5 Things You Didn't Know About Patrick Henry

On March 23, 1775, Patrick Henry called for America's independence from Britain, telling the Virginia Provincial Convention, "Give me liberty, or give me death!" Find out five things you probably didn't know about Patrick Henry.


No One Knows How Accurate Henry's Statement Was On March 23, 1775, Henry gave a speech that would define his legacy and capture the spirit of the American Revolution. Henry gave his speech at the Virginia Convention in Richmond about the need for an organized militia for the inevitable war with Britain. To conclude the speech, Henry shouted “I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” But then again, he might not have said it. There was no transcript of the speech and it remained  unpublished until it turned up in Patrick Henry's biography in 1817. Author William Wirt said he interviewed eyewitnesses to the famed speech, including Judge St. George Tucker and mostly used the judge's description to piece together the speech.

Henry Was The First Elected Governor Of Virginia Elected in 1776, Henry served three terms as governor of Virginia until June 1, 1779. While governor, he married Dorothea Dandridge after the death of his first wife, Sarah, in 1775, who was a cousin of George Washington's wife. In 1784, Henry was re-elected as governor and retired from the post in 1786.


He Unsuccessfully Argued Against The Constitution Henry declined to attend the Constitutional Convention in 1787 in Philadelphia and became one of the strongest critics of the proposed Constitution. He feared that it gave the federal government too much power and leaned closer to a monarchy. Henry spoke against adopting the Constitution in 1788 at the Virginia Ratification Convention, taking up 25 percent of the floor time. Still, the Virginia representatives adopted the constitution by a ten-vote margin.

Henry Preferred The Articles of Confederation Over The Constitution The Articles of Confederation were the original constitution created after the United States declared independence. And the Articles were a mess. They decentralized national government for a reason; no one wanted a hint of centralized, monarch-style rule. But they left the states pretty much on their own with a hodge-podge of laws that ended up being more annoying than anything else. In 1789, the states reconvened to create a new constitution, but Henry balked at the idea, claiming the new version, which gave more power to a central national government, was too close to monarchy. 

He Turned Down George Washington's Offer To Be Secretary of State In 1795, President George Washington offered Patrick Henry the position after his previous Secretary of State Edmund Randolph Jennings resigned. Henry politely declined the position and told Washington he could not move to Philadelphia  due to family obligations. Henry went on to say that he was now supporting  “no less than eight children by my present marriage,” and a widowed daughter from his previous one. Timothy Pickering was then tapped by Washington to fill the void in his cabinet.