In the Patriot Cause

Henry became a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1765. In 1773, with Thomas Jefferson and Richard Henry Lee. he helped form a Virginia Committee of Correspondence, which exchanged information with similar committees that were resisting British domination. Henry was a member of the Continental Congress, 1774–76, and of the Virginia Convention, where he delivered his “liberty or death” speech. He served briefly as the first commander of the state's militia and helped draft Virginia's constitution.

Henry was elected the first governor of the state, serving 1776–79, and proved to be an effective wartime governor. He authorized the George Rogers Clark expedition that drove the British from what became the Northwest Territory. During 1780–84 and 1787–90 Henry served in the Virginia legislature. He opposed a strong federal government and refused to be a delegate to the Constitutional Convention (1787). As a member of the Virginia Ratification Convention (1788) he argued against adoption; but when the Constitution was ratified he announced his support of it. His criticism of the original document helped lead to the prompt adoption of the first 10 Amendments—the Bill of Rights.

Patrick HenryPatrick Henry

Henry declined several important posts in the new federal government, including secretary of state and chief justice of the United States. He was elected to the Virginia legislature again in 1799 but died before he could take his seat.