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Patrick Henry: First Among Patriots

3.84  ·  Rating Details ·  97 Ratings  ·  18 Reviews
Most Americans know Patrick Henry as a fiery speaker whose pronouncement “Give me liberty or give me death!” rallied American defiance to the British Crown. But Henry’s skills as an orator—sharpened in the small towns and courtrooms of colonial Virginia—are only one part of his vast, but largely forgotten, legacy. As historian Thomas S. Kidd shows, Henry cherished a vision ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published November 22nd 2011 by Basic Books
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Oct 09, 2012 Louise rated it liked it
The famous "Liberty or Death" speech was early in his career and became one of many that brought him fame and supporters. He was different from the other founders. He was a lawyer, but he was self-taught. He was a planter, but he was not a gentleman farmer. When times were rough, he tended bar. While the founders kept their religious beliefs in the background, Henry brought his into the forefront. But, like the Virginia founders, he did own slaves, and like many of them had qualms about it in hi ...more
Lauren Albert
This is more of a biography of “Patrick-Henry-as Patriot” then of Patrick Henry. Not so much attention is paid to his private life despite him having 17 children with his two wives. His own political positions, as Kidd portrays them, do help give a reality to some of the arguments during the time—states’ rights vs. centralized government (and the connected debate over the Constitution) being the largest.
George Paul
Jul 15, 2013 George Paul rated it it was amazing
Thomas S. Kidd, Patrick Henry: First Among Patriots (New York: Basic Books, 2011). $28.00, 320 pages.

To be honest, I didn’t know much about Patrick Henry before I read Thomas S. Kidd’s biography of him. I knew—as all schoolboys should know—that he uttered the famous line, “give me liberty, or give me death.” I also knew that his support for a general assessment for religion—taxpayer funded clergy support—in Virginia provoked James Madison’s Memorial and Remonstrance. And finally I knew that Henr
Feb 18, 2012 Rodney rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. For the most part, I found it to be very balanced and well done. There are some places where I felt like Prof. Kidd fell into some modern, politically-correct type analysis that I don't find all that helpful. For example, Prof. Kidd seems to occaisionally accept the prevailing "wisdom" that the American War for Independence was only about money and taxes. Much could be said on this, but it will suffice here to note that this requires us to ignore the words of the Decl ...more
James McGregor
Apr 18, 2016 James McGregor rated it it was ok
This is a politically focused book narrated in a relaxed, somewhat rambling style. It presents itself as even-handed, well researched and objectively probing the contradictions of a complex subject. More often than not, however, the author's assessments of his principle character rest on assertions rather than analyses. Henry is seldom quoted at length. The formative elements in his self-education are not considered in anything but generic terms. Henry's enemies, most notably Thomas Jefferson, a ...more
Allen Roth
May 01, 2013 Allen Roth rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I have long been a student of early American History. But after reading numerous books about the American Revolution, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Jay, John Adams, Ratification, etc. I knew very little about the important role Patrick Henry played in the founding of our nation, until I read Thomas Kidd's splendid biography: Patrick Henry: First Among Patriots In addition to learning about Henry, the biography focuses on the formation of our Republic from the perspective of Virginian ...more
May 13, 2013 Mike rated it it was amazing
Shelves: politics, social
Great book. I represented Henry as a godly man, consistent patriot, and all about freedom and liberty. At the same time he owned slaves and knew it was inconsistent with liberty. He even knew that God was not going to bless the nation as long as slavery existed. He was conflicted between his political leadership, his financial irresponsibility at home, his understanding of scripture and his ownership of people. Patrick Henry did a lot right, and a lot wrong; but he did it with great zeal.

The mos
Feb 16, 2012 Tom rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
This is a good book about one of the Founding Fathers. Professor Kidd has given us a good picture of a man whose great themes are "liberty, virtue and patriotism." (p. 246) I was particularly struck by chapter 9, "Defending the Revolution bu Opposing the Constitution." Henry believed the ideals of the American Revolution were betrayed in adopting the Constitution. He saw the issue as too many expansive powers vested in the government and the chief executive, with a resulting loss of rights to pe ...more
Matt Pitts
Jan 03, 2012 Matt Pitts rated it liked it
Those wanting to know more about a largely unknown founding father will find the 'information gap' on Patrick Henry well filled by this book. As far as biographies go, this one does a better job of showing where the man fit in the times than it does making you feel like you really know the man himself. In other words, you may not get to know much about Henry's personality, family life, or the specifics of his oritorical greatness, but you will know what he was doing, what role he played, and wha ...more
Mar 27, 2012 Sean rated it liked it
Having recently visited Red Hill, Henry's final home, in central Virginia (near the epicenter of the 2011 Va. earthquake), I figured it was time to read about his life. First thing you notice, after reading the entire bio: the "Don't tread on me" slogan has been twisted out of its original meaning. Overall, an excellent portrayal of a man who truly did live his convictions; and yet, when he saw that his oratory skills and closely held convictions would not win, was able to accept the point-of-vi ...more
Mar 22, 2012 Guna rated it liked it
This book covers the fiery Patrick Henry especially through shortly before the American Revolution to the time of the Constitutional ratification debates and his death. So we learn not only about Patrick Henry himself, but about the times and some of the problems he and others of the time faced. The book is very readable, and makes me curious about some of the other characters of the time, such as the misunderstood (?) Thomas Jefferson.
Bryn Dunham
Apr 26, 2012 Bryn Dunham rated it liked it
Shelves: owned-books, history
Famous for his oratorical abilities, Patrick Henry became a household name and is known mostly for his "liberty or death" speech. This book is more of a brief political/public service biography of Henry and not an in depth "Ron Chernow or David McCullough-esq" book. It's interesting but dry at times, but a decent book to get a feel for Patrick Henry's career and political positions. I can recommend it to anybody interested in this lesser known patriot and revolutionary figure.
Benjamin Glaser
Apr 22, 2013 Benjamin Glaser rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
Really enjoyable read about a founding father that a lot of people know, but know little about. Author does a good job of presenting a "Cromwellian" biography (that is warts and all) of Patrick Henry that leaves almost no stone unturned as well as giving a good view of the events of the Revolution from a Virginian standpoint.
Gary R.
Mar 29, 2014 Gary R. rated it it was amazing
I liked this book very much. It's not immensely detailed, but a good read and not boring.
Dec 15, 2011 Philip rated it liked it
Interesting book on an underappreciated patriot. Occasionally a little redundant - could have used a good editor!
Dan Keller
Jul 17, 2016 Dan Keller rated it it was amazing
So far a well written book. Excellent book on a true patriot.
Thad Noyes
Thad Noyes rated it really liked it
Nov 26, 2011
Julianna rated it really liked it
Jul 06, 2016
Jay Perkins
Jay Perkins rated it really liked it
Jun 14, 2012
Ryne Mccall
Ryne Mccall rated it liked it
Apr 29, 2016
Peggy rated it really liked it
Nov 08, 2014
June rated it liked it
Apr 17, 2012
Susan Anthony
Sep 09, 2012 Susan Anthony rated it liked it
Good book! Not the easiest to follow at times but full of information.
Mark rated it liked it
Jun 02, 2014
Stephanie rated it it was ok
Aug 10, 2014
Brittany rated it liked it
May 24, 2012
Stan Crader
Stan Crader rated it it was amazing
Dec 20, 2014
Chris Kelly
Chris Kelly rated it liked it
Jan 23, 2013
Debra K Licona
Debra K Licona rated it it was amazing
Jan 03, 2015
Don Garrett
Don Garrett rated it it was amazing
Jan 20, 2016
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Thomas S. Kidd teaches history at Baylor University, and is Senior Fellow at Baylor's Institute for Studies of Religion. Dr. Kidd has appeared on the Glenn Beck tv program, the Hugh Hewitt and Dennis Prager radio shows, and written columns for USA Today and the Washington Post. He is a columnist for His latest book is Patrick Henry: First Among Patriots. Other books include God of Lib ...more
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“Public officials were bound to act in the best interests of the republic as a whole, not to bolster their personal fortunes or to aggrandize the power or riches of their cronies. The best public servants did not need to hang on to political power, nor did they aspire to a career in politics. When the people no longer urgently needed their services, men of integrity would step away from the political arena, retiring, like Roman heroes of old, to private life on the farm. Those who sought to glorify themselves through government should be voted out. Or, in extreme cases, they should be overthrown. The” 0 likes
“Henry knew the gunpowder episode presented a new opportunity to radicalize the population against the British. He told his cousin George Dabney that Dunmore’s action was a “fortunate circumstance, which would rouse the people from North to South. You may in vain mention the duties to them upon tea and these things they will say do not affect them, but tell them of the robbery of the magazine and that the next step will be to disarm them, and they will be then ready to fly to arms to defend themselves.” 0 likes
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