Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 36.djvu/54

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Southern Historical Society Papers.

believe that the Constitution, if adopted, would be the ruin of the liberties of the people, as certainly as he believed in his own existence; that subsequent reflection reassured his judgment and his well-considered opinion resumed its place. Another gentleman who heard the fervid description which Henry gave of the slavery of the people, as he imagined would be wrought by the Federal executive at the head of his armed hosts, declared that so thrilling was the delineation of the scene that "he involuntarily felt his wrists to assure himself that the fetters were not already pressing his flesh." Indeed.

"His words were like a stream of honey fleeting,
The which doth softly trickle from the hive,
Able to melt the hearer's heart unweeting
And eke to make the dead again alive."

Not only was Henry powerful in his eloquence, but he employed sarcasm as well, and could shoot a Parthian arrow that not only wounded, but rankled in the wound. In his reply to Governor Randolph he said: "It seems to me very strange and unaccountable that that which was once the object of his execration should now receive his encomiums" – alluding to his shifting course, his inconsistency as shown by his letter of recantation. Randolph had in his speech claimed to be "a son of the Revolution," and Henry raised a laugh, at his expense, by reason of this expression. Randolph became very much exasperated at these thrusts, and a personal difficulty was only averted by the timely interposition of mutual friends. Henry dwelt very much upon the "American spirit" and the "genius of America" in his forensic debates, and these favorite expressions were ridiculed by his opponents as being vain, impractical and visionary.

But he threw a bomb of consternation into the camp of his opponents when he sprang upon them the alleged scheme to turn over, by treaty, the navigation of the Mississippi River to Spain, as was then being negotiated by order of Congress. The Northern States, from purely selfish motives, attempted to barter away the navigation of the Mississippi. Henry declared, says John Marshall, "he would rather part with the confederation than relinquish the navigation of the Mississippi." He