Heritage of the Founding Fathers
Heritage of the Founding Fathers

Patrick Henry
American Orator
Josh Pittman

Patrick Henry (1736-1799), famous for the words “Give me liberty or give me death,” was known as the “Oracle of Liberty.”  One of 17 children, Patrick was taught at home by his father.  He was a clerk when he was 15, and at 16, he, along with his brother, opened a store. 

Patrick Henry later became a member of the House of Burgesses, a member of the Continental Congress, and Governor of Virginia.  It was during the Second Virginia Convention that he delivered his famous, patriotic words:

Sir, we have done everything that could be done to avert the storm which is now coming on.  We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the ministry and parliament…An appeal to arms and to the God of Hosts is all that is left us!

…Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battle alone.  There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations; and who will raise up friends to fight our battle for us…

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 give me death!1

Patrick Henry was a powerful orator.  George Mason, a founding father, said that Henry “is the most powerful speaker I have every heard.  Every word he says not only engages, but commands the attention, and your passions when he addresses them.”2

In his life, Henry thought religion was particularly important.  Regarding the Bible, he stated, “The Bible is worth all other books which have ever been printed.”1

Henry was described by his grandson as one who “looked to the restraining and elevating principles of Christianity as the hope of his country’s institutions.”1

As Patrick Henry was dying, he spoke these telling words, “Doctor, I wish you to observe how real and beneficial the religion of Christ is to a man about to die…I am, however, much consoled by reflecting that the religion of Christ has, from its first appearance in the world, been attacked in vain by all the wits, philosophers, and wise ones, aided by every power of man, and its triumphs have been complete.”1


1.  Federer, William.  America’s God and Country Encyclopedia of Quotations.  AmeriSearch.  2000

2.  Hawkinson, Don.  Character for Life, An American Heritage.  New Leaf Press.  2005.