"Give me liberty or give me death!"
— Patrick Henry, March 23, 1775 —
Hanover County was organized in 1720 and named for George I, King of England and former elector of Hanover in Germany. Seventeen years later (between 1737 and 1738), construction of the courthouse structure began and was completed in 1743. The design of its slate roof, flemish-bond brickwork, and arched porch, or loggia, echoed the Capitol and public buildings at Williamsburg. James Skelton, Hanover County sheriff in 1738, may have been the builder of the courthouse. He later served as contractor for the rebuilding of the Capitol in Williamsburg which had burned.
On July 20, 1774, the freeholders of Hanover County met at Hanover Courthouse and passed the Hanover Resolves, which were directed to Patrick Henry and John Syme, the county's representatives to Virginia's first revolutionary convention.
The Hanover Resolves declared: "We are Freemen. We have a Right to be so, and to enjoy all the privileges and Immunities of our Fellow Subjects in England; and while we retain a just sense of that freedom, and those rights and privileges necessary for its safety and security, we shall never give up the right of Taxation. Let it suffice to say, once for all, we will never be taxed but by our own Representatives."
The Hanover Resolves also called for a meeting of a general congress of deputies from all of the colonies. They also declared that "the African Trade for Slaves we consider as most dangerous to Virtue, and the Welfare of this country. We therefore most earnestly wish to see it totally discouraged".
(May 29, 1736 - June 6, 1799) was the leading Virginia statesman in defending the rights of Colonial America.
Following Henry's death, John Adams wrote to Thomas Jefferson singing his praises: "In the Congress of 1774 there was not one member, except Patrick Henry, who appeared to me sensible of the Precipice or rather the Pinnacle on which he stood, and had the candour and courage enough to acknowledge it."
Henry was the first elected governor of Virginia, a devoted father of 17 children, and the most famous orator of his day. Born in Hanover County, Henry made a name for himself as a young lawyer in the Parsons' Cause at Hanover Courthouse in 1763. His 1765 resolutions against the Stamp Act articulated the basic principles of the American Revolution. Henry is perhaps best known for his immortal words "Give me liberty or give me death," which he delivered during the Second Virginia Convention in a speech to fellow delegates George Washington and Thomas Jefferson at St. John's Church in 1775. His impassioned words helped move colonists toward American independence and they continue to inspire the cause of freedom around the world.
Known as the "Voice of the Revolution," Henry's political career included 26 years of service in the Virginia legislature and five terms as governor. He helped draft the Virginia Constitution of 1776 and its Declaration of Rights. A leading critic of the U.S. Constitution, Henry also strongly influenced the creation of the Bill of Rights. Following his death, Henry was buried at Red Hill Plantation, now the site of the Patrick Henry National Memorial.