By: Laken Hatcher
What is his background information?
He was a Virginia lawyer and politician (1736-1799) and was one of the leading figures of the American Revolutionary period. An outspoken opponent of the Stamp and Townshed Acts levied by England, he stirred the seeds of discord with his famous "Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death" speech to the Virginia Assembly in 1775. Henry served a crucial role in the overthrow of the royally appointed Virginia leadership and was elected governor multiple times. Although he opposed the formation of the U.S. Constitution as a threat to the liberties of the people and the rights of the states, his criticisms helped bring about the amendments that became the bill of rights.
Why is he important during the Revolutionary era?
He was selected to serve as a delegate to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia in 1774. There, he met Sam Adams and, together, they stoked the fires for revolution. During the proceedings, Henry called for the colonists to unite in their opposition to British rule: "The distinctions between Virginians, Pennsylvanians, New Yorkers and New Englanders, are no more. I am not a Virginian, but an American."As governor, Henry supported the revolution in lots of ways. He helped supply soldiers and equipment for George Washington. He also sent Virginia troops commanded by George Rogers Clark to drive out British forces in the northwest. After three terms as governor, Henry left the post in 1779. He remained active in politics as a member of the state assembly. In the mid 1780's, Henry served two more terms as governor.
Does he have any direct ties to the Revolution or Revolutionary thought?
-The second oldest out of nine children, Henry received much of his schooling from his father, who had attended university in Scotland, and his uncle, an Anglican minister. He was a musical child, playing both the fiddle and the flute. He may have modeled his great oratory style on the religious sermons by his uncle and others. With his mother, Henry sometimes attended services held by Presbyterian preachers who visited the area.
-At the age of 15, Henry ran a store for his father. The business didn't last, and Henry had his first taste of failure. He married Sarah Shelton, the daughter of a local innkeeper, in 1754. As part of his wife's dowry, Henry received some farm land. He tried growing tobacco there for three years, but he didn't fare well in this new venture either. In 1757, Henry and his wife lost their farmhouse to a fire. He then managed a tavern for his father-in-law and studied to be a lawyer. In 1760, he secured his law license. He and Sarah had six children together.