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Patrick Henry


"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!"

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Attribution: Patrick Henry's speech to the Virginia Convention in Richmond. William Wirt, Sketches of the Life and Character of Patrick Henry, 9th ed., pp. 141-42.

Date: March 23, 1775

Patrick Henry


Born in Hanover County, Virginia, this trial lawyer became a leader in the American Revolution. He denounced the Stamp Act of 1765, imposed by the British Parliament, which required American colonists to pay a tax on every piece of printed paper they used (including legal documents, licenses, newspapers, and other publications). A gifted orator, Henry helped fan the fires of revolt in the south.

Henry served as a delegate to the Continental Congress (1774-76) and the Virginia provincial convention (1775). He served twice as governor of Virginia (1776-79 and 1784-86). Henry opposed ratification of the U.S. Constitution, believing that it endangered state sovereignty, and worked successfully to add the first 10 amendments, known as the Bill of Rights, to the Constitution.



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