Red Hill

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Patrick Henry, the American patriot and first governor of post-colonial Virginia, is buried about 40 miles from here on his plantation called Red Hill. It’s a quiet, peaceful and beautiful place.

The farm, over 500 acres, lies upon the Staunton River, near present-day Brookneal. In Gov. Henry’s time the tobacco and other crops raised there were loaded onto batteaux and transported down river.

Patrick Henry’s home, typical of Virginia plantation homes of that era, was a simple three-room, one and half story structure. The two rooms on the ground floor served as a bedroom and a parlor. The loft above was additional sleeping space. During the time Patrick Henry lived here, the house accommodated between nine and eleven family members. Bathrooms and kitchens were separate structures in those days.

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The plantation’s outbuildings included curing barns, a blacksmith’s shop, Patrick Henry’s law office, a kitchen, a carriage house, and cabins for the 69 slaves who lived there. One of the two-room slave cabins has been reproduced on the site, using original materials.

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When I was in elementary school we were required to memorize part of his famous 1775 speech at the Virginia Convention. I can still recite it by heart:

Gentlemen may cry, “Peace! Peace!” — but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!

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18 comments on “Red Hill

  1. Laurie Graves says:

    Rousing words. Ironic bit about the reference to slavery.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. dennisrenner says:

    Inspiring words, indeed. Many have given their lives for it and many more, no doubt, will. In hindsight, liberty, or the faint image of it, exist only for brief moments in time. After the sounds of gun fire cease, the smoke clears, and the cries of pain and celebration have ended, human government and greed wash back in, like waves on the sea shore, to obliterate any signs of it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      These wise words from Wendell Berry made a deep impact on me:

      “The going assumption seems to be that freedom can be granted only by an institution, that it is the gift of the government to its people. I think it is the other way around. Free men are not set free by their government; they have set their government free of themselves; they have made it unnecessary. Freedom is not accomplished by a declaration. A declaration of freedom is either a futile and empty gesture, or it is the statement of a finished fact. Freedom is a personal matter; though we may be enslaved as a group, we can be free only as persons. We can set each other free only as persons. It is a matter of discipline. A person can free himself of bondage that has been imposed on him only by accepting another bondage that he has chosen. A man who would not be the slave of other men must be the master of himself–that is the real meaning of self government. If we all behaved as honorably and honestly and industriously as we expect our representatives to behave, we would soon put the government out of work.

      A person dependent on somebody else for everything from potatoes to opinions may declare that he is a free man, and his government may issue a certificate granting him his freedom, but he will not be free. He is that variety of specialist known as a consumer, which means that he is the abject dependent of producers. How can he be free if he can do nothing for himself? What is the First Amendment to him whose mouth is stuck to the tit of the ‘affluent society?’ Men are free precisely to the extent that they are equal to their own needs. The most able are the most free.”

      Liked by 4 people

  3. shoreacres says:

    Liberty never is granted. It always must be achieved, time and again. One of the saddest tendencies today is the preference for various sorts of servitude: choices made by people who should know better. And, yes: I am thinking of academia, too. The demand for ideological conformity is leading down a very bad road, indeed. Me? I’m on this guy’s side.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. BeeHappee says:

    69 slaves. . . And the house is fancy by West standards. Here in Arizona, we have “Governor’s Mansion”, which is a house of the first governor of Arizona Territory, before there was a state, it is a log cabin, built of ponderosa pine in 1864 and it was a “fancy” duplex shared between governor’s family and his secretary. Other building at that time out west were wagon boxes, shacks, tents, boarding homes, and very crude log cabins.

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    • Bill says:

      Two room log houses were the norm here, in that era and well beyond, for people white and black, slave and free. It is striking that a wealthy, famous and powerful family would live in a three room house and no doubt considered themselves quite comfortable (all eleven of them). Think about the size of the houses we build these days, by comparison!

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Scott says:

    I had to memorize that part too, in Birmingham, AL public schools. I remembered once I read, “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet…”
    It stuck with me too, but I didn’t realize it til now. 😉

    Like

    • Bill says:

      This one I had to memorize in high school:

      “These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value.”

      Liked by 1 person

  6. What a wonderful piece of history you have shared.. Something I am not so familiar with, so I found it very interesting Bill.. Thank you my friend 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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