Princeton University Library Collection of Patrick Henry Materials
Held at: Princeton University Library: Manuscripts Division [Contact Us]
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Princeton University Library: Manuscripts Division. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
Patrick Henry, born in Hanover County, Virginia, was an American lawyer, patriot, orator, and participant in almost every aspect of the founding of America, as well as a plantation owner and enslaver. He studied law on his own, and in 1760, he appeared in Williamsburg to take his attorney's examination before Robert Carter Nicholas and others. Henry served in the Virginia House of Burgesses, was a member of the Virginia Committee of Correspondence, a delegate to the Virginia Convention, and a delegate to the Virginia Constitution Ratification Convention. He played a prominent role in the May 6, 1776, convention and became the first governor of the commonwealth under its new constitution. He served three terms as governor of Virginia. Henry is perhaps best known for the speech he made in the House of Burgesses on March 23, 1775, urging the legislature to take military action against the encroaching British military force, which ended with the phrase "Give me liberty or give me death!" Henry also acquired extensive land holdings in the 1780s and 1790s, including a 10,000-acre plantation in Henry County, Virginia, known as Leatherwood, where he lived from 1779 to 1784, cultivated tobacco, and owned 75 enslaved persons. In 1794, he retired to Red Hill Plantation in Charlotte County, Virginia, a tobacco plantation comprising 520 acres.
The collection consists of selected manuscript material by and about Patrick Henry (1736-1799), including signed autograph letters to family and associates; documents and notes regarding legal, property, and financial matters; and engraved portraits of Henry.
Items are arranged by accession.
The collection was formed as a result of a Departmental practice of combining into one collection material of various accessions relating to a particular person, family, or subject.
Promissory Note in the Hand of Patrick Henry, Signed by Jacob Puckett was a gift of Pierre F. Cook (1892) in 1931. (AM 9875).
Letter to Thomas Madison and receipt dated June 8, 1765, were a gift of Cyrus H. McCormick in April 1947. (AM 13366)
Letter to Robert Carter and receipts for October 1764 and May 1765 were a gift of David S. Elkind (1973), in October 2006. (AM 2007-37)
Purchases from 2007 to the present have been made with support from The Barksdale-Dabney-Henry Fund for Research and Teaching on Patrick Henry and Early Americana (AM 2007-66, AM 2008-66, AM 2009-34, AM 2009-40, AM 2009-115, AM 2010-26, AM 2014-59, AM 2016-23, AM 2017-62, AM 2018-44, AM 2019-129, AM 2020-72).
This collection was processed by Dina Britain on January 29, 2007. Finding aid written by Dina Britain on January 29, 2007.
Folder inventory added by Nicholas Williams '2015 in 2012.
Finding aid updated by Faith Charlton in October 2015 and by Kelly Bolding in November 2016, November 2017, June 2019, and March 2020.
No material was separated during 2013-2020 processing.
- Revolutionaries -- United States -- 18th century
- Slaveholders -- Virginia -- 18th century
- Slavery -- Virginia -- 18th century -- Sources
- Manuscripts Division
- Finding Aid Author
- Faith Charlton; Kelly Bolding
- Finding Aid Date
- The majority of materials in this collection were purchased with support from The Barksdale-Dabney-Henry Fund for Research and Teaching on Patrick Henry and Early Americana
- Access Restrictions
The collection is open for research use.
- Use Restrictions
Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. No further photoduplication of copies of material in the collection can be made when Princeton University Library does not own the original. Inquiries regarding publishing material from the collection should be directed to RBSC Public Services staff through the Ask Us! form. The library has no information on the status of literary rights in the collection and researchers are responsible for determining any questions of copyright.
In the hand of Patrick Henry, signed by Jacob PuckettPhysical Description
Regards a bond of Henry's brother.Physical Description
Letter, dated July 24, 1789, regards a legal matter.Physical Description
Signed by cobbler Ephraim Potts
Includes an accompanying explanatory letter (1889)Physical Description
Declining to take a law case involving an influential Fairfax family.Physical Description
Addressed to the Virginia delegate, the letter is about two persons jailed for suspected "wicked intentions."Physical Description
Sent from Prince Edward County, Virginia, Henry writes about selling enslaved persons to raise money to purchase Yazoo land (portions of present day Alabama and Mississippi).
The engraving, made from an Alonzo Chappel painting of Henry seated with a pen and notebook, is undated.Physical Description
Consists of three documents related to the purchase of lands for Patrick Henry's Leatherwood Plantation. In one document, dated November 27, 1778, Martin Key agrees to allow Patrick Henry to settle on land on Leatherwood Creek in Henry County, Virginia, which Henry purchased from Thomas Lomax, but was involved in a legal dispute. Another is a May 29, 1778, document signed by Thomas Lomax transferring 9,990 acres of land on Leatherwood Creek to Patrick Henry. The third is a complaint for the Court of Chancery case of Lomax v. Randolph concerning a tract of land, circa 1743 (filed April 3, 1783).Physical Description
Consists of a one-page signed autograph letter from Patrick Henry in Red Hill, Virginia, to Major-General Henry "Light-Horse Harry" Lee III. Henry opens the letter reporting that he has again been asked by "the Executive" (President George Washington) to administer the Fairfax estate, likely referring to George William Fairfax, whose estate neighbored Mount Vernon. Fairfax had left Virginia in 1773, giving Washington power of attorney, but had died in England in 1787. Henry continues seeking Lee's assistance in selling "about 10 tracts of land in No. Carolina from 15 to 20 miles from Fayetteville. They contain about 9000 acres, are choice rice lands..." Henry also describes land at Cape Henry and elsewhere.Physical Description
Consists of an engraved portrait of Patrick Henry, engraved by E. Wellmore from a painting by J.B. Longacre after an original miniature in possession of John S. Fleming of Virginia. The engraving is signed by Patrick Henry.Physical Description
One letter, written in Williamsburg, from Patrick Henry as Governor of Virginia, in which he arranges for salt provisions for the Virginia militia "that have joined Genl Washington."Physical Description
Consists of a printed document completed by hand and signed by Patrick Henry, certifying that the representative of Thomas Chandler is entitled to the proportion of land allowed a Lieutenant of the State Navy for three years service.Physical Description
Consists of a document containing an invoice for supplies, including cotton, blankets, a cloak, and gauze, with their corresponding prices. The verso is docketed: "Paid to Col. Joseph Martin the within goods." It is signed by Henry with his initials.Physical Description