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Patrick Henry in painting

Our Namesake

  • Above, an 1851 painting by Peter Rothermel of Patrick Henry delivering his "Treason" speech
    "Give me liberty or give me death."
  • No slogan has ever reached it for stirring the blood of American patriots.
  • Henry served as the first Governor of Virginia (Succeeded by Thomas Jefferson) 
  • Born May 29, 1736 in Virginia
    Died June 6, 1799, at age 63
  • Wives: Sarah Shelton and Dorothea Dandridge (married after death of 1st wife), 15 children total
  • Profession: Farmer, Lawyer
    Signator of the Declaration of Independence
  • (Sources: www.ushistory.org and the official Colonial Williamsburg site,

We Have History

 

Our school was named for one of the greatest radicals in American history - Patrick Henry, the great patriot, lawyer, statesman and leader of the revolution.

Henry was a passionate and fiery orator who led the fight for independence from Great Britain in the influential state of Virginia. His bold leadership help lay the groundwork for Declaration of Independence, the Revolution and winning the freedom that the United States of America still enjoys today.

Patrick Henry's colorful personality provided a balance to America's other founding leaders, against the seriousness of George Washington, the refined logic of Thomas Jefferson, and the well-tempered industry of Benjamin Franklin.

As a youth, historians say young Patrick was smart but an idler. By the age of 10, his family knew that he would never be a farmer running their plantation, so they directed him to other careers, first as a scholar, then as a businessman. He finally found success by becoming a lawyer. In 1764, he made a name for himself arguing in defense of broad voting rights. A year later, he was elected to government office in Virginia under British rule, in the House of Burgessess, and soon became its leading radical member.

He proposed the Virginia Stamp Act Resolutions. Few of his fellow political leaders had the courage to openly defy the most powerful nation in the world. His Stamp Act Resolutions were, arguably, the boldest and important first steps toward the Revolutionary War.

"Give me liberty, or give me death."

This speech by Henry argued with remarkable eloquence and fervor in favor of the five acts, which by most accounts amounted to a treason against the mother country of England. He had officially become a patriot, and in 1774 he represented Virginia in the First Continental Congress, where the revolutionaries were debating forming a new and independent nation. In Philadelphia, he became a leading firebrand on behalf of independence. Patrick Henry did more than just make great speeches about liberty. He fought for it, as a leader of the Virginia militia. He defended the gunpowder stores and when a British loyalist politician stole it, Henry forced him to pay for the gunpowder. Henry's personal life met with tragedy. He had four children with his first wife Sarah but she became violent and suffered from mental illness. He refused to place her in an insane asylum, believing the conditions to be inhumane, and so took care of her himself until her death in 1775.

In 1776, Henry was elected Governor of Virginia. He was re-elected for three terms and then succeeded by Thomas Jefferson. He remarried and had 11 more children.

After Jefferson, he was again elected to governorship in 1784. Henry was a crusader for independence, and he split with his fellow founders later over the Constitution. He favored creating the United States with the strongest possible government for the individual states and a weak federal government -- giving states the power to control more of their government.

While his last cause was a lost one, because of the ground-breaking changes he fought to the death to bring to the United States of America, he had the freedom to fight for what he believed in. He was appointed to more important leadership positions by President George Washington, but his declining health caused him to turn them down. He died 1799 at age of 63.

Sources: www.ushistory.org and the official Colonial Williamsburg site, www.history.org/almanack/people/bios/biohen.cfm