"Give me liberty or give me death!"
— Patrick Henry, March 23, 1775 —
In December 1763, the Historic Hanover Courthouse was the site of the famous Parsons' Cause, an opening salvo of the American Revolution. During the Parsons' Cause trial, Patrick Henry voiced one of the first American objections to denial of the colonials' right to legislate in local matters and to arbitrary rule: could British officials overrule local laws passed by the General Assembly of Virginia and signed by the royal governor? Colonial Virginians routinely paid Anglican clergyman in pounds of tobacco. When drought tripled the market price of tobacco in the 1750s, Virginia's legislature passed short-term laws allowing vestries and county courts to pay salaries in money, rather than tobacco, which was worth much more at prevailing market prices. Virginia clergymen protested these laws to royal officials, and they were declared void.
In his first prominent case as an attorney, Patrick Henry defended Sheriff Thomas Johnson of Louisa County who was responsible for the collection of tax levies, against a lawsuit for back pay brought by the Reverend James Maury in the name of the vestry of Fredericksville Parish. In November 1763, the justices had already ruled in Maury's favor. The December hearing was held only to determine the amount of back pay the vestry owed him. Patrick Henry argued that by interfering with laws passed by the elected representatives of the people of Virginia, a king behaved as a tyrant and sacrificed his claim of obedience from his subjects. Swayed by Henry's eloquence, the jury awarded damages of one penny. The case established Henry's reputation and he was soon elected to his first term in the House of Burgesses.
(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.