, it satisfied 
me of one thing, which I had particularly desired to 
have decided : namely, whether like a player he merely 
assumed the appearance of feeling. His manner of ad 
dressing the court was profoundly respectful. He would 
be willing to proceed with the trial, but, said he, my 
heart is so oppressed with the weight of responsibility 
which rests upon me, having the lives of three fellow 
citizens depending, probably, on the exertions which I 
may be able to make in their behalf (here he turned 
to the prisoners behind him), that I do not feel able 
to proceed to-night. I hope the court will indulge me, 
and postpone the trial till the morning. The impres 
sion made by these few words was such as I assure 
myself no one can ever conceive by seeing them in 
print. In the countenance, action, and intonation of the 
speaker, there was expressed such an intensity of feel 
ing, that all my doubts were dispelled ; never again 
did I question whether Henry felt, or only acted a 
feeling. Indeed, I experienced an instantaneous sym 
pathy with him in the emotions which he expressed ; 
and I have no doubt the same sympathy was felt by 
every hearer. 

" As a matter of course, the proceedings were de 
ferred till the next morning. I was early at my post ; 
the judges were soon on the bench, and the prisoners at 
the bar. Mr. Carrington . . . opened with a clear and 
dignified speech, and presented the evidence to the jury. 
Everything seemed perfectly plain. Two brothers and 


a brother-in-law met two other persons in pursuit of a 
slave, supposed to be harbored by the brothers. After 
some altercation and mutual abuse, one of the brothers, 
whose name was John Ford, raised a loaded gun which 
he was carrying, and presenting it at the breast of one 
of the other pair, shot him dead, in open day. There 
was no doubt about the fact. Indeed, it was not denied. 
There had been no other provocation than opprobrious 
words. It is presumed that the opinion of every juror 
was made up from merely hearing the testimony ; as 
Tom Harvey, the principal witness, who was acting as 
constable on the occasion, appeared to be a respectable 
man. For the clearer understanding of what follows, it 
must be observed that said constable, in order to dis 
tinguish him from another of the name, was commonly 
called Butterwood Harvey, as he lived on Butterwood 
Creek. Mr. Henry, it is believed, understanding that 
the people were on their guard against his faculty of 
moving the passions and through them influencing the 
judgment, did not resort to the pathetic as much as was 
his usual practice in criminal cases. His main object 
appeared to be, throughout, to cast discredit on the tes 
timony of Tom Harvey. This he attempted by causing 
the law respecting riots to be read by one of his assist 
ants. It appeared in evidence that Tom Harvey had 
taken upon him to act as constable, without being in 
commission ; and that with a posse of men he had en 
tered the house of one of the Fords in search of the 
negro, and had put Mrs. Ford, in her husband s ab 
sence, into a great terror, while she was in a very deli 
cate condition, near the time of her confinement. As 
he descanted on the evidence, he would often turn to 
Tom Harvey a large, bold-looking man and with 


the most sarcastic look would call him by some name 
of contempt ; * this Bntterwood Tom Harvey, this 
would-be constable, etc. By such expressions, his con 
tempt for the man was communicated to the hearers. 
I own I felt it gaining on me, in spite of my better 
judgment ; so that before he was done, the impression 
was strong on my mind that Butterwood Harvey was 
undeserving of the smallest credit. This impression, 
however, I found I could counteract the moment I had 
time for reflection. The only part of the speech in 
which he manifested his power of touching the feelings 
strongly, was where he dwelt on the irruption of the 
company into Ford s house, in circumstances so perilous 
to the solitary wife. This appeal to the sensibility of 
husbands and he knew that all the jury stood in this 
relation was overwhelming. If the verdict could 
have been rendered immediately after this burst of the 
pathetic, every man, at least every husband, in the 
house, would have been for rejecting Harvey s testi 
mony, if not for hanging him forthwith." l 

A very critical and cool-headed witness respecting 
Patrick Henry s powers as an advocate was Judge 
Spencer Roane, who presided in one of the courts 
in which the orator was much engaged after his 
return to the bar in 1786 : 

" When I saw him there," writes Judge Roane, " he 
must necessarily have been very rusty ; yet I considered 
him as a good lawyer. ... It was as a criminal lawyer 
that his eloquence had the finest scope. . . . He was a 
perfect master of the passions of his auditory, whether 
in the tragic or the comic line. The tones of his voice, 

1 J. W. Alexander, Life of Archibald Alexander, 183-187. 


to say nothing of his matter and gesture, were insinu 
ated into the feelings of his hearers, in a manner that 
baffled all description. It seemed to operate by mere 
sympathy, and by his tones alone it seemed to me that 
he could make you cry or laugh at pleasure. Yet his 
gesture came powerfully in aid, and, if necessary, would 
approach almost to the ridiculous. ... I will try to 
give some account of his tragic and comic effect in two 
instances that came before me. About the year 1792, 
one Holland killed a young man in Botetourt. . . . 
Holland had gone up from Louisa as a schoolmaster, 
but had turned out badly, and was very unpopular. The 
killing was in the night, and was generally believed to 
be murder. ... At the instance of the father and for a 
reasonable fee, Mr. H. undertook to go to Greenbrier 
court to defend Holland. Mr. Winston and myself were 
the judges. Such were the prejudices there, as I was 
afterwards informed by Thomas Madison, that the peo 
ple there declared that even Patrick Henry need not 
come to defend Holland, unless he brought a jury with 
him. On the day of the trial the court-house was 
crowded, and I did not move from my seat for fourteen 
hours, and had no wish to do so. The examination took 
up a great part of the time, and the lawyers were prob 
ably exhausted. Breckenridge was eloquent, but Henry 
left no dry eye in the court-house. The case, I believe, 
was murder, though, possibly, manslaughter only ; and 
Henry laid hold of this possibility with such effect as to 
make all forget that Holland had killed the storekeeper, 
and presented the deplorable case of the jury s killing 
Holland, an innocent man. He also presented, as it 
were, at the clerk s table, old Holland and his wife, who 
were then in Louisa, and asked what must be the feel- 


ing of this venerable pair at this awful moment, and 
what the consequences to them of a mistaken verdict 
affecting the life of their son. He caused the jury to 
lose sight of the murder they were then trying, and weep 
with old Holland and his wife, whom he painted, and 
perhaps proved to be, very respectable. All this was 
done in a manner so solemn and touching, and a tone so 
irresistible, that it was impossible for the stoutest heart 
not to take sides with the criminal. . . . The result of 
the trial was, that, after a retirement of an half or 
quarter of an hour, the jury brought in a verdict of not 
guilty ! But on being reminded by the court that they 
might find an inferior degree of homicide, they brought 
in a verdict of manslaughter. 

" Mr. Henry was equally successful in the comic line. 
. . . The case was that a wagoner and the plaintiff were 
travelling to Richmond, and the wagoner knocked down 
a turkey and put it into his wagon. Complaint was 
made to the defendant, a justice ; both the parties were 
taken up ; and the wagoner agreed to take a whipping 
rather than be sent to jail. But the plaintiff refused. 
The justice, however, gave him, also, a small whipping ; 
and for this the suit was brought. The plaintiff s plea 
was that he was wholly innocent of the act committed. 
Mr. H., on the contrary, contended that he was a party 
aiding and assisting. In the course of his remarks he 
thus expressed himself : But, gentlemen of the jury, 
this plaintiff tells you that he had nothing to do with the 
turkey. I dare say, gentlemen, not until it was 
roasted ! and he pronounced the word * roasted 
with such rotundity of voice, and comicalness of manner 
and gesture, that it threw every one into a fit of laugh 
ter at the plaintiff, who stood up in the place usually 


allotted to the criminals ; and the defendant was let off 
with little or no damages." * 

Finally, we must recall, in illustration of our 
present subject, an anecdote left on record in 1813, 
by the Kev. Conrad Speece, highly distinguished 
during his lifetime, in the Presbyterian commu 
nion : 

"Many years ago," he then wrote, "I was at the 
trial, in one of our district courts, of a man charged with 
murder. The case was briefly this: the prisoner had 
gone, in execution of his office as a constable, to arrest 
a slave who had been guilty of some misconduct, and 
bring him to justice. Expecting opposition in the busi 
ness, the constable took several men with him, some of 
them armed. They found the slave on the plantation of 
his master, within view of the house, and proceeded to 
seize and bind him. His mistress, seeing the arrest, 
came down and remonstrated vehemently against it. 
Finding her efforts unavailing, she went off to a barn 
where her husband was, who was presently perceived 
running briskly to the house. It was known he always 
kept a loaded rifle over his door. The constable now 
desired his company to remain where they were, taking 
care to keep the slave in custody, while he himself would 
go to the house to prevent mischief. He accordingly 
ran towards the house. When he arrived within a short 
distance of it, the master appeared coming out of the 
door with his rifle in his hand. Some witnesses said 
that as he came to the door he drew the cock of the 
piece, and was seen in the act of raising it to the posi 
tion of firing. But upon these points there was not an 
1 MS. 


entire agreement in the evidence. The constable, stand 
ing near a small building in the yard, at this instant 
fired, and the fire had a fatal effect. No previous mal 
ice was proved against him ; and his plea upon the trial 
was, that he had taken the life of his assailant in neces 
sary self-defence. 

" A great mass of testimony was delivered. This was 
commented upon with considerable ability by the lawyer 
for the commonwealth, and by another lawyer engaged 
by the friends of the deceased for the prosecution. The 
prisoner was also defended, in elaborate speeches, by 
two respectable advocates. These proceedings brought 
the day to a close. The general whisper through a 
crowded house was, that the man was guilty and could 
not be saved. 

" About dusk, candles were brought, and Henry arose* 
His manner was . . . plain, simple, and entirely unas 
suming. Gentlemen of the jury, said he, I dare say 
we are all very much fatigued with this tedious trial. 
The prisoner at the bar has been well defended already ; 
but it is my duty to offer you some further observations 
in behalf of this unfortunate man. I shall aim at brev 
ity. But should I take up more of your time than you 
expect, I hope you will hear me with patience, when 
you consider that blood is concerned. 

" I cannot admit the possibility that any one, who 
never heard Henry speak, should be made fully to con 
ceive the force of impression which he gave to these few 
words, blood is concerned. I had been on my feet 
through the day, pushed about in the crowd, and was 
excessively weary. I was strongly of opinion, too, not 
withstanding all the previous defensive pleadings, that 
the prisoner was guilty of murder ; and I felt anxious 


to know how the matter would terminate. Yet when 
Henry had uttered these words, my feelings underwent 
an instantaneous change. I found everything within me 
answering, Yes, since blood is concerned, in the name 
of all that is righteous, go on ; we will hear you with 
patience until the rising of to-morrow s sun ! This 
bowing of the soul must have been universal ; for the 
profoundest silence reigned, as if our very breath had 
been suspended. The spell of the magician was upon 
us, and we stood like statues around him. Under the 
touch of his genius, every particular of the story assumed 
a new aspect, and his cause became continually more 
bright and promising. At length he arrived at the fatal 
act itself: You have been told, gentlemen, that the 
prisoner was bound by every obligation to avoid the 
supposed necessity of firing, by leaping behind a house 
near which he stood at that moment. Had he been 
attacked with a club, or with stones, the argument would 
have been unanswerable, and I should feel myself com 
pelled to give up the defence in despair. But surely 
I need not tell you, gentlemen, how wide is the difference 
between sticks or stones, and double-triggered, loaded 
rifles cocked at your breast ! The effect of this terrific 
image, exhibited in this great orator s peerless manner, 
cannot be described. I dare not attempt to delineate 
the paroxysm of emotion which it excited in every heart. 
The result of the whole was, that the prisoner was ac 
quitted ; with the perfect approbation, I believe, of the 
numerous assembly who attended the trial. What was 
it that gave such transcendent force to the eloquence of 
Henry? His reasoning powers were good; but they 
have been equalled, and more than equalled, by those 
of many other men. His imagination was exceedingly 


quick, and commanded all the stores of nature, as 
materials for illustrating his subject. His voice and 
delivery were inexpressibly happy. But his most irre 
sistible charm was the vivid feeling of his cause, with 
which he spoke. Such feeling infallibly communicates 
itself to the breast of the hearer. 1 

i Howe, Hist. Coll Fa. 222-223. 



IN the year 1794, being then fifty-eight years 
old, and possessed at last of a competent fortune, 
Patrick Henry withdrew from his profession, and 
resolved to spend in retirement the years that 
should remain to him on earth. Removing from 
Prince Edward County, he lived for a short time 
at Long Island, in Campbell County ; but in 1795 
he finally established himself in the county of 
Charlotte, on an estate called Red Hill, an estate 
which continued to be his home during the rest of 
his life, which gave to him his burial place, and 
which still remains in the possession of his descend 

The rapidity with which he had thus risen out of 
pecuniary embarassments was not due alone to the 
earnings of his profession during those few years ; 
for while his eminence as an advocate commanded 
the highest fees, probably, that were then paid in 
Virginia, it is apparent from his account-books that 
those fees were not at all exorbitant, and for a 
lawyer of his standing would not now be regarded 
as even considerable. The truth is that, subse 
quently to his youthful and futile attempts at busi- 


ness, he had so profited by the experiences of his 
life as to have become a sagacious and an expert 
man of business. " He could buy or sell a horse, 
or a negro, as well as anybody, and was peculiarly 
a judge of the value and quality of lands." l It 
seems to have been chiefly from his investments in 
lands, made by him with foresight and judgment, 
and from which, for a long time, he had reaped 
only burdens and anxieties, that he derived the 
wealth that secured for him the repose of his last 
years. The charge long afterward made by Jeffer 
son, that Patrick Henry s fortune came either from 
a mean use of his right to pay his land debts in a 
depreciated currency "not worth oak-leaves," or 
from any connection on his part with the profligate 
and infamous Yazoo speculation, has been shown, 
by ample evidence, to be untrue. 2 

The descriptions which have come down to us of 
the life led by the old statesman in those last five 
years of retirement make a picture pleasant to look 
upon. The house at Red Hill, which then became 
his home, " is beautifully situated on an elevated 
ridge, the dividing line of Campbell and Charlotte, 
within a quarter of a mile of the junction of Falling 
River with the Staunton. From it the valley of the 
Staunton stretches southward about three miles, 
varying from a quarter to nearly a mile in width, 
and of an oval-like form. Through most fertile 
meadows waving in their golden luxuriance, slowly 

1 Spencer Roane, MS. 

2 Hist . Mag. for 1867, 93 ; 369-370. 


winds the river, overhung by mossy foliage, while 
on all sides gently sloping hills, rich in verdure, 
enclose the whole, and impart to it an air of seclu 
sion and repose. From the brow of the hill, west 
of the house, is a scene of an entirely different 
character : the Blue Ridge, with the lofty peaks of 
Otter, appears in the horizon at a distance of nearly 
sixty miles." Under the trees which shaded his 
lawn, and "in full view of the beautiful valley 
beneath, the orator was accustomed, in pleasant 
weather, to sit mornings and evenings, with his 
chair leaning against one of their trunks, and 
a can of cool spring-water by his side, from 
which he took frequent draughts. Occasionally, 
he walked to and fro in the yard from one clump 
of trees to the other, buried in revery, at which 
times he was never interrupted." 1 " His great de 
light," says one of his sons-in-law, "was in con 
versation, in the society of his friends and family, 
and in the resources *of his own mind." 2 Thus 
beneath his own roof, or under the shadow of his 
own trees, he loved to sit, like a patriarch, with 
his family and his guests gathered affectionately 
around him, and there, free from ceremony as from 
care, to give himself up to the interchange of con 
genial thought whether grave or playful, and even 
to the sports of the children. " His visitors," writes 
one of them, " have not unf requently caught him 
lying on the floor, with a group of these little ones 

1 Howe, Hist. Coll. Va. 221. 

2 Spencer Roane, MS. 


climbing over him in every direction, or dancing 
around him with obstreperous mirth, to the tune 
of his violin, while the only contest seemed to be 
who should make the most noise." 1 

The evidence of contemporaries respecting the 
sweetness of his spirit and his great lovableness in 
private life is most abundant. One who knew him 
well in his family, and who was also quite willing 
to be critical upon occasion, has said : 

" With respect to the domestic character of Mr. 
Henry, nothing could be more amiable. In every rela 
tion, as a husband, father, master, and neighbor, he 
was entirely exemplary. As to the disposition of Mr. 
Henry, it was the best imaginable. I am positive that 
I never saw him in a passion, nor apparently even out 
of temper. Circumstances which would have highly 
irritated other men had no such visible effect on him. 
He was always calm and collected ; and the rude attacks 
of his adversaries in debate only whetted the poignancy 
of his satire. . . . Shortly after the Constitution was 
adopted, a series of the most abusive and scurrilous 
pieces came out against him, under the signature of 
Decius. They were supposed to be written by John 
Nicholas, . . . with the assistance of other more im 
portant men. They assailed Mr. Henry s conduct in 
the Convention, and slandered his character by various 
stories hatched up against him. These pieces were ex 
tremely hateful to all Mr. Henry s friends, and, indeed, 
to a great portion of the community. I was at his 
house in Prince Edward during the thickest of them. 
. . . He evinced no feeling on the occasion, and far less 

1 Cited in Wirt, 380-381. 


condescended to parry the effects on the public mind. 
It was too puny a contest for him, and he reposed upon 
the consciousness of his own integrity. . . . With many 
sublime virtues, he had no vice that I knew or ever 
heard of, and scarcely a foible. I have thought, indeed, 
that he was too much attached to property, a defect, 
however, which might be excused when we reflect on 
the largeness of a beloved family, and the straitened 
circumstances in which he had been confined during a 
great part of his life." 1 

Concerning his personal habits, we have, through 
his grandson, Patrick Henry Fontaine, some tes 
timony which has the merit of placing the great 
man somewhat more familiarly before us. " He 
was," we are told, " very abstemious in his diet, 
and used no wine or alcoholic stimulants. Dis 
tressed and alarmed at the increase of drunken 
ness after the Revolutionary war, he did every 
thing in his power to arrest the vice. He thought 
that the introduction of a harmless beverage, as a 
substitute for distilled spirits, would be beneficial. 
To effect this object, he ordered from his merchant 
in Scotland a consignment of barley, and a Scotch 
brewer and his wife to cultivate the grain, and 
make small beer. To render the beverage fashion 
able and popular, he always had it upon his table 
while he was governor during his last term of 
office ; and he continued its use, but drank nothing 
stronger, while he lived." 2 

Though he was always a most loyal Virginian, 

1 Spencer Roane, MS. 2 Fontaine, MS. 


he became, particularly in his later years, very un 
friendly to that renowned and consolatory herb so 
long associated with the fame and fortune of his 
native State. 

" In his old age, the condition of his nervous system 
made the scent of a tobacco-pipe very disagreeable to 
him. The old colored house-servants were compelled 
to hide their pipes, and rid themselves of the scent of 
tobacco, before they ventured to approach him. . . . 
They protested that they had not smoked, or seen a 
pipe ; and he invariably proved the culprit guilty by fol 
lowing the scent, and leading them to the corn-cob pipes 
hid in some crack or cranny, which he made them take 
and throw instantly into the kitchen fire, without reform 
ing their habits, or correcting the evil, which is likely to 
continue as long as tobacco will grow." 1 

Concerning another of his personal habits, dur 
ing the years thus passed in retirement at Ked 
Hill, there is a charming description, also derived 
from the grandson to whom we are indebted for the 
facts just mentioned : 

" His residence overlooked a large field in the bottom 
of Staunton River, the most of which could be seen from 
his yard. He rose early ; and in the mornings of the 
spring, summer, and fall, before sunrise, while the air 
was cool and calm, reflecting clearly and distinctly the 
sounds of the lowing herds and singing birds, he stood 
upon an eminence, and gave orders and directions to his 
servants at work a half mile distant from him. The 
strong, musical voices of the negroes responded to him. 
i Fontaine, MS. 


During this elocutionary morning exercise, his enuncia 
tion was clear and distinct enough to be heard over an 
area which ten thousand people could not have filled ; 
and the tones of his voice were as melodious as the notes 
of an Alpine horn." l 

Of course the house-servants and the field-serv 
ants just mentioned were slaves ; and, from the be 
ginning to the end of his life, Patrick Henry was 
a slaveholder. He bought slaves, he sold slaves, 
and, along with the other property the lands, the 
houses, the cattle bequeathed by him to his heirs, 
were numerous human beings of the African race. 
What, then, was the opinion respecting slavery 
held by this great champion of the rights of man ? 
"Is it not amazing" thus he wrote in 1773 
" that, at a time when the rights of humanity are 
defined and understood with precision, in a country 
above all others fond of liberty, in such an age, we 
find men, professing a religion the most humane, 
mild, meek, gentle, and generous, adopting a prin 
ciple as repugnant to humanity as it is inconsistent 
with the Bible and destructive to liberty? . . . 
Would any one believe that I am master of slaves 
of my own purchase ? I am drawn along by the 
general inconvenience of living without them. I 
will not, I cannot, justify it ; however culpable my 
conduct, I will so far pay my 4 devoir to virtue as 
to own the excellence and rectitude of her precepts, 
and to lament my want of conformity to them. I 
believe a time will come when an opportunity will 

1 Fontaine, MS. 


be offered to abolish this lamentable evil : every 
thing we can do is to improve it, if it happens in 
our day ; if not, let us transmit to our descendants, 
together with our slaves, a pity for their unhappy 
lot, and an abhorrence of slavery. We owe to the 
purity of our religion, to show that it is at variance 
with that law which warrants slavery." 1 After the 
Revolution, and before the adoption of the Constitu 
tion, he earnestly advocated, in the Virginia House 
of Delegates, some method of emancipation ; and 
even in the Convention of 1788, where he argued 
against the Constitution on the ground that it 
obviously conferred upon the general government, 
in an emergency, that power of emancipation which, 
in his opinion, should be retained by the States, 
he still avowed his hostility to slavery, and at the 
same time his inability to see any practicable means 
of ending it : " Slavery is detested : we feel its 
fatal effects, we deplore it with all the pity of 
humanity. ... As we ought with gratitude to ad 
mire that decree of Heaven which has numbered 
us among the free, we ought to lament and deplore 
the necessity of holding our fellow-men in bondage. 
But is it practicable, by any human means, to lib 
erate them without producing the most dreadful 
and ruinous consequences ? " 2 

During all the years of his retirement, his great 
fame drew to him many strangers, who came to 
pay their homage to him, to look upon his face, to 

1 Bancroft, ed. 1869, vi. 416-417. 

2 Elliot, Debates, iii. 455-456 ; 590-591. 


listen to his words. Such guests were always re- 
ceived by him with a cordiality that was unmistak 
able, and so modest and simple as to put them at 
once at their ease. Of course they desired most of 
all to hear him talk of his own past life, and of the 
great events in which he had borne so brilliant a 
part ; but whenever he was persuaded to do so, it 
was always with the most quiet references to him 
self. " No man," says one who knew him well, 
" ever vaunted less of his achievements than Mr. 
H. I hardly ever heard him speak of those great 
achievements which form the prominent part of his 
biography. As for boasting, he was entirely a 
stranger to it, unless it be that, in his latter days, 
he seemed proud of the goodness of his lands, and, 
I believe, wished to be thought wealthy. It is my 
opinion that he was better pleased to be flattered 
as to his wealth than as to his great talents. This 
I have accounted for by recollecting that he had 
long been under narrow and difficult circumstances 
as to property, from which he was at length happily 
relieved ; whereas there never was .a time when his 
talents had not always been conspicuous, though he 
always seemed unconscious of them." ] 

It should not be supposed that, in his final with 
drawal from public and professional labors, he 
surrendered himself to the enjoyment of domestic 
happiness, without any positive occupation of the 
mind. From one of his grandsons, who was much 
with him in those days, the tradition is derived 

1 Spencer Roane, MS. 


that, besides " setting a good example of honesty, 
benevolence, hospitality, and every social virtue," 
he assisted " in the education of his younger chil 
dren," and especially devoted much time " to ear 
nest efforts to establish true Christianity in our 
country." 1 He gave himself more than ever to the 
study of the Bible, as well as of two or three of 
the great English divines, particularly Tillotson, 
Butler, and Sherlock. The sermons of the latter, 
he declared, had removed " all his doubts of the 
truth of Christianity ; " and from a volume which 
contained them, and which was full of his pencilled 
notes, he was accustomed to read " every Sunday 
evening to his family ; after which they all joined 
in sacred music, while he accompanied them on the 
violin." 2 

There seems to have been no time in his life, 
after his arrival at manhood, when Patrick Henry 
was not regarded by his private acquaintances as 
a positively religious person. Moreover, while he 
was most tolerant of all forms of religion, and was 
on peculiarly friendly terms with their ministers, to 
whose preaching he often listened, it is inaccurate 
to say, as Wirt has done, that, though he was a 
Christian, he was so " after a form of his own ; " 
that " he was never attached to any particular reli 
gious society, and never . . . communed with any 
church." 3 On the contrary, from a grandson who 

1 Fontaine, MS. 

2 J. W. Alexander, Life of A. Alexander, 193 ; Howe, Hist. 
Coll. Va. 221. 

8 Wirt, 402. 


spent many years in his household comes the tradi 
tion that " his parents were members of the Protest 
ant Episcopal Church, of which his uncle, Patrick 
Henry, was a minister ; " that " he was baptized 
and made a member of it in early life ; " and that 
" he lived and died an exemplary member of it." l 
Furthermore, in 1830, the Rev. Charles Dresser, 
rector of Antrim Parish, Halifax County, Vir 
ginia, wrote that the widow of Patrick Henry told 
him that her husband used to receive " the com 
munion as often as an opportunity was offered, and 
on such occasions always fasted until after he had 
communicated, and spent the day in the greatest 
retirement. This he did both while governor and 
afterward." 2 In a letter to one of his daughters, 
written in 1796, he makes this touching confes 
sion : 

" Amongst other strange things said of me, I hear it 
is said by the deists that I am one of the number ; and, 
indeed, that some good people think I am no Christian. 
This thought gives me much more pain than the appel 
lation of Tory ; because I think religion of infinitely 
higher importance than politics ; and I find much cause 
to reproach myself that I have lived so long, and 
have given no decided and public proofs of my being a 
Christian. But, indeed, my dear child, this is a char 
acter which I prize far above all this world has, or can 
boast." 8 

1 Fontaine, MS. 

2 Meade, Old Churches, etc. ii. 12. 
8 Wirt, 387. 


While he thus spoke, humbly and sorrowfully, 
of his religious position as a thing so little known 
to the public that it could be entirely misunder 
stood by a portion of them, it is plain that no 
one who had seen him in the privacy of his life at 
home could have had any misunderstanding upon 
that subject. For years before his retirement from 
the law, it had been his custom, we are told, to 
spend " one hour every day ... in private de 
votion. His hour of prayer was the close of the 
day, including sunset ; . . . and during that sacred 
hour, none of his family intruded upon his pri 
vacy." 1 

As regards his religious faith, Patrick Henry, 
while never ostentatious of it, was always ready 
to avow it, and to defend it. The French alli 
ance during our Kevolution, and our close inter 
course with France immediately afterward, has 
tened among us the introduction of certain French 
writers who were assailants of Christianity, and 
who soon set up among the younger and perhaps 
brighter men of the country the fashion of casting 
off, as parts of an outworn and pitiful superstition, 
the religious ideas of their childhood, and even the 
morality which had found its strongest sanctions 
in those ideas. Upon all this, Patrick Henry 
looked with grief and alarm. In his opinion, a far 
deeper, a far wiser and nobler handling of all the 
immense questions involved in the problem of the 
truth of Christianity was furnished by such Eng- 

1 Fontaine, MS. 


lish writers as Sherlock and Bishop Butler, and, for 
popular use, even Soame Jenyns. Therefore, as 
French scepticism then had among the Virginia 
lawyers and politicians its diligent missionaries, so, 
with the energy and directness that always charac 
terized him, he determined to confront it, if possi 
ble, with an equal diligence ; and he then delib 
erately made himself, while still a Virginia lawyer 
and politician, a missionary also, a missionary 
on behalf of rational and enlightened Christian 
faith. Thus during his second term as governor 
he caused to be printed, on his own account, an 
edition of Soame Jenyns s " View of the Internal 
Evidence of Christianity ; " likewise, an edition of 
Butler s " Analogy ; " and thenceforward, particu 
larly among the young men of Virginia, assailed as 
they were by the fashionable scepticism, this illus 
trious colporteur was active in the defence of 
Christianity, not only by his own sublime and per 
suasive arguments, but by the distribution, as the 
fit occasion offered, of one or the other of these 
two books. 

Accordingly when, during the first two years of 
his retirement, Thomas Paine s " Age of Reason " 
made its appearance, the old statesman was moved 
to write out a somewhat elaborate treatise in de 
fence of the truth of Christianity. This treatise it 
was his purpose to have published. " He read the 
manuscript to his family as he progressed with it, 
and completed it a short time before his death." 
When it was finished, however, being "diffident 


about his own work," and impressed, also, by the 
great ability of the replies to Paine which were 
then appearing in England, " he directed his wife 
to destroy " what he had written. She " complied 
literally with his directions," and thus put beyond 
the chance of publication a work which seemed, to 
some who heard it, to be " the most eloquent and 
unanswerable argument in the defence of the Bible 
which was ever written." 1 

Finally, in his last will and testament, bear 
ing the date of November 20, 1798, and written 
throughout, as he says, " with my own hand," he 
chose to insert a touching affirmation of his own 
deep faith in Christianity. After distributing his 
estate among his descendants, he thus concludes : 
" This is all the inheritance I can give to my dear 
family. The religion of Christ can give them one 
which will make them rich indeed." 2 

It is not to be imagined that this deep seclusion 
and these eager religious studies implied in Patrick 
Henry any forgetfulness of the political concerns 
of his own country, or any indifference to those 
mighty events which, during those years, were 
taking place in Europe, and were reacting with 
tremendous effect upon the thought, the emotion, 
and even the material interests of America. Nei 
ther did he succeed in thus preserving the retire 
ment which he had resolved upon, without having 

1 Fontaine, MS. Also Meade, Old Churches, etc. ii. 12 ; and 
Win. Wirt Henry, MS. 

2 MS. Certified copy 


to resist the attempts of both political parties to 
draw him forth again into official life. All these 
matters, indeed, are involved in the story of his 
political attitude from the close of his struggle for 
amending the Constitution down to the very close 
of his life, a story which used to be told with 
angry vituperation on one side, perhaps with some 
meek apologies on the other. Certainly, the day 
for such comment is long past. In the disinter 
estedness which the lapse of time has now made 
an easy virtue for us, we may see, plainly enough, 
that such ungentle words as " apostate" and " turn 
coat," with which his name used to be plentifully 
assaulted, were but the missiles of partisan excite 
ment ; and that by his act of intellectual readjust 
ment with respect to the new conditions forced 
upon human society, on both sides of the Atlantic, 
by the French Revolution, he developed no occa 
sion for apologies, since he therein did nothing 
that was unusual at that time among honest and 
thoughtful men everywhere, and nothing that was 
inconsistent with the professions or the tendencies 
of his own previous life. It becomes our duty, 
however, to trace this story over again, as con 
cisely as possible, but in the light of much histori 
cal evidence that has never hitherto been presented 
in connection with it. 

Upon the adoption, in 1791, of the first ten 
amendments to the Constitution, every essential 
objection which he had formerly urged against that 
instrument was satisfied ; and there then remained 


no good reason why he should any longer hold 
himself aloof from the cordial support of the new 
government, especially as directed, first by Wash 
ington, and afterward by John Adams, two men 
with whom, both personally and politically, he had 
always been in great harmony, excepting only 
upon this single matter of the Constitution in its 
original form. Undoubtedly, the contest which he 
had waged on that question had been so hot and 
so bitter that, even after it was ended, some time 
would be required for his recovery from the sore 
ness of spirit, from the tone of suspicion and even 
of enmity, which it had occasioned. Accordingly, 
in the correspondence and other records of the 
time, we catch some glimpses of him, which show 
that even after Congress had passed the great 
amendments, and after their approval by the 
States had become a thing assured, he still looked 
askance at the administration, and particularly at 
some of the financial measures proposed by Ham 
ilton. 1 Nevertheless, as year by year went on, and 
as Washington and his associates continued to 
deal fairly, wisely, and, on the whole, successfully, 
with the enormous problems which they encoun 
tered ; moreover, as Jefferson and Madison grad 
ually drew off from Washington, and formed a 
party in opposition, which seemed to connive at 
the proceedings of Genet, and to encourage the 
formation among us of political clubs in apparent 

1 For example, D. Stuart s letter, in Writings of Washington, 
x. 94-96 ; also, Jour. Va. House Del. for Nov. 3, 1790. 


sympathy with the wildest and most anarchic doc 
trines which were then flung into words and into 
deeds in the streets of Paris, it happened that 
Patrick Henry found himself, like Eichard Henry 
Lee, and many another of his companions in the 
old struggle against the Constitution, drawn more 
and more into support of the new government. 

In this frame of mind, probably, was he in the 
spring of 1793, when, during the session of the 
federal court at Richmond, he had frequent con 
versations with Chief Justice Jay and with Judge 
Iredell. The latter, having never before met 
Henry, had felt great dislike of him on account 
of the alleged violence of his opinions against the 
Constitution ; but after making his acquaintance, 
Iredell thus wrote concerning him : " I never was 
more agreeably disappointed than in my acquaint 
ance with him. I have been much in his com 
pany ; and his manners are very pleasing, and his 
mind, I am persuaded, highly liberal. It is a 
strong additional reason I have, added to many 
others, to hold in high detestation violent party 
prejudice." 1 

In the following year, General Henry Lee, then 
governor of Virginia, appointed Patrick Henry as 
a senator of the United States, to fill out an unex- 
pired term. This honor he felt compelled to de 

In the course of the same year, General Lee, 
finding that Patrick Henry, though in virtual sym- 
1 McRee, Life of Iredell, ii. 394-395. 


pathy with the administration, was yet under the 
impression that Washington had cast off their old 
friendship, determined to act the part of a peace 
maker between them, and, if possible, bring to 
gether once more two old friends who had been 
parted by political differences that no longer ex 
isted. On the 17th of August, 1794, Lee, at 
Richmond, thus wrote to the President : 

" When I saw you in Philadelphia, I had many con 
versations with you respecting Mr. Henry, and since my 
return I have talked very freely and confidentially with 
that gentleman. I plainly perceive that he has credited 
some information, which he has received (from whom I 
know not), which induces him to believe that you con 
sider him a factious, seditious character. . . . Assured 
in my own mind that his opinions are groundless, I have 
uniformly combated them, and lament that my endea 
vors have been unavailing. He seems to be deeply and 
sorely affected. It is very much to be regretted ; for 
he is a man of positive virtue as well as of transcendent 
talents ; and were it not for his feelings above expressed, 
I verily believe, he would be found among the most 
active supporters of your administration. Excuse me 
for mentioning this matter to you. I have long wished 
to do it, in the hope that it would lead to a refutation of 
the sentiments entertained by Mr. Henry." 1 

To this letter Washington sent a reply which 
expressed unabated regard for his old friend ; and 
this reply, having been shown by Lee to Henry, 
drew from him this noble-minded answer : 

1 Writings of Washington, x. 560-561. 



RED HILL, 27 June, 1795. 

MY DEAR SIR, Your very friendly communication 
of so much of the President s letter as relates to me, de 
mands my sincere thanks. Retired as I am from the 
busy world, it is still grateful to me to know that some 
portion of regard remains for me amongst my country 
men ; especially those of them whose opinions I most 
value. But the esteem of that personage, who is con 
templated in this correspondence, is highly flattering in 

The American Revolution was the grand operation, 
which seemed to be assigned by the Deity to the men of 
this age in our country, over and above the common 
duties of life. I ever prized at a high rate the superior 
privilege of being one in that chosen age, to which 
Providence intrusted its favorite work. With this im 
pression, it was impossible for me to resist the impulse 
I felt to contribute my mite towards accomplishing that 
event, which in future will give a superior aspect to the 
men of these times. To the man, especially, who led 
our armies, will that aspect belong; and it is not in 
nature for one with my feelings to revere the Revolution, 
without including him who stood foremost in its estab 

Every insinuation that taught me to believe I had 
forfeited the good-will of that personage, to whom the 
world had agreed to ascribe the appellation of good and 
great, must needs give me pain ; particularly as he had 
opportunities of knowing my character both in public 
and in private life. The intimation now given me, that 
there was no ground to believe I had incurred his cen 
sure, gives very great pleasure. 


Since the adoption of the present Constitution, I have 
generally moved in a narrow circle. But in that I have 
never omitted to inculcate a strict adherence to the prin 
ciples of it. And I have the satisfaction to think, that 
in no part of the Union have the laws been more point 
edly obeyed, than in that where I have resided and spent 
my time. Projects, indeed, of a contrary tendency have 
been hinted to me ; but the treatment of the projectors 
has been such as to prevent all intercourse with them for 
a long time. Although a democrat myself, I like not 
the late democratic societies. As little do I like their 
suppression by law. Silly things may amuse for awhile, 
but in a little time men will perceive their delusions. 
The way to preserve in men s minds a value for them, 
is to enact laws against them. 

My present views are to spend my days in privacy. 
If, however, it shall please God, during my life, so to 
order the course of events as to render my feeble efforts 
necessary for the safety of the country, in any, even the 
smallest degree, that little which I can do shall be done. 
Whenever you may have an opportunity, I shall be much 
obliged by your presenting my best respects and duty 
to the President, assuring him of my gratitude for his 
favorable sentiments towards me. 

Be assured, my dear sir, of the esteem and regard 
with which I am yours, etc., 


After seeing this letter, Washington took an 
opportunity to convey to Patrick Henry a strong 
practical proof of his confidence in him, and of his 
cordial friendship. The office of secretary of state 

1 Writings of Washington, x. 562-563. 


having become vacant, Washington thus tendered 
the place to Patrick Henry : 

MOUNT VERNON, 9 October, 1795. 

DEAR SIR, Whatever may be the reception of this 
letter, truth and candor shall mark its steps. You 
doubtless know that the office of state is vacant ; and no 
one can be more sensible than yourself of the impor 
tance of filling it with a person of abilities, and one in 
whom the public would have confidence. 

It would be uncandid not to inform you that this of 
fice has been offered to others ; but it is as true, that it 
was from a conviction in my own mind that you would 
not accept it (until Tuesday last, in a conversation with 
General Lee, he dropped sentiments which made it less 
doubtful), that it was not offered first to you. 

I need scarcely add, that if this appointment could be 
made to comport with your own inclination, it would 
be as pleasing to me, as I believe it would be acceptable 
to the public. With this assurance, and with this belief, 
I make you the offer of it. My first wish is that you 
would accept it ; the next is that you would be so good 
as to give me an answer as soon as you conveniently 
can, as the public business in that department is now 
suffering for want of a secretary. 1 

Though Patrick Henry declined this proposal, 
he declined it for reasons that did not shut the 
door against further overtures of a similar kind ; 
for, within the next three months, a vacancy hav 
ing occurred in another great office, that of 
chief justice of the United States, Washington 
1 Writings of Washington, xi. 81-82. 


again employed the friendly services of General 
Lee, whom he authorized to offer the place to 
Patrick Henry. This was done by Lee in a letter 
dated December 26, 1795 :- 

" The Senate have disagreed to the President s nomi 
nation of Mr. Rutledge, and a vacancy in that impor 
tant office has taken place. For your country s sake, for 
your friends sake, for your family s sake, tell me you 
will obey a call to it. You know my friendship for you ; 
you know my circumspection ; and, I trust, you know, 
too, I would not address you on such a subject without 
good grounds. Surely no situation better suits you. 
You continue at home, only [except] when on duty. 
Change of air and exercise will add to your days. The 
salary excellent, and the honor very great. Be explicit 
in your reply." 3 

On the same day on which Lee thus wrote to 
Henry he likewise wrote to Washington, inform 
ing him that he had done so ; but, for some cause 
now unknown, Washington received no further 
word from Lee for more than two weeks. Accord 
ingly, on the llth of January, 1796, in his anxiety 
to know what might be Patrick Henry s decision 
concerning the office of chief justice, Washington 
wrote to Lee as follows : 

MY DEAR SIR, Your letter of the 26th ult. has 
been received, but nothing from you since, which is 
embarrassing in the extreme ; for not only the nomina 
tion of chief justice, but an associate judge, and secre 
tary of war, is suspended on the answer you were to 

1 MS. 


receive from Mr. Henry ; and what renders the want of 
it more to be regretted is, that the first Monday of next 
month (which happens on the first day of it) is the term 
appointed by law for the meeting of the Superior Court 
of the United States, in this city ; at which, for particu 
lar reasons, the bench ought to be full. I will add no 
more at present than that I am your affectionate, 


Although Patrick Henry declined this great 
compliment also, his friendliness to the adminis 
tration had become so well understood that, among 
the Federal leaders, who in the spring of 1796 
were planning for the succession to Washington 
and Adams, there was a strong inclination to nom 
inate Patrick Henry for the vice-presidency, 
their chief doubt being with reference to his will 
ingness to take the nomination. 2 

All these overtures to Patrick Henry were some 
what jealously watched by Jefferson, who, indeed, 
in a letter to Monroe, on the 10th of July, 1796, 
interpreted them with that easy recklessness of 
statement which so frequently embellished his pri 
vate correspondence and his private talk. " Most 
assiduous court," he says of the Federalists, " is 
paid to Patrick Henry. He has been offered 
everything which they knew he would not accept." 3 

A few weeks after Jefferson penned those sneer- 

1 Lee, Observations, etc. 116. 

2 Gibbs, Administration of Washington, etc. i. 337 ; see, also, 
Hamilton, Works, vi. 114. 

3 Jefferson, Writings, iv. 148. 


ing words, the person thus alluded to wrote to his 
daughter, Mrs. Aylett, concerning certain trouble 
some reports which had reached her : 

" As to the reports you have heard, of my changing 
sides in politics, I can only say they are not true. I 
am too old to exchange my former opinions, which have 
grown up into fixed habits of thinking. True it is, I 
have condemned the conduct of our members in Con 
gress, because, in refusing to raise money for the pur 
poses of the British treaty, they, in effect, would have 
surrendered our country bound, hand and foot, to the 
power of the British nation. . . . The treaty is, in my 
opinion, a very bad one indeed. But what must I think 
of those men, whom I myself warned of the danger of 
giving the power of making laws by means of treaty to 
the President and Senate, when I see these same men 
denying the existence of that power, which, they insisted 
in our convention, ought properly to be exercised by the 
President and Senate, and by none other ? The policy 
of these men, both then and now, appears to me quite 
void of wisdom and foresight. These sentiments I did 
mention in conversation in Richmond, and perhaps 
others which I don t remember. ... It seems that 
every word was watched which I casually dropped, and 
wrested to answer party views. Who can have been so 
meanly employed, I know not, neither do I care ; for I 
no longer consider myself as an actor on the stage of 
public life. It is time for me to retire ; and I shall 
never more appear in a public character, unless some 
unlooked-for circumstance shall demand from me a 
transient effort, not inconsistent with private life in 
which I have determined to continue." 1 

1 Entire letter in Wirt, 385-387. 


In the autumn of 1796 the Assembly of Vir 
ginia, then under the political control of Jefferson, 
and apparently eager to compete with the Feder 
alists for the possession of a great name, elected 
Patrick Henry to the governorship of the State. 
But the man whose purpose to refuse office had 
been proof against the attractions of the United 
States Senate, and of the highest place in Wash 
ington s cabinet, and of the highest judicial posi 
tion in the country, was not likely to succumb to 
the opportunity of being governor of Virginia for 
the sixth time. 



THE intimation given by Patrick Henry to his 
daughter, in the summer of 1796, that, though he 
could never again engage in a public career, he 
yet might be compelled by "some unlooked-for 
circumstance" to make "a transient effort" for 
the public safety, was not put to the test until 
nearly three years afterward, when it was veri 
fied in the midst of those days in which he was 
suddenly to find surcease of all earthly care and 

Our story, therefore, now passes hurriedly by 
the year 1797, which saw the entrance of John 
Adams into the presidency, the return of Monroe 
from France in great anger at the men who had 
recalled him, the publication of Jefferson s letter 
to Mazzei, everywhere an increasing bitterness and 
even violence in partisan feeling. In the same 

manner, also, must we pass by the year 1798, 

which saw the popular uprising against France, 
the mounting of the black cockade against her, the 
suspension of commercial intercourse with her, the 
summons to Washington to come forth once more 
and lead the armies of America against the enemy ; 


then the moonstruck madness of the Federalists, 
forcing upon the country the naturalization act, 
the alien acts, the sedition act ; then the Ken 
tucky resolutions, as written by Jefferson, declar 
ing the acts just named to be " not law, but utterly 
void and of no force," and liable, "unless ar 
rested on the threshold," " to drive these States 
into revolution and blood ; " then the Virginia 
resolutions, as written by Madison, denouncing the 
same acts as " palpable and alarming infractions 
of the Constitution ; " finally, the preparations 
secretly making by the government of Virginia 1 
for armed resistance to the government of the 
United States. 

Just seven days after the passage of the Vir 
ginia resolutions, an eminent citizen of that State 
appealed by letter to Patrick Henry for some writ 
ten expression of his views upon the troubled situ 
ation, with the immediate object of aiding in the 
election of John Marshall, who, having just before 
returned from his baffled embassy to Paris, was 
then in nomination for Congress, and was encoun 
tering assaults directed by every energy and art of 
the opposition. In response to this appeal, Patrick 
Henry wrote, in the early part of the year 1799, 
the following remarkable letter, which is of deep 
interest still, not only as showing his discernment 
of the true nature of that crisis, but as furnishing 
a complete answer to the taunt that his mental 
faculties were then fallen into decay : 

1 Henry Adams, Life of J. Randolph, 27-28. 



RED HILL, CHARLOTTE, 8 January, 1799. 
DEAR SIR, Your favor of the 28th of last month I 
have received. Its contents are a fresh proof that there 
is cause for much lamentation over the present state of 
things in Virginia. It is possible that most of the indi 
viduals who compose the contending factions are sin 
cere, and act from honest motives. But it is more than 
probable, that certain leaders meditate a change in gov 
ernment. To effect this, I see no way so practicable 
as dissolving the confederacy. And I am free to own, 
that, in my judgment, most of the measures lately pur 
sued by the opposition party, directly and certainly lead 
to that end. If this is not the system of the party, they 
have none, and act ex tempore. 

I do acknowledge that I am not capable to form a 
correct judgment on the present politics of the world. 
The wide extent to which the present contentions have 
gone will scarcely permit any observer to see enough in 
detail to enable him to form anything like a tolerable 
judgment on the final result, as it may respect the na 
tions in general. But, as to France, I have no doubt 
in saying that to her it will be calamitous. Her con 
duct has made it the interest of the great family of 
mankind to wish the downfall of her present govern 
ment ; because its existence is incompatible with that of 
all others within its reach. And, whilst I see the dan 
gers that threaten ours from her intrigues and her arms, 
I am not so much alarmed as at the apprehension of her 
destroying the great pillars of all government and of 
social life, I mean virtue, morality, and religion. 
This is the armor, my friend, and this alone, that ren* 


ders us invincible. These are the tactics we should 
study. If we lose these, we are conquered, fallen in 
deed. In vain may France show and vaunt her diplo 
matic skill, and brave troops : so long as our manners 
and principles remain sound, there is no danger. But 
believing, as I do, that these are in danger, that infidel 
ity in its broadest sense, under the name of philosophy, 
is fast spreading, and that, under the patronage of 
French manners and principles, everything that ought 
to be dear to man is covertly but successfully assailed, 
I feel the value of those men amongst us, who hold out 
to the world the idea, that our continent is to exhibit an 
originality of character ; and that, instead of that imi 
tation and inferiority which the countries of the old 
world have been in the habit of exacting from the new, 
we shall maintain that high ground upon which nature 
has placed us, and that Europe will alike cease to rule 
us and give us modes of thinking. 

But I must stop short, or else this letter will be all 
preface. These prefatory remarks, however, I thought 
proper to make, as they point out the kind of charac 
ter amongst our countrymen most estimable in my 
eyes. General Marshall and his colleagues exhibited 
the American character as respectable. France, in the 
period of her most triumphant fortune, beheld them as 
unappalled. Her threats left them, as she found them, 
mild, temperate, firm. Can it be thought that, with 
these sentiments, I should utter anything tending to pre 
judice General Marshall s election ? Very far from it 
indeed. Independently of the high gratification I felt 
from his public ministry, he ever stood high in my es 
teem as a private citizen. His temper and disposition 
were always pleasant, his talents and integrity unques- 


tioned. These things are sufficient to place that gentle 
man far above any competitor in the district for Con 
gress. But, when you add the particular information 
and insight which he has gained, and is able to commu 
nicate to our public councils, it is really astonishing that 
even blindness itself should hesitate in the choice. . . . 
Tell Marshall I love him, because he felt and acted as 
a republican, as an American. ... I am too old and 
infirm ever again to undertake public concerns. I live 
much retired, amidst a multiplicity of blessings from 
that Gracious Ruler of all things, to whom I owe un 
ceasing acknowledgments for his unmerited goodness to 
me ; and if I was permitted to add to the catalogue one 
other blessing, it should be, that my countrymen should 
learn wisdom and virtue, and in this their day to know 
the things that pertain to their peace. Farewell. 
I am, dear Sir, yours, 


The appeal from Archibald Blair, which evoked 
this impressive letter, had suggested to the old 
statesman no effort which could not be made in 
his retirement. Before, however, he was to pass 
beyond the reach of all human appeals, two others 
were to be addressed to him, the one by John 
Adams, the other by Washington, both asking him 
to come forth into the world again ; the former 
calling for his help in averting war with France, 
the latter for his help in averting the triumph of 
violent and dangerous counsels at home. 

On the 25th of February, 1799, John Adams, 
shaking himself free of his partisan counsellors, 

1 Writings of Washington, xi. 557-559. 


all hot for war with France, suddenly changed 
the course of history by sending to the Senate the 
names of these three citizens, Oliver Ellsworth, 
Patrick Henry, and William Vans Murray, " to be 
envoys extraordinary and ministers plenipotentiary 
to the French republic, with full powers to discuss 
and settle, by a treaty, all controversies between 
the United States and France." In his letter of 
the 16th of April declining the appointment, Pat 
rick Henry spoke of himself as having been " con 
fined for several weeks by a severe indisposition," 
and as being " still so sick as to be scarcely able to 
write this." " My advanced age," he added, " and 
increasing debility compel me to abandon every 
idea of serving my country, where the scene of 
operation is far distant, and her interests call for 
incessant and long continued exertion. ... I can 
not, however, forbear expressing, on this occasion, 
the high sense I entertain of the honor done me 
by the President and Senate in the appointment. 
And I beg you, sir, to present me to them in 
terms of the most dutiful regard, assuring them 
that this mark of their confidence in me, at a crisis 
so eventful, is an agreeable and flattering proof of 
their consideration towards me, and that nothing 
short of an absolute necessity could induce me to 
withhold my little aid from an administration whose 
ability, patriotism, and virtue deserve the gratitude 
and reverence of all their fellow citizens." J 

Such was John Adams s appeal to Patrick 

1 Works of John Adams, ix. 162; viii. 641-642. 


Henry and its result. The appeal to him from 
Washington an appeal which he could not resist, 
and which induced him, even in his extreme feeble 
ness of body, to make one last and noble exertion 
of his genius happened in this wise. On the 
15th of January, 1799, from Mount Vernon, Wash 
ington wrote to his friend a long letter, marked 
" confidential," in which he stated with great frank 
ness his own anxieties respecting the dangers then 
threatening the country : 

" It would be a waste of time to attempt to bring to 
the view of a person of your observation and discern 
ment, the endeavors of a certain party among us to 
disquiet the public mind with unfounded alarms ; to ar 
raign every act of the administration ; to set the people 
at variance with their government ; and to embarrass all 
its measures. Equally useless would it be to predict 
what must be the inevitable consequences of such a 
policy, if it cannot be arrested. 

" Unfortunately, and extremely do I regret it, 
the State of Virginia has taken the lead in this opposi 
tion. ... It has been said that the great mass of the 
citizens of this State are well-affected, notwithstanding, 
to the general government and the Union ; and I am 
willing to believe it, nay, do believe it. But how is this 
to be reconciled with their suffrages at the elections 
of representatives, . . . who are men opposed to the 
former, and by the tendency of their measures would 
destroy the latter ? . . . One of the reasons assigned is, 
that the most respectable and best qualified characters 
among us will not come forward. . . . But, at such a 
crisis as this, when everything dear and valuable to us 


is assailed ; when this party hangs upon the wheels of 
government as a dead weight, opposing every measure 
that is calculated for defence and self-preservation, abet 
ting the nefarious views of another nation upon our 
rights ; . . . when measures are systematically and per 
tinaciously pursued, which must eventually dissolve the 
Union, or produce coercion ; I say, when these things 
have become so obvious, ought characters who are best 
able to rescue their country from the pending evil, to 
remain at home ? Rather ought they not to come for 
ward, and by their talents and influence stand in the 
breach which such conduct has made on the peace and 
happiness of this country, and oppose the widening of 
it? ... 

" I come, now, my good Sir, to the object of my 
letter, which is to express a hope and an earnest wish, 
that you will come forward at the ensuing elections 
(if not for Congress, which you may think would take 
you too long from home), as a candidate for represent 
ative in the General Assembly of this Commonwealth. 

"There are, I have no doubt, very many sensible 
men who oppose themselves to the torrent that carries 
away others who had rather swim with, than stem it 
without an able pilot to conduct them ; but these are 
neither old in legislation, nor well known in the com 
munity. Your weight of character and influence in the 
House of Representatives would be a bulwark against 
such dangerous sentiments as are delivered there at pre 
sent. It would be a rallying point for the timid, and 
an attraction of the wavering. In a word, I conceive it 
to be of immense importance at this crisis, that you 
should be there ; and I would fain hope that all minor 
considerations will be made to yield to the measure." l 
1 Writings of Washington, xi. 387-391. 


There can be little doubt that it was this solemn 
invocation on the part of Washington which in 
duced the old statesman, on whom Death had al 
ready begun to lay his icy hands, to come forth 
from the solitude in which he had been so long 
buried, and offer himself for the suffrages of his 
neighbors, as their representative in the next House 
of Delegates, there to give check, if possible, to 
the men who seemed to be hurrying Virginia upon 
violent courses, and the republic into civil war. 
Accordingly, before the day for the usual March l 
court in Charlotte, the word went out through all 
that country that old Patrick Henry, whose won 
drous voice in public no man had heard for those 
many years, who had indeed been almost numbered 
among the dead ones of their heroic days foregone, 
was to appear before all the people once more, and 
speak to them as in the former time, and give to 
them his counsel amid those thickening dangers 
which alone could have drawn him forth from the 
very borders of the grave. 

When the morning of that day came, from all 
the region thereabout the people began to stream 
toward the place where the orator was to speak. 
So widespread was the desire to hear him that 
even the college in the next county the college 
of Hampden-Sidney suspended its work for that 
day, and thus enabled all its members, the presi 
dent himself, the professors, and the students, to 
hurry over to Charlotte court-house. One of those 

1 Garland, Life of John Randolph, 130. 


students, John Miller, of South Carolina, accord 
ing to an account said to have been given by him 
in conversation forty years afterward, having with 
his companions reached the town, 

" and having learned that the great orator would speak 
in the porch of a tavern fronting the large court-green, 
. . . pushed his way through the gathering crowd, and 
secured the pedestal of a pillar, where he stood within 
eight feet of him. He was very infirm, and seated in 
a chair conversing with some old friends, waiting for the 
assembling of the immense multitudes who were pouring 
in from all the surrounding country to hear him. At 
length he arose with difficulty, and stood somewhat 
bowed with age and weakness. His face was almost 
colorless. His countenance was careworn ; and when 
he commenced his exordium, his voice was slightly 
cracked and tremulous. But in a few moments a won 
derful transformation of the whole man occurred, as 
he warmed with his theme. He stood erect ; his eye 
beamed with a light that was almost supernatural ; his 
features glowed with the hue and fire of youth ; and 
his voice rang clear and melodious with the intonations 
of some grand musical instrument whose notes filled the 
area, and fell distinctly and delightfully upon the ears 
of the most distant of the thousands gathered before 
him." l 

As regards the substance of the speech then 
made, it will not be safe for us to confide very 
much in the supposed recollections "of old men who 
heard it when they were young. Upon the whole, 

1 Fontaine, MS. 


probably, the most trustworthy outline of it now 
to be had is that of a gentleman who declares that 
he wrote down his recollections of the speech not 
long after its delivery. According to this account, 
Patrick Henry 

" told them that the late proceedings of the Virgin 
ian Assembly had filled him with apprehensions and 
alarm ; that they had planted thorns upon his pillow ; 
that they had drawn him from that happy retirement 
which it had pleased a bountiful Providence to bestow, 
and in which he had hoped to pass, in quiet, the remain 
der of his days ; that the State had quitted the sphere 
in which she had been placed by the Constitution, and, 
in daring to pronounce upon the validity of federal 
laws, had gone out of her jurisdiction in a manner not 
warranted by any authority, and in the highest degree 
alarming to every considerate man ; that such opposi 
tion, on the part of Virginia, to the acts of the general 
government, must beget their enforcement by military 
power; that this would probably produce civil war, 
civil war foreign alliances, and that foreign alliances 
must necessarily end in subjugation to the powers called 
in. He conjured the people to pause and consider well, 
before they rushed into such a desperate condition, from 
which there could be no retreat. He painted to their 
imaginations "Washington, at the head of a numerous 
and well-appointed army, inflicting upon them mili 
tary execution. And where, he asked, are our re 
sources to meet such a conflict ? Where is the citizen 
of America who will dare to lift his hand against the 
father of his country ? A drunken man in the crowd 
threw up his arm, and exclaimed that he dared to do 


it. No, answered Mr. Henry, rising aloft in all his 
majesty, * you dare not do it : in such a parricidal at 
tempt, the steel would drop from your nerveless arm ! 
. . . Mr. Henry, proceeding in his address to the peo 
ple, asked whether the county of Charlotte would have 
any authority to dispute an obedience to the laws of 
Virginia ; and he pronounced Virginia to be to the 
Union what the county of Charlotte was to her. Hav 
ing denied the right of a State to decide upon the con 
stitutionality of federal laws, he added, that perhaps it 
might be necessary to say something of the merits of 
the laws in question. 1 His private opinion was that 
they were good and proper. But whatever might be 
their merits, it belonged to the people, who held the 
reins over the head of Congress, and to them alone, to 
say whether they were acceptable or otherwise to Vir 
ginians ; and that this must be done by way of petition ; 
that Congress were as much our representatives as the 
Assembly, and had as good a right to our confidence. 
He had seen with regret the unlimited power over the 
purse and sword consigned to the general government ; 
but ... he had been overruled, and it was now neces 
sary to submit to the constitutional exercise of that 
power. If, said he, I am asked what is to be done, 
when a people feel themselves intolerably oppressed, my 
answer is ready, Overturn the government. But do 
not, I beseech you, carry matters to this length without 
provocation. Wait at least until some infringement is 
made upon your rights, and which cannot otherwise be 
redressed ; for if ever you recur to another change, you 
may bid adieu forever to representative government. 
You can never exchange the present government but 

1 The alien and sedition acts. 


for a monarchy. . . . Let us preserve our strength for 
the French, the English, the Germans, or whoever else 
shall dare to invade our territory, and not exhaust it in 
civil commotions and intestine wars. He concluded by 
declaring his design to exert himself in the endeavor to 
allay the heart-burnings and jealousies which had been 
fomented in the state legislature ; and he fervently 
prayed, if he was deemed unworthy to effect it, that it 
might be reserved to some other and abler hand to ex 
tend this blessing over the community." l 

The outline thus given may be inaccurate in 
several particulars : it is known to be so in one. 
Respecting the alien and sedition acts, the orator 
expressed no opinion at all ; 2 but accepting them 
as the law of the land, lie counselled moderation, 
forbearance, and the use of constitutional means 
of redress. Than that whole effort, as has been 
said by a recent and a sagacious historian, " no 
thing in his life was nobler." 3 

Upon the conclusion of the old man s speech the 
stand was taken by a very young man, John Ran 
dolph of Roanoke, who undertook to address the 
crowd, offering himself to them as a candidate for 
Congress, but on behalf of the party then opposed 
to Patrick Henry. By reason of weariness, no 
doubt, the latter did not remain upon the platform ; 
but having " requested a friend to report to him 
anything which might require an answer," he 

1 Wirt, 393-395. 

2 Hist. Mag. for 1873, 353. 

8 Henry Adams, John Randolph, 29. 


stepped back into the tavern. " Randolph began 
by saying that he had admired that man more than 
any on whom the sun had shone, but that now he 
was constrained to differ from him toto coelo. 
Whatever else Randolph may have said in his 
speech, whether important or otherwise, was 
spoken under the disadvantage of a cold and a 
hoarseness so severe as to render him scarcely able 
to " utter an audible sentence." Furthermore, 
Patrick Henry " made no reply, nor did he again 
present himself to the people." 1 There is, how 
ever, a tradition, not improbable, that when Ran 
dolph had finished his speech, and had come back 
into the room where the aged statesman was rest 
ing, the latter, taking him gently by the hand, 
said to him, with great kindness : " Young man, 
you call me father. Then, my son, I have some 
thing to say unto thee : keep justice, keep truth, - 
and you will live to think differently." 

As a result of the poll, Patrick Henry was, by a 
great majority, elected to the House of Delegates. 
But his political enemies, who, for sufficient rea 
sons, greatly dreaded his appearance upon that 
scene of his ancient domination, were never any 
more to be embarrassed by his presence there. 

1 J. W. Alexander, Life of A. Alexander, 188-189. About this 
whole scene have gathered many myths, of which several first ap 
peared in a Life of Henry, in the New Edinb. Encycl. 1817 ; were 
thence copied into Howe, Hist. Coll. Va. 224-225 ; and have 
thence been engulfed in that rich mass of unwhipped hyberboles 
and of unexploded fables still patriotically swallowed by the 
American public as American history. 


For, truly, they who, on that March day, at Char 
lotte court-house, had heard Patrick Henry, " had 
heard an immortal orator who would never speak 
again." J He seems to have gone thence to his 
home, and never to have left it. About the middle 
of the next month, being too sick to write many 
words, he lifted himself up in bed long enough to 
tell the secretary of state that he could not go on 
the mission to France, and to send his dying bless 
ing to his old friend, the President. Early in 
June, his eldest daughter, Martha Fontaine, living 
at a distance of two days travel from Red Hill, 
received from him a letter beginning with these 
words : " Dear Patsy, I am very unwell, and have 
Dr. Cabell with me." 2 Upon this alarming news, 
she and others of his kindred in that neighborhood 
made all haste to go to him. On arriving at Red 
Hill " they found him sitting in a large, old-fash 
ioned armchair, in which he was easier than upon a 
bed." The disease of which he was dying was intus 
susception. On the 6th of June, all other remedies 
having failed, Dr. Cabell proceeded to administer to 
him a dose of liquid mercury. Taking the vial in 
his hand, and looking at it for a moment, the dying 
man said : " I suppose, doctor, this is your last re 
sort ? " The doctor replied : " I am sorry to say, 
governor, that it is. Acute inflammation of the 
intestine has already taken place ; and unless it is 
removed, mortification will ensue, if it has not al 
ready commenced, which I fear." " What will be 

1 Henry Adams. 2 Fontaine, MS. 


the effect of this medicine?" said the old man. 
" It will give you immediate relief, or " the kind- 
hearted doctor could not finish the sentence. His 
patient took up the word : " You mean, doctor, 
that it will give relief, or will prove fatal immedi 
ately ? " The doctor answered : " You can only 
live a very short time without it, and it may possi 
bly relieve you." Then Patrick Henry said, " Ex 
cuse me, doctor, for a few minutes ; " and drawing 
down over his eyes a silken cap which he usually 
wore, and still holding the vial in his hand, he 
prayed, in clear words, a simple childlike prayer, 
for his family, for his country, and for his own 
soul then in the presence of death. Afterward, 
in perfect calmness, he swallowed the medicine. 
Meanwhile, Dr. Cabell, who greatly loved him, 
went out upon the lawn, and in his grief threw 
himself down upon the earth under one of the 
trees, weeping bitterly. Soon, when he had suffi 
ciently mastered himself, the doctor came back to 
his patient, whom he found calmly watching the 
congealing of the blood under his finger-nails, and 
speaking words of love and peace to his family, 
who were weeping around his chair. Among other 
things, he told them that he was thankful for 
that goodness of God, which, having blessed him 
through all his life, was then permitting him to 
die without any pain. Finally, fixing his eyes with 
much tenderness on his dear friend, Dr. Cabell, 
with whom he had formerly held many arguments 
respecting the Christian religion, he asked the doc- 


tor to observe how great a reality and benefit that 
religion was to a man about to die. And after 
Patrick Henry had spoken to his beloved physician 
these few words in praise of something which, hav 
ing never failed him in all his life before, did not 
then fail him in his very last need of it, he con 
tinued to breathe very softly for some moments ; 
after which they who were looking upon him saw 
that his life had departed. 




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ADAMS, JOHN, on Henry s confession of 
illiteracy, 12 ; early recognizes Hen 
ry s importance, 88 ; describes enthu 
siasm of Virginians over oratory of 
Henry and Lee, 101 ; describes social 
festivities at Philadelphia, 104-106 ; 
in Congress asks Duane to explain 
motion to prepare regulations, 108 ; 
describes Henry s first speech, 110 ; 
debates method of voting in Con 
gress, 110 ; gives summary of Hen 
ry s speech against Galloway s plan, 
116 ; on committee to prepare ad 
dress to the king, 117 ; forms a high 
opinion of Henry s abilities, 124; 
discusses with Henry the probabil 
ity of war, 125 ; on Henry s appar 
ent profanity, 126 ; has brief mili 
tary aspirations, 154 ; envious of 
military glory, 154 ; on committees 
in second Continental Congress, 172, 
175 ; as likely as Henry to have been 
a good fighter, 188 ; but unlike him 
in not offering, 188 ; urged by Henry 
to advocate French alliance, 199; 
on importance of Virginia s action 
in adopting a constitution, 201 ; ad 
vocates a democratic constitution 
in "Thoughts on Government," 
202; praised for it by Henry, 204- 
206 ; his complimentary reply, 206 ; 
comments on Virginia aristocrats, 
207 ; his friendship with Henry, 
397 ; becomes president, 407 ; sends 
French mission, 411, 412 ; appoints 
Henry envoy to France, 412; 
thanked by Henry, 412. 

Adams, Samuel, member of first Con 
tinental Congress, 108 ; of the sec 
ond, 173 ; friendship of Henry for, 
206 ; unfavorable to federal Consti 
tution, 330. 

Alexander, Rev. Archibald, of Prince 

ton, analyzes Henry s success as a 
jury lawyer, 370 ; gives anecdotes 
of his success, 371-375. 

Alsop, John, member of second Con 
tinental Congress, 173. 

Arnold, Benedict, commands maraud 
ing expedition in Virginia, 278. 

Articles of Confederation, their weak 
ness deplored by Henry, 305 ; plans 
of Henry and others to strengthen, 

Assembly, General, of Virginia. See 

Atherton, Joshua, opposes federal 
Constitution, 330. 

Atkinson, Roger, describes Virginia 
delegates in Continental Congress, 

Aylett, Mrs. Betsy, letter of Henry to, 
describing his political opinions, in 
1796, 405. 

BAKER, Counsellor, opposes Henry in 
British debts case, 362. 

Baptists, petition convention for re 
ligious liberty, 209 ; congratulate 
Henry on his election as governor, 
216 ; his reply, 217. 

Bar of Virginia, examination for, 22- 
25 ; its ability, 90 ; leaders of, 93 ; 
opposes, as a rule, the federal Con 
stitution, 319; its eminence and 
participation in British debts case, 

Barrell, William, entertains delegates 
to first Continental Congress, at his 
store, 106. 

Bayard, , entertains John Adams 

at first Continental Congress, 105. 

Bernard, Sir Francis, describes excit 
ing effect of Virginia Resolves in 
Boston, 82. 

Bill of Rights, the demand for in the 



new federal Constitution, 324, 325, 
326, 331 ; secured in first ten amend 
ments, 354, 355. 

Blair, Archibald, draws forth Henry s 
opinions on American foreign pol 
icy, 409. 

Blair, John, prominent in Virginia 
bar, 93 ; on committee to notify 
Henry of his election as governor, 
212 ; tries British debts case, 362. 

Bland, Richard, on committee to pro 
test against Stamp Act, 66 ; believes 
submission inevitable, 67 ; opposes 
Henry s Virginia Resolves, 71 ; loses 
leadership to Henry, 89 ; leader of 
conservatives, 95 ; appointed dele 
gate to Continental Congress, 99 ; 
described by Atkinson, 102; by 
John Adams, 106 ; in debate on 
manner of voting, 112; opposes 
Henry s motion to arm militia, 137 ; 
on committees, 152 ; in convention 
of 1776, 190 ; on committee to draft 
bill of rights and constitution, 200. 

Bland, Theodoric, opposes ratification 
of federal Constitution, 320; pre 
sents to Congress Virginia s appeal 
for a new federal convention, 354. 

Bland, Theophilus, letter of Tucker 
to, sneering at Henry, 269. 

Bloodworth, Timothy, of North Caro 
lina, opposes federal Constitution, 

Boston Port Bill, its day of going into 
operation made a public fast day by 
Virginia Assembly, 97. 

Boyce, Captain, asks Washington, 
through Henry, for a letter, 301. 

Braxton, Carter, wishes an aristo 
cratic state constitution in Vir 
ginia, 201 ; recommends a pamphlet 
in favor of such a government, 203, 
206; condemned by Henry, 204, 


Breckinridge, , against Henry in 

murder trial, 376. 

British debts case, cause for the ac 
tion, 359, 360 ; question at issue, 
did treaty of 1783 override a Vir 
ginia sequestration act, 360; the 
counsel, 360 ; Henry s preparation 
for, 361, 362 ; first trial and Henry s 
peech, 362-364; intense popular 

interest, 363: second trial before 
Chief Justice Jay and Justice Iredell, 
364-367 ; comparison of Henry s and 
Marshall s pleas, 366 ; Iredell s opin 
ion, 367. 

Brougham, Lord, third cousin of Pat 
rick Henry, 3 ; resemblance between 
the two orators, 3, 4. 

Burgesses, House of. See Legislature 
of Virginia. 

Burgoyne, John, his campaign and 
capture, 240. 

Burke, Aedanus, opposed to federal 
Constitution, 330. 

Butler, Bishop Joseph, his " Analogy " 
Henry s favorite book, 20, 391 ; art 
edition printed and distributed by 
Henry to counteract skepticism, 394:. 

Byrd, William, of Westover, describe* 
Sarah Syme, Henry s mother, 1, 2. 

CAUKI.I,. DR. GEORGE, Henry s physi 
cian in his last illness, 421, 422. 

Cadwallader, John, entertains John 
Adams at first Continental Con 
gress, 105. 

Campbell, Alexander, with Henry in 
British debts case, 360. 

Carrington, Clement, son of Paul, ex 
plains Henry s military defect to be 
lack of discipline, 187. 

Carrington, Edward, on Henry s de 
sire for disunion in 1788, 317. 

Carrington, Paul, friendly with Henry 
at time of Virginia Resolutions, 74 ; 
on committee of convention tC" 
frame Constitution, 200. 

Carrington, Paul, Jr., opposes Heurj 
in a murder case, 372, 373. 

Carter, Charles, of Stafford, on com 
mittee of Virginia convention, 152. 

Carter, Landon, on committee to pre 
pare remonstrances against Stamp 
Act, 66; deplores to Washington 
the number of inexperienced men 
in Virginia convention of 1776, 
191 ; writes to Washington sneering 
at Henry s military preparations, 

Cary, Archibald, on committee of Vir 
ginia convention, 152 ; in conven 
tion of 1776, 190: on committee 
to draft constitution and bill of 



rights, 200 ; reports plan to the con 
vention, 210 ; his reported threat to 
kill Henry if he should be made 
dictator, 226 ; another version, 234. 

Chase, Samuel, member of first Con 
tinental Congress,108 ; overwhelmed 
at first by Lee s and Henry s ora 
tory, 119 ; later discovers them to 
be mere men, 119 ; opposed to fed 
eral Constitution, 330. 

Chatham, Lord, praises state papers 
of first Continental Congress, 117 ; 
his death, 240. 

Christian, William, on committee for 
arming Virginia militia, 151 ; with 
Henry in flight from Tarleton, 281, 

Clapham, Josias, on committee of Vir 
ginia convention, 152. 

Clark, George Rogers, sent by Henry 
to punish Northwestern Indians, 
258 ; success of his expedition de 
scribed by Henry, 258-2GO, 263. 

Clergy of Virginia, paid in tobacco by 
colony, 37 ; their sufferings from 
fluctuations in its value, 38 ; their 
salaries cut down by Option Laws, 
40, 41 ; apply in vain to governor, 
43; appeal to England, 44; bring 
suits to secure damages, 44. See 
Parsons Cause. 

Clinton, George, opposes federal Con 
stitution, 330; his letter answered 
by Henry, 353. 

Collier, Sir George, commands British 
fleet which ravages Virginia, 257, 
264, 267. 

Collins, , calls on John Adams, 


Committee of Correspondence, estab 
lished, 96. 

Committee of Safety, of Virginia, 
given control of Virginia militia, 
177 ; ignores Henry s nominal com 
mand, and keeps him from serving 
in field, 180, 181 ; causes for its ac 
tion, 184-187. 

Congress, Continental, called for by 
Virginia Burgesses, 98; delegates 
elected to in Virginia, 99 ; members 
of described, 101-108 ; convivialities 
attending session, 104-106 ; holds 
first meeting and plans organiza 

tion, 107-111 ; debates method of 
voting, 108, 111-113 ; elects a pre 
sident and secretary, 107, 108; re 
solves to vote by colonies, 113; 
appoints committee to state griev 
ances, and others, 113, 114 ; absence 
of reports of its action, 114; de 
bates and rejects Galloway s plan of 
union, 115, 116; discusses non-im 
portation, 117 ; appoints committees 
to draft state papers, 117, 118; re 
jects Lee s draft of address to king, 
118 ; mythical account of proceed 
ings in by Wirt, 119-122 ; fails, ac 
cording to Adams, to appreciate 
dangers of situation, 124 ; warns 
people to be prepared for war, 
129 ; selects Washington for com- 
mander-in-chief, 152, 153 ; second 
Congress convenes in 1775, 166; 
its proceedings secret and reports 
meagre, 168, 171-172; question as 
to Henry s behavior in, 168-170 ; the 
important questions decided by it, 
170, 171; committees in, 172-175; 
adjourns, 176 ; decides to adopt 
Virginia troops, 181 ; sends Henry 
a colonel s commission, 181 ; urged 
by Virginia to declare independ 
ence, 197 ; flies from Philadelphia, 
230; cabal in against Washington, 
242-250 ; reports of Henry to, con 
cerning sending militia south, 260- 
262; and concerning Matthews in 
vasion, 264-266. 

Congress of the United States, reluc 
tantly led by Madison to propose 
first ten amendments, 354-355. 

Connecticut, prepares for war, 131, 

Constitution of the United States, 
convention for forming it called, 
309 ; opposition to in South for fear 
of unfriendly action of Northern 
States, 309-311 ; refusal of Henry to 
attend convention, 310-312 ; formed 
by the convention, 313 ; its adoption 
urged upon Henry by Washington, 
313 ; struggle over its ratification in 
Virginia, 314-338 ; at outset favored 
by majority in Virginia, 315; cam 
paign of Henry, Mason, and others 
against, 316, 317 ; opposed by Vir- 



ginia bar and bench, 319; stnig- 
gles in the convention, 320-338; 
Henry s objections to, 322-330; pol 
icy of opposition to work for amend 
ments, 330 ; ratified by convention 
with reservation of sovereignty, 331, 
332 ; obedience to it promised by 
Henry for his party, 332, 333 ; strug 
gle for amendments, 339-350; dif 
ficulties in amending, 339, 340; 
doubts expressed by Henry of its 
possibility, 341 ; organization of a 
party to agitate for amendments, 
341-345 ; Virginia demands a new 
convention, 347-350 ; twelve amend 
ments proposed by Congress, 354 ; 
this action probably due to Vir 
ginia s demands, 355, 356. 

Constitution of Virginia, its adoption, 
200-211 ; its democratic character, 

Convention of Virginia. See Legis 

Conway, General Thomas, praised in 
anonymous letter to Henry, 244 ; 
his cabal against Washington, 250. 

Conway cabal, its origin, 242 ; at 
tempts to prejudice Henry against 
Washington, 243-246 ; explained 
by Washington to Henry, 248-250 ; 
supposed connection of R. H. Lee 
with, discredits him in Virginia, 
252, 253. 

Cootes, , of James River, laments 

Henry s treasonable speech in Par 
sons Cause, 58, 59. 

Corbin, Francis, favors ratification of 
federal Constitution, 320. 

Corbin, Richard, on Dunmore s order 
pays for gunpowder, 161. 

Cornwallis, Lord, defeats Greene at 
Guilford, 278 ; invades Virginia, 
279 ; sends Tarleton to capture the 
legislature, 279. 

Cushing, Thomas, member of second 
Continental Congress, 174. 

Custis, John, informs Henry of Con- 
way cabal, 247. 

mittee to notify Henry of his elec 
tion as governor, 212. 

Dandridge, Dorothea, second wife of 

Patrick Henry, 241; on his reli 
gious habits, 392. 

Dandridge, Colonel Nathan, Jefferson 
meets Henry at house of, 8. 

Dandridge, Nathaniel West, contests 
seat of Littlepage, 61 ; employs 
Henry as counsel, 61. 

Davies, William, letter to concerning 
dictatorship in 1781, 286. 

Dawson, John, assists Henry in debate 
on ratifying federal Constitution, 

Deane, Silas, describes Southern dele 
gates to first Continental Congress, 
especially Patrick Henry, 114, 115; 
on committees of second Continen 
tal Congress, 173, 174. 

Democratic party, disliked by Henry 
for its French sympathies, 397 ; its 
attempt in Congress to block Jay 
treaty condemned by Henry, 405 ; 
its subserviency to France and de 
fiance of government denounced by 
Henry, 409. 

Dickinson, John, meets John Adams at 
first Continental Congress, 105, 106 ; 
on committee to prepare address to 
the king, 117 ; prepares final draft 
of address, 118 ; thinks war inevi 
table, 130. 

Dictatorship, supposed projects for in 
Virginia during Revolution in 1776, 
223-235; in 1781, 285-287; real 
meaning of term in those years, 

Digges, Dudley, in Virginia conven 
tion of 1776, 190 ; on committee to 
draft bill of rights and constitution, 
200 ; on committee to notify Henry 
of his election as governor, 212. 

Dresser, Rev. Charles, on Henry s 
religious habits, 392. 

Duane, James, member of first Con 
tinental Congress, 108 ; moves a 
committee to prepare regulations 
for voting, 108 ; favors Galloway s 
plan of home rule, 115 ; on com 
mittee of second Continental Con 
gress, 172. 

Dnnmore, Lord, dissolves House of 
Burgesses for protesting against 
Boston Port Bill, 97 ; makes a cam 
paign against Indians, 131 ; reports 



to home government the military 
preparations of Virginia, 133 ; send) 
force to seize gunpowder, 156 
alarmed at advance of Henry : 
force, 160 ; offers to pay for gun 
powder, 160 ; issues a proclamatior 
against Henry, 162, 163 ; suspecte< 
of intention to arrest him, 166 ; de 
scribes to General Howe his opera 
tions against rebels, 178, 179; his 
palace occupied by Henry, 214. 

EDUCATION in Virginia, 5. 

Ellsworth, Oliver, appointed envoy to 
France, 412. 

Episcopal Church, established in Vir 
ginia, 37 ; its increasing unpopular 
ity, 43, 57 ; virtually disestablished 
by declaration of rights, 209; its 
incorporation proposed by Henry, 
294 ; Henry a member of, 391, 39. . 

demns Henry s speech against the 
Stamp Act, 86. 

Federalist party, at first viewed with 
suspicion by Henry, 397 ; later sym 
pathized with by him, 398, 399 ; 
sincerity of its leaders in offering 
Henry office questioned by Jeffer 
son, 404 ; its folly in passing alien 
and sedition acts, 408. 

Fleming, John, Henry s assistant in 
introducing the Virginia Resolves, 

Fontaine, Edward, gives Roane s de 
scription of Henry s speech for or 
ganizing militia, 146, 150. 

Fontaine, Mrs. Martha, with Henry in 
last illness, 421. 

Fontaine, Colonel Patrick Henry, 
statement as to Henry s classical 
training, 15 ; finds his examinations 
rigorous, 16; tells story of his 
grandfather s conversation in Latin 
with a French visitor, 16, 17 ; de 
scribes his grandfather s prepara 
tion in British debts case, 361 ; de 
scribes his abstemiousness, 386. 

Ford, John, defended by Henry in a 
murder case, 374, 375. 

France, alliance with desired by Henry 
as preliminary to declaring inde 

pendence, 194, 198, 199 ; discussed by 
Charles Lee, 195 ; adherence to, ad 
vocated strongly by Henry, 254, 255 ; 
infidelity of, combated by Henry, 
393 ; its quarrel with United States 
during Adams s administration, 407- 
412 ; its conduct toward Marshall, 
Pinckney, and Gerry condemned by 
Henry, 409, 410; commission to, 
nominated by Adams, 412. 

Franklin, Benjamin, on committee 
with Henry in second Continental 
Congress, 174, 175. 

Frazer, , recommended to Wash 
ington by Henry, 175. 

Free trade, advocated by Henry, 291, 

French Revolution, effect of its ex 
cesses on Henry and others, 398 ; 
its infidelity condemned by Henry, 

nental Congress, meets John Ad 
ams, 104, 105 ; a member of Con 
gress, 108 ; in debate on manner of 
voting, 112 ; on gunpowder commit 
tee of second Continental Congress, 

Sage, General Thomas, describes the 
exciting effect of the Virginia Re 
solves over the continent, 82. 

Gallatin, Albert, his alleged Latin con 
versation with Henry, 16, 17. 

Galloway, Joseph, meets John Adams 
at first Continental Congress, 105 ; 
a member of it, 108 ; offers plan of 
reconciliation with England, 115; 
its close approach to success, 115. 

Gardoqui, , Spanish envoy, nego 
tiates with Jay respecting naviga 
tion of the Mississippi, 307, 308. 

Gates, General Horatio, cabal to place 
him in supreme command, 242, 250 ; 
praised in anonymous letter to 
Henry, 244; consoled after battle 
of Camden by Virginia Assembly, 

ienet, Edmond Charles, upheld by 
Jefferson and Madison, 397. 

Jerry, Elbridge, opposes adoption of 
federal Constitution, 330. 

jerrymandering, employed in 1788 



against Madison in Virginia, 351, 

Girardin, Louis Hue, in his continua 
tion of Burk s " History of Vir 
ginia," written under Jefferson s 
supervision, accuses Henry of plan 
to establish a dictatorship in 177G, 
225; says the same for the year 
1781, 286. 

Gordon, Rev. William, describes cir 
culation of the Virginia resolutions 
in the Northern colonies, 80. 

Grayson, William, opposes ratifica 
tion of federal Constitution, 320 ; 
assists Henry in debate, 320 ; elected 
senator at Henry s dictation, 350, 

Greene, General Nathanael, beaten at 
Guilford, 278; considered as possi 
ble dictator in 1781, 286. 

Griffin, Judge Cyrus, tries British 
debts case, 362, 364. 

Grigsby, Hugh Blair, considers Wirt s 
version of Henry s speech for arm 
ing militia apocryphal, 149 ; but ad 
mits that outline is authentic, 150 ; 
reports statement of Clement Car- 
rington regarding Henry s military 
failings, 187 ; on the injustice of 
Henry s treatment, 188. 

HAMILTON, ALEXANDER, urges magnan 
imous treatment of Tories, 289 ; let 
ter of Madison to, warning of 
Henry s intention to defeat opera 
tion of Constitution, 344 ; his finan 
cial schemes disapproved by Henry, 

Hamilton, Colonel Henry, governor 
of Detroit, 259. 

Hampden-Sidney College, 16; sus 
pends work to hear Henry s last 
speech, 415. 

Hancock, John, his military aspira 
tions, 153, 154 ; doubtful about fed 
eral Constitution, 330. 

Hardwicke, Lord, declares Virginia 
option law invalid, 44. 

Harrison, Benjamin, on committee to 
remonstrate against Stamp Act, 66 ; 
appointed delegate to Continental 
Congress, 99; described by John 
Adams, 106; opposes Henry s mo 

tion in Virginia convention to or 
ganize militia, 137 ; on committee 
to arm militia, 151 ; on other com 
mittees, 152 ; returns to Virginia 
convention, 176 ; his flight from 
Tarleton, 281, 282 ; denounces Con 
stitution as dangerous, 319, 322; 
assists Henry in debate, 320. 

Harvey, " Butterwood Tom," his evi 
dence assailed by Henry in a mur 
der trial, 374, 375. 

Hawley, Joseph, his letter prophesy 
ing war read by John Adams to 
Henry, 125. 

Henry, David, manager of "Gen 
tleman s Magazine," kinsman of 
Henry, 3. 

Henry, John, marries Sarah Syme, 2 ; 
father of Patrick Henry, 2 ; his ed 
ucation and character, 2, 3 ; distin 
guished Scotch relatives, 3 ; edu 
cates his son, 6, 13 ; sets him up in 
trade, 6 ; after his failure and mar 
riage establishes him on a farm, 7 ; 
hears his son s speech in Parsons 
Cause, 49, 50. 

Henry, Patrick, his birth, 2 ; ances 
try and relatives, 2-5 ; education, 
6, 6; apprenticed at fifteen to a 
tradesman, 6 ; fails in business with 
his brother, 6 ; marries Sarah Skel- 
ton, 7 ; established as planter by 
relative and fails, 7 ; again tries 
store-keeping and fails, 8 ; not cast 
down by embarrassments, 8, 9 ; de 
cides to study law, 9 ; discussion of 
his alleged illiteracy, 10-19; his 
pronunciation, 10, 11 ; habits of 
self-depreciation, 11, 12 ; his teach 
ers, 13, 15 ; knowledge of Latin and 
Greek, 13, 15 ; mastery of language, 
13; signs of culture in his letters, 
14 ; anecdotes illustrating his know 
ledge of Latin, 16, 17 ; his taste for 
reading, 18 ; fondness for history, 
19 ; liking for Butler s " Analogy " 
and the Bible, 20 ; his natural quali 
fications for the law, 21 ; studies 
law, 22 ; goes to Williamsburg to be 
examined, 22 ; Jefferson s stories of 
his difficulties in passing examina 
tion, 23 ; his own statement, 24, 25 ; 
returns to Hanover to practice law, 



25 ; lives in his father-in-law s tav 
ern, 26; not a "barkeeper," 26; 
not dependent on his father-in-law, 
27 ; stories of his lack of practice, 
27 ; their falsity shown by records 
of his numerous cases, 27, 28 ; state 
ments by Wirt and Jefferson as to 
his ignorance, 29, 30 ; their impossi 
bility, 31, 32, 34 ; proof of technical 
character of his practice, 32; his 
legal genius, 34 ; becomes celebrated 
through " Parsons Cause," 36 ; un 
dertakes to defend vestrymen in 
suit for damages, 46 ; insists on ac 
ceptance of a jury of common peo 
ple, 47 ; description of his speech 
by Wirt, 49-52 ; its overwhelming 
effect, 51, 52 ; description by Maury, 
53, 54; denies royal authority to 
annul colonial laws, 54 ; apologizes 
to Maury, 55, 57 ; not really an 
enemy of the clergy, 56, 57 ; his 
geniality, 58 ; popularity with the 
masses in Virginia, 59 ; gains great 
reputation and increased practice, 
60 ; goes to Williamsburg as coun 
sel in contested election case, 60 ; 
despised by committee on account 
of appearance, 61 ; his speech, 61. 
Member of Virginia Legislature. 
Elected representative from Louisa 
County, 62; attacks in his first 
speech a project for a corrupt loan 
office, 64 ; introduces resolutions 
against Stamp Act, 69; his fiery 
speeches in their behalf, 72, 73; 
after their passage leaves for home, 
74 ; neglects to preserve records of 
his career, 77 ; the exception his care 
to record authorship of Virginia 
resolutions, 78 ; leaves a sealed ac 
count together with his will, 83, 
84, 85 ; doubts as to his authorship, 
84, note ; condemned in Virginia 
by the officials, 86 ; denounced by 
Governor Fauquier, 86 ; and by 
Commissary Robinson, 86, 87 ; be 
gins to be known in other colonies, 
88 ; gains immediate popularity in 
Virginia, 88, 89; becomes political 
leader, 90 ; his large law practice, 
91, 92 ; buys an estate, 91 ; his great 
success in admiralty case, 93 ; suc 

ceeds to practice of R. C. Nicholas, 
93, 94; evidence of high legal at 
tainments, 94 ; leads radical party 
in politics, 95 ; his great activity, 
96; member of Committee of Cor 
respondence, 96; leads delibera 
tions of Burgesses over Boston Port 
Bill, 98 ; appointed delegate to Con 
tinental Congress, 99 ; member of 
convention of county delegates, 100. 
Member of Continental Congress. 
His journey to Philadelphia, 100, 

101 ; his oratory heralded by associ 
ates, 101 ; described by Atkinson, 

102 ; speaks in favor of committee 
to settle method of voting, 110 ; 
protests against small colonies hav 
ing equal vote with large, 111 ; 
urges that old constitutions are 
abolished, 112 ; wishes proportional 
representation, excluding slaves, 
112 ; his speech not that of a mere 
rhetorician, 113, 114; on committee 
on colonial trade and manufactures, 
114 ; opposes Galloway s plan, 116 ; 
expects war, 116; wishes non-inter 
course postponed, 117 ; on commit 
tee to prepare address to the king, 
117 ; his share in its composition, 
117, 118 ; on committee to declare 
rights of colonies, 118 ; his practical 
ability not so extraordinary as his 
oratory, 119 ; misrepresented as a 
mere declaimer, 120 ; mythical ac 
count by Wirt of an impressive 
speech, 120-121 ; asserted also to be 
author of rejected draft of address 
to the king, 122 ; and to be cast in 
the shade by more practical men, 
122 ; this passage a slander due to 
Jefferson, 123 ; not considered a 
mere talker by associates, 124 ; high 
tribute to his practical ability by 
John Adams, 124, 125 ; agrees with 
Adams that war must come. 125 ; 
allusion of his mother to him in 
1774, 126; fame of his speech for 
arming Virginia militia, 128 ; dan 
ger of an overestimate, 129; in 
Virginia convention offers resolu 
tions to prepare for war, 134 ; op 
posed by his political rivals, 137 ; 
and by all who dreaded an open 



rupture, 138, 139 ; his speech, 140- 
145 ; description of Henry s manner 
by St. George Tucker, 143 ; by 
Randall, 14G ; by John Roane, 146- 
149 ; question as to its authenticity, 
149-151 ; chairman of committee for 
arming militia, 151 ; also on com 
mittees on public lands and on en 
couragement of manufactures, 151, 
152 ; his possible expectations of a 
military career, 155; summary of 
his military beginnings, 155, 156; 
disgusted at failure of militia to re 
sist Governor Dunmore s seizure of 
gunpowder, 158; wishes to empha 
size situation by defying gov 
ernor, 158 ; rallies county militia 
and inarches against him, 159 ; re 
ceives protests from conservatives, 
160 ; reinforced by thousands, 160 ; 
secures money compensation for 
gunpowder, 160; gives receipt for 
it, 161 ; offers to protect colonial 
treasurer, 161 ; rebuffed by him, 
162 ; denounced in proclamation by 
Dunmore, 162, 163 ; condemned by 
conservatives, K54 ; thanked and ap 
plauded by county conventions, 164- 
166 ; returns to Continental Con 
gress, 166 ; escorted by volunteer 
guard, 167 ; said by Jefferson to 
have been insignificant in Congress, 

168, 169; falsity of his assertions, 

169, 170 ; their lack of probability, 
171 ; his activity proved by records 
of Congress, 172-175 ; interested in 
Indian relations, 172; on commit 
tees requiring business intelligence, 
172, 173 ; commissioner to treat 
with Indians, 174 ; on committee to 
secure lead and salt, 174; asks 
Washington to let a Virginian serve 
in army for sake of acquiring mili 
tary training, 175 ; returns to Vir 
ginia, 176. 

Political Lender in Virginia. Re 
sumes services in Virginia conven 
tion, 176 ; purchases powder for 
colony, 176 ; thanked by conven 
tion, 176 ; appointed commander- 
in-chief of Virginia forces, 177 ; his 
authority limited by convention and 
Committee of Safety, 177 ; organizes 

troops, 178 ; not permitted to lead 
attack on Dunmore, 180; ignored 
by nominal subordinates, 180 ; prac 
tically superseded by Colonel Howe 
of North Carolina, 180; appointed 
colonel of a Virginia regiment, 181 ; 
resigns, 181 ; indignation of his offi 
cers and soldiers, 181-182; per 
suades soldiers not to mutiny, 183 ; 
again receives an address from offi 
cers of his own and other regi 
ments, 183, 184 ; his military ability 
doubted by Committee of Safety, 
185 ; by Washington and others, 
186 ; lack of definiteness in crit 
icisms, 186 ; real defect seems to 
have been lack of discipline, 
187 ; never given a real chance 
to show his abilities, 188; sad 
dened by wife s death, 189; re- 
elected to Virginia convention, 190 ; 
his followers oppose Pendleton for 
president, 191 ; serves on all impor 
tant committees, 192, 193; pre 
sents numerous reports, 193 ; eager 
for independence, 193 ; but wishes 
first a colonial union and a foreign 
alliance, 194 ; letter of Charles Lee 
to, on the subject, 194-196; in 
fluences convention to instruct del 
egates to advocate all three things, 
197 ; advocates colonial union and 
French alliance in letters to Lee 
and Adams, 198; willing to offer 
free trade, 199 ; on committee to 
draft declaration of rights and plan 
of government, 200 ; leads party ad 
vocating a democratic constitution, 
201 ; complains of lack of assist 
ance, 203 ; fears aristocratic tenden 
cies of committee, 203, 204-206; 
thanks John Adams for his pam 
phlet, 205 ; hearty letter of Adams 
in reply, 206, 207 ; writes fifteenth 
and sixteenth articles of Virginia 
bill of rights, 208 ; elected governor 
of State, 21 1 ; his letter of accept 
ance, 212-213 ; takes oath of office 
and occupies Dunmore s palace, 214 ; 
congratulated by his old troops, 214, 
215 ; by Charles Lee, 215 ; by the 
Baptists of Virginia, 216, 217 ; his 
reply to the latter, 217 ; suffers 



from illness, 218 ; moves family 
from Hanover to Williamsburg, 219 ; 
seeks to maintain dignity of office, 
219, 220 ; continues in ill-health but 
resumes duties of office, 220 ; re 
ceives letter from Washington ad 
vising preparations for defense, 221 ; 
his activity in military preparations, 
222 ; sneered at by his enemies, 
222, 223; alleged by Jefferson to 
have planned a " dictatorship," 223- 
225 ; doubted by Wirt, 226 ; real 
meaning of the term at that time 
only extraordinary power, 227-229 ; 
authorized by legislature in 1776 
to exercise military powers in 
emergency, 231, 232; utter base 
lessness of Jefferson s charges 
against, 233 ; has continued confi 
dence of Assembly, 234; reelected 
governor, 234 ; issues proclamation 
urging Virginians to volunteer, 235 ; 
labors to keep Virginia troops in 
field, 236 ; sends a secret messenger 
to Washington for exact informa 
tion, 236 ; explains to Washington 
the difficulties of raising troops in 
Virginia, 237, 238; second letter 
accepting governorship, 239; mar 
ries Dorothea Dandridge, 241 ; his 
labors in trying to furnish supplies, 
241 ; great official correspondence, 
241, 242 ; his aid desired by Conway 
cabal, 243 ; receives an anonymous 
letter against Washington, 243-245 ; 
sends it to Washington with a warn 
ing, 245, 246 ; sends second letter 
assuring him of his confidence, 247 ; 
replies of Washington to, 248-250 ; 
his strong friendship with Washing 
ton, 251, 252 ; its significance in his 
later career, 251 ; warns R. H. Lee 
of prejudices against him in Vir 
ginia, 252, 253 ; despairs of public 
spirit in Virginia, 254 ; urges adher 
ence to French alliance and rejec 
tion of North s peace offers, 255 ; 
twice receives extraordinary powers 
in 1777, 256 ; reelected to a third 
term, 256 ; his reply, 256 ; reports 
the success of George R. Clark s 
expedition, 258-260 ; again receives 
extraordinary powers, 260 ; writes 

to president of Congress concern 
ing military situation, 260-262 ; fore 
sees shifting of British attack to 
Virginia, 262 ; reports situation to 
Washington, 263; reports Matthews s 
raid to Congress, 264-267 ; issues a 
proclamation to warn State, 266; 
declines reelection on ground of 
unconstitutionally, 268 ; compli 
mented by General Assembly, his 
reply, 268 ; his administration 
sneered at by Tucker, 269 ; compli 
mented by Washington, 269, 270 ; 
declines election to Congress, 271 ; 
retires to his estate, Leather wood, 
272 ; remains in retirement a year, 
272; writes despondent letter to 
Jefferson, 273-275 ; chosen to Gen 
eral Assembly, 275 ; at once assumes 
leadership, 275 ; overwhelmed by 
committee work, 276 ; again in 
later session, 276-278 ; introduces 
resolutions to console Gates after 
Camden, 277 ; introduces resolu 
tion authorizing governor to con 
vene legislature elsewhere in case 
of invasion, 278; his flight with 
legislature from Tarleton s raid, 
281 ; ludicrous anecdotes of popu 
lar surprise at his flight, 282-284 ; 
said by Jefferson to have been again 
considered for a dictatorship, 285 ; 
contrary evidence, 286, 287 ; his 
further labors in sessions of 1782, 
1783, 1784, 287 ; again elected gov 
ernor, 288 ; difficulty of estimating 
his labors in legislature, 288 ; favors 
rescinding of measures against To 
ries after war, 289 ; his speech in 
their behalf, 290, 291 ; urges eco 
nomic benefits of their return, 291 ; 
presents bill repealing acts against 
British goods, 292 ; advocates free 
trade, 292 ; wishes to solve Indian 
problem by encouraging intermar 
riage, 292, 293 ; almost succeeds in 
carrying bill to that effect, 293 ; 
antagonizes popular opinion in the 
foregoing projects, and also in reli 
gious liberality, 294 ; his amazing 
mastery over the House, 294, 295 ; 
his appearance in legislature de 
scribed by Roane, 295-297 ; more 



practical than Madison, 29G ; supe 
rior to Madison and Lee in debate 
296 ; death of his mother, 299 
brings his family from Leatherwood 
to Salisbury, 299 ; his showy style 
of living, 300 ; letter to Washington 
301 ; urges him to accept shares ii 
James and Potomac navigation com 
panies, 302 ; declines a third term 
and retires, 302 ; publicly thanked 
by delegates, 302 ; resumes practice 
of law in Prince Edward County, 
303 ; returns to Assembly until 1790, 
303 ; continues popular leader, 303. 
Opponent of the Federal Constitu 
tion. His relation to the Constitu 
tion not understood, 298 ; not an 
extreme advocate of state rights, 
303 ; an early advocate of a central 
authority, 304 ; supports in the 
main the policy of strengthening 
the federal government, 305 ; pro 
poses to Madison to " invigorate " 
the government, 305; considered 
by Madison a " champion of the 
federal cause" until 1787, 306; 
learns of Jay s offer to surrender 
navigation of Mississippi, 307 ; 
elected a delegate to the federal 
convention, 309; refuses, because 
of the Mississippi scheme, to at 
tend, 310, 311 ; anxiety over his 
refusal, 311, 312; receives appeal 
from Washington in behalf of Con 
stitution, 313; replies stating his 
disapproval, 313 ; fears expressed 
that he would prevent calling of a 
state convention, 314 ; but con 
siders one necessary, 315 ; labors to 
turn public opinion against the Con 
stitution, 315, 316; said to favor 
disunion, 317 ; his political methods 
censured by President Smith, 317 ; 
leads opposition to Constitution in 
the convention, 320 ; his great ac 
tivity in debate, 321 ; great ability 
of his arguments, 321 ; not, in the 
convention at least, a disunionist, 
322, 323 ; willing to admit defects 
in Confederation, 323 ; objects that 
a new Constitution was beyond 
powers of federal convention, 324 ; 
further holds that state sovereignty 

is threatened, 324 ; objects that the 
individual is protected by no bill of 
rights, 325, 326; dreads implied 
powers, 327 ; criticises the proposed 
government, 327 ; considers the ex 
ecutive dangerous, 328, 329 ; fears 
danger to popular liberties, 329 ; 
wishes to submit matter to a new 
convention, 330 ; failing that, wishes 
it postponed until a bill of rights be 
added, 331 ; foreseeing defeat, he 
promises submission to majority, 
332 ; effectiveness of his eloquence, 
333, 334 ; his unwillingness to de 
bate regularly, 334 ; provokes Ran 
dolph into accusing him of unparlia 
mentary behavior, 335 ; taunted by 
Stephen and others as a mere de- 
claimer, 335 ; the variety and effec 
tiveness of his arguments, 335, 336 ; 
episode of his speech in the thunder 
storm, 336-338 ; fears amendments 
cannot be adopted, 341 ; begins a 
campaign for them, 341, 342 ; urges 
formation of societies to agitate for 
a bill of rights, 342, 343 ; suspected 
by Madison of purpose to revoke 
ratification or block action of Con 
gress, 343, 344; satisfaction pro 
duced by his announcement of sub 
mission, 344 ; enters with zeal into 
plan for a second convention, 345 ; 
gains complete control of Virginia 
Assembly, 346 ; causes passage of 
resolutions asking Congress to call 
a national convention, 346 ; threat 
ens to fight government unless 
amendments are adopted, 347 ; con 
demned bitterly by Federalists, 347 ; 
wishes to control Virginia delega 
tion to Congress, 350 ; prevents 
choice of Madison and dictates elec 
tion of R. H. Lee and Grayson as 
senators, 350 ; his followers gerry 
mander the congressional districts, 
351 ; retires from the legislature, 
352 ; bitter comments on his ac 
tion, 353 ; fails to prevent election 
of Madison, 354 ; probable effect 
of his action in leading Congress 
itself to propose amendments, 355 ; 
virtual success of his policy, 355, 



In Retirement. Resumes practice 
of law, 357 ; driven to it by debt, 357, 
358 ; prematurely old at fifty, 358 ; 
in eight years succeeds in gaining 
wealth enough to retire, 358 ; great 
demand for his services, 359; his part 
in the British debts case, 359-367 ; 
associated with Marshall, Campbell, 
and Innes, 360 ; his laborious prepa 
rations for the trial, 361 ; masters 
subject completely, 362 ; description 
of his plea before the district court, 
363 ; description of his second plea 
in same case, 1793, 364-366 ; com 
plimented by Justice Iredell for abil 
ity of argument, 366, 367 ; his even 
greater effectiveness in criminal 
cases, 367 ; analysis by Wirt of his 
methods, 368; another description 
of his eloquence by A. Alexander, 
369-371 ; description by Alexander 
of his part in a murder case, 371- 
375 ; another murder case described 
by Roane, 375-378 ; also his ability 
in the comic line, 377 ; description 
of his powers in another murder 
trial by Conrad Speece, 378-381 ; 
retires permanently in 1794, 382; 
lives at Long Island, and eventually 
settles at Red Hill, 382 ; his success 
ful investments, 383; not rich 
through dishonorable means as sug 
gested by Jefferson, 383 ; his life at 
Red Hill, 384-395 ; happy relations 
with his family, 384; calmness of 
temper, 385 ; unruffled by scurril 
ous attacks, 385, 386 ; his advocacy 
of temperance, 386 ; tries to intro 
duce a substitute for wine, 386; 
his dislike of tobacco, 387 ; his elo 
cutionary manner of directing ne 
groes in the morning, 387 ; his 
ownership of slaves and dislike of 
slavery, 388 ; advocates emancipa 
tion, 389 ; his hospitality, 389 ; his 
modesty, 390 ; tendency to plume 
himself on wealth, 390; assists in 
education of children, 391 ; his en 
joyment of religious writings and 
sacred music, 391 ; his religious 
character and habits, 391 ; a mem 
ber of the Episcopal Church, 392 ; 
his anger at being called an infidel, 

392 ; alarmed at French skepticism, 
393; causes Butler s "Analogy" 
and other books to be distributed, 
394 ; writes a reply to Paine s " Age 
of Reason," but causes it to be de 
stroyed, 394, 395 ; inseits an affir 
mation of his faith in his will, 395 ; 
continues to take interest in current 
events, 395 ; satisfied with the Con 
stitution after the ten amendments, 

396 ; but finds it hard to approve 
at once the Federalist government, 

397 ; dislikes Hamilton s financial 
measures, 397 ; gradually drawn 
toward Federalists and away from 
Jeffersonians, 398 ; testimony of 
Iredell to his liberality, 398; de 
clines appointment as United States 
senator, 398 ; believes that Wash 
ington considers him an enemy, 
399; reconciled to Washington by 
Henry Lee, 399; his letter to Lee, 
400, 401 ; dislikes democratic socie 
ties, 401 ; offered position as secre 
tary of state, 402 ; declines it, 402 ; 
receives from Washington through 
Lee an offer of chief justiceship, 
402, 403 ; Washington s anxiety for 
his acceptance, 403 ; declines it, 
404 ; considered by Federalists for 
vice-presidency, 404 ; sneered at by 
Jefferson, 404; denies that he has 
changed opinions, 405 ; dislikes Jay 
treaty, but condemns attempt of 
House to participate in treaty power, 
405 ; elected governor of Virginia, 
declines, 406 ; asked to express his 
opinion on political situation in 
1799, 408 ; believes that Jefferson s 
party plans disunion, 409; alarmed at 
French Revolution, 409 ; especially 
at infidelity, 410 ; compliments Mar 
shall s bearing in France, and wishes 
his election to Congress, 410, 411 ; 
urges American national feeling, 
410 ; declines Adams s nomination 
as minister to France, 412 ; but ex 
presses his sympathy with him, 412 : 
appealed to by Washington to come 
forward against the Democrats, 413, 
414 ; comes out from retirement as 
candidate for legislature, 415 ; great 
public interest, 415 ; description of 



his last speech, 416-419 ; dissuades 
from resistance to the government 
417 ; denies the power of a State to 
decide on federal laws, 418 ; urges 
harmony and use of constitution 
means of redress, 418, 419; his 
meeting with John Randolph, 420 
elected by a great majority, 420 ; 
returns home, 421 ; his last illness 
and death, 421-423. 

Characteristics. Absence of self- 
conciousness, 77 ; abstemiousness, 
38G, 387 ; audacity, 64, 69, 294 ; busi 
ness inefficiency, 6, 7, 8, 388 ; early 
fondness for the woods, 5, 29, 30 ; 
education, 6, 10, 13-17, 122; elo 
quence, 48-52, 61, 64, 72, 93, 98, 
115, 128, 140-151, 159, 295, 297, 333- 
338, 363, 365, 368-381, 418 ; friend 
ships, 251, 252, 273, 399 ; geniality 
and kindliness, 57, 58, 117, 220, 277, 
332, 385, 398, 399-401 ; high spirits, 
8, 9, 18, 76 ; honor, 245, 251 ; indo 
lence in youth, 5, 6, 29 ; influence 
with the people, 59, 60, 88, 89, 102, 
160, 164-167, 181-184, 282-284, 316, 
346, 415, 420 ; keenness and quick 
ness, 21, 33, 34 ; legal ability, 24, 
25, 29, 33, 92, 93, 94, 359-381 ; mili 
tary ability, 155, 185-188 ; modesty, 
212, 239 ; not a mere declaimer, 98, 
113, 119-125, 169, 321; personal 
appearance, 220, 296, 300, 364, 416; 
political sense, 109, 110, 117, 124, 125, 
158, 195, 245, 258, 289-291 ; practi 
cal ability, 30, 172-175, 192-193, 241, 
242, 260-270, 275 ; reading habits, 
18, 19, 391 ; religious views, 20, 56, 
126, 208, 218, 389-395, 422, 423 ; rus 
ticity in early life, 10, 61 ; self- 
depreciation, 11, 12; simplicity of 
manners, 220, 379, 384 ; unfriendly 
views of, 222, 269, 396. See Jeifer- 
son, Thomas. 

Political Opinions. Amendments 
to the Constitution, 340-349, 355; 
bill of rights, 327 ; church estab 
lishment, 53, 208-210; colonial 
union, 116, 193-199; Democratic 
party, 409; democracy, 201, 204; 
disunion, 317, 323, 409 ; executive 
power, 328, 329 ; federal Constitu 
tion, 313, 323-331, 405, 418 ; French 

alliance, 193-199, 254, 255 ; French 
Revolution, 409 ; free trade, 291, 
292 ; gerrymandering, 351 ; inde 
pendence of colonies, 193ff. ; Indi 
ans, 172, 173, 258, 292, 293; Jay 
treaty, 405 ; Mississippi navigation, 
309-311 ; necessity for central au 
thority, 304-306, 322 ; not connected 
with plan for a dictatorship, 224-229, 
233, 234, 286, 287 ; nullification, 417, 
418 ; power of crown to annul a 
colonial law, 53 ; power of Parlia 
ment over colonies, 69-71, 95; re 
sistance to England, 125, 140-145; 
slavery, 388, 389 ; state rights, 
323 If. ; theory that colonies are dis 
solved by revolution, 111, 112 ; To 
ries, 289-291 ; treaty power, 405 ; 
Virginia state Constitution, 201- 

Henry, Rev. Patrick, uncle of Patrick 
Henry, helps in his education, 6; 
a good classical scholar, 13, 15; 
persuaded by Henry not to be pre 
sent at Parsons Cause, 57. 

Henry, William, elder brother of Pat 
rick Henry, becomes his partner in 
trade, 6. 

Henry, William Wirt, on difficulty of 
reconciling Jefferson s statements 
regarding Henry s ignorance of law 
with his large practice, 33 ; on base 
lessness of Jefferson s dictatorship 
story, 233. 

Herkimer, his defeat by St. Leger, 

Holland, , defended by Henry on 

charge of murder, 376, 377. 

Holt, James, on committee of Vir- 
gia convention, 152. 

Hopkins, Stephen, meets John Adams 
at first Continental Congress, 105 ; 
a member, 108 ; in second Conti 
nental Congress, 175. 

Howe, General Robert, commands 
North Carolina and Virginia troops 
and ignores Henry, 180. 

Howe, General Sir William, letter of 
Dunmore to, describing military op 
erations in Virginia, 178 ; his slug 
gishness in 1777, 236 ; his move 
ments in that year, 240, 241 ; his 
capture of Philadelphia, 243. 



INDEPENDENCE, brought unavoidably 
before country in 1776, 190, 193; 
sentiment in Virginia convention in 
favor of, 193 ; its postponement 
wished by Henry until a colonial 
union and foreign alliances be 
formed, 194 ; letter of Charles Lee 
urging its immediate declaration, 

Indians, troubles with in Virginia in 
1774, 126, 131 ; negotiations with in 
Continental Congress, 171, 172, 173, 
174 ; in Virginia convention, 192 ; 
expedition of G. R. Clark against, 
258-260, 263 ; dealings with South 
western Indians, 263 ; proposals of 
Henry to encourage intermarriage 
with, 292, 293. 

Innes, James, receives a speech of 
Henry to his constituents from Rev. 
J. B. Smith, 317 ; favors ratifica 
tion of federal Constitution, 320; 
with Henry in British debts case, 

Iredell, Judge James, tries British 
debts case, 364 ; describes eager 
ness to hear Henry, 364 ; effect of 
Henry s oratory upon, 365 ; compli 
ments him in opinion, 366 ; won over 
from dislike of Henry by his mod 
eration and liberality, 398. 

JAY, JOHN, member of first Conti 
nental Congress, 108 ; opposes Hen 
ry s proposal to frame a new Con- | 
stitution, 112 ; favors Galloway s 
plan of reconciliation, 115 ; as likely 
as Henry to be a good fighter, 188 ; 
but inferior to him in not offering, 
188 ; proposes to Congress to sur 
render navigation of Mississippi, 
307 ; as chief justice, tries British 
debts case, 364 ; points out Henry 
to Iredell as the " greatest of ora 
tors," 364 ; affected by Henry s ora 
tory, 365 ; converses with him on 
politics, 398. 

Jay treaty, condemned by Henry, 405. 

Jefferson, Thomas, meets Patrick 
Henry, 8 ; describes his hilarity, 9 ; 
his vulgar pronunciation, 10 ; calls 
him illiterate, 12; yet admits his 
mastery over language, 13 ; at Wil- 

liamsburg when Henry comes for 
his bar examination, 22 ; his sto 
ries of Henry s examination, 23 ; 
says Henry was a barkeeper, 26; 
describes him as ignorant of the 
law and inefficient, 29, 30; com 
parison of his legal business with 
Henry s, 31 ; baselessness Of his 
imputations, 32, 33 ; describes Hen 
ry s maiden speech in legislature 
against "loan office, "64; present 
at debate over Virginia resolutions, 
73, 74 ; his conflicting statements 
for and against Henry s authorship 
of the resolves, 84, note ; describes 
Henry s attainment to leadership, 
88 ; prominent member of bar, 93; 
declines offer of practice of R. C. 
Nicholas, 94 ; asserts that Henry was 
totally ignorant of law, 94 ; with 
radical group in politics, 95 ; fur 
nishes Wirt with statements of Hen 
ry s insignificance in Congress, 123 ; 
induces Wirt not to mention his 
name, 123 ; admits Henry s leader 
ship in Virginia, 139 ; on committee 
for arming militia, 151 ; on other 
committees, 152 ; says that Henry 
committed the first overt act of 
war in Virginia, 155 ; says Henry 
was a silent member of second Con 
tinental Congress and glad to leave, 
168, 169 ; errors of fact in his state 
ment, 169, 170 ; appears as dele 
gate to second Continental Con 
gress, 173 ; returns to Virginia con 
vention, 176 ; favors a democratic 
Constitution, 202 ; describes plan to 
establish a dictatorship in Virginia, 
224 ; intimates that Henry was the 
proposed tyrant, 225 ; induces Gi- 
rardin to state fact in " History of 
Virginia," 225; furnishes the story 
to Wirt, 226 ; unhistorical charac 
ter of his narrative, 227-229; him 
self the recipient as governor of ex 
traordinary powers from legislature, 
228 ; probably invents the whole 
story, 233 ; makes no opposition to 
subsequent reflections of Henry, 
235 ; his later dislike of Henry, 251 , 
on committee to notify Henry ol 
his second reelection as governor, 



256 ; elected governor, 268 ; fears 
of Tucker as to his energy, 269 ; 
continues on friendly terms with 
Henry while governor, 273; de 
spondent letter of Henry to, on 
political decay, 273-275 ; reflected, 
276 ; his flight from Tarleton, 285 ; 
his story of second plan to make 
Henry dictator, 285 ; unhistorical 
character of the story, 285-287 ; 
his statement flatly contradicted 
by Edmund Randolph, 286; told 
by Madison of Henry s desire to 
strengthen central government, 
305; and of Virginian opposition 
to abandoning Mississippi naviga 
tion, 307, 308, 311 ; informed by 
Madison of opposition to Constitu 
tion in Virginia, 315, 316, 345 ; not in 
Virginia ratifying Convention, 319 ; 
opposes new constitution, 319 ; 
thinks it dangerous to liberty, 330 ; 
letter from Madison to, explaining 
his defeat for senator, 351 ; charges 
Henry with paying debts in worth 
less paper, and with connection 
with the Yazoo scheme, 383 ; forms 
opposition party to Washington, 
397, sneers at Federalist advances 
to Henry, 404; secures his election 
as governor of Virginia, 406 ; his 
letter to Mazzei published, 407; 
writes Kentucky resolutions, 408. 

Jenyns, Soame, his " View of the In 
ternal Evidence of Christianity," 
printed by Henry for private distri 
bution, 394. 

Johnson, Thomas, on committee of 
Continental Congress to prepare 
address to the king, 117 ; opposes 
Pendleton for president of Virginia 
convention, 191. 

Johnston, George, aids Henry in intro 
ducing Virginia Resolves, 69, 72; 
said by Jefferson to have written 
them, 84, note. 

Johnstone, Governor George, his mem 
bership of North s peace commis 
sion a surprise to Henry, 255. 

Jones, Allen, confers with Henry over 
weakness of Confederation, 305, 306. 

Jones, William, plaintiff in British 
debts case, 360. 

Jouette, Captain John, warns Virginia 
legislature of Tarleton s approach* 
280, 281. 

KENTUCKY resolutions written by Jef 
ferson, 408. 

King, address to the, in Continental 
Congress, 117, 118 ; its authorship 
wrongly accredited to Henry, 118, 

Kirkland, Rev. Samuel, urged by 
Continental Congress to secure neu 
trality of the Six Nations, 174. 

LAMB, GENERAL JOHN, letter from 
Henry to, on Virginia opposition to 
Constitution, 342. 

Langdon, John, on gunpowder and 
salt committee of the second Conti 
nental Congress, 175. 

Lear, Tobias, describes Henry s con 
trol of Virginia politics in 1788, 353. 

Lee, Arthur, letter of Marshall to, 

Lee, General Charles, describes mili 
tary preparations of colonies in 1774, 
and predicts war, 130, 131 ; envied 
by Adams on his departure to com 
mand colonial army, 154 ; appointed 
by Congress major-general, 172 ; 
special difficulties of his situation, 
173 ; tells Washington that Virginia 
is ready for independence, 193 ; 
eager for independence, 194 ; urges 
its immediate declaration upon 
Henry, 194 - 196 ; congratulates 
Henry on his election as governor, 
215 ; ridicules popular fondness for 
titles, 215, 216 ; praised in anony 
mous letter to Henry, 244. 

Lee, Henry, in Virginia convention of 
1776, 190 ; on committee to draft 
bill of rights and state Constitu 
tion, 200 ; on committee to notify 
Henry of election as governor, 212 ; 
favors ratification of federal Consti 
tution, 320 ; appoints Henry United 
States senator in 1794, 398 ; deter- 
mines to reconcile Washington and 
Henry, 398 ; describes Henry s 
friendly attitude to Washington, 
399 ; acts as successful intermedi 
ary, 399-403 ; offers to Henry, in 



tion, 310 ; comments on his reasons, 
311, 312; informs Jefferson and 
Randolph of Henry s opposition to 
the Constitution, 315, 316 ; accuses 
Henry of wishing disunion, 317 
letter of J. B. Smith to, condemn 
ing Henry s methods, 317 ; describes 
elements of opposition to Constitu 
tion, 319 ; the principal champion 
of ratification, 320 ; his power in 
debate, 333 ; suspects Henry of in 
tention to destroy effect of Con 
stitution, 343, 344 ; Washington s 
letters to on same subject, 346 ; de 
feated for senator through Henry s 
influence, 351 ; his defeat for repre 
sentative attempted by gerryman 
dering, 351, 353 ; elected neverthe 
less, 354 ; leads House to consider 
constitutional amendments, 354, 
355 ; probably led by fear of Henry s 
opposition, 355 ; forms opposition 
party to Washington, 397 ; writes 
Virginia resolutions, 408. 

Madison, Thomas, on Henry s defense 
of Holland for murder, 376. 

Marshall, John, on Henry s determi 
nation to have Mississippi naviga 
tion for the South, 31 1 ; favors rati 
fication of federal Constitution, 320 ; 
with Henry in British debts case, 
360 ; his argument not legally su 
perior to Henry s, 366 ; commended 
for his conduct in France as a can 
didate for Congress by Henry, 410, 

Martin, Luther, opposes federal Con 
stitution, 330. 

Maryland, its convention recommends 
organization of militia, 132 ; its res 
olutions justifying this action imi 
tated elsewhere, 133. 

Mason, George, leader of radicals in 
Virginia, 95 ; his high opinion of 
Henry s abilities, 98 ; in convention 
of 1776, 190 ; on committee to draft 
bill of rights and Constitution, 200, 
204 ; favors a democratic govern 
ment, 202 ; author of first fourteen 
articles of bill of rights, 208 ; a de 
vout Episcopalian, 210 ; on commit 
tee to notify Henry of his election 
as governor, 212 ; opposes ratifica 

tion of Constitution, 315, 316, 320 ; 
chief assistant of Henry in debate, 
320 ; agrees to act as chairman of 
Virginia republican society, 342. 

Mason, Thompson, prominent mem 
ber of Virginia bar, 93 ; surpassed 
by Henry in admiralty case, 93. 

Massachusetts, calls for Stamp Act 
Congress, 80, 81 ; enthusiasm in for 
Virginia resolutions, 81, 82 ; pre 
pares for war, 134. 

Matthews, General Edward, com 
mands British raid into Virginia, 
257, 2G4, 267. 

Maury, Rev. James, wins his case for 
damages after annulling of option 
law, 45 ; describes Henry s speech 
in Parsons Cause, 52-55. 

Mazzei, Philip, publication of Jeffer 
son s letter to, 407. 

Mclntosh, General Lad i an, com 
mander in the Northwest in 1779, 

McKean, Thomas, member of first 
Continental Congress, 108. 

Meade, Rt. Rev. William, explains 
Henry s apology to Maury, 57. 

Mercer, James, prominent member of 
Virginia bar, 93 ; on committee of 
Virginia convention, 152. 

Meredith, Samuel, Henry s brother- 
in-law, describes character of Hen 
ry s mother, 299. 

Middleton, Henry, meets John Ad 
ams at first Continental Congress, 
105, 106 ; a member of it, 108. 

Mifflin, Thomas, entertains delegates 
to first Continental Congress, 104, 
105, 106, 107 ; a member of it, 108 ; 
accompanies Washington to Boston 
as aide-de-camp, 154 ; his connec 
tion with the Conway cabal, 247, 

Miller, John, describes Henry s last 
speech, 416. 

Mississippi, navigation of, its aban 
donment proposed by Jay in Con 
gress, 307 ; violent opposition 
aroused in South to its surrender, 
308, 309 ; Henry s desire to retain it 
makes him fear a closer union with 
Northern States, 310, 311. 

Moffett, Colonel George, flight of 



elect Henry for fourth term, 267 
on his refusal, elects Jefferson, 268 
passes resolutions complimenting 
Henry, 268 ; elects Henry delegate 
to Congress, 271 ; led by Henry in 
1780 and afterwards, 275 ; work 
done by it, 275-278 ; reelects Jeffer 
son, 276 ; fears approach of Corn- 
wallis, 278, 279; its flight from 
Tarleton, 280-284; reassembles at 
Staunton, 284, 285; elects Thomas 
Nelson governor, 285 ; again said 
to have planned to make Henry dic 
tator, 285; contrary evidence, 286, 
287 ; subsequent sessions of, 287- 
288 ; its scanty reports, 288 ; mas 
tery of Henry over, 294-297 ; passes 
bill to prevent speculation in sol 
diers certificates, 295 ; again elects 
Henry governor, 298 ; offers Wash 
ington shares in canal companies, 
300 ; publicly thanks Henry on his 
retirement from governorship, 302 ; 
passes resolutions condemning pro 
posed surrender of Mississippi navi 
gation, 308; chooses Henry dele 
gate to constitutional convention, 
309 ; feared that it will refuse to 
submit Constitution to a ratifying 
convention, 314 ; summons a state 
convention, 31G ; dominated by 
Henry, 346 ; asks Congress to call 
a second convention, 346, 347-350 ; 
elects R. H. Lee and Grayson sen 
ators at Henry s dictation, and re 
jects Madison, 350, 351 ; gerryman 
ders the State in hopes of defeating 
Federalists, 351 ; unable to assem 
ble a quorum during Henry s speech 
in British debts case, 362, 364; 
controlled by Jefferson, 406 ; elects 
Henry governor for sixth time in 
1796, 406 ; passes resolutions con 
demning alien and sedition laws, 
408; Henry asked by Washington 
to become a candidate for, 414 ; he 
presents himself, 415 ; action of 
Assembly deplored by him, 417 ; its 
action called unconstitutional, 417, 

Leonard, Daniel, describes the effect 
of the Virginia Resolves in New 
England, 82, 83. 

Lewis, Andrew, on committee for 
arming Virginia militia, 151. 

Lewis, William, his remark to Henry 
on the flight of the legislature from 
Tarleton, 283. 

Lincoln, Benjamin, informed by Wash 
ington of Henry s submission to the 
Constitution, 344. 

Littlepage, James, his seat in Vir 
ginia legislature contested by Dan- 
dridge, 61. 

Livingston, Philip, member of first 
Continental Congress, 108 ; of the 
second, 172, 173 ; as likely as Henry 
to have proved a good fighter, but, 
unlike him, never offered, 188. 

Livingston, William, member of first 
Continental Congress, 108. 

Lowndes, Rawlins, opposes federal 
Constitution, 330. 

Lynch, Thomas, meets John Adams 
at Continental Congress, 104, 105; 
praised by him, 105 ; nominates 
Peyton Randolph for president, 107 ; 
also Charles Thomson as secretary, 
107 ; debates question of manner of 
voting, 112 ; member of second Con 
tinental Congress, 172. 

Lyons, , in Parsons Cause with 

Henry, 49, 53; cries "treason" 
against his speech, 54. 

MADISON, JAMES, doubts Henry s au 
thorship of Virginia Resolves, 84, 
note ; member of Virginia conven 
tion of 1776, 190 ; on committee to 
draft bill of rights and Constitution, 
200 ; his slight influence, 204 ; in 
troduces bill to check speculation in 
soldiers certificates, 295 ; describes 
Henry s eloquent support of the 
measure, 295 ; less practical than 
Henry, 296 ; inferior to him in de 
bate, 296 ; confers with Henry and 
finds him zealous for strengthening 
federal government, 305, 306; pre 
dicts intense opposition in South 
to treaty abandoning Mississippi 
navigation, 308 ; warns Washington 
of Henry s change of mind on mat 
ter of strengthening the Confedera 
tion, 310 ; informed by Randolph of 
Henry s refusal to attend conven- 



tion, 310 ; comments on his reasons, 
311, 312 ; informs Jefferson and 
Randolph of Henry s opposition to 
the Constitution, 315, 316 ; accuses 
Henry of wishing disunion, 317 ; 
letter of J. B. Smith to, condemn 
ing Henry s methods, 317 ; describes 
elements of opposition to Constitu 
tion, 319 ; the principal champion 
of ratification, 320 ; his power in 
debate, 333 ; suspects Henry of in 
tention to destroy effect of Con 
stitution, 343, 344 ; Washington s 
letters to on same subject, 346 ; de 
feated for senator through Henry s 
influence, 351 ; his defeat for repre 
sentative attempted by gerryman 
dering, 351, 353 ; elected neverthe 
less, 354 ; leads House to consider 
constitutional amendments, 354, 
355 ; probably led by fear of Henry s 
opposition, 355 ; forms opposition 
party to Washington, 397 ; writes 
Virginia resolutions, 408. 

Madison, Thomas, on Henry s defense 
of Holland for murder, 376. 

Marshall, John, on Henry s determi 
nation to have Mississippi naviga 
tion for the South, 311 ; favors rati 
fication of federal Constitution, 320 ; 
with Henry in British debts case, 
360 ; his argument not legally su 
perior to Henry s, 366 ; commended 
for his conduct in France as a can 
didate for Congress by Henry, 410, 

Martin, Luther, opposes federal Con 
stitution, 330. 

Maryland, its convention recommends 
organization of militia, 132 ; its res 
olutions justifying this action imi 
tated elsewhere, 133. 

Mason, George, leader of radicals in 
Virginia, 95 ; his high opinion of 
Henry s abilities, 98 ; in convention 
of 1776, 190 ; on committee to draft 
bill of rights and Constitution, 200, 
204 ; favors a democratic govern 
ment, 202 ; author of first fourteen 
articles of bill of rights, 208 ; a de 
vout Episcopalian, 210 ; on commit 
tee to notify Henry of his election 
as governor, 212 ; opposes ratifica 

tion of Constitution, 315, 316, 320 ; 
chief assistant of Henry in debate, 
320 ; agrees to act as chairman of 
Virginia republican society, 342. 
Mason, Thompson, prominent mem 
ber of Virginia bar, 93 ; surpassed 
by Henry in admiralty case, 93. 
Massachusetts, calls for Stamp Act 
Congress, 80, 81 ; enthusiasm in for 
Virginia resolutions, 81, 82 ; pre 
pares for war, 134. 

Matthews, General Edward, com 
mands British raid into Virginia, 
257, 264, 267. 

Maury, Rev. James, wins his case for 
damages after annulling of option 
law, 45 ; describes Henry s speech 
in Parsons Cause, 52-55. 
Mazzei, Philip, publication of Jeffer 
son s letter to, 407. 

Mclntosh, General Lachan, com 
mander in the Northwest in 1779, 
McKean, Thomas, member of first 

Continental Congress, 108. 
Meade, Rt. Rev. William, explains 

Henry s apology to Maury, 57. 
Mercer, James, prominent member of 
Virginia bar, 93 ; on committee of 
Virginia convention, 152. 
Meredith, Samuel, Henry s brother- 
in-law, describes character of Hen 
ry s mother, 299. 

Middleton, Henry, meets John Ad 
ams at first Continental Congress, 
105, 106 ; a member of it, 108. 
Miffliu, Thomas, entertains delegates 
to first Continental Congress, 104, 
105, 106, 107 ; a member of it, 108 ; 
accompanies Washington to Boston 
as aide-de-camp, 154 ; his connec 
tion with the Conway cabal, 247, 
Miller, John, describes Henry s last 

speech, 416. 

Mississippi, navigation of, its aban 
donment proposed by Jay in Con 
gress, 307 ; violent opposition 
aroused in South to its surrender, 
308, 309 ; Henry s desire to retain it 
makes him fear a closer union with 
Northern States, 310, 311. 
Moffett, Colonel George, flight of 



legislature from Tarleton to his 
farm, 284. 

Monroe, James, tells Henry of Jay s 
proposal to abandon Mississippi 
navigation, 307 ; says Northern 
States plan to dismember the union, 
307 ; opposes ratification of federal 
Constitution, 320 ; helps Henry in 
debate, 320; letter of Jefferson 
to on Henry, 404 ; recalled from 
France, 407. 

Murray, William Vans, appointed en 
voy to France, 412. 

NELSON, HUGH, remark of Henry to, 

Nelson, Thomas, offers resolution in 
Virginia convention, instructing del 
egates to propose independence, 
197 ; conveys resolutions to Con 
gress, 198 ; defeated for governor 
by Henry in 1776, 211 ; succeeds 
Jefferson as governor, 285 ; opposes 
ratification of Constitution, 319. 

New England, effect of Virginia reso 
lutions in, 80, 82, 88. 

Newenham, Sir Edward, sends pre 
sents to Washington, 301. 

New Jersey, Assembly of, disapproves 
of Stamp Act Congress, 81. 

Newton, Thomas, on committee of 
Virginia convention, 152. 

New York, Virginia Resolves brought 
to, 80, 82 ; ratifies the Constitution 
conditionally, 345 ; sends circular 
letter proposing call for a second 
convention, 345 ; its effect in Vir 
ginia, 345. 

Nicholas, George, favors ratification 
of federal Constitution, 320. 

Nicholas, John, supposed author of 
scurrilous attacks on Henry, 385. 

Nicholas, Robert Carter, one of Hen 
ry s legal examiners, 23 ; opposes 
Henry s Virginia Resolves, 71 ; loses 
leadership to Henry, 89 ; prominent 
in Virginia bar, 93 ; on retiring 
leaves his practice to Henry, 94; 
leader of conservatives, 95 ; opposes 
Henry s motion in Virginia conven 
tion to organize militia, 137 ; on 
committee to arm militia, 151 ; on 
other committees, 152 ; declines as 

treasurer Henry s offer of protec 
tion, 162; in convention of 1776, 
190 ; on committee to draft bill of 
rights and Constitution, 200 ; favors 
aristocratic government, 201 ; al 
leged to have made motion to ap 
point a dictator, 286. 
North, Lord, sends peace commission 
ers after Burgoyne s surrender, 241, 
254 ; protested against by Henry, 
255; their failure and departure, 

OSWALD, ELEAZEB, carries proposed 
constitutional amendments from 
Henry to New York, 342, 343. 

PAGE, JOHN, describes Henry s vulgar 
pronunciation, 10, 11 ; a radical in 
politics, 95 ; receives a vote for gov 
ernor in 1776, 211. 

Page, Mann, a radical leader in Vir 
ginia, 95 ; in convention of 1776, 
190 ; on committee to frame bill of 
rights and a constitution, 200. 

Paine, Thomas, his "Age of Reason" 
moves Henry to write a reply, 374. 

Parsons Cause, 36-55 ; establishment 
of church in Virginia, 37 ; payment 
of clergy, 37, 38 ; legislation to en 
force payment by vestry, 39; op 
tion laws to prevent clergy profiting 
by high price, 40, 41 ; royal veto, 
44 ; suits brought by clergy for 
damages, 44, 45 ; suit of Maury 
against Fredericksville parish, 45- 
55 ; selection of an unfair jury, 46, 
47; illegal verdict, 48-, Henry s 
speech and its effect, 48-52 ; com 
ments of Maury, 53-55 ; excitement 
produced by, 58, 60 ; reported to 
England, 86. 

Pendleton, Edmund, his pronuncia 
tion an example of dialect, 11 ; said 
by Jefferson to have been one of 
Henry s bar examiners, 23 ; on com 
mittee to protest against Stamp 
Act, 66 ; believes submission neces 
sary, 67 ; opposes Henry s Virginia 
Resolves, 71 ; loses leadership to 
Henry, 89 ; prominent at Virginia 
bar, 93 ; surpassed by Henry in ad 
miralty case, 93 ; leader of conserva- 


tive party, 95; appointed delegate 
to Continental Congress, 99; his 
journey with Henry and Washing 
ton, 101 ; described by Atkinson, 
102 ; in debate on manner of voting, 
112 ; opposes Henry s motion in 
Virginia convention to organize 
militia, 137 ; on committee for arm 
ing militia, 151 ; on other commit 
tees, 152 ; returns from Congress to 
Virginia convention, 176; thanked 
by Virginia, 176 ; at head of Vir 
ginia Committee of Safety, de 
scribes situation to R. H. Lee, 178 ; 
explains his objections to Henry s 
serving in field, 185 ; in convention 
of 1776, 190 ; opposed for president 
by Henry s friends, 191 ; drafts reso- 
olution instructing delegates in Con 
gress to propose independence, 197 ; 
favors aristocratic government, 201 ; 
favors ratification of federal Consti 
tution, 320. 

Pennsylvania, prepares to resist Eng 
land by force, 133. 

Phillips, General William, commands 
British force invading Virginia, 278. 

Powell, , entertains John Adams 

at first Continental Congress, 105. 

Providence, R. I., people of, approve 
Virginia Resolutions, 82. 

RALEIGH TAVERN, meeting-place of 
Burgesses after dissolution of As 
sembly, 98. 

Randall, Henry Stephens, describes 
at third hand Henry s speech for 
organizing militia, 146. 

Randolph, Edmund, gives a version 
of Henry s warning to George III., 
73, note ; says the Virginia Resolves 
were written by William Fleming, 
84, note ; in Virginia convention 
of 1776, 190; testimony as to 
authorship of Virginia resolution 
favoring independence, 197 ; on 
committee to frame Constitution, 
200 ; says Henry drafted two arti 
cles of bill of rights, 208 ; calls 
Washington a dictator in 1781, 229 ; 
denies Jefferson s story of a Vir 
ginia dictatorship in 1781, 287; in 
forms Madison of Henry s refusal 

to go to constitutional convention, 
310 ; receives Madison s reply, 312 ; 
correspondence with Madison rela 
tive to Virginia opposition to ratifi 
cation of Constitution, 316 ; refuses 
to sign Constitution and publishes 
objections, 319 ; supports it in the 
convention, 320 ; twitted by Henry, 
turns on him fiercely, 334, 335. 

Randolph, John, his part in Henry s 
bar examination, 23-26 ; leader of 
bar in Virginia, 43. 

Randolph, John, of Roanoake, de 
scribes Henry s appearance in Brit 
ish debts case, 364, 365; answers 
Henry s last speech, 419 ; Henry s 
parting advice to, 420. 

Randolph, Peyton, attorney-general, 
his part in Henry s bar examina 
tion, 23 ; on committee to protest 
against Stamp Act, 66; counsels 
submission, 67 ; opposes Henry s 
Virginia Resolves, 71 ; his anger at 
their passage, 74 ; loses leadership 
to Henry, 89 ; leader of conserva 
tives, 95 ; appointed delegate to 
Continental Congress, 99 ; described 
by Atkinson, 102 ; meets John Ad 
ams at Continental Congress, 106; 
chosen to preside, 107 ; assures Vir 
ginia troops that gunpowder affair 
will be satisfactorily settled, 157. 

Read, George, member of first Conti 
nental Congress, 108. 

Reed, Joseph, meets John Adams at 
first Continental Congress, 106; 
doubts Henry s ability to command 
in the field, 186. 

Religious liberty in Virginia, asserted 
in sixteenth article of declaration of 
rights written by Henry, 208 ; hith 
erto limited, 209; petition of Bap 
tists for, 209 ; proposals of Henry 
involving, 294. 

Revolution, war of, predicted by 
Henry, 116, 125 ; by Hawley and 
John Adams, 125 ; by Dickinson, 
Charles Lee, 130 ; prepared for by 
Connecticut, 131, 133; by Rhode 
Island, 132 ; by Maryland, 132 ; and 
other colonies, 133, 134 ; by Vir 
ginia, 133-152; considered inevita 
ble by Henry, 138; events of in 



177(5, 221 ; in 1777, 235, 236 ; in 
1777 and 1778, 240, 241, 257. 

Rhoades, Samuel, at first Continental 
Congress, 105. 

Riddick, Lemuel, on committee of 
Virginia convention for arming 
militia, 151. 

Roane, John, describes in detail Hen 
ry s delivery of the speech for arm 
ing militia, 146-149; said to have 
verified Wirt s version, 150. 

Roane, Spencer, on Henry s pronun 
ciation, 11 ; meets Henry and R. H. 
Lee in Virginia Assembly, 295 ; con 
siders Henry more practical than 
Madison, less selfish than Lee, 296 ; 
describes his superiority to Madison 
in debate, 296 ; contrasts him with 
Lee, 296; describes his manner, 
296, 297 ; describes Henry s manner 
of living as governor, 300 ; gives an 
ecdotes illustrating Henry s power 
as a criminal lawyer, 375-378. 

Robertson, David, reports Henry s 
speeches in Virginia ratifying con 
vention, 321. 

Robertson, William, of Edinburgh 
University, kinsman of Patrick 
Henry, 3. 

Robertson, Rev. William, uncle of 
Patrick Henry, 3. 

Robinson, John, speaker of House of 
Burgesses and treasurer of Vir 
ginia, 63 ; attempt to conceal his 
defalcation by a " loan office," 63 ; 
prevented by Henry, 64, 65. 

Robinson, Rev. William, condemns 
Henry s behavior in Parsons Cause, 
86 ; and describes his speech against 
the Stamp Act, 87. 

Rodney, Caesar, a member of first 
Continental Congress, 108 ; of sec 
ond, 175. 

Rush, Dr. Benjamin, said by Wash 
ington to be author of anonymous 
letter to Henry, 249, 250. 

Rutledge, Edward, meets John Ad 
ams at first Continental Congress, 
105, 106; a member of it, 108; 
praises Galloway s plan of reconcil 
iation, 115. 

Rutledge, John, meets John Adams 
at Continental Congress, 106 ; a 

member of it, 108; debates ques 
tion of manner of voting, 112 ; on 
committee to prepare address to 
the king, 117 ; at second Continen 
tal Congress, 173 ; as governor of 
South Carolina receives extraordi 
nary powers, 228; nomination for 
chief justice rejected by Senate. 

parture from Philadelphia as gen 
eral envied by John Adams, 164; 
on committee of second Continental 
Congress, 172. 

Shelton, Sarah, marries Patrick 
Henry, 7 ; her death, 189. 

Sherlock, Bishop Thomas, his ser 
mons favorite reading of Henry, 
391, 394. 

Sherman, Roger, a member of first 
Continental Congress, 108. 

Shippen, William, entertains dele 
gates to Continental Congress, 106. 

Slavery, opinions of Henry concern 
ing, 388-389. 

Simcoe, John Graves, a dashing par 
tisan fighter, 188. 

Smith, Rev. John Blair, condemns 
Henry s agitation against ratifying 
the Constitution, 317. 

Smith, Meriwether, opposes ratifica 
tion of federal Constitution, 320. 

Smith, Rev. William, meets John 
Adams at first Continental Con 
gress, 105. 

Spain, alliance with, desired by Henry 
in 1776, 194; offers commercial 
privileges in return for abandon 
ment of Mississippi navigation, 307. 

Speece, Rev. Conrad, describes Hen 
ry s eloquence in a murder trial, 

Spotswood, Alexander, grandfather 
of Henry s second wife, 241. 

Sprout, Rev. , meets John Ad 
ams at first Continental Congress, 

Stamp Act, protested against by Vir 
ginia Assembly, 65 ; discussion 
whether to resist or submit after 
its passage, 66, 67 ; resolutions 
against, introduced by Henry, 69- 



71 ; debate over, 71-74 ; passage, 
reconsideration, and amendment, 
75, 76 ; influence in rousing other 
colonies against, 77-88. 

Stamp Act Congress, proposed by 
Massachusetts, 80 ; its success 
caused by Virginia resolutions, 81 ff. 

Stark, John, his victory in 1777 at 
Bennington, 240. 

State sovereignty, declared to be abol 
ished by Henry before 1774, 111, 
112 ; its preservation demanded by 
Virginia in any confederation, 197 ; 
not advocated in its extreme form 
by Henry during Revolution and 
Confederation, 303-306; considered 
by Henry to be threatened by fed 
eral Constitution, 324-330; ex 
pressly reserved by convention in 
ratifying, 331. 

Stephen, Adam, on committee for 
arming Virginia militia, 151 ; taunts 
Henry in ratifying convention of 
1788, 335. 

Steptoe, Dr. , meets John Adams 

at first Continental Congress, 106. 

Sullivan, John, at first Continental 
Congress, 108 ; answers Henry s 
speech in first day s debate, 110. 

Syme, Mrs. Sarah, described by Colo 
nel William Byrd, 1,2; marries 
John Henry, 2 ; mother of Patrick 
Henry, 2; her family, 4 ; letter 
mentioning his absence in Congress, 
126 ; her death and character, 299. 

Syme, Colonel , step-brother of 

Henry, reported to have denied his 
complicity in dictatorship project, 

ing partisan fighter, 188 ; sent by 
Cornwallis to capture Virginia 
legislature, 279 ; nearly succeeds, 

Taylor, John, of Caroline, his pronun 
ciation, 11. 

Thacher, Oxenbridge, expresses his 
admiration for the Virginia Resolves, 

Thomson, Charles, the "Sam Adams " 
of Philadelphia, 104; meets John 
Adams at Continental Congress, 

105 ; nominated for secretary, 107 ; 
accepts position, 108, 109 ; describes 
Henry s first speech, 109. 

Tillotson, Archbishop John, his ser 
mons enjoyed by Henry, 391. 

Tobacco, its use as currency and to 
pay salaries, 37 ff . 

Tories, loathed by Henry, 274 ; popu 
lar execration of, 289 ; repeal of 
their exile favored by Henry, 290- 

Tucker, St. George, describes debate 
on military resolutions in Virginia 
convention, 137 ; describes motives 
of Henry s opponents, 137 ; de 
scribes his speech, 143, 144 ; agree 
ment of his version with Wirt s, 
150 ; fears that Jefferson will be no 
more active than Henry, 269. 

Tyler, Judge John, reports Henry s 
narrative of his bar examination, 
24, 25; gives anecdote of Henry s 
speech against Stamp Act, 73, note ; 
said to have been author of Wirt s 
version of Henry s militia speech, 
150; with Henry in flight from 
Tarleton, 281, 282; opposes Hen 
ry s bill to relieve Tories, 290 ; op 
poses ratification of federal Consti 
tution, 320 ; helps Henry in debate, 

UNION of the colonies, advocated by 
Henry as necessary prelude to inde 
pendence, 194, 199, 304. 

VIRGINIA, education in, 5, 13 ; dialects 
in, 11 ; society in, 21 ; church gov 
ernment in, 37 ; pays ministers in 
tobacco, 37, 38 ; makes vestry liable 
for salary, 39 ; passes option laws to 
prevent clergy from profiting from 
high price of tobacco, 40, 41 ; in 
justice of action, 42 ; popularity 
of laws in, 43 ; popular reluctance 
to grant clergy legal redress, 44, 45, 
48 ; the Parsons Cause, 46-55 ; en 
thusiasm in, for eloquence, 60 ; pop 
ular affection for Henry begun by 
Parsons Cause, 59, 60 ; repudiation 
of Stamp Act, 66-76 ; old leaders of, 
displaced by Henry, 66, 71, 88, 89 ; 
officials of, angered by Henry s re- 



solutions, 86 ; popular enthusiasm 
for Henry, 88, 89 ; courts in, closed 
by Revolution, 92 ; conservative and 
radical parties in, 95; practical una 
nimity of opinion, 95, 96 ; its influ 
ence in Continental Congress, 113 ; 
officers of its militia prepared for 
war, 131 ; raises militia in various 
counties, 131, 133, 136; first overt 
act of war in, committed by Henry, 
155 ; popular indignation at Duu- 
more s seizure of gunpowder, 157; 
its volunteer companies persuaded 
not to attack him, 157 ; expedition 
led by Henry forces Dunmore to 
make restitution, 158-160 ; outbreak 
of popular approval of Henry s ac 
tion, 164-167 ; defense of, intrusted 
to Henry under Committee of 
Safety, 177 ; operations of Dunmore 
in, 178, 179 ; its troops defeat him, 
179, 180 ; indignation among them 
at Henry s treatment by Commit 
tee of Safety, 181-184 ; celebrates 
with enthusiasm the resolution in 
favor of independence, 199 ; effect 
of its example, 200; aristocratic 
and democratic parties in, 200-202 ; 
Virginia troops congratulate Henry 
on election as governor, 214 ; high 
ideal held by Virginians of dignity 
of governor, 219, 300; danger of 
attacks upon State urged by Wash 
ington, 221 ; prepares for defense, 
222, 223; efforts of Henry to re^ 
cruit in, 237, 238 ; receives great 
demands for supplies, 241 ; popu 
lar opinion condemns R. H. Lee for 
hostility to Washington, 252, 253 ; 
decay of military spirit in, 253, 254 ; 
ravaged by Matthews and Collier, 
257, 264-267; sends Clark s suc 
cessful expedition into Northwest, 
258-260; decline of patriotism in, 
274 ; ravaged by Arnold and Phil 
lips, 278 ; great antipathy in, to 
project of abandoning Mississippi 
navigation, 308 ; majority of peo 
ple at outset favor Constitution, 
315 ; effect of Henry s exertions in 
turning tide, 316, 317 ; supposed 
disunion feeling, 317 ; importance 
of Virginia s action, 318; party 

divisions in State, 319, 320; party 
divisions and leaders in convention, 
320; influence of Virginia s de 
mands in forcing Congress to pro 
pose ten amendments, 355, 356 ; pre 
pares to resist government at time 
of alien and sedition laws, 408 ; its 
leaders condemned by Henry, 409 ; 
its policy deplored by Washington, 

Virginia resolutions of 1765, 69-75; 
their effect, 77-89. See Legislature 
of Virginia, and Stamp Act, au 
thorship of, 83-85. 

Virginia resolutions of 1798, writ 
ten by Madison, 408 ; condemned 
by Henry as unconstitutional, 417, 

WALKER, BENJAMIN, sent by Henry to 
Washington as secret messenger, 
236; taken by Washington as an 
aide-de-camp, 237. 

Walker, Jeremiah, moderator of Bap 
tist convention, 217. 

Walker, Thomas, defendant in British 
debts case, 360. 

Ward, Samuel, meets John Adams at 
first Continental Congress, 105; 
debates question of manner of vot 
ing, 112 ; chairman of committee 
of the whole in second Continental 
Congress, 171. 

Warrington, Rev. Thomas, brings suit 
for damages after annulling of op 
tion law, 44. 

Washington, George, appointed dele 
gate to Continental Congress, 99 ; 
describes journey, 101 ; described 
by Atkinson, 102 ; on committee 
for arming Virginia militia, 151 ; 
on other committees, 152 ; his mili 
tary command envied by Hancock 
and Adams, 154; notified by Vir 
ginia troops of readiness to attack 
Dunmore, 157 ; letter of Henry to, 
recommending Frazer, 175 ; thanked 
by Virginia convention, 176 ; doubts 
Henry s fitness to command in the 
field, 186 ; his defeats in 1776, 221 ; 
congratulates Henry on his election 
as governor, 221 ; warns him against 
British raids, 221 ; letter of Carter 



to, sneering at Henry, 222, 223 ; re 
ceives extraordinary powers from 
Congress, 227 ; called a dictator in 
1781, 229; surprises Hessians at 
Trenton, 235 ; his situation in 1777, 
236 ; embarrassed by Henry s send 
ing Walker to observe the army, 236, 
237 ; letter of Henry to, on military 
situation in Virginia, 238 ; his move 
ments in 1777-1778, 240, 241 ; Con- 
way cabal formed against, 242 ; at 
tacked in anonymous letter to Hen 
ry, 244, 245 ; receives two letters of 
warning from Henry on the subject, 
245-248 ; his grateful replies to Hen 
ry s letters, 248-250 ; describes Dr. 
Rush as author of the anonymous 
letter, 249, 250 ; describes other 
members of cabal, 250 ; his deep 
friendship for Henry, 251, 252 ; let 
ter of Henry to, describing Indian 
troubles, 263 ; repeatedly praises 
Henry s activity and assistance, 
269, 270 ; considered as possible dic 
tator in 1781, 286; asks Henry s 
advice concerning shares in canal 
companies, 300, 301 ; receives Hen 
ry s replies, 301, 302 ; told by Madi 
son of Henry s change of opinion 
relative to strengthening the Con 
federation, 310, 311 ; sends copy of 
new Constitution to Henry, 313; 
his reply, 313 ; assured that Henry 
will not prevent a convention in 
Virginia, 314 ; not in Virginia rati 
fying convention, 319; grieved by 
Henry s persistent opposition, 341 ; 
letters of Madison to, on Henry s 
opposition to Constitution, 343 ; re 
joices that Henry will submit, yet 
fears his opposition, 344, 346 ; his 
administration at first criticised 
then approved by Henry, 397 ; re 
conciled to Henry by Lee, 399-401 ; 
expresses unabated regard for him 
399 ; receives Henry s warm reply, 
400, 401 ; offers Henry secretary 
ship of state, 402 ; offers him the 
chief -justiceship, 403 ; appointed to 
command provisional army, 407 
appeals to Henry to leave retire 
ment to combat Virginia Democratic 
party, 413, 414. 

Webster, Daniel, his interview with 
Jefferson concerning Henry, 10, 23. 

White, Rev. Alexander, brings suit 
for damages after annulling of op 
tion law, 45. 

William and Mary College, studies of 
Jefferson at, 22. 

Williams, John, clerk of Baptist con 
vention in Virginia, 217. 

Wilson, James, member of second Con 
tinental Congress, on committees, 
172, 174. 

Winston, William, uncle of Patrick 
Henry, his eloquence, 5. 

Winston, , judges murder case, 


Winstons of Virginia, kinsmen of 
Patrick Henry, 4 ; their character 
istics, 4,5. 

Wirt, William, -biographer of Henry, 
accepts Jefferson s statements of his 
illiteracy, 15 ; also his statements of 
his failure to gain a living as a law 
yer, 27 ; and his ignorance of law, 
29 ; describes Henry s speech in the 
Parsons Cause, 48-52; describes 
him as, in consequence of Stamp 
Act debate, the idol of Virginia, 89 ; 
accepts Jefferson s statement of 
Henry s ignorance of law, 94 ; says 
Henry was author of draft of ad 
dress rejected by Congress, 117, 122 ; 
error of his statement, 118 ; his 
whole treatment of Henry s part in 
Congress untrustworthy, 119, 120; 
describes him as a mere declaimer, 
120; his mythical description of 
Henry s opening speech, 121 ; de 
scribes his insignificance after the 
opening day, 122 ; his error due to 
taking Jefferson s account, 123 ; his 
version of Henry s militia speech 
considered by some apocryphal, 149 ; 
question of its genuineness, 149, 
150 ; accepts Jefferson s story of a 
projected dictatorship, but doubts 
Henry s connection, 226; accepts a 
similar story for 1781, 285 ; consid 
ers Virginia bar the finest in United 
States, 360; describes Henry s 
method of argument, 368, 369 ; gives 
false account of Henry s religious 
views, 391. 



Witherspoon, John, at first Conti 
nental Congress, 106 ; instructor of 
Madison, 190. 

Woodford, General William, com 
mands Virginia troops in the field 
to exclusion of Henry, 179 ; ignores 
him in his reports, 180; defeats 
Dunmore at Great Bridge, 180; 
permits Rowe of North Carolina to 
supersede himself, 180 ; his officers, 
however, prefer Henry, 183 ; letter 
ofPendleton to, on Henry s unfit- 
ness to command, 185. 

Wythe, George, one of Henry s legal 
examiners, 23; on committee to 

protest to England against Stamp 
Act, 66 ; believes submission neces 
sary, 67 ; opposes Henry s resolves, 
71 ; loses leadership to Henry, 89 ; 
prominent at Virginia bar, 93; 
leader of conservatives, 95 ; hi con 
vention of 1776, 190; favors ratifi 
cation of federal Constitution, 320. 

YOUNG, CAPTAIN H., testimony con 
cerning a proposed dictatorship in 
1781, 286. 

ZANE, ISAAC, on committee for arm 
ing Virginia militia, 151. 




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