Patrick Henry Lesson for Kids: Facts & Biography

Instructor: Charla Crews

Charla, an educator for over 30 years, has degrees in Early Childhood Education, SPED, and Educational Leadership.

Discover why Patrick Henry was considered a statesman and extraordinary orator. You can read about his private and public life, as well as learning his favorite pastime when he was with his children.

Patrick Henry: Early Life

Patrick Henry was a highly regarded politician and attorney in the 18th century. Born May 29, 1736, he grew up in Virginia with his parents, John and Sarah Henry, and his 10 sisters and brothers. Patrick attended a local school until he was 10, when he started being homeschooled by his father until the age of 15. He often accompanied his mother to church, where he was impressed by the preacher's speaking skills. Patrick learned a lot about being an orator, or public speaker, from the preacher.

Portrait of Patrick Henry
Portrait of Patrick Henry

Becoming a Lawyer

When Patrick was 18, he married Sarah Shelton. They farmed land given to them by her father. Three years after his marriage to Sarah, their home burned down. Patrick then started working in his father-in-law's tavern located across the street from the courthouse. This enabled him to spend a lot of time interacting with the lawyers and judges that visited the tavern. He would soon start watching trials at the courthouse. Consequently, he developed an interest in law and began studying to be a lawyer.

Today it takes about eight years of study and passing an important test known as the bar exam to become a lawyer. Most people prepare for several months before taking the test. Patrick Henry only studied six weeks, passed the bar exam, and earned his license to practice law! This is just one example of his intelligence and ability to learn quickly.

Patrick's wife died in 1775, and he remarried to Dorothea Dandridge two years later (he and his two wives would have 17 children and 77 grandchildren). By the time of Sarah's death, he had already become a highly respected lawyer in Virginia. Patrick quickly became known as a lawyer who could convince people with his powerful speeches, and he worked with famous lawyers such as Thomas Jefferson.

Patrick Henry giving a speech in front of the House of Burgesses

Entering Politics

During Patrick's time as a lawyer, he wrote many documents that influenced the laws of Virginia. And in that time, he also became a well-respected politician. In summer 1774, he was elected to represent the Virginia Colony at the First Continental Congress (the governing body of the 13 colonies).

As the colonies moved toward the Revolutionary War, Patrick made a speech at St. John's Church in Richmond, Virginia, in 1775 (around the time of Sarah's death). It became famously known as the 'Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death' speech.

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