Speech of Patrick Henry

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#1 Sun, May 26, 2013 - 12:45am
Joined: Jun 14, 2011

Speech of Patrick Henry

Patrick Henry, the patriot and great founding father, served as Governor of the state of Virginia prior to and during the formation of the United States.

I located a book which included some of his oratory before the Virginia House in deliberations over the adoption of the US Constitution. Mr. Henry's speech is remarkable in the current political context.

From "Patrick Henry - Life, Correspondence, and Speeches" by William Wirt Henry, 1891.

Archived by the University of Florida library...
I am transcribing his words as reported online at:


Page 507

"The people of England lived without a declaration of rights till the war in the time of Charles I. That king made usurpations upon the rights of the people. Those rights were in a great measure before that time undefined. Power and privilege then depended on implication and logical discussion. Though the declaration of rights was obtained from that king, his usurpations cost him his life. The limits between the liberty of the people and the prerogative of the king were still not clearly defined. The rights of the people continued to be violated till the Stuart family was banished in the year 1688. The English people magnanimously defended their rights..."

Page 510

"I admit that the American union is dear to every man - I admit that every man who has three grains of information must know and think that union is the best of all things. But as I said before, we must not mistake the end for the means. If he can show that the rights of the union are secure, we will consent. It has been sufficiently demonstrated that they are not secured. It sounds mighty prettily to gentlemen to curse paper money and honestly pay debts. But apply to the situation of America, and you will find there are thousands and thousands of contracts whereof equity forbids an exact literal performance. Pass that government and you will be bound hand and foot. There was an immense quantity of depreciated continental paper money in circulation at the conclusion of the war. This money is in the hands of individuals to this day. The holders of this money may call for the nominal value, if this government be adopted. This State may be compelled to pay her proportion of that currency pound for pound. Pass this government and you will be carried to the federal court (if I understand paper right) and you will be compelled to pay shilling for shilling. I doubt on the subject, at least as a public man, I ought to have doubts. A State may be sued in federal court by the paper on your table. It appears to me then, that the holder of the paper money may require shilling for shilling. If there be any latent remedy to prevent this, I hope it will be discovered."

"The precedent with respect to the union between England and Scotland does not hold. The union of Scotland speaks in plain and direct terms. Their privileges were particularly secured. It was expressly provided that they should retain their own particular laws. Their nobles have a right to choose representatives to the number of sixteen. - I might thus go on and specify particulars, but it will suffice to observe generally that their rights and privileges were expressly and unequivocally reserved. The power of...

(page 511)

"direct taxation was not given up by the Scotch people. There is no trait in that union which will maintain their arguments. In order to do this they ought to have proved that Scotland united without securing their rights, and afterward got that security by subsequent amendments.

Did the people of Scotland do this? No sir, like a sensible people they trusted nothing to hazard. If they have but forty-five members, and those be often corrupted, these defects will be greater here. The number will be smaller, and they will be consequently the more easily corrupted.

Another honorable gentleman advises us to give this power in order to exclude the necessity of going to war. He wishes to establish national credit I presume - and imagines that if a nation has public faith, and shows a disposition to comply with her engagements, she is safe among ten thousand dangers. If the honorable gentleman can prove that this paper is calculated to give us public faith, I will be satisfied.

But if you be in a constant preparation for war, on such airy and imaginary grounds, as the mere possibility of danger, your government must be military, which will be inconsistent with the enjoyment of liberty. But, sir, we must become formidable, and have a strong government to protect us from the British nation.

Edited by: Strongsidejedi on Nov 8, 2014 - 5:22am

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