Yesterday in 1775, tensions were riding high in Virginia. Virginia’s House of Burgesses was going to make a bold decision which may have turned the tide for the entire Revolution – the pronouncement to commit its militia to the Revolutionary cause.

At the time, Britain had acted much more aggressively toward Massachusetts colony by enacting the Intolerable Acts, which were disproportionately hurtful toward Boston. Virginians feared that any support or official pledge of military support may enable the British to treat Virginia in the same way, and this was a hotly debated issue.

Both Thomas Jefferson and George Washington were delegates to the assembly. In St. John’s Church, Henry made a bombastic speech in which he drew a stark line between liberty and tyranny. He ended his speech by announcing “I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”

While he did not particularly like Patrick Henry, Jefferson later spoke of the power of his oratory: “It is not now easy to say what we should have done without Patrick Henry. He was before us all in maintaining the spirit of the Revolution.”

Henry’s speech was considered the defining moment that convinced the House of Burgesses to pass the resolution which would send Virginia’s militia to aid in the Revolutionary War, the most important colony to be won over in our great struggle for independence. Patrick Henry is now considered as moving an orator as Thomas Jefferson was a writer.

Dave Benner

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