May 29, 1736 - June 6, 1799
A prominent patriot and orator of the American Revolutionby Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
“It can not be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians, not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ!”
These meaningful words came from one of America’s most influential patriot. Through great perseverance and determination, Patrick Henry became one of the most influential of any American lawyer, orator, and patriot in United States history. During his difficult life, this devoted man practiced Philippians 4:13, “I can do everything through him that gives me strength.” He used God’s incredible gift of speech to help form the United States of America on a biblical foundation.
Born on May 28, 1736 in Hanover County, Virginia, Patrick was the second child out of eleven children. After attending local schools for some years, Patrick Henry started home schooling with the help of his father tutoring him in Latin and additional instruction from his uncle. Unfortunately, in Patrick’s early years, he was known to be a slacker. His laziness eventually resulted in two failed businesses. In Patrick Henry’s younger days, he definitely learned that “lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth.” (Proverbs 10:4) Although Patrick matured as he grew older, his misfortunes continued to follow him throughout his young adult years
In the year of 1754, at the age of 18, Patrick Henry married his first wife, Sarah Shelton. Through this marriage, Patrick received a dowry which included a 600 acre farm, a house, and six slaves. Unfortunately, misfortune followed him when in 1757 a fire destroyed his house and plantation. After this devastating lost, Henry decided to pursue a full time career in law. However, it was not until the year of 1760, at 24 years old, that he passed his attorney’s examination making him a certified lawyer.
King George III of England had vetoed the Penny Act causing a great uproar in the colony of Virginia. The legislature of Virginia believed that the veto of the Penny Act violated the authority of their charter. Fortunately for Henry, he was able to prove his God-given ability as a lawyer and orator through winning this prestigious case in December of 1763. Also known as the Parsons’ Cause, this case brought Patrick fame throughout Virgina. However, little did Patrick Henry know that he would fight a far more important case just two years later.
As Patrick’s fame grew, so did the tension between the Thirteen Colonies and the British Empire. In November, 1765, the British imposed the first direct tax on the Thirteen Colonies. This infamous tax, the Stamp Act, was promptly rebuked by Patrick Henry. He accused the British in usurping their power on the Thirteen Colonies and declared the Stamp Act unconstitutional. Through great determination and persistency, Patrick Henry eventually was able to revoke the Stamp Act on March 18, 1766. Even after his wife’s death in 1765, this patriot’s love for his country did not stop, as he soon gave one of his most influential speeches.
On March 23, 1775 Patrick Henry was speaking in the House of Burgesses trying to persuade the legislature to take military action against the British troops. Passionately, Mr. Henry proclaimed, “Give me liberty, or give me death!” Through these famous words, Patrick Henry was able to unite the legislature with the desire for freedom. After this rousing speech, it was not a surprise when this amazing orator was elected governor over Virginia on June 29, 1776. Later he was reelected three consecutive years. Through this joyous time in Patrick Henry’s life, he married his second wife, Dorothea Dandridge. Fortunately for Patrick Henry, happiness continued to follow him.
On September 3, 1783 the Treaty of Paris was signed, and the American Revolution was finally over! Patrick Henry’s life goal had finally been fulfilled. With declining health, Patrick Henry was forced to turn down the offers to be a representative of Virginia for the United States Senate, serve as Chief Justice of Supreme Court, Secretary of State, and the sixth term governor of Virginia. This great patriot, lawyer, and orator died at the age of 63 on June 6, 1799, at his home in Red Hill Plantation.
Using his God-given oratorical skills, Patrick Henry helped form the country he loved on a firm biblical foundation. Although many times this patriot had to fight for what he believed in, he relied on God to give him strength. God blessed him, and he became one of the greatest lawyer, orator, and patriot America has ever known. Take to heart these quotes spoken by a true Godly American. “I have now disposed of all my property to my family. There is one thing more I wish I could give them, and that is the Christian religion.”
BibliographyMorgan, Edmund S. "The Stamp Act Crisis: Prologue to Revolution, rev. ed." 1963. http://americanrevwar.homestead.com/files/STAMP.HTM (accessed September 22, 2008).
Red Hill Patrick Henry National Memorial, "Highlights of History-Patrick Henry Timeline." http://www.redhill.org/timeline.html (accessed September 19. 2008).
Red Hill Patrick Henry National Memorial, "Patrick Henry Biography" http://www.redhill.org/biography.html (accessed September 21. 2008).
The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, "Patrick Henry Fact Sheet." 2008. http://www.history.org/Almanack/people/bios/biohen2.cfm (accessed September 18, 2008).