Lion of Liberty: Patrick Henry and the Call to a New Nation by Harlow Giles Unger
In this engaging popular biography, Unger (The Last Founding Father: James Monroe and a Nation’s Call to Greatness) recounts the career and examines the political and moral philosophies of the persuasive anti-Federalist best remembered for the American Revolution’s rallying cry, “Give me liberty, or give me death!” Unger focuses on Henry’s radical views on individual liberty and states’ rights as well as his vehement opposition, as Virginia’s governor, to strong presidential powers. Unger argues that Henry, who feared an American monarchy, used his theatrical oratorical skills, developed as a successful young defense attorney in rural Virginia, to win nation-shaping political arguments. An appealing element here is the wealth of excerpts from Henry’s legendary speeches and revealing letters, seamlessly woven in with Unger’s narrative. Appendixes include the entirety of Henry’s legendary “Give me liberty, or give me death!” speech and a letter outlining his views on slavery. VERDICT Lacking new information and perspective, this title is a good choice for general readers seeking a relatively brief account of Patrick Henry’s political activity and contributions to early America. However, scholars and even well-informed lay readers won’t be satisfied.