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A History of the Four Georges and of William IV, V

Patrick Henry waited until the noise subsided


1765--Samuel Adams]

Samuel Adams was one of those men whom Nature forges to be the instruments of revolution. His three-and-forty years had taught him much: the value of silence, the knowledge of men, the desire to change the world and the patience to bide his time. A few generations earlier he might have made a right-hand man to Cromwell and held a place in the heart of Hampden. On the very threshold of his manhood, when receiving his degree of Master of Arts at Harvard, he asserted his defiant democracy in a dissertation on the right of the people of a commonwealth to combine against injustice on the part of the head of the State. The badly dressed man with the grave firm face of a Pilgrim Father was as ready and as resolute to oppose King George as any Pym or Vane had been ready and resolute to oppose Charles Stuart. He had at one {90} time devoted himself to a commercial career, with no great success. He was made for a greater game than commerce; he had the temper and he gained the training for a public life, and the hour when it came found that the man was ready. When the citizens of Boston met to protest against the Stamp Act Samuel Adams framed the first resolutions that denied to the Parliament of Great Britain the right to impose taxes upon her colonies.

[Sidenote: 1765--The opposition to the Stamp Act]

If Massachusetts was the first to protest with no uncertain

voice against the Stamp Act, other colonies were prompt to follow her example, and to prove that they possessed sons no less patriotic. Virginia was as vehement and as vigorous in opposition as Massachusetts. One speech in the Virginia House of Burgesses made the name of Patrick Henry famous. Patrick Henry was a young man who tried many things and failed in them before he found in the practice of the law the appointed task for his rare gifts of reasoning and of eloquence. A speech in Hanover Court House in defence of the people against a suit of the parish clergy gave him sudden fame. As grave of face as Samuel Adams, as careless of his attire, tall and lean, stamped with the seal of the speaker and the thinker, Patrick Henry at nine-and-twenty was already a very different man from the youth who five years earlier seemed destined to be but a Jack of all trades and master of none, an unsuccessful trader, an unsuccessful farmer, whose chief accomplishments in life were hunting and fishing, dancing and riding. The debate on the Stamp Act gave him a great opportunity. As he addressed his words of warning to the stubborn sovereign across the sea his passion seemed to get the better of his prudence and to tempt him into menace. "Caesar," he said, "had his Brutus, Charles the First his Cromwell." He was going on to say "and George the Third," when he was interrupted by angry cries of "Treason!" from the loyalists among his hearers. Patrick Henry waited until the noise subsided, and then quietly completed his sentence, "George the Third may profit by their example. If this be treason, make the most of it." The words were not treasonable, {91} but they were revolutionary. They served to carry the name of Patrick Henry to every corner of the continent and across the Atlantic. They made him a hero and idol in the eyes of the colonists; they made him a rebel in the eyes of the Court at St. James's.

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