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Collection Overview

Henry, Patrick, 1736-1799 and Princeton University. Library. Special Collections
Princeton University. Library. Special Collections
Princeton University Library Collection of Patrick Henry Materials
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
1 box and 0.2 linear feet
Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Box 1


Consists of selected manuscript material by and about American attorney, politician, and planter Patrick Henry (1736-1799).

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of selected manuscript material by and about Patrick Henry (1736-1799), including signed autograph letters to family and associates; documents and notes regarding legal, property, and financial matters; and engraved portraits of Henry.


Items are arranged by accession.

Collection Creator Biography:

Henry, Patrick, 1736-1799

Patrick Henry, born in Hanover County, Virginia, was an American lawyer, patriot, orator, and participant in almost every aspect of the founding of America, as well as a plantation owner and enslaver. He studied law on his own, and in 1760, he appeared in Williamsburg to take his attorney's examination before Robert Carter Nicholas and others. Henry served in the Virginia House of Burgesses, was a member of the Virginia Committee of Correspondence, a delegate to the Virginia Convention, and a delegate to the Virginia Constitution Ratification Convention. He played a prominent role in the May 6, 1776, convention and became the first governor of the commonwealth under its new constitution. He served three terms as governor of Virginia. Henry is perhaps best known for the speech he made in the House of Burgesses on March 23, 1775, urging the legislature to take military action against the encroaching British military force, which ended with the phrase "Give me liberty or give me death!" Henry also acquired extensive land holdings in the 1780s and 1790s, including a 10,000-acre plantation in Henry County, Virginia, known as Leatherwood, where he lived from 1779 to 1784, cultivated tobacco, and owned 75 enslaved persons. In 1794, he retired to Red Hill Plantation in Charlotte County, Virginia, a tobacco plantation comprising 520 acres.

Collection History


Promissory Note in the Hand of Patrick Henry, Signed by Jacob Puckett was a gift of Pierre F. Cook (1892) in 1931 . (AM 9875).

Letter to Thomas Madison and receipt dated June 8, 1765, were a gift of Cyrus H. McCormick in April 1947 . (AM 13366)

Letter to Robert Carter and receipts for October 1764 and May 1765 were a gift of David S. Elkind (1973), in October 2006 . (AM 2007-37)

Purchases from 2007 to the present have been made with support from The Barksdale-Dabney-Henry Fund for Research and Teaching on Patrick Henry and Early Americana (AM 2007-66, AM 2008-66, AM 2009-34, AM 2009-40, AM 2009-115, AM 2010-26, AM 2014-59, AM 2016-23, AM 2017-62, AM 2018-44, AM 2019-129, AM 2020-72).

Custodial History

The collection was formed as a result of a Departmental practice of combining into one collection material of various accessions relating to a particular person, family, or subject.


No material was separated during 2013-2020 processing.


The majority of materials in this collection were purchased with support from The Barksdale-Dabney-Henry Fund for Research and Teaching on Patrick Henry and Early Americana

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Dina Britain on January 29, 2007. Finding aid written by Dina Britain on January 29, 2007.

Folder inventory added by Nicholas Williams '2015 in 2012.

Finding aid updated by Faith Charlton in October 2015 and by Kelly Bolding in November 2016, November 2017, June 2019, and March 2020.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. No further photoduplication of copies of material in the collection can be made when Princeton University Library does not own the original. Inquiries regarding publishing material from the collection should be directed to RBSC Public Services staff through the Ask Us! form. The library has no information on the status of literary rights in the collection and researchers are responsible for determining any questions of copyright.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

Credit this material:

Princeton University Library Collection of Patrick Henry Materials; Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Firestone Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
(609) 258-3184
Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Box 1