It was a fine day in May when Patrick Henry came into Williamsburg to sit in the House of Burgesses.
No one paid the least attention to the young man in homespun as he rode along on his lean horse. There was too much else to think about.
The king had not listened to any petitions. The Stamp Act had become a law, and everybody on the streets was wondering what the burgesses would do.
When the House assembled, some of the burgesses said there should be nothing done until the other colonies were heard from.
Others said that, because the Stamp Act was now a law, it was best to obey it. And then the most of them sank back in their seats as if the question were settled.
But Patrick Henry rose to his feet. He looked very tall and awkward. He held in his hand the yellow leaf of an old law book, on which he had written some resolutions.
These resolutions declared that if a law was unjust it should be opposed; that the Virginians had a charter from the king granting the rights of English subjects; that English subjects had the right to tax themselves, and so the Virginians had that right; and that whoever claimed that Parliament could tax the Virginians without their consent was an enemy to the colony!
Those were very bold words to use about a law made by the king!
The most timid of the burgesses fairly trembled with fear as they listened.
Then Patrick Henry made a great speech. Nothing like it had ever been heard in Williamsburg.
It was all against the unjust tax, and he closed it
with flashing eye, saying: "Caesar had his Brutus,
Charles the First his Cromwell, and George the
"Treason! treason!" shouted the friends of the king.
"And George the Third," he repeated, "may profit by their example—If that be treason, make the most of it!" he cried in tones that echoed through the hall.
Thomas Jefferson, the law student, who was in the lobby, almost cheered aloud when he heard the brave words.
George Washington, who sat with the burgesses, nodded his head; and so many others believed what Patrick Henry had said that the bold resolutions were adopted.
From that day Patrick Henry, the most eloquent man in Hanover County, was called the most eloquent man in Virginia.