Patrick Henry was born in Virginia in 1736. He was a lawyer, farmer, and politician. With his family, he owned a 10,000-acre plantation where they enslaved at least 100 people. He had 6 children with his 1st wife, Sarah, but later she started to manifest disturbing behaviors which were classified as mental illness. When she became dangerous to herself and others, she was clothed in a strait jacket. Henry's physician recommended Sarah be moved to the public hospital. Yet, after inspecting the facilities, Henry saw that his wife would be locked into a windowless brick cell containing only a filthy mattress on the floor and a chamber pot. There she would be chained to the wall with a leg iron. Appalled by what he saw, he instead prepared a comfortable two-room apartment for her in the basement of their home. Henry took care of Sarah; he fed her, bathed her, clothed her, and prevented her from harming herself. Sarah died in the spring of 1775. Because of her mental illness -- then thought to have been caused by being 'possessed by the devil' – she was denied a Christian burial. Her grieving husband buried her thirty feet from the home they shared and planted a lilac tree next to her grave to remember her. Patrick Henry had 11 children with his 2nd wife.
As a politician, Henry was a leader in every protest against British tyranny and in every movement for colonial rights. In 1765, he protested the Stamp Act. The Stamp Act was a tax that the colonies had to pay to the British. The act required that printed materials in the colonies be produced on stamped paper produced in London. The purpose of the tax was to help pay for troops stationed in America. The British government felt that the colonies were the primary beneficiaries of this military presence, and should pay at least a portion of the expense. The colonies had no influence over what taxes were raised or how they would be spent. Many colonists considered it a violation of their rights as Englishmen to be taxed without their consent. In March 1775, Patrick Henry urged his fellow Virginians to arm themselves in self-defense as the British army threatened them. He closed his self-defense appeal with the now famous words: "Give me liberty or give me death." This speech helped to start the American Revolution. Patrick Henry later served five terms as governor of Virginia. He died in 1799 at his home.