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We are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which God has placed in our power… the battle, sir, is not to the strong alone it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave… If this be treason, make the most of it! Patrick Henry


Patrick Henry is often portrayed as a firebrand and a radical and very little could be farther from the truth. He was a founding father given to flights of rhetoric but that may have come from his training as an attorney. He was also a successful planter who became a governor of Virginia and was every bit the intellectual equal of Jefferson and a close friend of Washington.

He knew that the government had to be open since, the liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them. He suffered from no delusions about the realities of freedom knowing that the new nation had to, Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are inevitably ruined.

Nor did he suffer any delusions about what to fear from the English crown when he lamented,  we are at last brought to such humiliating and debasing degradation, that we cannot be trusted with arms for our defense, knowing that liberty required that, the great object is that every man be armed.

Unafraid,  for my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst and provide for it, realizing that, perfect freedom is as necessary to the health and vigor of commerce as it is to the health and vigor of citizenship.And this is one of the most overlooked aspects of the entire Revolution – there may be high blown rhetoric at the opening of our Declaration of Independence but the majority of it was a legal argument justifying secession from England that was substantiated with a long indictment of the violations of the English. The reality of the government formed by the American states was that every man enjoyed life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness within the confines of his willingness to work and enjoy the fruits of his labor undiminished by unnecessary government.

Since this book is concerned with his library it may be used to illustrate another of his differences from the deist Jefferson when he says, the Bible is worth all the other books which have ever been printed, and after a lifetime of service to family, church, state and nation notes in his will,  this is all the inheritance I give to my dear family. The religion of Christ will give them one which will make them rich indeed.


The mind of a patriot : Patrick Henry and the world of ideas Charlottesville : University of Virginia Press, 2008 Kevin J. Hayes United States Intellectual life 18th century Hardcover. 184 p. ; 22 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [159]-169) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG  

The Mind of a Patriot presents an intellectual life of a major figure who has traditionally been seen as an anti-intellectual “child of nature.” This was the view of Patrick Henry that William Wirt presented in his Life of Henry, and it has pervaded every biography since. Hayes presents a very different view of Henry.

Starting with neglected pieces of evidence – the inventory of Henry’s library – Hayes’s unique perspective allows him to position Henry’s life within the intellectual currents of the day. After the opening chapter, which shows how Thomas Jefferson’s opinions of Henry influenced Wirt’s depiction of him, the author traces Henry’s life through his relationship with the world of books.

Individual chapters examine Henry’s education; his legal career; his use of books to improve his speaking style; his use of books as a legislator, a farmer, and a father; and, ultimately, the place of books in his life during his waning years. In a lengthy appendix, Hayes reconstructs Henry’s library, presenting a detailed catalogue of its contents.

"Give me liberty, or give me death!" Patrick Henry delivering his great speech on the rights of the colonies, before the Virginia Assembly, convened at Richmond, March 23rd 1775, concluding with the above sentiment, which became the war cry of the revolution. from the Library of Congress

“Give me liberty, or give me death!” Patrick Henry delivering his great speech on the rights of the colonies, before the Virginia Assembly, convened at Richmond, March 23rd 1775, concluding with the above sentiment, which became the war cry of the revolution. from the Library of Congress


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