A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.


Patrick Henry

29 May 1736 - 6 June 1799

Patrick Henry was born in Hanover County, Virginia, to a prosperous planter family. After several unsuccessful attempts as a merchant, Henry decided to become a lawyer. Essentially self-taught, he built a successful practice in Hanover and neighboring counties. He was elected to the House of Burgesses in 1765, where he built a reputation as an opponent of imperial policies. During the debates on the Stamp Act, the House accepted several of Henry's proposed resolves stating the body's objections to the act. He was one of the principal advocates of the intercolonial committees of correspondence, and he served as a delegate to both the First and the Second Continental Congresses. Henry was instrumental in organizing the revolution in Virginia. He helped draft the Virginia constitution and he was elected the first governor of the commonwealth in 1776. He declined his election to the Constitutional Convention of 1787, but later expressed reservations about the document and served an anti-federalist in the state ratification convention. He eventually turned down various political appointments within the federal government and retired from politics in 1790.