Patrick Henry: First Among Patriotsby Thomas S. Kidd
Most Americans know Patrick Henry as a fiery speaker whose pronouncement Give me liberty or give me death!” rallied American defiance to the British Crown. But Henry’s skills as an oratorsharpened in the small towns and courtrooms of colonial Virginiaare only one part of his vast, but largely forgotten, legacy. As historian Thomas S. Kidd… See more details below
Most Americans know Patrick Henry as a fiery speaker whose pronouncement Give me liberty or give me death!” rallied American defiance to the British Crown. But Henry’s skills as an oratorsharpened in the small towns and courtrooms of colonial Virginiaare only one part of his vast, but largely forgotten, legacy. As historian Thomas S. Kidd shows, Henry cherished a vision of America as a virtuous republic with a clearly circumscribed central government. These ideals brought him into bitter conflict with other Founders and were crystallized in his vociferous opposition to the U.S. Constitution.
In Patrick Henry, Kidd pulls back the curtain on one of our most radical, passionate Founders, showing that until we understand Henry himself, we will neglect many of the Revolution’s animating values.
Richard Beeman, John Welsh Centennial Professor of History, University of Pennsylvania, and author of Plain, Honest Men: The Making of the American Constitution
“Thomas Kidd’s account of the life of Patrick Henry combines first-rate scholarship with a lively and elegant gift for story-telling. It makes a powerful case for the Virginia orator’s pre-eminent role in the fight to limit central government power during the era of the Revolution and early republic.”
Wilfred M. McClay, SunTrust Chair of Excellence in Humanities, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
“We’ve long needed this book, a fresh look at the life of Patrick Henry, the “forest-born Demosthenes” who became one of the most eminent of American patriots, and one of the greatest orators and phrasemakers of early American history. His historical reputation has suffered somewhat because of his opposition to the Constitution, but as Thomas Kidd shows in this vivid and lucid new biography, that judgment fails to do him justice. Indeed, his fears of the Constitution’s tendency toward consolidation and empire turned out to be well-founded, and the principal themes of his life, including his emphasis upon the cultivation of virtue and the protection of limited government, have never been more relevant. May this fine book lead to a long-overdue reconsideration of a great but neglected figure.”
Daniel L. Dreisbach, American University and author of Thomas Jefferson and the Wall of Separation Between Church and State
“Few characters of the American Revolution are more celebrated and, yet, less understood than Patrick Henry. In this vivid portrait of the firebrand orator, Thomas S. Kidd scrapes away the myths and misconceptions that have long obscured our understanding of Henry, revealing a patriot of uncommon conviction, vision, and, yes, contradictions. This engaging biography offers rich insights into not only Henry’s controversial life but also the tumultuous age and fractured society in which he lived a world turned upside down by the cruel institution of slavery, religious revivals and disestablishment, a bitter separation from Great Britain, and the creation of a new nation.”
Mark Noll, Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History, University of Notre Dame, and author of America’s God: From Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln
“Patrick Henry is well known for crying ‘Give me liberty or give me death’ at a crucial moment in the struggle for American independence. This well-researched biography shows that there was a great deal more to this strangely neglected founding father. Thomas Kidd is especially compelling on why Henry’s life-long devotion to liberty could never move him to free his own slaves and why that same devotion led him to OPPPOSE the United States Constitution of 1787. The book is accessible history at its best.”
“Kidd’s biography awakens us to the depths of Henry’s devotion to liberty and small government.”
“[A] lively portrait...Kidd skillfully traces Henry’s rise from a young farm boy in Virginia to a political figure whose passionate support of liberty won him the friendship of Washington, Jefferson, and Madison.... Kidd’s passionate biography offers compelling new insights into the life of one of America’s most beloved figures.”
“An easily digestible tribute to an important and still-controversial American icon.”
History Book Club
“Although Patrick Henry is not a thick biography, it is a life and times biography. Thus Thomas Kidd usefully situates Henry in the larger fascinating issues of his time in a book that is a pleasure to read.”
“Kidd convincingly explains that the popul
Meet the Author
An Associate Professor of History at Baylor University, winner of a 2006–2007 National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, and author of numerous books on American religious history, Thomas S. Kidd lives in Waco, Texas.
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