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Patrick Henry is best known as a Founding Father and political orator who served as one of the hopes of the United States‘ revolutionary generation. He fought for religious liberty as he fought to stop the importation of enslaved persons throughout his career. He chastised Virginia, believing slavery and a lack of religious tolerance stifled its progress.
See the fact file below for more information about Patrick Henry, or download the comprehensive worksheet pack, which contains over 11 worksheets and can be used in the classroom or homeschooling environment.
Key Facts & Information
- On May 29, 1736, he was born. Henry was born in Hanover County, Virginia Colony, on the Studley family farm. John Henry, his father, was a Scottish immigrant who came to Virginia in the 1720s. John Henry moved to Hanover County around 1732 and married Sarah Winston Syme.
- Hanover County lacked academic institutions, so his father first gave him instruction at home. He attended a nearby school when he was ten years old.
- At fifteen, he worked as a clerk in a local store with his elder brother William.
- Religion was significant in his life; his father and namesake uncle were both devout and influential figures in his life.
- In 1754, he married Sarah Shelton and received a 300-acre farm as a wedding gift from his father.
- When the farm’s main house burned down in the late 1750s, he relocated to the Hanover Tavern, owned by his father-in-law.
Law and Political Career
- He applied for and was granted a lawyer‘s license in April 1760. He then began practicing in Hanover and neighboring counties’ courts.
- It was a feud in colonial Virginia between Anglican clergy. Legislation changed clerical wages from tobacco to money at twopence per pound.
- Following a royal veto in 1759, the clergy was urged to fight for retroactive compensation.
- He represented the Hanover County parish in a lawsuit brought by the Rev. James Maury.
- Despite losing the case, he grew in popularity and met influential members of the Committee on Privileges and Elections.
- A fee was imposed in 1765 for each sheet of paper used by American colonists.
- He criticized the act for infringing on colonists’ natural liberty. Through a series of motions, he delivered a speech to the Virginia legislature.
- Some colonists accused him of treason while he was delivering his speech.
- The legislature issued resolutions in other colonies, establishing America’s position against taxation in the absence of British rule.
Lawyer and Landowner
- Fauquier disbanded the Burgesses on June 1, 1765, hoping that new elections would purge the radicals, but this did not happen, and conservative leaders were elected instead.
- Although the lack of a legislative session sidelined Henry during the war, it also harmed the chamber’s established leaders, who were dispersed across the colony with little opportunity to confer as public enthusiasm for change grew.
- When the House of Burgesses finally convened, he occasionally disagreed with the colonial leaders but opposed British policy.
- Despite rising in the House of Burgesses and serving on influential committees, he devoted more time to personal matters in the late 1760s and early 1770s.
- In late 1765, the Henry family moved to a new house on his Louisa County land, where they remained until 1769, when he returned to Hanover County.
- His legal career flourished until the royal courts were closed in 1774.
- He spent some of his fortunes in frontier territories such as what is now western Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky.
- Even though many of them were owned by Native Americans, he attempted to persuade the colonial (and later, state) governments to recognize his claims.
A Speech to the Second Virginia Convention
- He delivered a speech to the Second Virginia Convention at St. John’s Church in Richmond on March 3, 1775. Two future US presidents, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, were among the delegates.
- “Give me liberty or give me death!” was the most popular line in his speech.
- Its purpose was to persuade the convention to pass a resolution allowing Virginian troops to fight in the Revolutionary War.
- The convention fell silent for several minutes after his speech ended.
- The convention was persuaded, and the colony was placed on defense, with him serving on the committee in charge of arming and disciplining the army.
- Because it was unclear where the resolution would lead, independent militia companies were formed.
- The Gunpowder Incident occurred in April. It was when Lord Dunmore of Virginia ordered royal troops to seize gunpowder from the public magazine in Williamsburg. The result was the Battle of Lexington.
- He marched his militia to Williamsburg to compel the troops to return the gunpowder to the colony. A £330 payment to him ended the conflict. Dunmore was concerned about his safety and retreated to a naval vessel.
- He became the first governor of the independent state in July 1776.
- In 1817, the speech was reconstructed by biographer William Wirt in his Sketches of the Life and Character of Patrick Henry.
- He was in debt after resigning from the House of Delegates in 1790. It is partly due to costs incurred as governor and trying to protect his family’s estate through property speculation and a return to the profession of law.
- Displeased with the federal government, Henry considered establishing a new republic in the thinly inhabited frontier territories, but his ideas fell through.
- In 1791, Henry was a defense team member in the federal court case Jones v. Walker. John Marshall, his co-counsel, produced the written petitions while Henry conducted most of the judicial advocacy.
- After one of the judges died, the trial ended inconclusively, but the legal teams reunited for the case of Ware v. Hylton.
- The plaintiffs appealed, and when Marshall presented his lone case before the Supreme Court in 1796, the court decided in favor of British creditors.
- In 1794, Washington offered Henry a position on the Supreme Court, but he declined because he felt his family needed him. Washington also attempted to persuade Henry to take positions as Secretary of State and Minister to Spain, while Virginia Governor “Light-Horse” Harry Lee sought to nominate him to the Senate. Every time, Henry declined.
- In 1792, Henry sold his property in Prince Edward County and relocated to Long Island, a plantation in Campbell County, with his family.
- Virginia Federalists pressed Henry to return to politics, but it wasn’t until former President Washington urged him to run for the legislature in early 1799 that Henry relented. After turning down President Adams‘ offer to make him an envoy to France, Henry was elected as a delegate from Charlotte County on March 4, 1799.
Death and Legacy
- He returned to Red Hill and died at his home on June 6, 1799.
- On March 20, 1775, Henry was elected as a delegate to the Second Virginia Convention, which met at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Richmond.
- When Henry proposed reforms to organize a militia independent of royal authority in language that acknowledged that war with Britain was unavoidable, moderates were outraged.
- He defended his revisions on March 23 and is best remembered for his proclamation, “Give me liberty or give me death.”
- The text of Henry’s speech was first published in Wirt’s 1817 biography, which came out 18 years after his death.
- In the 1970s, historians began to question Wirt’s reconstruction. According to the only first-hand account of the speech, Henry used some harsh insults that Wirt did not include in his heroic interpretation.
- Many of Henry’s homes have been designated for their historical significance.
- Scotchtown Plantation is designated as a National Historic Landmark.
- The Patrick Henry National Memorial on Red Hill maintains Henry’s last house, tomb, and law office.
- His homestead, which burned in 1807 and is now reduced to archaeological ruins, has also been conserved and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Patrick Henry Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle that includes everything you need to know about Ellen DeGeneres across 27 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use worksheets that are perfect for teaching kids about Patrick Henry, who was a lawyer, political orator, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America.
This download includes the following worksheets:
- Patrick Henry Facts
- The Trumpet
- Founding Fathers
- Truth About Henry
- Free the Slaves
- Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death!
- Henry in Letters
- Henry Says
- The Courtroom
- Picture Analysis
- The Constitution
Frequently Asked Questions
What was Patrick Henry most known for?
Patrick Henry is best known as a Founding Father and political orator who served as one of the hopes of the United States’ revolutionary generation. He fought for religious liberty throughout his career. He chastised Virginia, believing slavery and a lack of religious tolerance stifled its progress.
What did Patrick Henry do about slavery?
He fought for religious liberty as he fought to stop the importation of enslaved persons throughout his career.
Was Patrick Henry accused of treason?
Some colonists accused him of treason while he was delivering his speech.
Why did Patrick Henry oppose the constitution?
He criticized the act for infringing on colonists’ natural liberty. Through a series of motions, he delivered a speech to the Virginia legislature.
Who said give me liberty or death?
He defended his revisions on March 23 and is best remembered for his proclamation, “Give me liberty or give me death.”
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Link will appear as Patrick Henry Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, August 21, 2018
Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.