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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Patrick Henry's Resolves

Patrick Henry was born May 29, 1736 in Hanover County, Virginia. He is known for creating a few radical resolves to counter the Stamp Act that was put in place in the colonies. Here is a brief history on Patrick Henry from

"Radical," is a title that few men can wear with ease. The name Patrick Henry, during the revolution and for some time after, was synonymous with that word in the minds of colonists and Empire alike. Henry's reputation as a passionate and fiery orator exceeded even that of Samuel Adams. His Stamp Act Resolutions were, arguably, the first shot fired in the Revolutionary War.

Patrick Henry's personality was a curious antidote to the stern honor of Washington, the refined logic of Jefferson, and the well-tempered industry of Franklin. Young Henry was an idler and by many accounts a derelict; though everyone knew he was bright, he simply would not lift a finger except to his own pleasure. By the age of 10, his family knew that he would not be a farmer, and tried instead to train him toward academe. He would not apply himself to studies either. At age 21 his father set him up in a business that he bankrupted shortly thereafter. Finally the general public disgust in Hanover and pressure from his young family (he had married at the age of eighteen) caused him to study for six weeks and take the bar exam, which he passed, and begin work as a lawyer.

In 1764 he moved to Louisa county, Virginia, where, as a lawyer, he argued in defense of broad voting rights (suffrage) before the House of Burgesses. The following year he was elected to the House and soon became its leading radical member. It was that year that he proposed the Virginia Stamp Act Resolutions. Few members of the Burgesses, as aristocratic a group of legislators as existed in the colonies, would argue openly for defiance of Gr. Britain. Henry argued with remarkable eloquence and fervor in favor of the five acts, which by most accounts amounted to a treason against the mother country. In 1774 he represented Virginia in the First Continental Congress where he continued in the role of firebrand. At the outbreak of the revolution, he returned to his native state and lead militia in defense of Virginia's gunpowder store, when the royal Governor spirited it aboard a British ship. Henry forced the Governor Lord Dunmore to pay for the powder at fair price.

In 1776, Henry was elected Governor of Virginia. He was re-elected for three terms and then succeeded by Thomas Jefferson. He was again elected to the office in 1784. Patrick Henry was a strong critic of the constitution proposed in 1787. He was in favor of the strongest possible government for the individual states, and a weak federal government. He was also very critical of the fact that the convention was conducted in secret.

President Washington appointed him Secretary of State in 1795, but Henry declined the office. In 1799, President Adams appointed him envoy to France, but failing health required him to decline this office too. He died on June 6, 1799 at age of 63.

And here is some more information on him from Wikipedia:

These are the resolves that Patrick Henry put forth. I got these from as well. The first four were passed by the House of Burgesses on May 30, 1765 and were never repealed.

Resolved, that the first adventurers and settlers of His Majesty's colony and dominion of Virginia brought with them and transmitted to their posterity, and all other His Majesty's subjects since inhabiting in this His Majesty's said colony, all the liberties, privileges, franchises, and immunities that have at any time been held, enjoyed, and possessed by the people of Great Britain.

Resolved, that by two royal charters, granted by King James I, the colonists aforesaid are declared entitled to all liberties, privileges, and immunities of denizens and natural subjects to all intents and purposes as if they had been abiding and born within the Realm of England.

Resolved, that the taxation of the people by themselves, or by persons chosen by themselves to represent them, who can only know what taxes the people are able to bear, or the easiest method of raising them, and must themselves be affected by every tax laid on the people, is the only security against a burdensome taxation, and the distinguishing characteristic of British freedom, without which the ancient constitution cannot exist.

Resolved, that His Majesty's liege people of this his most ancient and loyal colony have without interruption enjoyed the inestimable right of being governed by such laws, respecting their internal policy and taxation, as are derived from their own consent, with the approbation of their sovereign, or his substitute; and that the same has never been forfeited or yielded up, but has been constantly recognized by the kings and people of Great Britain.

This fifth resolve was also passed by the House of Burgesses on May 30, 1765, however it was rescinded the day after it was accepted. They wanted to get rid of all 5, but only were able to get this one removed:

Resolved, therefor that the General Assembly of this Colony have the only and exclusive Right and Power to lay Taxes and Impositions upon the inhabitants of this Colony and that every Attempt to vest such Power in any person or persons whatsoever other than the General Assembly aforesaid has a manifest Tendency to destroy British as well as American Freedom.

Two more resolves were printed in a Rhode Island paper in June of 1765, but they were never actually proposed by Henry to the House of Burgess. This is most likely due to the trouble he had with his fifth resolve. These next two resolves blatantly treasoness.

Resolved, That His Majesty's liege people, the inhabitants of this Colony, are not bound to yield obedience to any law or ordinance whatever, designed to impose any taxation whatsoever upon them, other than the laws or ordinances of the General Assembly aforesaid.

Resolved, That any person who shall, by speaking or writing, assert or maintain that any person or persons other than the General Assembly of this Colony, have any right or power to impose or lay any taxation on the people here, shall be deemed an enemy to His Majesty's Colony.

Some thoughts on these last resolves from

How these items made their way north is not known. There is no record anywhere of them, except in the newspapers where they were printed. It is plausible that Henry, George Johnson, or another colleague sent them on before the battle on the floor. Perhaps it was wise that Henry departed when he did, despite the loss of the fifth resolution. He would have expected the House to be dissolved as a result of his resolutions. Had news reached the governor about the seven resolutions, he might have been arrested for treason as well. The seven resolutions, reprinted everywhere, were a wildly effective propaganda tool. The idea that the stuffy old House of Burgesses had produced such a challenge to Great Britain's authority did much to incite similar resolutions in other legislatures. Establishing a Committee of Intercolonial Correspondence.

And here are a few more sites with information on these resolves:

These resolves were given as a reaction to the Stamp Act and most likely were the true beginning of the colonies expressed unhappiness for the mother country. Though it would still be a few years before the Declaration of Independence, this was a start.

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