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“A brilliant orator, a firebrand for freedom and individual rights, Henry stands as an American luminary, and Kukla’s magisterial biography shines the glow of achievement on subject and author alike” (Richmond Times Dispatch). Patrick Henry restores its subject, long underappreciated in history as a founding father, to his seminal place in the story of American independence.
Patrick Henry is best known for his fiery declaration, “Give me liberty, or give me death!” Born in 1736, he became an attorney and planter before being elected as the first governor of Virginia after independence, winning reelection several times. After declining to attend the Constitutional Convention of 1787, Henry opposed the Constitution, arguing that it granted too much power to the central government. He pushed vigorously for the ten amendments to the new Constitution, and then supported Washington and national unity against the bitter party divisions of the 1790s. Henry denounced slavery as evil, but he accepted its continuation.
Henry was enormously influential in his time, but many of his accomplishments were subsequently all but forgotten. Jon Kukla’s “detailed, compelling…definitive” (Kirkus Reviews) biography restores Henry and his Virginia compatriots to the front rank of advocates for American independence. Kukla has thoroughly researched Henry’s life, even living on one of Henry’s estates. He brings both newly discovered documents and new insights to Henry, the Revolution, the Constitutional era, and the early Republic. This “informational and enlightening biography of the great agitator for democracy” (Library Journal) is a vital contribution to our understanding of the nation’s founding.