He failed at store-keeping, and he failed at farming, but his ability to speak his mind, without bending to popular opinion, earned him a seat in that distinguished circle of Americans called “Founding Fathers.”
As a colonial legislator, Patrick Henry vehemently opposed the British Stamp Act, refusing to bow to shouts of “Treason!” from his colleagues.
As governor of Virginia, he opposed a Constitution that would yield too much power to the central government, coming to agreement only after the Bill of Rights was passed to protect individual rights and freedoms.
It was Patrick Henry who cried, “Give me freedom or give me death!” And it was Patrick Henry who rolled up his sleeves, picked up his rifle and joined his comrades to serve in the Virginia militia.
In his final public speech, he delivered an impassioned plea for unity reminding the crowd of a foundational adage: “United we stand. Divided we fall.” And two months later, a note was found by his last will and testament.
In that final message, Patrick Henry addressed those who would come after him—folks like you and me.
Here is what he said, as recorded on the Patrick Henry National Memorial website:
Whether America’s independence “will prove a Blessing or a Curse,” Henry continued in his message to posterity, “will depend on the Use our people make of the Blessings which a gracious God hath bestowed on us. If they are wise, they will be great and happy. If they are of a contrary Character, they will be miserable. Righteousness alone can exalt them as a Nation. Reader! whoever thou art, remember this, and in thy Sphere, practice Virtue thyself, and encourage it in others. P. HENRY”