Henry, Patrick


Henry, Patrick

biographical name

(born May 29, 1736, Studley, Va.—died June 6, 1799, Red Hill, near Brookneal, Va., U.S.) American Revolutionary leader. Admitted to the bar in 1760, he soon built a large and profitable practice. His skill as an orator was displayed in the Parson's Cause trial (1763). Elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1765, he opposed the Stamp Act; during the next decade he became a leader of the radical opposition to British rule. He was a founding member of the Committees of Correspondence and a delegate to the Continental Congress. At a Virginia assembly in 1775 he delivered his famous speech in defense of liberty, which concluded with the words “Give me liberty or give me death.” He helped draft the state's first constitution in 1776 and was elected governor the same year (1776–79, 1784–86). As wartime governor, he ably supported Gen. George Washington; during his second term, he authorized the expedition of George Rogers Clark to invade the Illinois country. In 1788 he opposed ratification of the U.S. Constitution, which he felt did not sufficiently secure the rights of states and individuals. He was later instrumental in the adoption of the Bill of Rights.

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