A Tour Of The Church
Where Patrick Henry
Delivered His Speech

By Ted Twietmeyer
(c) 2005 All Rights Reserved
This article is dedicated to people everywhere in the world who will never be able to visit this historic site. It is one of the few remaining treasures from the founding fathers of the United States. This author receives no compensation for this work, and the historic site is operated by a non-profit organization.
St. John's Church steeple
Church Entrance
St. John's Church history
sign - It's quite old and a miracle the ais still standing
The place where Patrick Henry delivered his speech was at St. John's Church located in the city of Richmond, Virginia. This is a very special place in American history, and today it is open to the public. I urge everyone to visit it during the week. This is still a working church with worship services on Sunday mornings. The factual source material for what you will read below was taken from the tour guide, who gave me permission to take these pictures and publish them.
A real gentleman and former US marine veteran, the guide is also a volunteer. He wears the authentic dress of a Marine from Patrick Henry's time. His attire is completely authentic down to the smallest detail: a vest with 12 buttons, a heavy green coat with 9 large brass buttons, knee-length pants, heavy woolen knit gray stockings and high boots. When we took the tour in May, we were fortunate to have this historic place all to ourselves. The outside temperature on that day hovered around 90F.
I have often wondered... where were all the patriots we hear from almost daily? Have they ever been to this site, or to any of the other historic sites of our country's heritage? What are today's parents teaching their children anything about our history? Do they think the schools can do it more effectively than they can?
Marine tour guide speaking to author's mother and wife
On that memorable day in March of 1775, Patrick Henry stood up in defiance and delivered his famous speech. He delivered it in the very pew he was forced to rent from the King of England. Everyone was not only required to RENT a pew indefinitely, but you were "expected" to be sitting in it each week. Pew rental was demanded of rich and poor alike in Patrick's time. These pews (or as I call them "worship stalls" for people to be treated like cattle) have latches located down low and on the outside. Ushers would lock you in before the service began and let you out later. Children were taught to BEHAVE in those days, and did so without the use of pharmaceuticals. This was all part of the colonial way of life under the King's rule.
The colonists were fed up with endless taxation, laws and the King's iron grip. These hardy people finally had enough of life under their English dictator. This beautiful church was like all others of it's time - it was basically UNHEATED. Although Virginia may not have the snow which the northern United States has, the inside of the church was a very cold place in winter - cold enough to see your breath. Sermons could drone on for more than an hour. Even as unthinkable to us as all this sounds, being cold in winter was all part of colonial life. Hardship came in many forms for rich and poor alike which we no longer have today. People in civilized countries today take toilets for granted...
In the early days of the colonial pre-United States, there were no colleges to attend to become a lawyer. One learned the law profession from being taught by a practicing lawyer. Such was the case of Thomas Jefferson, who went under the tutelage of George Wythe. Mr. Wythe is considered to be the first professor of law in America. He is buried in the cemetery which surrounds the church on three sides. (See plaque below.)
Cemetery marker and plaque to George Wythe who taught the practice of law to Thomas Jefferson. Mr. Wythe himself was educated in England
(Photo taken from the rear) Altar is in the center, and Patrick Henry sat at the far left against the wall. We also know that Washington and most of the signers of the Declaration of Independence sat over near the far right front right wall. The entire layout of the church is in the shape of the cross with two small alcoves up front (white daylight areas on the left and right.) In Patrick Henry's time, people entered from the front right corner door which is still there today, not from the rear door which is used now. Note the high pew walls and doors. These pews are near the waist on an average person in our time. Most people of Patrick's time averaged about 5ft. tall, making the pews chest high for people of his day.
The pew on the left is where Patrick Henry stood up and gave his speech. You can see the document on display above in the previous panoramic image on the far left. The silver plaque (below) marks Patrick's actual location. It is mounted on the pew wall's top edge (not shown above, just outside the lower left corner of the above image.)
This plaque is mounted on the pew wall's top edge where Patrick Henry gave his speech. Although the plaque is 95 years old and has been touched by thousands over the years, the following can still be read:
Patrick Henry
Placed by Old Dominion Chapter Daughters of
The American Revolution May 20 1910
May 29 * 1736 - . - June 6 * 1799
Cemetery which partially surrounds the church
In Patrick Henry's day the land around the church was all farmland. Cattle were allowed to roam almost anywhere, as fences were not yet commonplace. People were interred in wooden coffins, which would collapse under any extra pressure on the ground after only a few years. This presented a problem when a 1500lb cow strolled into the cemetery and walked over a grave. Cattle are heavy enough to break a marble grave cover plate. Something had to be done! In the image above you can see what appears to be a table. The flat marble top prevented animals from walking on the grave and falling in. It also served as a picnic table. Friends and family would occasionally come to the cemetery to have a picnic in memory of the deceased.
Brass dedication plaque to Patrick Henry. This is about four feet in height.
The full text of Patrick Henry's speech is shown below.
Can you find his famous statement, "Give me liberty, or give me death?"
Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death
Delivered in person by Patrick Henry on March 23, 1775.
No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well as abilities, of the very worthy gentlemen who have just addressed the House. But different men often see the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, I hope it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen if, entertaining as I do opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely and without reserve. This is no time for ceremony. The questing before the House is one of awful moment to this country. For my own part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfill the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the Majesty of Heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.
Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it.
I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past. And judging by the past, I wish to know what there has been in the conduct of the British ministry for the last ten years to justify those hopes with which gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves and the House. Is it that insidious smile with which our petition has been lately received? Trust it not, sir; it will prove a snare to your feet. Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss. Ask yourselves how this gracious reception of our petition comports with those warlike preparations which cover our waters and darken our land. Are fleets and armies necessary to a work of love and reconciliation? Have we shown ourselves so unwilling to be reconciled that force must be called in to win back our love? Let us not deceive ourselves, sir. These are the implements of war and subjugation; the last arguments to which kings resort. I ask gentlemen, sir, what means this martial array, if its purpose be not to force us to submission? Can gentlemen assign any other possible motive for it? Has Great Britain any enemy, in this quarter of the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies? No, sir, she has none.
They are meant for us: they can be meant for no other. They are sent over to bind and rivet upon us those chains which the British ministry have been so long forging. And what have we to oppose to them? Shall we try argument? Sir, we have been trying that for the last ten years. Have we anything new to offer upon the subject? Nothing. We have held the subject up in every light of which it is capable; but it has been all in vain. Shall we resort to entreaty and humble supplication? What terms shall we find which have not been already exhausted? Let us not, I beseech you, sir, deceive ourselves. Sir, we have done everything that could be done to avert the storm which is now coming on. We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the ministry and Parliament. Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne! In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation. There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free-- if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending--if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained--we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of hosts is all that is left us!
They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot? Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable--and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come.
It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace-- but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!
In these turbulent times of 2005, when the very life and future of the United States is at peril from forces inside and out may we never forget his words. May Patrick's words ring loud in our ears that we may never forget -that history CAN repeat itself.
Ted Twietmeyer
Author of the eBook "What NASA Isn't Telling You About Mars
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Mr. Twietmeyer is a frequent contributor to and writes on a variety of subjects.



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