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Henry's Early Life and Times - 1765

Henry delivered his famous "Caesar-Brutus Speech" in the debate about his Resolutions against the Stamp Act. When Henry compared George III to the tyrants Julius Caesar and Charles I, he was accused of treason.

Reconstructed texts of the Caesar-Brutus Speech

"A private letter from Virginia," London Gazetteer, August 13, 1765
Mr. [Henry] has lately blazed out in the Assembly, where he compared [George III] to a Tarquin, a Caesar, a Charles the First, threatening him with a Brutus, or an Oliver Cromwell; yet Mr. [Henry] was not sent to the Tower: but having prevailed to get some ridiculous violent Resolutions passed, rode off in triumph.

John Burk, History of Virginia (1805)
"Caesar," said he, "had his Brutus, Charles his Cromwell, and (pausing) George the third (here a cry of treason, treason was heard, supposed to issue from the chair, but with admirable presence of mind he proceeded) may profit by their examples. Sir, if this be treason," continued he, "make the most of it."

Edmund Randolph, History of Virginia (ca. 1809)
On May 29, 1765, Mr. Henry plucked the veil from the shrine of parliamentary omnipotence. He inveighed against the usurpation of Parliament in their avowed purpose at a future day of charging stamp and other duties in the colonies without their consent. . . . In his harangue, he certainly indulged a strain never before heard in the royal Capitol. This circumstance passed while he was speaking: "Caesar," cried he, "had his Brutus; Charles the first his Cromwell; and George the third -" "Treason, sir," exclaimed the Speaker, to which Henry instantly replied, "and George the third, may he never have either." This dexterous escape or retreat, if it did not savor of lively eloquence, was of itself a victory. He carried through the committee of the whole house all the resolutions which he proposed. But on the succeeding day, when they were reported to the house itself, the two last, as being too inflammatory, were laid aside. . . . The governor, after the public business, omitted the civility of a parting speech and dissolved the House of Burgesses by a simple fiat. Thus by the suspicion attending colonial management and an excessive confidence in their own security did the British ministry become the pioneers to the dismemberment of the empire.

William Wirt, Life of Patrick Henry (1817)
It was in the midst of this magnificent debate, while he was descanting on the tyranny of the obnoxious Act, that he exclaimed, in a voice of thunder, and with the look of a god, "Caesar had his Brutus - Charles the first, his Cromwell - and George the third - ('Treason,' cried the Speaker - 'treason, treason,' echoed fro every part of the House. - It was one of those trying moments which is decisive of character. - Henry faltered not an instant; but rising to a loftier attitude, and fixing on the Speaker an eye of the most determined fire, he finished his sentence with the firmest emphasis) may profit by their example. If this be treason, make the most of it.

A visiting Frenchman's account of Henry's Caesar-Brutus Speech
May the 30th. Set out early from half-way house in the chair and broke fast at York[town], arived at Williamsburg at 12, where I saw three negroes hanging at the galous for having robbed Mr. Waltho[w] of 300 pounds. I went immediately to the Assembly which was seting, where I was entertained with very strong debates concerning dutys that the Parlement wants to lay on the America colonys, which they call or stile stamp dutys. Shortly after I came in, one of the members stood up and said he had read that in former time Tarquin and Julius had their Brutus, Charles had his Cromwell, and he did not doubt but some good American would stand up in favour of his Country; but (says he) in a more moderate manner, and was going to continue, when the Speaker of the House rose and, said he, the last that stood up had spoke traison, and [he] was sorey to see that not one of the members of the House was loyal enough to stop him before he had gone so far. Upon which the same member stood up again (his name is Henery) and said that if he had afronted the Speaker or the House, he was ready to ask pardon, and he would shew his loyalty to His Majesty King George the third at the expence of the last drop of his blood; but what he had said must be attributed to the interest of his country's dying liberty which he had at heart, and the heat of passion might have lead him to have said something more than he intended; but, again, if he said anything wrong, be begged the Speaker and the House's pardon. Some other members stood up and backed him, on which that afaire was droped.

May the 31st. I returned to the Assembly to-day, and heard very hot debates stil about the stamp dutys. The whole House was for entering resolves on the records but they differed much with regard [to] the contents or purport thereof. Some were for shewing their resentment to the highest. One of the resolves that these proposed, was that any person that would offer to sustain that the Parlement of England had a right to impose or lay any tax or dutys whatsoever on the American colonys, without the consent of the inhabitants therof, should be looked upon as a traitor, and deemed an enemy to his country: there were some others to the same purpose, and the majority was for entring these resolves; upon which the Governor disolved the Assembly, which hinderd their proceeding.

Thomas Jefferson's recollection of the Caesar-Brutus Speech
I well remember the cry of treason, the pause of Mr. Henry at the name of George the Third and the presence of mind with which he closed his sentence, and baffled the charge vociferated.

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