A VIRGINIA MAN
Patrick Henry (1736-1799) was born on May 29 in Hanover County, Virginia, to a prosperous Scottish-born planter.
After trying his hand at a number of livelihoods, Henry turned to educating himself in British and colonial law. In April 1760, the Virginia bar admitted Henry and he quickly became known for his oratory, arguing 1,000 cases in his first three years. Henry was a 29-year old freshman, just days into his service in the House of Burgesses in Williamsburg, when his fiery attack on the Stamp Act first lit the fuse of revolution. His Stamp Act Resolves and rhetoric against British tyranny soon became legendary.
“Distinctions between Virginians, Pennsylvanians, New Yorkers, and New Englanders, are no more. I am not a Virginian, but an American.”
KNOWN PASSION, UNKNOWN WORDS
Although his March 1775 Second Virginia Convention was said to be memorable, historians debate whether or not he actually used the words “give me liberty or give me death” as his speeches are all reconstructed from memory. He never wrote them down in advance.
Henry served in the Continental Congress and took up residence in the Governor’s Palace after being elected Virginia’s first governor, serving from 1776-79 and 1784-86. Like George Mason, he refused to support he Constitution because it lacked a bill of rights.
Henry married twice, first to Sarah Shelton, and then to Dorothea Dandridge. He fathered 17 children. He died on June 6, 1799.
Meet a Nation Builder
For Donors: Visit a Nation Builder
Donors who contribute $250 or more annually to the Colonial Williamsburg Fund are invited to visit with a Nation Builder.
Free Event Ticket
Conversation: Meet a Nation Builder
Find a Nation Builder, a significant figure of 18th-century Williamsburg, around the Palace Green for some informal conversation.
Open to the Public
Performance: Revolutionary Acts
This series of museum theater programs relate to the experience and meaning of the Revolution for the 18th-century Williamsburg community.
Art Museums Admission