RICHMOND, Va. — It was 242 years ago on Thursday that Patrick Henry gave his famous plea for Virginia to form a militia and arm for revolution during the Second Virginia Convention held at Richmond’s fabulously historic St. John’s Church overlooking our city.
I was among the 100 or so who filed into the very church where Henry changed the course of the nation – and therefore the world – to hear and watch a well-practiced team of actors play out this somewhat confrontational drama between the Virginia delegates certain we should wait for the British to come to their senses and those who saw the conflict as inevitable and better won by taking immediate action.
Some of these actors have been doing this for a quarter-century, but told me it felt strong every time.
And why not? It is widely regarded as one of the finest orations in history (even though it wasn’t written down until years later). Delegates reportedly sat in stunned silence at the end. And, of course, the vote turned Henry’s way.
We sat and listened as did Thomas Jefferson, Col. George Washington, George Mason and others.
And here’s Patrick Henry, sort of a drifter in youth who married well and found he had a gift for lawyering at the Hanover Courthouse.
I’ve imagined him as a guy I would enjoy hanging out with, jamming on his fiddle fireside and hobnobbing with farmers, working folks and that giant crop of kids.
Reportedly, his beloved wife, Sarah, had lost her mind and had to be straight-jacketed to keep from harming herself. He would feed her himself. Imagine that. Today’s dirt diggers might have had a hard time smearing him, except for that radical libertarian thing that led to our Bill of Rights.
Listening the whole arc of that fateful discussion between delegates and their vote for revolution, I wondered how all of this would play today. I don’t think one spectacular speech would’ve backed either side down. Social media would go crazy. “These dudes have flipped their wigs – talking about breaking chains and liberty while some owned slaves themselves!”
We’d line up and open fire along our usual lines:
Guns! No! Militias! No way!
With our current deep political rifts, we wouldn’t be fighting the British. We’d argue ourselves to death and our descendants would be watching “British Antiques Roadshow” instead of “American Ninja Warriors.”
What a time! What a collection of leaders Virginia had – men of faith, resolve and courage.
I was left with two questions:
Where are the leaders like that today?
And would even tolerate them, much less follow them as a nation?
I think not. My guess is we’re more concerned about security and our own personal agendas than liberty.
In fact, I believe it’s time we rejoin with the British. They have those cool accents, the Queen, Kate and Andrew and, oh, by the way, they too have argued themselves into a bit of a pickle.
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