Author: Patrick Henry


A native Virginian and proud American patriot, Patrick Henry (1736–99) is best remembered for his impassioned address to Virginia’s House of Burgesses in which he declared, “Give me liberty, or give me death!” Under his charismatic leadership, Virginia was persuaded to send troops in support of the revolution against the British. Henry’s early endeavors as a planter and merchant were largely unsuccessful; however, he found his calling as a student and practitioner of law, earning his law degree in 1760. Henry’s grievances with the Crown began when the British Parliament overruled temporary tax relief policies enacted by the Virginia Assembly in 1755 and 1758, known as the Two Penny Acts. As a member of the House of Burgesses, Henry introduced resolutions in opposition to the Stamp Act, arguing that the colonial assemblies, not Parliament, had the sole right to enact taxes on the colonists. Following America’s victory against the British, Henry was elected governor of Virginia. Despite his devotion to American independence, Henry refused to attend the Constitutional Convention of 1787, arguing that the proposed Constitution created a strong federal government at the expense of individual state’s rights.

Give Me Liberty, or Give Me Death

Patrick Henry

After the Royal Governor Lord Dunmore dissolved the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1774, colonial leaders in Virginia organized the Virginia Convention, at the second meeting of which, on March 23, 1775, lawyer and fiery orator Patrick Henry (1736–99) delivered this famous speech in support of his proposal to arm the Virginia militia.