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Picture of Patrick Henry


Revolutionary Orator

Biographical Data
Religious Views
References, Links, & Further Reading


Occupation: shopkeeper, lawyer

Political Affiliation:

Religious Affiliation:

Summary of Religious Views:

Views on Religion & Politics:

Following the Revolution, Patrick Henry supported proposals in the Virginia legislature that would have essentially established the Episcopal church in that state. The proposed measures would have "incorporated" the Episcopal clergy, and would have provided financial support to the church through tax levies. These bills were ultimately defeated, due largely to the efforts of James Madison and some of his allies.


"Much learning hath been displayed to show the necessity of establishing one church in England in the present form. But these reasonings do not reach the case of this colony . . .
". . . A general toleration of Religion appears to me the best means of peopling our country. . .
"When I say that the article of religion is deemed a trifle by our people in the general, I assert a known truth. But when we suppose that the poorer sort of European emigrants set as light by it, we are greatly mistaken. The free exercise of religion hath stocked the Northern part of the continent with inhabitants; and altho' Europe hath in great measure adopted a more moderate policy, yet the profession of Protestantism is extremely inconvenient in many places there. A Calvinist, a Lutheran, or Quaker, who hath felt these inconveniences in Europe, sails not to Virginia, where they are felt perhaps in a (greater degree)." -- Religious Tolerance, 1766

"Wherefore is religious liberty not secured? One honorable gentlemen, who favors adoption, said that he had had his fears on the subject. If I can well recollect, he informed us that he was perfectly satisfied, by the powers of reasoning, (with which he is so happily endowed,) that those fears were not well grounded. There is many a religious man who knows nothing of argumentative reasoning; there are many of our most worthy citizens who cannot go through all the labyrinths of syllogistic, argumentative deductions, when they think that the rights of conscience are invaded. This sacred right ought not to depend on constructive, logical reasoning.
. . . That sacred and lovely thing, religion, ought not to rest on the ingenuity of logical deduction. Holy religion, sir, will be prostituted to the lowest purposes of human policy. What has been more productive of mischief among mankind than religious disputes? Then here, sir, is a foundation for such disputes, when it requires learning and logical deduction to perceive that religious liberty is secure." -- in the Virginia Ratifying Convention, 12 June 1788


"It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ!" -- This quotation has not been found anywhere in Henry's recorded writings or speeches, as has been acknowledged by David Barton.

References, Links, & Further Reading: Books, Articles, Links


Richard R. Beeman, Patrick Henry: A biography, McGraw-Hill, 1974
Thomas S. Kidd, Patrick Henry: First Among Patriots, Basic Books, 2011
Henry Mayer, A Son of Thunder: Patrick Henry and the American Republic, Grove Press, 2001
David A. McCants, Patrick Henry, The Orator (Great American Orators), Greenwood, 1990
Robert D. Meade, Patrick Henry, 2 vols., Lippincott, 1957-1969
George Morgan, The True Patrick Henry, Lippincott, 1907; reprint, The True Patrick Henry
Moses Coit Tyler, Patrick Henry, Houghton, Mifflin, 1898; reprint, Patrick Henry
Harlow Giles Unger, Lion of Liberty: Patrick Henry and the Call to a New Nation, Da Capo Press, 2010
George F. Willison, Patrick Henry and His World, Doubleday, 1969
William Wirt, Sketches of the Life and Character of Patrick Henry, James Webster, 1817; reprint, Sketches of the Life and Character of Patrick Henry


Archibald Alexander, "Reminiscences of Patrick Henry," Southern Literary Messenger, Vol. 16, Iss. 6, June 1850, pp. 366-368
Elias Lyman Magoon, "Patrick Henry," Southern Literary Messenger, Vol. 13, Iss. 8, August 1847, pp. 505-512


Works by Patrick Henry

Document Library (TeachingAmericanHistory.org)
Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death (World Wide School Library)
Give Me Liberty, or Give Me Death (Avalon Project -- Yale Law School)
Give Me Liberty, or Give Me Death (American Rhetoric)
Religious Tolerance, 1766 (The Founder's Constitution)

Biographical Sites

HENRY, Patrick, 1736-1799 (Biographical Directory of the US Congress)
Patrick Henry (Colonial Williamsburg)
Patrick Henry (ushistory.org)

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