Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.

Henry, Patrick

Henry, Patrick (1736-99), one of the most influential leaders in the American War of Independence, was born in Virginia. Having failed as a shopkeeper and a farmer, chiefly on account of his extravagance, he became a lawyer in 1760. Three years later he made his reputation as an orator in a case relating to the revenues of the clergy. An action was brought by a minister to recover his salary, which was payable in tobacco. As that commodity had lately greatly advanced in price, the Virginian Legislature had commuted payment to a sum of money in the ratio of the former value. Henry appeared for the defence and carried his point, the importance of the action lying in its political character, since the royal assent had been refused to the Commutation Act. The eloquence of Henry in this case produced a profound impression, and henceforth his professional career was assured. As a member of the House of Burgesses he, in 1765, moved and carried resolutions against the Stamp Act, and in 1774 he was a delegate to the Virginia Convention, where next year he delivered his second great speech on the motion that the colony be put in a state of defence. He was a member of the Continental Congress of 1775, and next year was elected first republican Governor of Virginia, being re-elected in 1777, 1778, and 1784. In 1788 he opposed the ratification of the Federal Constitution as being prejudicial to the liberties of the separate states. In 1794 he retired into private life, and next year declined the Secretaryship of State offered him by Washington. There are several lives of Patrick Henry, the most recent being by his grandson, William Wirt.