Localizing Government: Patrick Henry – Forgotten Freedom Fighters

Libertarian ideas are timeless. This fact is clear. I see it every time I write one of these articles. Men and women from all over the globe, from varied backgrounds, and throughout time have risen to defend not only their own freedom, but the liberty of others. As humanity has advanced towards more individual liberty, some people have stood out against the crushing power of a centralized, all powerful government.

In my own life, I have always distrusted those who have seized the reins of power and claim lordship or control over the individual. I simply want everyone to enjoy liberty. Upon meeting Adam Kokesh, he shared with me his vision of how that could be realized. His ideas not only included the traditional Libertarian idea of self ownership, but also introduce a pathway to achieve it.

That concept is localization. By placing the mechanisms of government as close to the people as possible, we have the opportunity to more directly influence society in a positive way. More importantly, we strip the unethical parts of government out. Force, coercion, and violence of the State are more easily controlled. This leaves us with a voluntary system designed to serve the people instead of moneyed interests, big banks, and the oligarchs who currently run the United States.

To many eyes, Adam’s plan of a peaceful orderly dissolution of the federal government seems like a new, radical and revolutionary idea. It is my belief that this is simply another evolution of human society. The term revolutionary does apply, though with a clear vision of the past. You see, this idea is not new. It was the revolutionaries that united against the British Empire in the American War of Independence who most notably first introduced this idea. One of the leading voices, at that time, against consolidated and central power was a man named Patrick Henry.

After the American Revolution, the former colonies were organized into a loose collection of small sovereign States under an agreement called “The Articles of Confederation.” Each State was largely left to their own devises save for a few unifying ideas. The Articles state “Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated.” A couple of notable powers granted to the Federal Government by this agreement were the power to declare war, and the ability to send ambassadors.

Shortly after the Articles were created, there were calls to strengthen the central government. In 1786, an uprising called “Shay’s Rebellion” occurred in Massachusetts. The people calling for more centralization of power seized on people’s fear and used the uprising as a pretext. Those who wanted more power would eventually be called “The Federalists.” They illegally began organizing a constitutional convention to “solve” the “weakness” of the American government.

Patrick Henry would be one of the leaders who would oppose the Federalists. Today, we call these people the “Anti-Federalists.” They eventually called themselves “The Democratic- Republican Party.” What I find amusing is while initially, this party was opposed to centralized government, it would eventually shorten its name to “The Democratic Party.” Other notable people who were Anti-Federalists were Samuel Adams, George Mason, and Mercy Otis Warren, who my wife wrote an earlier Forgotten Freedom Fighter post about.
Another notable person who may not have “officially” been an Anti-Federalist, but certainly agreed with them on almost everything, was Thomas Jefferson, the third American President.

Born on Saturday May 29th, 1736, Patrick Henry lived a pretty typical young life. According to one of his biographers, he “spent his hours lying with his back upon a bed reading.” He married his first wife Sarah Shelton in 1754. She would die in 1775. Henry would eventually marry his second wife, Dorothea Dandridge in 1777. He had a total of 17 children. After trying several ventures, including farming and business, eventually Henry became a lawyer.

Henry, like many of his contemporaries, was largely self-taught. He struggled with learning because he had very little money. When he was able, he borrowed books. He had only studied for six weeks when he went to take the test to get his license to practice law. In the spring of 1760, with no more money to his name but the 20 shillings it took for the examiners fees and the certificate, he stood before the four men that would decide whether or not he would become a lawyer. One of these men was Peyton Randolph, who would go on to become moderator of Virginia’s revolutionary convention and the first president of the Continental Congress. After testing Henry, Randolph said, “You defend your opinions well, sir, but now to law and the testimony.” After being proven wrong about something, Randolph proclaimed, “Behold the force of natural reason; you have never seen these books, nor this principle of the law, yet you are right and I am wrong… Mr. Henry, if your industry be only half equal to your genius I augur that you will do well, and become an ornament and an honor to your profession.” He passed his examination and was given his Law license April 15th, 1760.

It did not take long for Patrick Henry to build a lucrative law practice. In 1763, he would see his first major case. The case would become known as the Parson’s Cause. Basically, the Assembly of Virginia had passed a law that allowed clergy to be paid in quantities of tobacco, which was a valuable commodity at the time. After the crops failed the clergy sued because they were paid in money instead. The market value of tobacco had tripled and the supply of tobacco was almost non-existent. This was the clergy taking advantage of the law to triple their income at the expense of the people. Henry asserted that the law was well intentioned. He also continued that it “Was consistent with the original compact between King and people, stipulating protection on one hand and obedience on the other.” He then declared that if the clergy were allowed to be paid this sum by the people then the law had caused the king to have “degenerated into a Tyrant.” It was his argument that if a king fails to protect his subjects he “forfeits all right to his subjects’ obedience.”

At this point, the lawyer representing the clergy said in his notes that “the more sober part of the audience were struck with horror.” Another attorney, Peter Lyons, declared “that the gentleman had spoken treason.” Locke, who by this time was the philosopher Henry drew much of his inspiration from, had said something similar. Locke had said, many years before, that in a case like this the king, “becomes no King: and loses all power and regal authority over his people.” Adding to this, Henry also insisted that Virginians also owed equal loyalty to the Virginia Assembly, as to the king and parliament.

In defiance of the church’s obvious use of the government to make its clergy wealthy, Henry said, “The only use of any established church and clergy in society was to enforce Obedience to civil sanctions.” They had no right according to Henry to profit from government. He continued that one’s faith should be used to help him with his decency and conscience, not used to “extort by threat of the law.” He said that the Anglican Church was being greedy and had cast aside the public good. The clergy should be concerned with ministering for God “instead of being useful members of the state.” He continued by declaring the litigious clergymen “ought to be considered enemies of the community.”

His defining attacks against these supposed men of god were as follows.

“We have heard a great deal about the benevolence and holy zeal of our revered clergy, but how has it manifested? Do they manifest their zeal… by practicing the mild and benevolent precepts of the Gospel of Jesus? Do they feed the hungry and clothe the naked? Oh no, gentlemen!… These rapacious harpies would, were their power equal to their will, snatch from the hearth of their poorest parishioner, his last hoe-cake! from the widow and her orphan children, their last milk cow! the last bed, nay, the last blanket from the lying-in woman!”

After this, he implored the jury to stand against the dictatorial powers of the church and the crown, lest they “rivet the chains of bondage on their own necks.” Henry realized that many on the jury were afraid to side against the clergy and be branded treasonous so he floated them a way to side with the crown and against the greedy churchmen. He concluded his arguments with, “If they must find… for the Plaintiff,” he advised they, “need not find for more than one farthing.” After less than five minutes of deliberation, they found for the Clergy with one penny of damages. Though, officially, Patrick Henry had lost the case the people had won. Many years later, people still said when someone spoke well, that it was “almost equal to Patrick, when he plead against the parsons.”

Echoes of his arguments in this first case would also be accompanied with the charge of “treason” when he later argued against the British Parliament and the Stamp Act. Henry became popular after the Parson’s Cause as a defender of the people. As a result, Henry ran and won the position as Burgess in Louisa County Virginia.

The British had become indebted by the Seven Years war and was looking for a way to tax its way back into wealth. As a result, Parliament passed the Stamp Act in 1765 to both raise funds and also show the colonies who was boss. This act placed taxes on transfers of certain documents.

Many representatives in Virginia began using many of the same arguments that Henry had previously made in the Parson’s Cause. Patrick Henry, shortly after being sworn into the Virginia Legislature, introduced “The Virginia Stamp Act Resolves.” This resolution affirmed that the colonies had the same rights as any other British Citizen. It made clear that because of this, that taxation must be exacted by Virginia, or any other colony’s own representatives. It even went as far as saying that the Virginia Legislature was the only ones who could be empowered to levy any tax.

There are no direct records of the speech that Henry gave in support of the “Resolves.” A French traveler and witness said that he had said that “Tarquin and Julius had their Brutus, Charles had his Cromwell, and he did not doubt but some good American would stand up, in favor of his country.” This was taken as a call for the killing of the king. Again, there were those who called it treason. Henry’s answer to the charge was clear, “If this be treason, make the most of it.”

The Virginia Legislature adopted the first five of seven resolutions. The two that were not adopted were the ones which said “only” the Virginia General Assembly could tax Virginians. The text of the other said that anyone who stated that Parliament had the right to tax were, “enemies of the colony.” As a result of the resolutions being passed, the Royal Governor refused to allow any of them to be printed in the newspapers. This backfired, since newspapers all over the colonies were not allowed to even know what resolutions passed and which did not, they printed all seven. This certainly emboldened the American Colonists. Revolutionaries from every colony rose to the support of Virginia and in opposition to the Stamp Act. It would be said later of the events, that “In Virginia the Stamp Act provided the opportunity for Patrick Henry’s spectacular entry into politics.”

As a result, the governor dissolved the assembly June 1st, 1765. It was his hope that new elections would bring a cleansing of the legislature of what were, in his view, its seditious members. The action actually worked in reverse and the more “loyal” members were voted out. He did not call the “Burgesses” back into session until November of 1766. By then, Parliament, seeing the uprising brewing had repealed the Stamp Act.

By the time of the Boston Tea Party, Henry had come to the conclusion that independence from Britain was inevitable. In 1774, when the Burgesses were in session, Parliament retaliated against Boston and closed its port. Several members of the Virginia legislature gathered in private to decide a response. Henry would lead them. The first resolution that they passed was to hold a day of fasting and prayer for their friends in Boston. This certainly showed their stance on what had transpired, while also not directly confronting the crown. They also decided to boycott British tea and other products.

This meeting of legislators in Virginia would come to be known as the Virginia Conventions. Like the upcoming Continental Congress, these five “conventions” would be divided as to whether to separate from their mother country. The major decision that came out of this was who Virginia would send to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia. They held a vote. Virginia would send 7 delegates. First place in the election would be Peyton Randolph. Second place was a tie between George Washington and Patrick Henry. This should illustrate the popularity that Henry enjoyed.

The Continental Congress would start their sessions September 5th, 1774. As had always been the case, Patrick Henry cut a spectacular figure with his speeches. One of the delegates from the Congress from Connecticut called Henry “the completest speaker I ever heard… but in a letter I can give you no idea of the music of his voice, or the high wrought, yet natural elegance of his style or manner.” Another said that, despite his plain dress Henry, “as he proceeded, he evinced such an unusual force of argument, and such novel and impassioned eloquence as soon electrified the whole house.”

In 1775, Henry was elected as delegate to the Second Virginia Convention. During this convention, he would offer an amendment to a bill that would allow a militia to be raised outside of royal authority. It was his belief that a conflict with Britain was on the horizon. The speech he gave was one of the most moving statements in favor of the liberty of man I have ever read. The line “Give me Liberty or give me death” has become an icon and rally cry for the freedom movement. Though that line is certainly popular, the whole context, in my view, is superior. I share it below in full.

“No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well as abilities, of the very worthy gentlemen who have just addressed the House. But different men often see the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, I hope it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen if, entertaining as I do, opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely, and without reserve. This is no time for ceremony. The question before the House is one of awful moment to this country. For my own part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfil the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offence, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the majesty of heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.

Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it.

I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided; and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past. And judging by the past, I wish to know what there has been in the conduct of the British ministry for the last ten years, to justify those hopes with which gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves, and the House? Is it that insidious smile with which our petition has been lately received? Trust it not, sir; it will prove a snare to your feet. Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss. Ask yourselves how this gracious reception of our petition comports with these war-like preparations which cover our waters and darken our land. Are fleets and armies necessary to a work of love and reconciliation? Have we shown ourselves so unwilling to be reconciled, that force must be called in to win back our love? Let us not deceive ourselves, sir. These are the implements of war and subjugation; the last arguments to which kings resort. I ask, gentlemen, sir, what means this martial array, if its purpose be not to force us to submission? Can gentlemen assign any other possible motive for it? Has Great Britain any enemy, in this quarter of the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies? No, sir, she has none. They are meant for us; they can be meant for no other. They are sent over to bind and rivet upon us those chains which the British ministry have been so long forging. And what have we to oppose to them? Shall we try argument? Sir, we have been trying that for the last ten years.

Have we anything new to offer upon the subject? Nothing. We have held the subject up in every light of which it is capable; but it has been all in vain. Shall we resort to entreaty and humble supplication? What terms shall we find which have not been already exhausted? Let us not, I beseech you, sir, deceive ourselves. Sir, we have done everything that could be done, to avert the storm which is now coming on. We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the ministry and Parliament. Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne. In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation. There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free² if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending²if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained, we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of Hosts is all that is left us!

They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance, by lying supinely on our backs, and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot? Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power.

Three millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations; and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come.

It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”

I look at this speech with experience that shows me that our own government has militarized our police force. They bully us and defy our natural rights. What difference do I see between the British monarchy of 1775 and the United States Federal government of today? The answer is very little. Our government is corrupt and controlled by payoffs from lobbyists. The government taxes us with no hope that the wishes of the people will be adhered to. Our young men and women are sent overseas for our empire built on lies. Now, just like then, the force of the state wishes to enslave the people of this country.

In this speech Patrick Henry points out that there are those who would wait to act. There are those within our movement and our party that argue for a slow process as well. Like Mr. Henry I ask, what are we waiting for? Trump is our president and he has opposition within his own party. The Democrats are flailing around with no real leader. It is time to unite ourselves and bring government back down to size. As Libertarians we must rise to fill the gap of leadership open to us. We must take the next step in societal evolution. Localization is the path in front of us. Dissolving the Federal Government is a good first step away from tyranny.

Those among us may argue that this is not constitutional. The answer that Adam Kokesh gives is: “no it is not.” We are answering, like Patrick Henry did, to a higher authority. That can be found in The Declaration of Independence which says, “When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”

Patrick Henry would go farther than this. He argued that the Constitution was a reaction based in fear. It was his opinion that it would strip freedom away that had just been won by the Revolutionary War. He would contend for each colony to handle its own affairs. His voice and the voices of the other Anti-Federalists would echo the sentiments of the American people at the time. The men and women in the halls of government education in this country would have us believe that the vast majority of the populace favored the adoption of the Constitution. Many other historians argue that this is not true. It, as usual, was the moneyed members of society who favored centralizing power and adopting the Constitution.

The speech that Mr. Henry gave to the Virginia Assembly in 1788, in opposition to the ratification of the constitution, makes his opinions clear. Knowing that, our ancestors did not heed his advice. It is interesting to see what his objections were. In my mind, as I look back with 20/20 vision on history, it seems as though Patrick Henry must have had a crystal ball. He predicted many of our troubles and losses of liberty. Here are some excerpts from that speech:

He asked of the character of the Constitution.

“Is this a monarchy, like England-a compact between prince and people, with checks on the former to secure the liberty of the latter? Is this a Confederacy, like Holland-an association of a number of independent states, each of which retains its individual sovereignty? It is not a democracy, wherein the people retain all their rights securely. Had these principles been adhered to, we should not have been brought to this alarming transition, from a Confederacy to a consolidated Government.”

At this time, the Bill of Rights, also known as the first 10 amendments, had not been added to the constitution. He pointed out that there was no real protection of the individual and his rights.

“It is radical in this transition; our rights and privileges are endangered, and the sovereignty of the states will be relinquished: And cannot we plainly see that this is actually the case? The rights of conscience, trial by jury, liberty of the press, all your immunities and franchises, all pretensions to human rights and privileges, are rendered insecure, if not lost, by this change, so loudly talked of by some, and inconsiderately by others. Is this tame relinquishment of rights worthy of freemen? …Is it necessary for your liberty that you should abandon those great rights by the adoption of this system? Is the relinquishment of the trial by jury and the liberty of the press necessary for your liberty? Will the abandonment of your most sacred rights tend to the security of your liberty? Liberty, the greatest of all earthly blessings-give us that precious jewel, and you may take everything else: But I am fearful I have lived long enough to become an fellow: Perhaps an invincible attachment to the dearest rights of man, may, in these refined, enlightened days, be deemed old fashioned”

He warned of the dangers of the new government they were setting up. It was his belief that freedom was better defended in Virginia, than by a large central government.

“I conceive this new Government to be one of those dangers: It has produced those horrors which distress many of our best citizens. We are come hither to preserve the poor commonwealth of Virginia, if it can be possibly done.”

Henry goes on to defend the Articles of Confederation and attack the “revolution” of the new government under the Constitution.

“The Confederation; this same despised Government, merits, in my opinion, the highest encomium: It carried us through a long and dangerous war: It rendered us victorious in that bloody conflict with a powerful nation: It has secured us a territory greater than any European monarch possesses: And shall a Government which has been thus strong and vigorous, be accused of imbecility and abandoned for want of energy? Consider what you are about to do before you part with this Government. Take longer time in reckoning things: Revolutions like this have happened in almost every country in Europe: Similar examples are to be found in ancient Greece and ancient Rome: Instances of the people losing their liberty by their carelessness and the ambition of a few.”

Later, he continues to point out the danger in putting so much power in the hands of the few as the Constitution does.
“In some parts of the plan before you, the great rights of freemen are endangered, in other parts absolutely taken away. How does your trial by jury stand? In civil cases gone-not sufficiently secured in criminal-this best privilege is gone: But we are told that we need not fear; because those in power, being our Representatives, will not abuse the power we put in their hands: I am not well versed in history, but I will submit to your recollection, whether liberty has been destroyed most often by the licentiousness of the people, or by the tyranny of rulers? I imagine, sir, you will find the balance on the side of tyranny: Happy will you be if you miss the fate of those nations, who, omitting to resist their oppressors, or negligently suffering their liberty to be wrested from them, have groaned under intolerable despotism. Most of the human race are now in this deplorable condition: And those nations who have gone in search of grandeur, power, and splendor, have also fallen a sacrifice, and been the victims of their own folly: While they acquired those visionary blessings, they lost their freedom. My great objection to this Government is, that it does not leave us the means of defending our rights, or of waging war against tyrants.”

The speech goes on to name particular evils that federalizing government and in particular the Constitution causes. This quote from the speech challenges the powers given to the government to organize a standing army.

“This acquisition will trample on our fallen liberty: Let my beloved Americans guard against that fatal lethargy that has pervaded the universe: Have we the means of resisting disciplined armies, when our only defense, the militia, is put into the hands of Congress?… A standing army we shall have also, to execute the execrable commands of tyranny: And how are you to punish them? Will you order them to be punished? Who shall obey these orders? Will your Mace-bearer be a match for a disciplined regiment? In what situation are we to be?”

Just like today those who defend government power used fear to lure the people to support their cause. Patrick Henry boldly stood up to those fears.

“The Honorable Gentleman said, that great danger would ensue if the Convention rose without adopting this system: I ask, Where is that danger? I see none: Other Gentlemen have told us within these walls, that the Union is gone—or, that the Union will be gone: Is not this trifling with the judgment of their fellow-citizens? Till they tell us the grounds of their fears, I will consider them as imaginary: I rose to make inquiry where those dangers were; they could make no answer: I believe I never shall have that answer: Is there a disposition in the people of this country to revolt against the dominion of laws? Has there been a single tumult in Virginia? Have not the people of Virginia, when laboring under the severest pressure of accumulated distresses, manifested the most cordial acquiescence in the execution of the laws? What could be more awful than their unanimous acquiescence under general distresses? Is there any revolution in Virginia? Whither is the spirit of America gone? Whither is the genius of America fled? It was but yesterday, when our enemies marched in triumph through our country. Yet the people of this country could not be appalled by their pompous armaments: They stopped their career, and victoriously captured them. Where is the peril, now, compared to that? Some minds are agitated by foreign alarms: Happily for us, there is no real danger from Europe: that country is engaged in more arduous business: from that quarter there is no cause of fear: You may sleep in safety forever for them. Where is the danger? If, Sir, there was any, I would recur to the American spirit to defend us;— that spirit which has enabled us to surmount the greatest difficulties: To that illustrious spirit I address my most fervent prayer, to prevent our adopting a system destructive to liberty. Let no Gentlemen be told, that it is not safe to reject this Government. Wherefore is it not safe? We are told there are dangers; but those dangers are ideal; they cannot be demonstrated”

The next section of this speech goes on to cover the amendment process. He argues that the Constitution is difficult to amend and that a very small minority can keep it from being changed when a real flaw is found. Many historians rightly point out that this speech was made before the Bill of Rights was added. They argue that the compromise that became the first 10 amendments satisfied these issues. Henry would argue otherwise. It is true that the only way the Constitution garnered the support of the Anti-Federalists was in its adoption. This as well is certain, but we are talking specifically about Patrick Henry and he knew that the amendments would be ignored. He would also point to changes that have not been made. Term limits, budget controls, and sovereign rights of the states are not found in the Constitution. Local and State governments, as Henry predicted, are virtually welfare recipients of the huge federal monstrosity.

“It is, Sir, a most fearful situation, when the most contemptible minority can prevent the alteration of the most oppressive Government; for it may, in many respects, prove to be such. Is this the spirit of republicanism? What, Sir, is the genius of democracy? Let me read that clause of the Bill of Rights of Virginia which relates to this: third clause. ‘That Government is or ought to be instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security of the people, nation, or community: Of all the various modes and forms of Government, that is best which is capable of producing the greatest degree of happiness and safety, and is most effectually secured against the danger of mal-administration, and that whenever any Government shall be found inadequate, or contrary to those purposes, a majority of the community hath, an indubitable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to reform, alter, or abolish it, in such manner as shall be judged most conducive to the public weal.’ This, Sir, is the language of democracy; that a majority of the community have a right to alter their Government when found to be oppressive: But how different is the genius of your new Constitution from this? How different from the sentiments of freemen, that a contemptible minority can prevent the good of the majority? If then Gentlemen standing on this ground, are come to that point, that they are willing to bind themselves and their posterity to be oppressed, I am amazed and inexpressibly astonished. If this be the opinion of the majority, I must submit; but to me, Sir, it appears perilous and destructive… If, Sir, amendments are left to the twentieth or tenth part of the people of America, your liberty is gone forever.”

Another issue, which Henry brings up to the failings of a consolidated government, is that of the corruption of the few in government.

“We have heard that there is a great deal of bribery practiced in the House of Commons in England; and that many of the members raised themselves to preferments, by selling the rights of the people: But, Sir, the tenth part of that body cannot continue oppressions on the rest of the people. English liberty is in this case, on a firmer foundation than American liberty. It will be easily contrived to procure the opposition of one tenth of the people to any alteration, however judicious. The Honorable Gentleman who presides, told us, that to prevent abuses in our Government, we will assemble in Convention, recall our delegated powers, and punish our servants for abusing the trust reposed in them. Oh, Sir, we should have fine times indeed, if to punish tyrants, it were only sufficient to assemble the people. Your arms wherewith you could defend yourselves, are gone; and you have no longer an aristocratical; no longer democratical spirit. Did you ever read of any revolution in a nation, brought about by the punishment of those in power, inflicted by those who had no power at all? You read of a riot act in a country which is called one of the freest in the world, where a few neighbors cannot assemble without the risk of being shot by a hired soldiery, the engines of despotism. We may see such an act in America.”

He moves from there to another Libertarian idea. Like so many Libertarians, he opposed the direct taxation powers given to the federal government by the Constitution. No, he does not outright yell from the hilltops “Taxation is Theft,” but he does come out swinging against federal taxes. “The clause before you gives a power of direct taxation, unbounded and unlimited”

The next section of this magnificent speech reminds me of Obama promising not to use the part of the NDAA that allowed for the capture and detention of American citizens without a charge or trial. Obama said that he would never use it. That is great; well he obviously was not destined to be the last president. Just because Trump has not used this extensively either, does not comfort me. I am not psychic but I would be willing to bet someone eventually, will be arguing that it is a long standing legal act. This is what Henry had to say.

“Will the oppressor let go the oppressed? Was there even an instance? Can the annals of mankind exhibit one single example, where rulers overcharged with power willingly let go the oppressed, though solicited and requested most earnestly? The application for amendments will therefore be fruitless. Sometimes the oppressed have got loose by one of those bloody struggles that desolate a country. A willing relinquishment of power is one of those things which human nature never was, nor ever will be capable of.”

Patrick Henry argued that what those who sought to do with the Constitution is exactly what every government in history has done; take on more and more power. He argues that there is no need for a powerful government, or a “splendid”, fancy government complete with uniforms, armies, and navies. Henry would have seen his prediction come true in this country as our empire prepares to march a parade of military weapons at the order of our president. It is Henry’s opinion that our country was not founded on power. He proposes, as I do, that this country fought and achieved its independence on a higher philosophical promise.

“When the American spirit was in its youth, the language of America was different: Liberty, Sir, was then the primary object. We are descended from a people whose Government was founded on liberty: Our glorious forefathers of Great-Britain, made liberty the foundation of everything. That country is become a great, mighty, and splendid nation; not because their Government is strong and energetic; but, Sir, because liberty is its direct end and foundation: We drew the spirit of liberty from our British ancestors; by that spirit we have triumphed over every difficulty.”

As he continued, he asks if being a “powerful nation” will actually help the people. Henry says, “Would this, Sir, constitute happiness, or secure liberty? I trust, Sir, our political hemisphere will ever direct their operations to the security of those objects. Consider our situation, Sir: Go to the poor man, ask him what he does; he will inform you, that he enjoys the fruits of his labour, under his own fig-tree, with his wife and children around him, in peace and security. Go to every other member of society, you will find the same tranquil ease and content; you will find no alarms or disturbances: Why then tell us of dangers to terrify us into an adoption of this new Government? And yet who knows the dangers that this new system may produce; they are out of the sight of the common people: They cannot foresee latent consequences.”

Today we have answers to where this powerful centralized federal government has taken us. Time, and time again, it has lead to the kinds of problems that Patrick Henry predicted. He warned us like a man with foreknowledge. Our government has eaten up power like a starving beast. The states have little or no power just as he predicted they would. The amendment process has not guarded us. The Bill of Rights is all but ignored. We are double and sometimes triple taxed. It is the practice of the U.S. Government to attack other nations in aggression. Their lies and justifications always prove to be in the interest to corporations and power. Our Empire is feared by everyone including our own people. They control everything and monitor our every move and word. This behemoth is all penetrating and despotic. There is hope on the horizon. The American people have had enough of the political class. This is why they elected Donald Trump. He has shown to be just another tool for the elites and war profiteers. We have given up on the propaganda and the populace has begun weeding through the lies.

Patrick Henry did many things in his life that advanced the cause of freedom. Today, Adam Kokesh delivers the same message to the American people. You own yourself! All ethical interactions between people are voluntary. If we must have a government it should be as close to the people as possible. As I said in the beginning of this article, this is not a new idea. Patrick Henry warned about the consolidation of power into a few hands. He stood and fought with a loud voice for liberty. It was, and is, by localizing political power that the real power is handed to the people. The American people made a mistake when they destroyed the sovereign states. We can fix that mistake and return to self rule.

What Mr. Henry had was a clear message and a talent for speaking. Thomas Jefferson said that Patrick Henry was “the greatest orator that ever lived.” He was not alone in his efforts. There were many other voices that stood with him. This is true today in the Freedom Movement. Adam Kokesh is a fantastic messenger. He is not alone. I find myself in a large and growing movement that will Finally Free America.

By @marcus.pulis (Press Secretary)

The Declaration of Independence
Ralph Ketcham, “Anti-Federalist Papers and the Convention Debates”
Jon Kukla, “Patrick Henry: Champion of Liberty”
Derryl Perry, “Songs of Freedom: Tales from the R3volution”

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