A new college for a new republic.
When Samuel Stanhope Smith, our first president, named the College after English anti-Royalists, he clearly agreed with Patrick Henry's revolutionary vision. Thus it was logical that Henry should be elected a Founding Trustee in November 1775, shortly before the College opened for classes. He remained on the Board until his death in 1799. James Madison (later President of the United States) was elected at the same time. Henry would send seven of his sons here.
Answering the call for volunteers from Prince Edward County to assist the Revolutionary army, the new College's students signed up as a body to fill the County's quota. As the first governor of Virginia, Henry personally thanked them for this action.
The College's petition for a charter, submitted in 1775, had been deferred during the Revolution. After the war, Patrick Henry was instrumental in achieving passage of a Charter in 1783; he is probably responsible for writing the oath of allegiance it contains.
Living in Prince Edward County after 1784, Henry introduced a bill in the Virginia legislature, seeking state support for Hampden-Sydney College; it did not pass.
Samuel Stanhope Smith (and Trustee James Madison) fervently supported ratification of the U.S. Constitution; Henry, by contrast, was an Antifederalist. When Smith was unable to attend a meeting at which Henry spoke against the Constitution, he had a student publicly re-enact Henry's speech and then replied to it in person. Henry, while admitting that he had been quoted correctly, was still seriously affronted. His support for the College, however, never wavered.
(May 29, 1736 - June 6, 1799) was the leading Virginia statesman in defending the rights of Colonial Americans.
Following Henry's death, John Adams wrote to Thomas Jefferson singing his praises: "In the Congress of 1774 there was not one member, except Patrick Henry, who appeared to me sensible of the Precipice or rather the Pinnacle on which he stood, and had the candour and courage enough to acknowledge it."
Henry was the first elected governor of Virginia, a devoted father of 17 children, and the most famous orator of his day. Born in Hanover County, Henry made a name for himself as a young lawyer in the Parsons' Cause at Hanover Courthouse in 1763. His 1765 resolutions against the Stamp Act articulated the basic principles of the American Revolution. Henry is perhaps best known for his immortal words "Give me liberty or give me death," which he delivered during the Second Virginia Convention in a speech to fellow delegates George Washington and Thomas Jefferson at St. John's Church in 1775. His impassioned words helped move colonists toward American independence and they continue to inspire the cause of freedom around the world.
Known as the "Voice of the Revolution," Henry's political career included 26 years of service in the Virginia legislature and five terms as governor. He helped draft the Virginia Constitution of 1776 and its Declaration of Rights. A leading critic of the U.S. Constitution, Henry also strongly influenced the creation of the Bill of Rights. Following his death, Henry was buried at Red Hill Plantation, now the site of the Patrick Henry National Memorial.