The Library of Virginia
Portrait of Patrick Henry Speech Patrick Henry (1736-1799) was the first Virginian to gain fame as a persuasive political orator. As a courtroom advocate and as a member of the House of Burgesses and the Continental Congress, he propelled Virginia along the road to the American Revolution. He served as governor of Virginia from 1776 to 1779 and from 1784 to 1786, and he employed his powerful oratory during the Convention of 1788 in the struggle over the ratification of the United States Constitution. Henry's oratorical style helped create a new form of politics in Virginia. Before Henry, candidates for office did not speak directly to the voters; after Henry, candidates for office almost always addressed the voters. Attendance at political rallies became a popular aspect of the democratic political culture, and oratorical ability was often essential for political success. His famous "Give me liberty, or give me death" speech, delivered in Richmond in March 1775, is one of the best-known political orations in American history.

Patrick Henry before the House of Burgesses. After Peter F. Rothermel. 1851. Hand-colored engraving. The Library of Virginia

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Governor's Letters Received