Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 36.djvu/56

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Southern Historical Society Papers.

Lee were for sustaining the rights and dignity of our government, they unfurled their banner to the breeze. Emblazoned on its folds were the magic words of Pinckney: "Millions for defense, not a cent for tribute." The people rallied to this inspiring cry. The effort of each side was to secure for their respective party the control of the Virginia Legislature to back up the Federal. government or to cause it to recede from its position towards France. Each party recognized the potency of Henry's eloquence and his influence with the people and both made overtures for his favor. The Jefferson faction, in control of the Legislature, elected him, for the third time, Governor, which honor he declined. The other side bid for his influence by offering him the position of Minister to France. What determined the great commoner to change and become an advocate for measures he had so long and so strenuously resisted is a mystery. By some it has been ascribed to old age and disease. By others attributed to a desire on Henry's part to secure the good opinion and friendship of Washington. It had been reported to Henry that Washington, while speaking of him on several occasions, considered him a factious and seditious character.

This was the dead fly that caused his pot of ointment to be unsavory. It rankled in his breast; it saddened his susceptible heart; it made life unendurable, for not only he, but all men wished the good will and opinion of he, who was "first in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of his countrymen."

Whatever may have influenced Henry, whatever may have been his motive, we find that he, who in 1789 had said, "I want to crush that anti-Federal champion," in 1799 had veered round to the support of doctrines he had previously condemned. And so we come to his last public appearance – the last speech of his life in defense of principles and opinions he had formerly denounced.

We have seen the rising of the sun; we are now to behold its setting. At Charlotte Courthouse; March court, 1799, Henry addressed the people for the last time. From far and near they came; thousands to hear their favorite. Old and feeble with disease he appeared, but his eye lit up with its wonted fire and his clarion voice rang out clear and resonant as of old; but such