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fully embarrassing, Mr Henry arose slowly as if borne down by the weight of the subject. After faltering, according to his babit, through a most impressive exordium, in which he merely echoed back the consciousness of every other heart, in deploring his inability to do justice to the occasion, he launched, gradually, into a recital of the colonial wrongs. Rising, as he advanced, with the grandeur of his subject, and glowing at length with all the majesty and expectation of the occasion, his speech seemed niore than that of mortal man. Even those who had heard him in all his glory, in the house of burgesses of Virginia, were astonished at the nianner in which his talents seemed to swell and expand themselves, to fill the vaster theatre in which he was now placed. There was no rant; ne rhapsody: no labour of the understanding: no straining of the voice; no confusion of the utterance.His countenance was erect; his eye steady; his action noble: his enunciation clear and firm; his mind poised on its centre; his views of his subject comprehensive and great; and his imagination, corruscating with a magnificence and a variety, which struck even that assembly with amazement and awe. He sat down amidst murmurs of astonishment and applause; and as he had been before proclaimed the greatest orator of Virginia, he was now, on every hand, admitted to be the first orator of America.
When Mr. Henry returned from this first congress to his constituents, he was asked • whom he thought the greatest man in congress,' and replied, if you speak of eloquence, Mr. Rutledge of South Carolina, is by far the greatest orator; but if you speak of solid information and sound judgment, colonel Washington, is ungestionably, the greatest man on that floor'.
In March, 1775, Mr. Henry was a member of the convention of delegates from the several counties and, corporations of Virginia, assembled in Richmond. In this body, while all the other leading members were still disposed to pursue only milk-and-water measures, he proposed resolutions for embodying, arming and disciplining such number of men, as should be sufficient to defend the colony against the aggressions of the mother country. The resolutions were opposed as not only rash in policy, but as harsh and well nigh impious in point of feeling. Some of the warmest patriots of the convention opposed them. Bland, Harrison, Pendleton, &c. resisted them with all their influence and abilities. An ordinary man, in Mr. Henry's situation, would have been glad to compound with the displeasure of the house, by being permitted to withdraw his resolutions in silence.
“Not so, Mr. Henry. His was a spirit fitted to raise the whirlwind, as well as to ride in and direct it. His was that comprehensive view, that unerring prescience, that perfect command over the actions of men, which qualified him not merely to guide, but almost to create the destinies of nations..
“He rose at this time with a majesty unusual to him in an exordium, and with all that self-possession by which he was so invariably distinguished. “No man,' he said, “ thought more highly than he did of the patriotism, as well as abilities, of the very worthy gentlemen who had just addressed the house. But different men often saw the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, he hoped it would not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen, if, entertaining as he did, opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, he should speak forth his senti-.. ments freely, and without reserve. This, he said, was no time for ceremony. The question before the house was one of awful moment to this country. For his own part, he considered 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 was only in this way that they could hope to arrive at truth, and fulfil the great responsibility which they held to God and their country. Should he keep back his opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offence, he should consider himself as guilty of treason towards his country, and of an act of disloy. alty towards the majesty of Heaven, which he revered above all earthly kings.
"Mr. President,” said he, “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 syren, till she transforms us into beasts. Is this,” he asked, “the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liber. ty? Were 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 his part, whatever anguish of spirit it might cost, he was willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst; and to provide for it.
-"He had," he said, “but one lamp by which his feet were guided; and that was the lamp of expesience. He knew of no way of judging of the future but by the past. And judging by the past, he wished to know what there had been in the conduct of the British ministry, for the last ten years, to justify those hopes with which gentlemen had 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 those warlike 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 any thing 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 longer. Sir, we have done every thing that could be done, to avert the storm that 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 free; if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending; if we mean not basely to abandon the noble strug gle 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," continued Mr. Henry, 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, vir, 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