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This distinguished name stands conspicuous upon the pages of the history of our country, and shines, with peculiar brilliancy, amidst the constellations of the revolution. Time and the critic's pen have not detracted from the lustre of its fame-the patriot delights to dwell upon the bright and bold career of PATRICK HENRY.
He was a native of Studly, Hanover county, Virginia, born on the 29th of May, 1736. His father was a highly respected man, of Scotch descent ; his mother was the sister of Judge Winston, who was justly celebrated as an eloquent and forcible orator.
During his childhood and youth, Patrick Henry was remarkable for indolence and a love of recreationconsequently, he arrived at manhood with a limited education and unaccustomed to industry. His native talents were not developed, his mind was not cultivated, nor his genius expanded, until after he was a husband and a father. His friends endeavoured to direct his course to a close application to business, by setting him
up in the mercantile line; but in vain. In this he soon failed, preferring his fishing-rod and gun to the business of his store. After finding himself a bankrupt, he concluded that the toils of life and the troubles of his pilgrimage were too much to bear alone, and, therefore, married a wife, the daughter of a respectable planter, and became a tiller of the ground. Unacquainted with this new vocation, he soon found himself in the quagmire of adversity, and again tacked about and entered into the mercantile business. Still he was unfortunate, and poverty claimed him as one of her favourite children. An increasing family needed increased means of support, creditors became clamorous, duns showered in upon him, and, in a short time, Patrick Henry was reduced to misery and want. At last he was driven to his books, and resolved on the study of law. He now felt, most keenly, the lost time of his childhood and youth, and saw many of his age who had already ascended high on the ladder of fame, whose native powers of mind he knew to be inferior to his. He accordingly commenced the study he had chosen, and in six weeks after, at the age of twenty-four, he was admitted to the bar, more as a compliment to his respectable connexions and his destitute situation, than from the knowledge he had obtained of the intricate science of law, during the brief period he had been engaged in its investigation. The ensuing three years, folded in the coil of extreme want, he made but slow advances in his profession, and obtained the necessaries of life by assisting his father-in-law at a tavern bar, instead of shining at the bar of the court. He was still ardently attached to his gun, and often carried his knapsack of provisions and remained several days and nights in the woods. On his return, he would enter the court in his coarse and blood-stained hunting dress—take up his causes, carry them through with astonishing adroitness and skill, and finally succeeded in gaining a popular reputation as an advocate.
In 1764, he was employed as counsel in a case of contested election to be tried at the seat of the gov ernment of his native State, which introduced him among the fashionable and gay, whose exterior appearance and manners formed a great contrast with his. He made no preparation for meeting his learned and polished adversaries, and, as he moved awkwardly around among them, was looked upon by some who were gazing at his coarse habiliments and his eccentric actions, as non compos mentis. When the case came up for trial, the astonished audience and the court were completely electrified by his bursts of native eloquence and the cogency of his logic. Judges Tyler and Winston, who tried the case, declared they had never before witnessed so happy and triumphant an effort, in point of sublime rhetoric and conclusive argument, by any man. From that time forward, the fame of Patrick Henry spread its expansive wings, and he was enabled to banish want and misery from his door, by a lucrative and increasing practice. From his childhood he had been a close observer of human nature; the only remarkable trait in favor of his juvenile character. He had always cultivated and improved this advantageous propensity, which was of great use to him in after life. So well versed had he become with the nature, propensities, and operations of the human mind, that he seemed to comprehend and divine, at a single glance, all its intricacies, impulses and variations. This gave him a great advantage over many of his professional brethren, who had studied Latin and Greek more, but human nature less, than this self-made man. He took a deep and comprehensive view of the causes that impel men to action, and of the results produced by the multifarious influences that control and direct them. He investigated the designs of creation, the duty of man to his fellow and his God, the laws of nature, reason, and revelation, and became a bold advocate for liberty of conscience, equal rights, and universal freedom. Nor did he bury these principles of philanthropy in his own bosom. In the expansive view he had taken of the rights of man, of the different modes of government, of the oppressior costa kings, of the policy pursued by the mother country towards the American colonies, he came to the conclusion that any nation, to be great and happy, must be free and independent.
He had viewed, with a statesman's eye, the growing oppressions of the crown; they had reached his very soul, and roused that soul to action. In Virginia, Patrick Henry first charged the revolutionary ball with patriotic fire, and gave it an impetus that increased and gathered new force as it rolled along. Had not the mighty theme of freedom engaged the mind of this bold and elevated patriot, he might have closed his career with its gigantic powers half unspent, and left his noblest qualities of soul to expire in embryo. Nature had so moulded him, that the ordinary concerns of life never roused him to vigorous action. It required occasions of deep and thrilling interest to awaken and put in motion his stronger energies. The exciting cause of the revolution was exactly calculated to bring him out in all the majesty of his native greatness.
In 1765, he was chosen a member of the Virginia assembly, and at once took a bold and decisive stand against British oppression. He introduced resolutions against the stamp act, that were so bold and independent, as to alarm the older members, who, although they approved and applauded the principles and liberal views of this young champion of liberty, wanted his moral courage to design and execute. To impart this to them, and stamp the impress of his own, upon their trembling hearts, was now the great business of Patrick Henry. In this he succeeded, and his resolutions were passed. Each resolution was drawn from
the translucent fountain of eternal justice, and based upon the principles of Magna Charta, which had been the polar star of England for centuries. The following is a correct copy :
Resolved, That the first adventurers and settlers of this, His Majesty's colony and doininion, brought with them, and transmitted to their posterity, and all other His Majesty's subjects, since inhabiting in this, His Majesty's said colony, all the privileges, franchises and immunities, that have, at any time, been held, enjoyed and possessed by the people of Great Britain.
“Resolved, That by two royal charters, granted by King James I., the colonists aforesaid are declared entitled to all the privileges, liberties and immunities of denizens and natural born subjects, to all intents and purposes, as if they had been abiding and born within the realm of England.
" Resolved, That the taxation of the people by themselves, or by persons chosen by themselves to represent them, who can only know what taxes the people are able to bear, and the easiest mode of raising them, and are equally affected by such taxes themselves, is the distinguishing characteristic of British freedom, and without which the ancient constitution cannot subsist.
“ Resolved, That His Majesty's liege people of this most ancient colony, have uninterruptedly enjoyed the right of being thus governed by their own assembly, in the article of their taxes and internal police, and that the same hath never been forfeited, or in any other way given up, but hath been constantly recognised by the King and people of Great Britain.
“Resolved, therefore, that the general assembly of this colony has the sole right and power to lay taxes