Sources on Patrick Henry at The Library of Virginia

Patrick Henry (1736-1799), a failed shopkeeper and late-blooming lawyer, left an indelible mark on American history with his activities in the Revolutionary and post-Revolutionary periods. Henry did not leave a substantial written record for researchers to investigate. This lack of written documentation, according to many historians, shows Henry's affinity to an extemporaneous or informal style, especially regarding his oratory. Contemporary accounts note Henry's distinct and fiery speaking style. With no surviving written record, Henry's speaking style may be the key to his place in history. Known for his famous "give me liberty, or give me death" speech at St. John's Church, Henry also served as Virginia's first governor under the commonwealth, the first of two administrations. After leaving the governor's office in 1786, he turned down positions of power from presidents and legislators. He died at Red Hill Plantation in Charlotte County on 6 June 1799. Patrick Henry's unique style distinguished his from the other voices of freedom during America's revolution.


Ledger (facsimile), 1758–1763, Accession 20472.
The first section covers the years 1758–1760 and notes sales of cloth, clothing, hats and buttons at Henry’s store. The second section records legal fees paid to Henry for the years 1760–1763. The second section contains an index and is in a different hand than the first section.

Ledger (facsimile with manuscript index), 1762–1770, Accession 20473 (ledger), Accession 22408a (index).
This volume contains numerous entries for legal fees and exhibits Henry’s growing legal practice. Several Hanover County merchants are listed. The volume is indexed, but incomplete.

Ledger (facsimile and manuscript), 1764, 1770–1775, 1778, 1780, 1783–1798, Accession 22408b (also Miscellaneous Reel 1140).
The first section of this volume includes accounts for the period 1764–1775. This section is followed by an index to the remainder of the volume, which includes accounts for the years 1778, 1780 and 1783–1798. Also included are photostat copies of two pages of the second section of the volume obtained at a later date. The majority of the entries relate to Henry's legal practice. One account, however, refers to articles purchased to furnish the palace "when I was first app'[ointe]d Gov'[erno]r."

Letter (facsimile), 30______1772, Accession 21838.
Ambrose Rucker to Patrick Henry, Rucker reviews data relevant to the validity of his claim to certain land. Henry appears to have been acting as Rucker's attorney.

Letters (microfilm), Governor's Office, Letters Received, 29 June 1776–December 1779, Reel 1, Accession  29604.
Contains letters and other sundry materials received during Henry’s first gubernatorial administration (1776–1779). Also includes some drafted replies. See alsoGovernor’s Letters Received.

Letters (facsimile), 1777–1779, 1786, Accession 19779, Executive Letterbooks, Miscellaneous Microfilm Reel 3.
Contains letters to General Charles Lewis (1777–79); to Richard Caswell, Governor of North Carolina (1777); and a land grant to the trustees of Issac Sidman (1786). See also McIlwaine’s Official Letters of the Governors of the State of Virginia, Vol. 1, The Letters of Patrick Henry, 111-112, 124-125, 179-180, 348-349, 353.

Letter (facsimile), 2 January 1778, Accession 19826.
P[atrick] Henry, Governor of Virginia, to Lieutenant Colonel George Rogers Clark ordering an attack on British forces in Kaskaskia. See also McIlwaine’s Official Letters of the Governors of the State of Virginia, Vol. 1, The Letters of Patrick Henry, 223-224.

Letters (facsimiles), 1778–1779, Accession 28357.
Letter, 2 January 1778, Governor Patrick Henry, in Council, Williamsburg, to Lt. Col. George Rogers Clark.
Letter, 3 February 1779, George Rogers Clark, Kaskaskias, to Governor Patrick Henry, Williamsburg.

Letter (facsimile), 12 June 1778, Accession  19994.
P[atrick] Henry to Richard Henry Lee, Yorktown, noting that Felix Lexier, the bearer of the letter, has just returned from France and is eager to get to work as a surgeon.

Letter (facsimile), [12] September 1778, Accession 26892.
Patrick Henry, Governor of Virginia, Williamsburg, to George Rogers Clark, Colonel and Commander-in-Chief of the Virginia Troops in Illinois County. This letter contains general instructions. It also notes inclusion of copies of Virginia’s bill of rights and the treaty of alliance between the colonies and France. A private letter accompanied these instructions. See also McIlwaine’s Official Letters of the Governors of the State of Virginia, Vol. 1, The Letters of Patrick Henry, 338–342.

Letters, 1778, 1785, 1786, 1796, 1798, 1799, Accession 22493.
Letter (facsimile), 28 May 1778, P[atrick] Henry, Williamsburg, to James Bowdoin Jr., Alexandria, Henry writes that a claim by Bowdoin has been considered by the Council.
Letter (facsimile), 10 September 1785, P[atrick] Henry, Richmond, to [Thomas Jefferson] regarding Houdon’s proposed statue of Washington, tobacco, and the manufacture of arms. See also Julian P. Boyd, ed. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1950-), 8: 507.
Letter (facsimile), 30 January 1786, P[atrick]  Henry, Council Chamber, to [William Livingston], Governor of New Jersey. A cover letter for several Virginia General Assembly resolutions sent through New Jersey. Enclosures not included.
Letter (facsimile), 14 June 1786, Patrick Henry to [Jaquelin] Ambler, Treasurer of Virginia, ordering the Treasurer to credit John Rodes with £85 to be deducted from Henry’s salary for the next quarter. Acknowledgement by Rodes is on the reverse.
Letter (facsimile), 29 November 1796, P[atrick] Henry, "Red Hill," to Wilson Cary Nicholas regarding the differences between France and the United States.
Letter (facsimile), 6 February 179(8?), P[atrick]  Henry, Charlotte [County], to Daniel Caul, asking Caul to defend and appeal for the decree entered in Prewitt v. Hurt, Campbell County.
Letter (facsimile), 8 January 1799, P[atrick]  Henry, "Red Hill," to Archibald Blair, Richmond, discussing the situation at home and abroad. Emphasis is given to the relations between the United States and France.

Executive Letterbooks (microfilm), 1 January 1783 to 20 November 1786, Miscellaneous Microfilm Cabinet 41, Reel 3.
These microfilmed letter books contain correspondence written by Patrick Henry during his second gubernatorial administration (1784–1786).

Letters (original), 30 November 1784 to 30 November 1786, Record Group 3, Governor's Office Executive Papers.
Patrick Henry received these letters during his second administration (1784–1786), including letters from the Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson.

Letter (facsimile), 9 June 1788, Accession 21925.
Patrick Henry to General John Lamb; Chairman of the Federal Republican Committee in New York, had previously written to Henry regarding the organization of opponents to the proposed constitution. Noted is Henry’s estimation of Virginia’s position on the new scheme of government. George Mason’s agreement to accept the chairmanship of "our republican Society" is also noted.

Letter (original), 9 March 1790, Accession 24720.
[John] P[eter] Muhlenberg, New York, to Patrick Henry, Prince Edward County, relating to the purchase of land in Georgia.

Letter (original), 31 August 1790, Accession 24615b.
John Marshall, Richmond, to Patrick Henry, Prince Edward, regarding the estate of "Mr. Randolph."

Papers, Patrick Henry, 1790, 1791, 1794 and 1795.
These materials concern Henry’s association with the Virginia Yazoo Company.
Letter (original), 24 January 1790, Accession 26250a.
John B. Scott to Patrick Henry, Prince Edward [County], [Virginia].
Letter (original), 10 February 1790, Accession 26250b.
[Alexander Moultrie?], Cha[rles]ton, South Carolina, to the [Directors of the Virginia Yazoo Company?]
Letter (original), 14 February 1790, Accession 26250c.
John B. Scott, Augusta, [Georgia] to [Patrick Henry?].
Letter (original), 24 June 1791, Accession 26250d.
David Ross, Richmond, [Virginia] to the [Directors of the Virginia Yazoo Company?].
Agreement (original), 10 August 1794, Accession 26250e.
Patrick Henry, [Campbell] [County], Virginia, with Isaac Coles, Halifax [County], Virginia.
Letter (original), 29 December 1795, Accession 26250f.
David Ross, Cobbham, to Patrick Henry, Charlotte County, [Virginia].

Letter (facsimile), 16 October 1795, Accession 29227.
Photocopy of Henry's retained copy of a letter to George Washington declining the position of Secretary of State and setting forth his reasons.

Letters (facsimile), 20 March 1797 to 2 August 1799, Accession 20921a-g.
Patrick and Dorothea Henry, "Red Hill," Patrick Henry's letters, all to James Townes, concern the purchase of lands and stock from W.M. Booker and the collection of a bond from a Mr. Neil. Dorothea Henry's letters concern the execution of her husband's estate and similar topics.

Letter (facsimile), 31 October 1797, Accession 20884.
Patrick Henry to William Marshall Booker, Amelia County. Henry offers to buy land at Seven Island and to hire the Negroes on the property. See also Accession 20921.

Letter (original), 17 Dec[ember] 1797, Accession 30062.
Henry Lee, Richmond, to Patrick Henry, Esq., Charlotte, discussing a number of business topics, including: the sale of _______ Wilson’s property and the debt owed to Lee by Wilson. The title to land in the Dismal Swamp is also discussed.

Letter (original), 13 April 1798, Accession 26136.
Patrick Henry, Charlottesville, to ________, stating that the bearer, Mr. Driskill, be assisted in research of a land title.

Will (facsimile), dated 12 February 1799, proved 1 July 1799, Accession 26340.
This is a copy of the original will on file at the Charlotte County Courthouse. See also Charlotte County Will Book 2, page 148.

Manuscript (facsimile), "Patrick Henry: Corrections of Biographical Mistakes and Popular Errors in Regard to is Character. Anecdotes and New Facts Illustrating His Religious and Political Opinions, and the Style and Power of His Eloquence. A Brief Account of His Last Illness and Death," Edward Fontaine, 1872, Accession 22470.
This is a photocopy of manuscript notes made by Edward Fontaine who was a great-grandson of Patrick Henry.

Bible Record (facsimile), Henry Family, 1777–1813, Accession 29721.
Covers Charlotte County, Virginia. Other surnames mentioned: Dandridge. Photoduplication Prohibited.

Genealogical Notes (facsimile), William R. Henry: A "Lost" Grandson of Patrick Henry (d. 1862), Accession 31006.
Ancestors and descendants of William R. Henry beginning with Patrick Henry and his second wife, Dorothea Dandridge. Compiled by Victor Dodier and Arthur C. Roach.

Genealogical Notes (facsimile), Henry Family of "Red Hill", Charlotte County, Accession 24512.
Entitled "Family Register of Jon[h] Henry of Red Hill, Charlotte Co., VA" including information on William Wirt Henry.

Broadside (facsimile), 6 May 1775, Special Collections, Broadside 1775 V83.
Proclamation by the Right Hon. John Earl of Dunmore denouncing Patrick Henry and a "certain number of deluded followers" for taking up arms against the government.

Proclamation of revocation of a hue and cry concerning Patrick Henry, 29 May 1986, Accession 34103.
This proclamation, issued by the eleventh earl of Dunmore, is a revocation of a hue and cry by his ancestor, the Royal Governor of Virginia, issued on 6 May 1775 against Patrick Henry. Henry’s qualities are noted and all are asked to join in his deserved vindication as a "Great American."

The collections related to Patrick Henry at the Library of Virginia by no means represent a comprehensive assemblage. Rather, they give the researcher samples from various stages in Henry’s life. The archival and manuscript materials in this bibliography have been pulled together from various loose papers to create a more cohesive documentary history. These materials come from various collections, including private papers, local, and state records. The manuscript and facsimiles have been arranged chronologically. The researcher should consult other sources, in addition to those noted, to get a more complete picture of Patrick Henry.


Articles / Theses

Beeman, Richard R. "The Democratic Faith of Patrick Henry." Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 95 (July 1987): 301-316.

Bland, Henretta. "Patrick Henry and the Fight for Religious Freedom."  Daughters of the American Revolution Magazine 119 (November 1985): 780-785.

Issac, Rhys. "Patrick Henry: Patriot or Preacher?" Virginia Cavalcade 31 (Winter 1982): 168-175.

Smith, Hampden, III. "The Virginia Resolutions for Independence."  Virginia Cavalcade 25 (Spring 1976): 148-157.

Wells, James. The Christian Philosophy of Patrick Henry. M.A. Thesis: Sam Houston State Teachers College, 1960.


Beeman, Richard R. Patrick Henry, A Biography. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1974.

Henry, William Wirt. Patrick Henry: Life, Correspondence, and Speeches. 3 vols. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1891.

Mayer, Henry. A Son of Thunder: Patrick Henry and the American Republic. New York: F. Watts, 1986.

Mayo, Bernard. Myths and Men: Patrick Henry, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1959.

McCants, David A. Patrick Henry: The Orator. New York: Greenwood Press, 1990.

McIlwaine, Henry Read, ed. Official Letters of the Governors of the State of Virginia, Vol. 1, The Letters of Patrick Henry, July 1, 1776-June 1, 1779. Richmond: Virginia State Library, 1926.

Meade, Robert Douthat. Patrick Henry. 2 vols. Philadelphia: Lippencott, 1957-1969.

Umbreit, Kenneth Bernard. Founding Fathers: Men Who Shaped Our Traditions. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1941.

Vaughan, David J. Give Me Liberty: The Uncompromising Statesmanship of Patrick Henry. Nashville: Cumberland House Publishing, 1997.

Wirt, William. Sketches in the Life and Character of Patrick Henry. Philadelphia: E. Claxton, 1881.


Patrick Henry: Voice of Liberty, prod. Rhys Thomas, 50 min., A&E Television Network, 1995,  videocassette.


Mair, John. The Tyro’s Dictionary, Latin and English. Comprehending the More Usual Primitives of the Latin Tongue, Digested Alphabetically, in the Order of the Parts of Speech. Edinburgh: Sands, Murray, and Cochran, 1763.With the autographs of P. Henry and of Patrick Henry Fontaine.


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