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long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained, we must
fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and the God of Hosts is all that is left us! It is vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry peace, peace; but there is no peace. The war is actually begun. The next gale that comes from the north, will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field. Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or death!”
The effect of this speech was electrical. The cry, "to arms,” burst from every quarter-"liberty or death," resounded and rang through every ear and was responded by every patriot. The resolutions were seconded and supported by Richard Henry Lee, and were adopted without further opposition. A committee was immediately appointed to carry them into effect. From that time forward, the old dominion was renewed, regenerated, and free. Her richest blood was poured out freely in the cause of liberty and equal rights.
Soon after this convention had adjourned, Lord Dunmore removed a part of the powder from the magazine at Williamsburg on board of one of his majesty's ships. On being informed of this transaction, Patrick Henry collected a military force in Hanover and King William counties, and repaired to the seat of government, demanding the restoration of the powder or its equivalent in cash. An order for the amount in money was received, and no blood shed. A proclamation was issued against these daring rebels, which only seemed to unite the people more strongly in favour of their orator and soldier, whose conduct they highly approved at several public meetings convened on the occasion.
In August, 1775, Mr. Henry was again chosen a delegate to the Continental Congress, and in June of the following year, governor of his native state. He held this important office during that and the ensuing year, but declined serving the third year, although unanimously re-elected. His zeal in the glorious cause he had espoused did not languish or grow cold. In 1780 he took his seat in the assembly of his state, and manifested all the activity and vigour that characterized the commencement of his bold and useful career. In 1788 he was a member of the Virginia convention convened for the consideration of the constitution of the United States, then submitted for approval or rejection. To that instrument Mr. Henry was then strongly opposed, because, as he contended, it consolidated the states into one government, thereby destroying the sovereignty of each. His eloquence on that occasion was raised to its highest pitch, but could not prevail. His resolution against it was lost. His closing speech on that now revered instrument, was said to have surpassed either of his former efforts, and operated so powerfully, that but a small majority voted for the new constitution. During his remarks an incident occurred which enabled him to almost paralyze his audience. After describing the magnitude of the question, on the determination of which hung the happiness or woe of the present generation, and millions yet unborn, with a voice and countenance solemn as eternity, and his eyes raised upwards, he appealed to the God of heaven and to angels then hovering over their heads, to witness the thrilling scene, and invoked their aid in the mighty work before him. At that moment a sudden thunder gust commenced its fury and shook the very earth. Upon the wings of the tempest his stentorian voice con. tinued to rise-he figuratively seized the artillery of the elements as by supernatural power, hurled the liquid lightning at the heads of his opponents, and seemed commissioned by the great Jehovah to execute a deed of vengeance. The scene was awfully sublime, the effect tremendous. The purple current rushed back upon the fountain of life, every countenance was pale, every eye was fixed, every muscle was electrified, every vein was contracted, every heart was agonized, the scene became insupportable, the members rushed from their seats in confusion and left the house without the formality of an adjournment.
He remained in the assembly until 1791, when he declined a reelection, and expressed a strong desire to retire from public life. He had toiled long, faithfully and successfully, and wished for that repose found only in the bosom of our families.
In 1795, president Washington, for whom he had an unbounded veneration, offered him the high station of secretary of state. With becoming gratitude to his friend and the father of his country, he declined the proffered honour, and chose to remain in retirement. The following year he was again elected governor of his native state, but declined serving.. In 1799 he was appointed by president Adams an envoy to France in conjunction with Messrs. Murray and Ellsworth. His declining health would not permit him to accept of this last appointment with which he was honoured. Disease was fast consummating the work of death, and destroying rapidly the hardy constitution and athletic frame that had enabled him to perform his duty so nobly during the trying scenes of the revolution. He was aware that the work of dissolution was going on, and awaited his final exit with calm submission and christian fortitude. On the 6th of June, 1799, he resigned his spirit to Him who gave it, threw off the mortal coil and was numbered with the dead, aged but 61 years. His loss was deeply mourned by the American nation, and most strongly felt by those who knew him best. The following affectionate tribute is from the pen of one who knew him well.
“Mourn, Virginia, mourn! your Henry is gone. Ye friends to liberty in every clime, drop a tear. No more will his social feelings spread delight through his happy house. No more will his edifying example dictate to his numerous offspring the sweetness of virtue and the majesty of patriotism. No more will his sage advice, guided by zeal for the common happiness, impart light and utility to his caressing neighbours. No more will be illuminate the public councils with sentiments drawn from the cabinet of his own mind, ever directed to his country's good, and clothed in eloquence sublime, delightful and commanding. Farewell, first rate patriot, farewell. As long as our
rivers flow, or mountains stand, so long will your excellence and worth be the theme of our homage and endearment; and Virginia, bearing in mind her loss, will say to rising generations—imitate my Henry.
In reviewing the character of this truly great man from the commencement of his public career, his examples in public and private life are worthy of veneration and the closest imitation. The rust of his youth was soon removed, and he became in all respects a brilliant and polished man. His babits were rigidly temperate, his conduct, as a gentleman, a public functionary, an amiable citizen and a devoted christian, was beyond reproach. Although when he believed himself in the right, he maintained his position with great zeal and ardour, he was always open to conviction. Although he opposed the adoption of the federal constitution when it was under consideration, he subsequently became convinced of its utility, and highly approved of its form and substance.
As a husband, a father, a master, a neighbour and a friend, he had no superior. As an advocate, an orator, a statesman and a patriot, his fame stands in all its glory, uneclipsed and unsurpassed. As Grattan said of Pitt, there was something in Patrick Henry that could create, subvert, or reform; an understanding, a spirit, an eloquence to summon mankind to society, or to break the bonds of slavery asunder, and to rule the wilderness of free minds with unbounded authority; something that could establish or overwhelm empire, and strike a blow in the world that should resound through the universe.
He was twice married and the father of fifteen children. The closing paragraph of his will is worthy of record, and shows the veneration he felt for the religion of the Cross.
“I have now disposed of all my property to my family; there is one thing more I wish I could give them, and that is the christian religion. If they had this and I had not given them one shilling, they would be rich; and if they had not that, and I had given them all the world, they would be poor.” This short paragraph, coming from one of the most gigantic minds that ever investigated the truths of revelation, speaks volumes in favour of that religion which is despised by some--neglected by millions and is the one thing needful to fit us for heaven and prepare us for the
"Great day for which all other days were made,
WASHINGTON'S FAREWELL ADDRESS
TO THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES.
Friends and Fellow Citizens,
The period for a new election of a citizen to administer the executive government of the United States being not far distant, and the time actually arrived when your thoughts must be employed in designating the person who is to be clothed with that important trust, it appears to me proper, especially as it may conduce to a more distinct expression of the public voice, that I should now apprise you of the resolution I have formed-to decline being considered among
the number of those out of whom a choice is to be made.
I beg you, at the same time, to do me the justice to be assured, that this resolution has not been taken without a strict regard to all the considerations appertaining to the relation which binds a dutiful citizen to his country, and that, in withdrawing the tender of service, which silence in my situation might imply, I am influenced by no diminution of zeal for your future interest, no deficiency of grateful respect for your past kindness—but am supported by a full conviction that the step is compatible with both.
The acceptance of, and continuance hitherto in, the office to which your suffrages have twice called me, have been a uniform sacrifice of inclination to the opinion of duty, and to a deference for what appeared to be your desire. I constantly hoped, that it would have been much earlier in my power, consistently with motives which I was not at liberty to disregard, to return to that retirement from which I had been reluctantly drawn. The strength of my inclination to do this, previous to the last election, had even led to the preparation of an address to declare it to you. But mature reflection on the then perplexed and critical posture of our affairs with foreign nations, and the unanimous advice of persons entitled to my confidence, impelled me to abandon the idea.
I rejoice that the state of your concerns, external as well as internal, no longer renders the pursuit of inclination incompatible with the sentiment of duty or propriety; and am persuaded, whatever par