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have been slighted, our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult, our supplications have been disregarded, and we have been spurned with contempt from the foot of the throne.
“ In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation. There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free-if we mean to preserve in violate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending-if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained, we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and the God of Hosts is all that is left us ! It is vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry peace, peace; but there is no peace. The war is actually begun. The next gale that comes from the north, will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field. Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or death !”
The effect of this speech was electrical. The cry, “ To arms,” burst from every quarter; “ Liberty or death,” resounded and rang through every ear, and was responded by every patriot. The resolutions were seconded and supported by Richard Henry Lee, and were adopted without further opposition. A committee was immediately appointed to carry them into effect. From that time forward, the Old Dominion
was renewed, regenerated, and free. Her richest blood was poured out freely in the cause of liberty and equal rights.
Soon after this convention had adjourned, Lord Dunmore removed a part of the powder from the magazine at Williamsburg on board of one of His Majesty's ships. On being informed of this transaction, Patrick Henry collected a military force in Hanover and King William counties, and repaired to the seat of government, demanding the restoration of the powder, or its equivalent in cash. An order for the amount in money, was received, and no blood shed. A proclamation was issued against these daring rebels, which only seemed to unite the people more strongly in favour of their orator and soldier, whose conduct they highly approved at several public meetings convened on the occasion.
In August, 1775, Mr. Henry was again chosen a delegate to the Continental Congress, and in June of the following year, governor of his native state. He held this important office during that and the ensuing year, but declined serving the third year, although unanimously re-elected. His zeal in the glorious cause he had espoused did not languish or grow cold. In 1780 he took his seat in the assembly of his state, and manifested all the activity and vigour that characterized the commencement of his bold and useful career. In 1788 he was a member of the Virginia convention, convened for the consideration of the constitution of the United States, then submitted for approval or rejection. To that instrument Mr. Henry was then strongly opposed, because, as he contended, it consolidated the states into one government, thereby destroying the sovereignty of each. His eloquence on that occasion was raised to its highest pitch, but could not
prevail. His closing speech on that now revered instrument, was said to have surpassed either of his former efforts, and operated so powerfully, that but a small majority voted for the new constitution. During his remarks, an incident occurred which enabled him to almost paralyze his audience. After describing the magnitude of the question, on the determination of which hung the happiness or wo of the present generation, and millions yet unborn, with a voice and countenance solemn as eternity, and his eyes raised upwards, he appealed to the God of heaven, and to angels, then hovering over their heads, to witness the thrilling scene, and invoked their aid in the mighty work before him. At that moment, a sudden thundergust commenced its fury, and shook the very earth. Upon the wings of the tempest his stentorian voice continued to rise—he figuratively seized the artillery of the elements as by supernatural power, hurled the liquid lightning at the heads of his opponents, and seemed commissioned, by the great Jehovah, to execute a deed of vengeance. The scene was awfully sublime, the effect tremendous. The purple current rushed back upon the fountain of life, every countenance was pale, every eye was fixed, every muscle was electrified, every vein was contracted, every heart was agonized—the scene became insupportable—the members rushed from their seats in confusion, and left the house without the formality of an adjournment.
He remained in the assembly of Virginia until 1791, when he declined a re-election, and expressed a strong desire to retire from public life. He had toiled long, faithfully and successfully, and wished for that repose, found only in the bosom of our families. .
In 1795, President Washington, for whom he had an
unbounded veneration, offered him the high station of secretary of state. With becoming gratitude to his friend and the father of his country, he declined the proffered honour, and chose to remain in retirement. The following year he was again elected governor of his native state, but declined serving. In 1799 he was appointed, by President Adams, an envoy to France, in conjunction with Messrs. Murray and Ellsworth. His declining health would not permit him to accept of this last appointment with which he was honoured. Disease was fast consummating the work of death, and rapidly destroying the hardy constitution and athletic frame, that had enabled him to perform his duty so nobly during the trying scenes of the revolution. He was aware that the work of dissolution was going on, and awaited his final exit with calm submission and Christian fortitude. On the 6th of June, 1799, he resigned his spirit to Him who gave it, threw off the mortal coil, and was numbered with the dead, aged but 61 years. His loss was deeply mourned by the American nation, and most strongly felt by those who knew him best. The following affectionate tribute is from the
of one who knew him well :“ Mourn, Virginia, mourn! your Henry is gone. Ye friends of liberty in every clime, drop a tear. No more will his social feelings spread delight through his happy house. No more will his edifying example dictate to his numerous offspring the sweetness of virtue and the majesty of patriotism. No more will his sage advice, guided by zeal for the common happiness, impart light and utility to his caressing neighbours. No more will he illuminate the public councils with sentiments drawn from the cabinet of his own mind, ever directed to his country's good, and clothed in eloquence
sublime, delightful and commanding. Farewell, firstrate patriot, farewell. As long as our rivers flow, or mountains stand, so long will your excellence and worth be the theme of our homage and endearment ; and Virginia, bearing in mind her loss, will say to rising generations—imitate my Henry."
In reviewing the character of this truly great man from the commencer jent of his public career, his examples in public ar d private life are worthy of veneration and the closest imitation. The rust of his youth was soon removed, and he became, in all respects, a brilliant and polished man.
His habits were rigidly temperate—his conduct, as a gentleman, a public functionary, an amiable citizen, and a devoted Christian, was beyond reproach. Although, when he believed himself in the right, he maintained his position with great zeal and ardour, he was always open to conviction. He opposed the adoption of the federal constitution when it was under consideration, but subsequently became convinced of its utility, and highly approved of its form and substance.
As a husband, a father, a master, a neighbour and a friend, he had no superior. As an advocate, an orator, a statesman and a patriot, his fame stands, in all its glory, uneclipsed and unsurpassed. As Grattan said of Pitt, there was something in Patrick Henry that could create, subvert, or reform; an understanding, a spirit, an eloquence, to summon mankind to society, or to break the bonds of slavery asunder, and to rule the wilderness of free minds with unbounded authority; something that could establish or overwhelm empire, and strike a blow in the world, that should resound through the universe.
He was twice married, and the father of fifteen chil.