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On March 23, 1775, Patrick Henry delivered his famous speech at the Second Virginia Convention, where he passionately declared, “Give me liberty or give me death!” His call to arms for Virginia to form citizen-soldier companies in the fight against British oppression proved prescient, as hostilities broke out just four weeks later at the Battles of Lexington and Concord, igniting the American Revolution. This rousing oration inspired fellow Virginians, including George Washington, to take up arms in defense of liberty, uniting colonists from north and south against a common enemy.

George Washington, along with other prominent Virginians such as Thomas Jefferson and Richard Henry Lee, likely heard Henry’s stirring speech at the convention. In his address, Henry warned of the British presence as an act of hostility and urged the delegates to take action to defend their rights. St. John’s Church, where the speech was delivered, hosts a reenactment of Henry’s words every March 23 to commemorate the patriotic call to arms that resonated throughout the colonies. His demand for liberty became a rallying cry for the American people during the War of Independence and continued to inspire future generations in the fight for freedom.

Although Henry’s speech was not recorded until years later, it remains a powerful symbol of his lifelong dedication to the pursuit of liberty. William Wirt, Henry’s first biographer, collected accounts of his life from individuals such as Thomas Jefferson to reconstruct the story of the fiery orator. Henry’s impassioned plea for freedom at all costs captured the spirit of the American Revolution and left a lasting impact on the nation’s history. Despite being known primarily for this one speech, Henry’s legacy as a champion of liberty endured long after his death.

Throughout his life, Patrick Henry served Virginia and the cause of American independence with distinction. He spent over 20 years in Virginia’s House of Burgesses, risked his life to sign the Declaration of Independence, and served as Virginia’s first governor for five terms. Henry’s death in 1799 from stomach cancer was mourned throughout Virginia, with newspapers dedicating extensive sections to his memory and the profound influence he had on American society. His passionate commitment to liberty and his transformative impact on the nation’s history continue to be celebrated and remembered as a crucial part of America’s founding story.

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