Four American Patriots  by Alma Holman Burton

The Constitution of the United States

The very next day after this great speech of welcome to Washington and Lafayette, Patrick Henry became governor of Virginia again. There were many grave questions to be solved. What should be done with the Tories? That was one of the questions.

"Tar and feather them!" cried some.

"Welcome them and all other subjects of Great Britain," cried Governor Henry. "The Tories were mistaken, but the quarrel is over. We have peace again. Let us lay aside prejudice. These people who sided with the king are intelligent and industrious. We need men and women to help make a strong nation. Let all come who will."

When some wanted to keep English ships out of the harbors, that the French and other friendly nations might trade more with us, Governor Henry said: "No! Why should we fetter commerce? Let her be free as the air, and she will return on the wings of the four winds of heaven to bless our land with plenty."

Thus the great man pleaded liberty for all. After serving faithfully for two years as governor, he began again to practice law in the courts.

The soldiers of the Revolution had been paid in promises on paper by the Continental Congress. They needed money so badly that they could not wait for Congress to pay, and sold the promises at low prices to speculators.

When Patrick Henry favored the passage of a bill in the legislature to prevent the sale of the paper at such low prices, one of the speculators was so influenced by his eloquence that he exclaimed, "That bill ought to pass!" although its passage would spoil his own profits.

Now, since the war with England was over, it was clearly seen that the United States of America could not make a good government without a more permanent union. There was no president. Congress was disbanding. Soon there would be no government at all.

The colonies agreed to hold a convention at Philadelphia to revise the Articles of Confederation which had kept them together during the war.

Patrick Henry was appointed a delegate, with George Washington, James Madison, and others; but his health was too poor for him to take the long journey.

The convention at Philadelphia adopted the Constitution of the United States as we have it to-day, without the amendments.

Eight States soon agreed to the Constitution. Would Virginia ratify it? Everybody said that New York and the rest of the states would act with Virginia.

General Washington sent Patrick Henry a copy of the Constitution, and urged him to persuade the people to adopt it.

Now, we have seen that, when the king was oppressing the colonies with taxes, Patrick Henry was one of the first to propose a union. But he thought the new plan of government gave too much power to Congress and the president. He said there should be amendments to the Constitution, so that the states might have more freedom.

No one had ever known a government without a king, and it was very difficult to suit everybody.

There was a long debate in a convention at Richmond. All the other colonies watched eagerly to see if Virginia would agree to the new plan of union. Mr. Henry urged the amendments.

At last the Constitution of the United States was ratified by Virginia, with the recommendation that amendments should be adopted when they seemed necessary. And some of the very amendments proposed by Patrick Henry were afterwards adopted by Congress.

To-day the Constitution has fifteen amendments, which have helped to make our government the best in the world.