To Americans familiar only with Henry’s blazing “Liberty or Death” oration of 1775, it may come as a shock to learn that Henry opposed the adoption of the Constitution.
To Americans familiar only with Henry’s blazing “Liberty or Death” oration of 1775, it may come as a shock to learn that Henry opposed the adoption of the Constitution. Henry always had a flair for the dramatic, but on this occasion, Mother Nature offered him an improbable assist: As he thundered against the dangers of the new centralized government, a howling storm rose outside the Richmond hall. Frightened delegates scurried to take cover.
A memorable scene, to be sure, but how could the man who cried “give me liberty or give me death,” this patriot who penned Virginia’s resolves against the Stamp Act in 1765, not support the Constitution? The answer was pretty simple: Henry thought that the American Revolution was, at root, a rebellion against the coercive power of the British government. In particular, it was a rebellion against unjust British taxes. Henry, therefore, thought it was madness for Americans to place that same kind of consolidated political authority over themselves again…
A most interesting treatment of an era and an episode in American history of which most Americans know little or nothing! I myself knew only parts of this. Of special note is his discussion of the successes, as well as failures, of the American government under the Articles of Confederation – a part of our history which is almost complete terra incognita to many (most) contemporary Americans. Well worth a read!
Nota Bene: I should note that I do not entirely agree with the assertion that “In particular, [the American Revolution] was a rebellion against unjust British taxes.” It was a rebellion against many things, of which taxes were one important one – but only one. Continue reading “Why Did Patrick Henry Oppose the Constitution? – The Imaginative Conservative”