To remember Patrick Henry for his defiant declaration “Give me liberty or give me death!” is to overlook a long career spent as an...

To remember Patrick Henry for his defiant declaration “Give me liberty or give me death!” is to overlook a long career spent as an advocate for the rights of Americans, first as colonists and then as citizens. In Patrick Henry: Champion of Liberty (Simon and Schuster, 2017), Jon Kukla describes the course of Henry’s eventful life and how he developed his views on individual rights and other matters. The son of Virginia planters, as a young man Henry turned to the law to earn his living. His arguments in the famous “Parson’s Cause” legal case foreshadowed his case for colonial rights during the Stamp Act crisis, which cemented his standing as one of the leading opponents of Britain’s efforts to impose taxes upon the colonies. Henry was at the forefront of Virginia’s move towards independence in 1775, and as its first elected governor he led the commonwealth during years of crisis and turmoil. This experience, as Kukla explains, helped define his opposition to ratifying the Constitution in 1787-8, an opposition which the documents proponents addressed by agreeing to include the Bill of Rights which it possesses today.

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