Four American Patriots  by Alma Holman Burton

The First Governor of the State of Virginia

The Declaration of Independence was read from the steps of the governor's mansion at Williamsburg. Now, who do you think was governor? It was Patrick Henry. He had been elected before the news of the great event had reached Virginia. There he was in the mansion of the king's governors. He had won the first place in the state by his own merit.

His father and his wife, who had helped him in all the struggles on the farm and in the shop, were dead. But his aged mother, whom he loved very tenderly, was living to see his success.

George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and other Whig friends wrote him beautiful letters of greeting in his new office.

But the Tories laughed when they heard that Patrick Henry was elected governor. "A pretty governor he will make," they said, "with his buckskin breeches and homespun coat!"

But Governor Henry wished to represent the people as well as Lord Dunmore had represented the king. He wore a powdered wig and black velvet clothes, and long silk hose, and shoes with silver buckles, and in cold weather he wore an ample scarlet coat.

He did not walk the streets with his dog and gun any more, but rode in a carriage drawn by four horses, and saluted the people as gracefully as the king's governors had done. The people were very proud of their governor, and he was so kind and gentle that everybody loved him.

After a time he married the beautiful grand-daughter of Alexander Spotswood, who had once been the king's governor of Virginia. This made the rich planters respect him more than ever.

There was much for Governor Henry to do. The Tories were plotting mischief in the state, and the war in the North was raging.

General Washington wrote again and again to Governor Henry, asking him to send more men and more supplies, and he always sent them when he could.

In October, 1777, when the British General Burgoyne surrendered to the American army at Saratoga, New York, he said the Virginia regiment was the finest in the world.

But about that very time Washington, the pride of all the regiments, was defeated on the Brandywine, in Delaware. No one grieved over this misfortune more than Governor Henry. He hurried to send food and clothing to Washington's army.

Then he sent George Rogers Clark with a regiment to the far West to capture the forts held by the British north of the Ohio River. The Indians were awed and the forts were taken from the British.

If this expedition had failed, the country which makes the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, and a part of Minnesota might to-day belong to Canada. And so these states have much for which to remember Patrick Henry.

Now, according to law, a governor might only be elected three times in succession. When Henry's third term had expired, Thomas Jefferson was elected governor, and the great orator retired to his estate among the Blue Ridge Mountains.