Patrick Henry

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Me backstage after my triumphant concert in Richmond, as painted by my backdoor woman Martha Washington.

“More like Con-shit-tution!”

~ Patrick Henry on the Constitution

My name is Patrick Henry. I'm writing this myself. An outsider might leave out crucial events, important nuances, and valuable coupons. I can't have that.

Early life

As a boy I loved to shoot frogs in the creek down on the plantation.

I was born into an old Virginia family. The Henrys of Red Hill have always been tobacco-growers, rum-runners, revolutionaries, and high-handed bastards.

In 1685 my grandfather rode a piebald gelding into the British governor's sitting room, put the point of a sabre in the man's left nostril, and told him that unless he wanted a perforated brainpan he'd best quit quartering troops in the town. The governor commanded 10,000 soldiers but he buckled at the knees.

My grandfather later sent him a case of Cuban rum. The governor had it burned, and my grandfather never spoke to him again.

It was in the fertile shade of such family legends that I grew up.

When I was sixteen I sailed a 20-foot gaff sloop to Florida. In a nameless estuary north of Fort Pierce I took on a dozen kegs of raw alcohol and five cases of German muskets. Those guns would drive a .69 calibre ball through a pine board two inches thick. Back in Virginia I sold the blackwater liquor to a British supply sergeant and distributed the weapons amongst certain hardfaced Virginia farmers.

Even then I could see it coming — the Revolution, I mean. I foresaw phantoms, and fires on the roads. So I spread the guns around.

We would need the firepower.


I became notorious. I don't recommend the practice, as it degrades moral values and damages vital organs. But at the time I had no choice.


For those without comedic tastes, the so-called experts at Wikipedia have an article about Patrick Henry.

I saw the writing on the wall: it said lawyers, guns, and money. Because I already had the guns and money, I passed the bar and became a lawyer.

In 1763 I defended a polygamist Episcopalian parson who traded heavily in opium. The British Crown wanted part of the action and they sued to get it. Technically I lost the case but the Brits only got tuppence and a fig in damages so it was a win on points. Along the way I smoked some of the parson's black tar but it only put me to sleep. I could take it or leave it, frankly.

Red Tom Jefferson turned me on to hemp but another crop he grew at Monticello caught my attention. In a hillside field he had some leafy Peruvian bushes with reddish brown bark. The plantation boys chewed the leaves but Tom used alkali and ether and cooked it down. You could put Jefferson's Monticello rock in a gem show, it was that pure.

In 1765 I snorted an 8-inch line of Red Tom's finest toot and stood before the Virginia House calling for American control of taxation. "Caesar had his Brutus; Barry Manilow had his Mandy; Charles the First had his Mother; and George the Third — "[Cries of "Treason! Treason! Who likes a sailor then?"]" — George the Third may profit by their example. If this be treason, then kiss my flaming arse."

It played on national television and the hoi polloi loved it.

I became notorious.


By 1775 the revolutionary game had taken me over...or I had taken over the game. It didn't matter which.

Down on Red Hill Plantation I had a barn full of gunpowder, muskets, psychoactive drugs, and subversive literature, but I didn't spend much time down there. My private life had gone to hell while I concentrated on showing America its shiny new soul. The atmosphere was electric. Everyone who knew anything was holding his breath. Expensive women fell at my feet and I put the net value of the plantation up my nose on a weekly basis, but the money kept coming in.

If this be revolution, I thought, then make the most of it.

In March the British advanced on Richmond. Virginia's colonial militia couldn't decide between loyalty to the King and my New American Vision. They waffled. I went onstage at Saint John's Church with a psychedelic Telecaster and steel fingerpicks and gave them an electric Hank Williams with screaming Jimi Hendrix licks. The audience went psychotic. You might say I nailed their ears to a new flag.

Is life so dear, or peace so sweet,
that you're happy sucking British meat?
Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not
what trip you're on; but by my breath
give me liberty or give me death!

Certain Richmond boys got plumb loco after that and we had just enough muskets for all of them. The Brits marched in but we sucker-punched them at the crossroads and then clotheslined them in the woods.

It got ugly fast.

There are thick books on the Revolutionary War. I won't go into it except to say that when I led the militia against Governor Dunmore he rolled over like a whipped bluetick bitch.

Life After Revolution

Me burying myself at sea. Painting by George Will.

Coming down after winning the war felt like chewing bricks underwater. Your teeth ache, there's mud in your throat, and you can't breathe. I have seen the future, brother, and it is murder.

I was an anti-federalist, then I was a federalist, and finally I didn't care anymore. Big Jim Madison and Red Tom Jefferson trashed me from opposite sides of the stadium. It didn't matter. After a revolution it's just politics again, and I had no stomach for it.

I went down to the drydock and looked at my sloop. There were some rotten boards in the hull and I chiselled them out and put in new Virginia cedar. One day John Adams called up wanting me to go to France, but I told him to screw himself blind. Finally I sailed away from everything, down to the Georgia Sea Islands. Five days at sea with no coke and no liquor and my head cleared up like the bluewater Atlantic.

They say I died in my bed at Red Hill Plantation but they lie. I was buried at sea a mile and a half northeast of Sapelo Island, in a rising gale with the wind taking the tops off the waves and rain coming horizontal across the bows like birdshot.

You may take that scene as Gospel truth.

I did it all myself and there were no drugs involved.

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