Thursday, December 23, 2010

Lion of Liberty

I recently picked up Lion of Liberty: Patrick Henry and the Call to a New Nation by Harlow Giles Unger.  After reading such biographies on the Founding Fathers like His Excellency: George Washington by Joseph Ellis and John Adams by David McCullough, I decided to give this a try.  Patrick Henry, while best known for his "Give Me Liberty...or Give Me Death" speech just prior to the Revolution, was a far more prominent figure during America's early years than he is often given credit.

This wonderfully written biography gives the reader a better look into this oft-forgotten Founding Father.  Henry worked as an extremely effective lawyer in Virginia prior to the Revolution.  He was far different from many of his fellow revolutionaries in that he came from the backhills of Virginia, rather than a more populated area of the colonies.  Despite his Southern drawl, he received the respect from his contemporaries almost immediately.  Whether it be in the courtroom, the Continental Congress, or the governor's office later on in his life, Henry spoke with such eloquence and passion that fellow politicians listened with awe.

What I found to be most interesting is the Antifederalist stance Henry took after the Revolution.  He refused to take part in the Constitutional Convention because he believed the states should simply edit the Articles of Confederation, not write an entirely new document creating a more powerful national government.  Unger provides insight into Henry's political beliefs and sprinkles in some facts about his personal life to create a full portrait of Patrick Henry.

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