Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 36.djvu/53

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37
The Virginia Convention of 1788.

and appeals sound very much like the modern demagogue. He was a splendid orator, a good debator, but I should hardly rank him as a logician or a statesman. In his first effort he declared "I consider myself as the servant of the people of this Commonwealth, as a sentinel over their rights, liberty and happiness." In fervid tones he inquired, "what right had they to say, 'We, the people,' instead of We, the States?" States are the characteristics and soul of a confederation, he asserted. His reply to the speech of Henry Lee, of Westmoreland, is said not only to have been his longest, but the most eloquent and pathetic he had ever made. He was a man of wonderful personal magnetism and could play upon the chords of the hearts of his hearers like some inspired minstrel of old—

"Like that wild harp, whose magic tone
Is waken'd by the wind alone."

He was a prominent character from the time his star rose above the horizon at Hanover Courthouse in the famous "Parson's cause" to the time of his death. Here, Wirt says, "Was first witnessed that mysterious and almost superhuman transformation of appearance which the fire of his eloquence never failed to work in him." He was noted for his winsomeness of speech. His voice was rich, strong and clear. It has been said of him, "With that voice of his, Patrick could make love in a corner or call a hound a mile away." "Henry's traits," included the captivating gesture, a smile that played about the mouth and a splendid use of the eye – "the Patrick flash." Judge Roane says: "His voice, countenance and gestures gave an irresistible force to his words which no description could make intelligible to one who had never heard him speak." As a speaker he was a man of extraordinary persuasiveness. It is said "his irresistible charm was the vivid feeling with which he spoke and which was communicated to his hearers."

His reply to Lee is full of beautiful hyperboles, lofty sentiments, touching appeals, flights of fancy, patriotic devotion. Such was the effect of his eloquence that General Thomas Posey, an officer of distinction in the army of the Revolution, and warmly in favor of the Constitution, declared to a friend that he was so overpowered by Henry's speech on this occasion as to