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A Son of Thunder: Patrick Henry and the American Republic Paperback – June 9, 2001


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Product Details

  • Series: Grove Great Lives
  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; 1st Grove Press ed edition (June 9, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802138152
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802138156
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #540,009 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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The book gives some insight into how he developed this gift.
Henry Cate III
Though Mr. Jefferson wrote the "Virginia Statute on Religious Freedom", Patrick Henry laid much of the practical foundation.
Robert C. Hufford
The author does a very good job of making this case and I find it very hard to refute.
Lehigh History Student

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

84 of 90 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on April 28, 2001
Format: Paperback
Few biographies manage to avoid the perils of the genre, and this one is no exception. Mayer celebrates his subject, misunderstanding Henry as a fore-bearer of Jacksonian democracy and failing adequately to appreciate Henry's conservative commitment to social hierarchy, genteel leadership, and religious establishment. As a consequence, Mayer cannot convincingly explain Henry's espousal of Federalist politics in the 1790s, which makes sense only if we abandon any lingering neo-Whiggish inclination to find in Henry a self-conscious commitment to democracy.

There have been numerous other biographies of Patrick Henry. I would still recommend Moses Coit Tyler's 1887 PATRICK HENRY, which was reprinted by Chelsea House in 1980 with an introduction by Lance Banning. William Wirt Henry's three volume PATRICK HENRY, LIFE, CORRESPONDENCES, AND SPEECHES (originally published in 1891 but recently republished) should be used with care, since W.W. Henry incorrectly attributes a number of letters and other sources to Patrick Henry which more recent scholarship has established were written by others. Richard Beeman wrote a good analytic biography, PATRICK HENRY: A BIOGRAPHY, in 1974, which provides an excellent brief introduction to Henry's politics. The most comprehensive modern scholarly biography remains Robert Meade's two volume master-work, PATRICK HENRY (1959, 1967).

Mayer's prose is far more sprightly than Meade's, but Meade provides the more balanced and judicious treatment, and Meade's documentation of his conclusions is much superior. While Mayer updates Meade and Beeman in a number of places, his work does not supercede theirs, and should be read in conjunction with the earlier scholarship. Mayer's is a good book, especially as an introduction to a general audience.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Andrew S. Rogers VINE VOICE on September 26, 2000
Format: Paperback
There's much more to Patrick Henry than 'Give me liberty or give me death,' the most famous line from his most famous speech. But if ever a one-liner summed up a man's philosophy, this was the line for this man.
Sadly, many of the great figures of America's early history have faded from public understanding. Maybe we remember the ones who became President, but truly great and influential men like Patrick Henry and George Mason are all but forgotten. Mayer's excellent book shows what a tragedy this is.
From his early career as a Virginia lawyer, to the way his beliefs and oratory were shaped by circuit-riding nonconformist Christian ministers, Mayer lays the foundations for Henry's later greatness. But most absorbing, to this reader, was Mayer's depiction of the fight in the Virginia Assembly over the ratification of the Constitution. Henry's prescient warnings of the growth of centralised power at the expense of the sovereign states leads one to wonder if maybe the anti-federalists weren't right after all.
Vital insights into a vital figure in a vital period of our history.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 30, 1998
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Son of Thunder shows the evolution of both the man as well as the evolution of individual liberty as a political reality. The author covers enough of Henry's youth to show how it helped create the patriot and rabble-rouser, then moves quickly to the defining events leading to revolution (this includes Henry's own conflicts with being an advocate of freedom while being a slave owner). Henry's political force was a brick in the foundation of our Bill of Rights. This work shows how this came to be and why it was vitally important to the birth of the nation. Highly recommended for the amateur historian, constitutional scholar, or modern day patriot.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Robert C. Hufford on July 2, 2007
Format: Paperback
......he was a fictional character. A couple of years ago, I had this book on my desk, and a Nurse tried to argue with me to the effect that "Patrick Henry wasn't real". Poor soul, I never did convince her...Even if you accept that he was real, all you probably know is an eight second sound bite from an 8-10 minute speech. There was a LOT more to Mr. Henry than that.

This was no enigmatic Tom Jefferson or glacially distant George Washington; Henry was the nicest, and most personable of men. What you saw was what you got. Oh, he was tough in the courtroom, and in legislative debate, but he was, in most ways, an ordinary man supporting his [large] family with an extraordinary talent. He had his troubles: the initial failures at running a tavern drove him to the law [Who were the three signers of his law license? That's still debated]...his first wife's long mental illness, and eventual death just as The Revolution was starting would have taxed any man. But, Henry had a mission, and kept going.

At the time of "Liberty or Death", Patrick Henry had been a prominent legislator for ten years. Remember the "Stamp Act"?...And, before that, the "Parson's Cause", our first important court case on religious liberty? And after the famous speech...first elected Governor of Virginia...Militia Colonel...bitter opponent of ratification of the US Constitution...father [along with George Mason] of the "Bill of Rights". His ratification debates with John Marshall are the stuff of legend. Though Henry and Marshall were opponents, they remained friends, and law partners.[The famous Randolph murder case] Both were surpassingly nice guys. Henry was the father-in-law of Marshall's opponent, and enemy, Judge Spencer Roane.
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