My letter from Patrick Henry
I recently visited Red Hill, Patrick Henry’s last home in Virginia, and was surprised to learn Mr. Henry left me a note. Written not long before his death, Patrick Henry tucked the letter into a small bin on his writing desk.
For too long I put off paying my respects to this great patriot who played a pivotal role in support of the American Revolution, and the creation of our republican form of government.
Patrick Henry was among the first elected officials to call for Virginia and the other American colonies to be free and independent, no longer submissive to British King George. Most Americans know Henry for his words, “Give me liberty, or give me death.”
American Colonists as British citizens thought themselves equal to their counterparts across the ocean. After years of one-sided punitive measures by the King, in which Colonists failed to persuade the King to recognize their full rights as British citizens, Colonists started planning to break free.
What did “break free” mean? It meant raising an army to fight the world’s most powerful military. It meant, improving economic/trade ties among the colonies and with foreign nations. And it meant devising a national government to replace the British monarchy.
Patrick Henry played major roles in all three areas.
I thought about that while touring Red Hill. I thought about the sacrifice, the preparation Henry and all our Founding Fathers made so Americans would be free, with liberty as a birthright to pursue our dreams. All colonists supporting the American Revolution, including wives and children, suffered. Those were unimaginably hard times.
Patrick Henry was a delegate to Virginia’s Convention to ratify the proposed US Constitution. Henry opposed ratification. The document as written lacked sufficient safeguards for individual liberty. When the Constitution was ratified without Henry’s support, he devoted the next few years of his life to protecting individual liberty through amendments to the Constitution known today as the Bill of Rights.
“Liberty, the greatest of all earthly blessings. Give us that precious jewel, and you may take everything else,” Henry said at the Virginia Convention.
It was impossible, while standing at Patrick Henry’s graveside, not to think about today’s Leftist politicians and their accomplices, and their non-stop attack on freedom. Yours, mine, and all Americans yet unborn.
There is no room on issues for even center-right or moderate politicians to “reach across the aisle” and “put aside partisan differences.” Today’s Left has no tolerance for other viewpoints, or for the rule of law when it moderates Leftist objectives.
Where do we, the nation, go from here?
Arriving in Charlotte Court House, VA on my last leg to Red Hill, I stopped to photograph a historic marker of “Henry and Randolph’s Debate.” The sign read, in part, “Here, in March 1799, took place the noted debate between Patrick Henry and John Randolph…on States’ Rights. Henry denied the right of a state to oppose oppressive federal laws….”
That surprised me. But in 1799 our new nation struggled with its new rule of law. Some states wanted to ignore federal laws they didn’t like. Patrick Henry understood the best way to change government was through the existing system. Above all, he said in March 1799, you don’t want to overturn our system of government for a system that’s worse.
For Henry, a monarchy was worse. Today, socialism is worse.
Which brings me to Patrick Henry’s posthumous letter, which, in truth, was advice written to all future Americans. It is:
“Whether [our independence] will prove a blessing or a curse will depend upon the use our people make of the blessings which a gracious God hath bestowed upon us. If they be wise, they will be great and happy. If they are of a contrary nature, they will be miserable. Righteousness alone can exalt them as a nation. Reader! Whoever thou art, remember this, and in thy sphere practice virtue thyself and encourage it in others.”
Scott K. Fish has served as a communications staffer for Maine Senate and House Republican caucuses, and was communications director for Senate President Kevin Raye. He founded and edited AsMaineGoes.com and served as director of communications/public relations for Maine’s Department of Corrections until 2015. He is now using his communications skills to serve clients in the private sector.