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American Revolutionary War figures, Patrick Henry

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Patrick Henry

(May 29, 1736 – June 6, 1799) was an orator and politician who led the movement for independence in Virginia in the 1770s. A Founding Father, he served as the first and sixth post-colonial Governor of Virginia from 1776 to 1779 and subsequently, from 1784 to 1786. Henry led the opposition to the Stamp Act of 1765 and is well remembered for his "Give me Liberty, or give me Death!" speech. Along with Samuel Adams and Thomas Paine, he is remembered as one of the most influential exponents of Republicanism, promoters of the American Revolution and Independence, especially in his denunciations of corruption in government officials and his defense of historic rights. After the Revolution, Henry was a leader of the anti-federalists in Virginia who opposed the United States Constitution, fearing that it endangered the rights of the States, as well as the freedoms of individuals.Henry was born in Studley, Hanover County, Virginia on May 29, 1736.[1] His father was John Henry, an immigrant from Aberdeenshire, Scotland, who had attended King's College, Aberdeen before immigrating to the Colony of Virginia in the 1720s.[2] Settling in Hanover County, about 1732 John Henry married Sarah Winston Syme, a wealthy widow from a prominent Hanover County family of English ancestry.[3] Patrick Henry was once thought to have been of humble origins, but he was actually born into the middle rank of the Virginia gentry.

Stamp Act

Patrick Henry was elected from Louisa County to the House of Burgesses, the legislative body of the Virginia colony, in 1765 to fill a vacated seat in the assembly. When he arrived in Williamsburg the legislature was already in session. Only nine days after being sworn in, Henry introduced the Virginia Stamp Act Resolutions, "in language so extreme that some Virginians said it smacked of treason".

The new representative waited for an opportunity where the mostly conservative members of the House were away (only 24% was considered sufficient for a quorum). In this atmosphere, he succeeded, through much debate and persuasion, in getting his proposal passed.

It was possibly the most anti-British American political action to that point, and some credit the Resolutions with being one of the main catalysts of the Revolution. The proposals were based on principles that were well-established British rights, such as the right to be taxed by one's own representatives. They went further, however, to assert that the colonial assemblies had the exclusive right to impose taxes on the colonies and could not assign that right.

The imputation of treason is due to his inflammatory words, "Caesar had his Brutus; Charles the First his Cromwell; and George the Third ....may he profit by their example. If this be treason, make the most of it!" According to biographer Richard Beeman, the legend of this speech grew more dramatic over the years. Henry probably did not say "If this be treason, make the most of it." The only account of the speech written down at the time by an eyewitness (which came to light many years later) records that Henry actually apologized after being accused of uttering treasonable words, assuring the House that he was still loyal to the king. Nevertheless, Henry's passionate, radical speech was cause for notable interest at the time–even if his exact words are unknown.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patrick_Henry

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 28 September 2011 19:46