Episode Ten - Thomas Jefferson in Conversation with Patrick Henry
Seven years his junior and still a student of law in Williamsburg, Thomas Jefferson witnessed Patrick Henry's defiant stand in opposition to Great Britain's Stamp Act during the May 1765 session in the House of Burgesses. Jefferson later wrote that he
"heard the splendid display of Mr. Henry's talents as a popular orator. They were great, indeed: such as I have never heard from any other man. He appeared to me to speak as Homer wrote."
Both men championed the colonists' rights as English citizens, Henry - vocally in fiery and passionate language and Jefferson - on paper, writing with elegance, succinctness, and essence. Both served in public office: Henry 30 years and Jefferson 40 years. They held the office of Governor of Virginia, were elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses, served as delegates to the Continental Congress, and each were national symbols of the American fight for liberty against British tyranny.
They began as friends and close collaborators, together drafting the "Proclamation for a day of Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer" in 1774 and drawing together a consensus of their fellow Burgesses. After the beginning of the war for independence Jefferson and Henry began to differ in opinions relative to a central government versus states rights, relationships between church and state, and what generally became known as the conflict in Federalist versus Anti-Federalist politics.
Fifth grade students from Brookneal Elementary School have taken up the challenge to learn more about these two extraordinary men. The students will inquire into their early life and career as lawyers, how they became acquainted with one another, their reactions to the Stamp Act and the Boston Tea Party, Henry's "give me liberty, or give me death" speech, their role as war time Governors, their issues and concerns once independence was won, and what they see as the future of the 13 United States of America.