Patrick Henry - After The Revolution

After The Revolution

In 1784, Henry was elected again for a one-year term by the legislature as governor of Virginia, and re-elected twice more, serving until 1786. He declined to attend the Constitutional Convention of 1787, saying that he "smelt a rat in Philadelphia, tending toward the monarchy." An ardent supporter of state rights, Henry was an outspoken critic of the United States Constitution. He worried that the untested office of the presidency could devolve into a monarchy and became a leading opponent of James Madison.

Henry served as a representative to the Virginia convention of 1788, where he argued against ratifying the U.S. Constitution, on the grounds that it gave too much power to the federal government. It passed. He was instrumental in having the Bill of Rights adopted to amend the new Constitution and protect individual rights. He was chosen as a presidential elector for the 1789 election from Campbell District, along with nine other men. That District consisted of Bedford, Campbell, Charlotte, Franklin, Halifax, Henry, Pittsylvania, and Prince Edward counties, covering the area between Danville and Lynchburg in the south of Virginia. The men all voted for Washington with one of their votes, and split their second votes among other candidates.

In 1794 Henry and his wife Dorothy retired to his 520-acre plantation of Red Hill near Brookneal, Virginia in Charlotte County, where he conducted his law practice. President George Washington offered Henry the post of Secretary of State in 1795, which he declined due to opposing the president's Federalist policies. But, following the widespread executions and radicalism of the continuing French Revolution, Henry began to fear a similar fate could befall America, which had suffered populist unrest. In 1798 he spoke in behalf of the Federalist Party.

Henry supported the Federalist policies of Washington and Adams. He denounced the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions, which called for the rights of a state to nullify a federal law it considered unconstitutional. Henry warned that civil war was threatened because Virginia,

"had quit the sphere in which she had been placed by the Constitution, and, in daring to pronounce upon the validity of federal laws, had gone out of her jurisdiction in a manner not warranted by any authority, and in the highest degree alarming to every considerate man; that such opposition, on the part of Virginia, to the acts of the general government, must beget their enforcement by military power; that this would probably produce civil war, civil war foreign alliances, and that foreign alliances must necessarily end in subjugation to the powers called in."

In 1798 President John Adams nominated Henry as special emissary to France, but he declined due to failing health. He strongly supported John Marshall. At the urging of Washington, Henry stood for and was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates as a Federalist. Three months prior to taking his seat, he died of stomach cancer on June 6, 1799, while at Red Hill, his plantation.

Some time following his death, his widow Dorothy married Judge Edmund Winston, Henry's first cousin and the executor of his estate.

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