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opinions, and in a period of doubt, divisions and danger, men sought relief from their perplexities in his authority, and suffered their course to be guided by him, when they distrusted their own judgments, or the counsels of others. He, in fine, formed one of those manly, public spirited, and generous citizens, ready to share peril and decline reward, who illustrate the idea of a commonwealth, and who, through the obstructions of human passions and infirmities, being of rare occurrence, will always be the most admired, appropriate, and noble ornaments of a free government.
HENRY, PATRICK, governor of Virginia, and a most eloquent and distinguished orator, took an early and active part in support of the rights of his country, against the tyranny of Great Britain. He was born at Studley, in the county, of Hanover, and state of Virginia, on the 29th May, 1736. He descended from respectable Scotch ancestry, in the paternal line; and his mother was a native of the county in which he was born. On the maternal side, at least, he seems to have descended from a rhetorical race.
Her brother William, the father of the present judge Winston, is said to have been highly endowed with that peculiar cast of eloquence, for which Mr. Henry became, afterwards, so justly celebrated. Of this gentleman I have an anecdote from a correspondent, which I shall give in his own words. 'I have often heard my father, who was intimately acquainted with this William Winston, say, that he was the greatest orator whom he ever heard, Patrick Henry excepted; that during the last French and Indian war, and soon after Braddock's defeat, when the militia were marched to the frontiers of Virginia, against the enemy, this William Winston was the lieutenant of a company; that the men, who were indifferently clothed, without tents, and exposed to the rigour and inclemency of the weather, discovered great aversion to the service, and were anxious and even clamorous to return to their families; when this William Winston, mounting a stump, (the common rostrum of the field orator in Virginia,) addressed them with such keenness of invective, and declaimed with such force of eloquence, on liberty and patriotism, that when he concluded, the general cry was, “let us march on; lead us against the enemy;' and they were now willing, nay anxious to encounter all those difficulties and dangers, which, but a few moments before, had almost produced a mutiny."
In childhood and youth Patrick Henry, whose name renders titles superfiuous, gave no presages of his future greatness. He learned to read and write, reluctantly; made some small progress in arithmetic; acquired a superficial knowledge of the Latin language; and made a considerable profieiency in the mathematics, the only branch of education for which he discovered, in his youth, the slightest predilection. The whole soul of his youth was bound up in the sports of the field. His idleness was absolutely incurable: and, of course, he proved a truant lad, who could sit all day on a bridge, waiting for a good bite, or even, “one glorious nibble.' The unhappy effects of this idleness were lasting as his life; and the biographer very properly cautions his youthful readers against following this bad example. It
From what has been already stated, it will be seen, how little education had to do with the formation of this great man's mind. He was, indeed, a mere child of nature, and nature seems to have been too proud and too jealous of her work, to permit it to be touched by the hand of art. She gave him Shakspeare's genius, and bade him, like Shakspeare, to depend on that alone. Let not the youthful reader, however, deduce, from the example of Mr. Henry, an argument in favour of indo
lence and the contempt of study. Let him remember that the powers which surmounted the disadvantage of those early habits, were such as very rarely appear upon this earth. Let him remember, too, how long the genius, even of Mr. Henry, was kept down and hidden from the public view, by the sorcery of those pernicious habits; through what years of poverty and wretchedness they dooined him to struggle; and, let him remember, that, at length, when in the zenith of his glory, Mr. Henry, himself, had frequent occasions to deplore the consequences of his early neglect of literature, and to bewail the ghosts of his departed hours.'
At the age of fifteen years, young Henry was placed behind the counter of a merchant in the country; and at sixteen his father set him up in trade, in partnership with his brother William. Through laziness, the love of music, the charms of the chase, and a readiness to trust every one, the firm was soon reduced to bankruptcy. The only advantage which resulted from his short continuance in mercantile business was an oppportunity to study human characters. - At eighteen Mr. Henry married the daughter of an honest farmer, and undertook to cultivate a few acres for himself. His only delights, at this time, were those which flow from the endearing relations of conjugal life. His want of agricultural skill, and his unconquerable aversion to every species of systematic labour, terminated his career as a planter, in the short space of two years. Again he had recourse to merchandise, and again failed in business. Every atom of his property was now gone, his friends were unable to assist him any further: he had tried every means of support, of which he thought himself capable, and
every one had failedl; ruin was behind him; pover„ ty, debt, want, and famine before; and as if his
cup of misery were not already full enough, here was a suffering wife and children to make it overflow. Still he had a cheerful temper, and his passion was music, dancing, and pleasantry. About this time he became fond of geography and historical works generally. Livy was his favourite; and Livy, in some measure, awakened the dormant powers of his genius. As a last effort, he determined, of his own accord, to make a trial of the law. He, however, disliked the professional business of an attorney at law, and he seems to have hoped for nothing more from the profession than a scanty subsistence for himself and his family, and his preparation was suited to these humble expectations; for, to the study of a profession, which is said to require the lucubrations of twenty years, Mr Henry devoted not more than six weeks. On examination, he was licensed, rather through courtesy, and some expectation that he would study, than from any conviction which his examiners had of his present competence. “'At the age of four and twenty he was admitted to the bar; and for three years occupied the back ground; during which period the wants and distressess of his family were extreme; and he performed the duty of an assistant to his father-in-law in a tavern.
In 1764, he pursued his favourite amusement of hunting, with extreme ardour; and has been known to hunt deer, frequently for several days together, carrying his provisions with him, and at night encamping in the woods,
After the hunt was over, he would go from the ground to Louisa court, clad in a coarse cloth coat stained with all the trophies of the chase, greasy leather breeches ornamented in the same way, leggings for boots, and a pair of saddle-bags on his arm. Thus accoutred, he would enter the court-house, take up the first of his causes that chanced to be called; and if there was any scope for his peculiar talent, throw his adversary into the back ground, and astonish both court and jury by the powerful effusions of his natural eloquence.
In the same year he was introduced to the gay and fashionable circle at Williamsburg, then the seat of government for the state, that he might be counsel in case of a contested election: but he made no preparation for pleading; and, as we might naturally suppose, none for appearing in a suitable costume. He moved awkwardly about in his coarse and threadbare dress; and while some thought him a prodigy, others concluded him to be an ideot: nevertheless, before, the committee of elections, he delivered an argument which judge Tyler, judge Winston, and others, pronounced the best they ever heard. In the same year, it is asserted on the authority of Mr. Jefferson, that Mr. Henry gave the first impulse to the ball of the revolution. He originated the spirit of the revolution in Virginia, unquestionably; and possessed a dauntless soul, exactly suited to the important work he was destined to perform.
In the year 1765, he was a member of the assembly of Virginia. He introduced his celebrated resolutions against the stamp act, which breatheda spirit of liberty, and which had a tendency to rouse the people of that commonwealth in favour of our glorious revolution. .
After his death, there was found among his papers one sealed, and thus endorsed; “ Inclosed are the resolutions of the Virginia assembly, in 1765, concerning the stamp act. Let my executors open this paper." Within was found the following copy of the resolutions, in Mr. Henry's handwriting.
"Resolved, That the first adventurers and settlers of this, his majesty's colony and dominion, brought with them and transmitted to their posterity, and all other his majesty's subjects,