Patrick Henry was originally a barkeeper. He was married very young, and going into some business, on his own account, was a bankrupt before the year was out … He then turned out for a practicing lawyer …
His eloquence was peculiar, if indeed it could be called eloquence; for it was impressive and sublime, beyond what could be imagined. Although it was difficult when [after] he had spoken to tell what he said, yet, while he was speaking, it seemed directly to the point … His utterance [was] neither very fast nor very slow. His speeches generally short, from a quarter to a half an hour. His pronunciation was vulgar and vicious, but it was forgotten while he was speaking.
He was a man of very little knowledge of any sort; he had read nothing, and had no books …
Neither in politics nor in his profession was he a man of business; he was a man of debate only.”
Daniel Webster’s “Memorandum of Mr. Jefferson’s Conversation,” December, 1824
Copied from Padover’s The Complete Jefferson, Pages 903-4
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
In 1775, on today’s date, March 23, Patrick Henry (1736-1799) delivered his famous line to the Virginia House of Burgesses, “ … give me liberty or give me death.”
Like everyone who heard him, Jefferson was in awe of Henry’s oratory. His delivery was spell-binding but his content not memorable. Elsewhere in this passage, Jefferson wrote that Henry spoke so convincingly against Jefferson’s position in the House of Burgesses, that he was “delighted and moved” by Henry’s oratory, but when Henry was done, asked himself, “ ‘what the d—l” has he said?’ I could never answer the inquiry.”
Jefferson was complimentary of Henry’s role in Virginia during the war for independence, but the two men were arch political opponents throughout the remainder of Henry’s life.