Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 36.djvu/52

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Southern Historical Society Papers.

contending that the Union was necessary for the people of Virginia, for her protection, growth and prosperity. The rights and liberties of the people were more secure under a Constitution than under the confederation, they claimed. These were briefly the contentions of the two parties, contending for and against the proposed measures upon which they were called to deliberate and determine.

In the time and space allotted, I shall endeavor to give a brief sketch of some of these characters. The material is ample, the subject prolific, but time will not permit me to trespass upon you sufficiently to be more prolix.


The most conspicuous character in the Convention was, unquestionably, Patrick Henry – the Demosthenes of America, the seer of the Revolution. He had made himself popular and famous by the resolutions offered declaring the Stamp Act unconstitutional; had served in the public councils for years, and was the first Governor of the Commonwealth in the Revolution.

Henry was the first to use the magic words, in his letter of acceptance of the Governorship of Virginia, "The Commonwealth of Virginia," now so familiar to us all. He was the orator and the idol of the people and was regarded by them as the champion of their liberties and the defender of their rights. He was at this time just past fifty and should have been in the vigor of life, but he had encountered many hardships and had endured much trouble as a man and as a patriot. There was a stoop in his shoulders and he wore glasses. His hair had disappeared in early life and its place was supplied by a brown wig. His attempts to adjust it, in his forensic efforts, caused it to assume many curious and ludicrous positions. But his voice had not lost its magic and his intellectual powers knew no decline. He displayed in this assembly a splendor of eloquence which swept all before him, surpassing all his previous efforts, and yet one, calmly and dispassionately, reading the debates, would say he was rather rhetorical than logical; he appealed to the passions rather than to reason. He frequently, it would seem, "talked to the galleries." His language