Library Journal Review
Historian Kukla (A Wilderness So Immense) provides a thorough study of Virginian Patrick Henry (1736-99), illustrating his life beyond his famous adage, "Give me liberty or give me death." Henry is presented as ahead of his time on the concept of American independence. Years before the Revolution, the young lawyer sided with locals against the demands of the Anglican clergy, joined Virginia's own assemblies against Royal decrees, led activities against the Stamp Act, and penned radical essays thwarting King George III. Because Henry's activities were so broad, ranging from early protests to the Continental Congress and beyond, his life also serves as a biography of Revolution-era Virginia. Especially interesting are the many antislavery voices present in the state's early history, including Quaker and Methodist circuit riders. Readers gain a sense of the energy behind the revolution, the powerful influence of John Locke's philosophy regarding democratic governance, and the complicated nature of the ratification of the Constitution. VERDICT Kukla gives historians, philosophers, and readers of serious nonfiction an informational and enlightening biography of the great agitator for democracy.-Jeffrey Meyer, Mt. Pleasant P.L., IA © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
In this lively biography, Kukla (Mr. Jefferson's Women), former director of Red Hill Patrick Henry National Memorial, recovers Patrick Henry's foundational role in shaping the American independence movement and, ultimately, the young republic itself. Henry is best known today as an impassioned orator, but Kukla looks beyond the speeches to develop a fuller portrait of Henry as an attorney, statesman, landowner, and society man, highlighting his contributions to key debates around such issues as the Stamp Act and westward expansion. In the book's descriptions of Henry-including those of his early eloquence in the courtroom, his work on the Declaration of Rights, and his later service as the governor of Virginia-he emerges as a passionate and civic-minded thinker who remained attuned to the needs and concerns of everyday people throughout his career. Drawing on commentary from such contemporaries as Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, Kukla depicts Henry against the backdrop of 18th-century American life, addressing Henry's views on slavery, emergent Southern identity, and international trade as well as his resistance toward British rule. Kukla's fluid prose and careful attention to detail ensure that this biography will appeal to both general readers interested in the founding fathers and scholars interested in learning more about the development of the early republic. Agent: Stephen Hanselman, LevelFiveMedia. (July) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Booklist Review
Historian Kukla provides the most thorough biography of Patrick Henry to date. Too often remembered solely for saying "Give me liberty or give me death," Henry was a leading figure in the revolutionary movement. Although his contemporaries respected Henry, his legacy has been overshadowed by the historic achievements of Virginians such as Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. As Kukla argues, Henry was an oratorical force from the start of his career. Whether advocating for his fellow Virginians in court or protesting parliamentary taxation in the General Assembly, Henry consistently had his finger on the pulse of common Virginians, through which he developed a fear of government tyranny. He declined to attend the Constitutional Convention and opposed the newly created Constitution because the document did not safeguard Americans against tyranny. As a result, he was instrumental in advocating for the first ten amendments to the Constitution, which preserved individual liberties. However, despite Henry's belief in personal liberties, he remained a slaveholder his entire life and never thought to extend those beliefs to his slaves. Flawed though he was, Henry deserves a place among America's influential Founding Fathers. Summing Up: Recommended. All levels/libraries. --Matthew Adam Byron, Young Harris College
Booklist Review
On March 23, 1775, amid rising tensions with the British government, Patrick Henry delivered a fiery speech to the Virginia House of Burgesses. The words Give me liberty or give me death have usually defined Henry. Of course, as Kukla's (Mr. Jefferson's Women, 2007) comprehensive and generally laudatory biography illustrates, there was much more to Henry's public career. Even before his speech against the Stamp Act, in 1765, Henry had become prominent locally by defending individual liberty against encroachments by royal authorities. He saw active service leading a militia regiment in the Revolutionary War, served three terms as governor of Virginia, and opposed ratification of the Constitution but was mollified by the subsequent passage of the Bill of Rights, then became a supporter of the Federalist Party. As a strong admirer of his subject, Kukla glosses over Henry's tendency to use overblown rhetoric, his occasional demagoguery, and his refusal to act against slavery, despite his supposed opposition to the institution. Still, this is a well-written and informative account ideal for general readers.--Freeman, Jay Copyright 2017 Booklist