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Lion of Liberty: Patrick Henry and the Call to a New Nation Hardcover – October 26, 2010

4.4 out of 5 stars 58 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Kirkus Reviews, 9/1/10
“A veteran biographer specializing in the Founding Fathers offers a short, sharp life of the Virginia patriot…A fine appreciation—and explanation—of freedom’s champion.”

Library Journal, 10/1
“[An] engaging popular biography… An appealing element here is the wealth of excerpts from Henry’s legendary speeches and revealing letters, seamlessly woven in with Unger’s narrative…A good choice for general readers seeking a relatively brief account of Patrick Henry’s political activity and contributions to early America.”

Asbury Park
Press, 9/19
“Pat Henry wasn't a Johnny One-Note patriot. And the author strives to reveal the whole Revolutionary enchilada here—calls to arms, demands for a bill of rights, fights against big government. Why, we could almost call this guy a Tea Party member!”
Wall Street Journal, 10/22/10
“[A] vivid biography of the Virginia firebrand.”

The Oklahoman, 10/31/10
“Unger shows how down-to-earth Henry was and how connected he was to regular people… [A] great book about one of our nation's founders.”

Bookviews.com, November 2010
“This biography adds to our further knowledge of the men who were our Founding Fathers.”
Hudson Valley News, 11/3/10
“Very readable, engaging.”

New York
Journal of Books, 10/26/10
“Harlow Giles Unger does a remarkable job of putting together the life and times of this most noted but little known Founder. Unger provides a startling history of the man who, though never in combat, remains one of the great patriots of his new country…Unger is not only a superior storyteller, he is also a gifted researcher; he sweeps the reader into the story, also enveloping us in the times…The book brings fresh insights to the process of building a nation with little direction from which to work…If you want to know what the Founders meant while deliberating the creation of the Confederation and the Constitution, and if you wish to understand why they made the decisions they did, read Lion of Liberty.”
Associated Press, 11/15/10
“With quotes from Henry's vivid oratory, Unger traces his rise in Virginia society before the Revolution. Though not quite a rags-to-riches tale—his folks were well-established lawyers and clergymen—Lion of Liberty tells entertainingly of how a homespun-clad upcountryman with an odd accent fitted into a British-trained, plantation-owning aristocracy of velvet jackets and white neckcloths.”

The Federal Lawyer,
November/December 2010
“[An] excellent biography…Will be valued by all who have an interest in the birth of this nation and the origins of government.”
Asbury Park Press, 11/14/10
“An easy-to-read and entertaining biography…Today's Tea Party talk of liberty and small government has made Patrick Henry seem especially relevant.”

Times-Dispatch, 11/14/10
“Unger recounts Henry's life and explores its ramifications in contemporary America. Whether you find it cautionary or inspiring might depend on your own political beliefs…[Unger] brings an ardent spirit of libertarianism to this engrossing and articulate biography; he argues implicitly that in Henry's aversion to a strong central government, the tea-party movement finds its philosophical cornerstone…Unger's telling of Henry's story is a beacon of vivid, accessible and thought-provoking biography.”

Virginian-Pilot, 11/14/10
“A reintroduction to this silver-tongued rabble rouser who was so blunt in his disregard for English law that dumbstruck opponents could think of no other response than to accuse him of treason.

NPR.org, 11/22/10
“Excellent…[Unger] does remarkable work untangling a difficult subject…Fantastically engaging…Unger proves to be impressively sensitive and perceptive when chronicling some of the patriot's darker moments…[He] is able to weave the sometimes disparate, frequently contradictory strands of Henry's life into a coherent, absorbing narrative. He's adept at explaining Henry's proto-libertarianism, which will sound familiar to current American readers, as new political movements suspicious of the federal government have dominated the American conversation in the past several months. Unger's book is the perfect introduction to the founder whose rhetoric started a revolution.”

Newcity, 11/22/10
“In this accessible, elegantly written biography Harlow Unger brings the leonine patriot vividly to life, skillfully weaving his story together with the outsize history he helped shape.”

InfoDad.com, 11/24/10
“Provides a fine, multifaceted portrait of a stirring orator and accomplished politician…This is a noteworthy biography that shows both Henry’s importance to the establishment of the United States and the distance between the sort of nation he hoped to create and the one that exists two centuries later.”

Taft Bulletin, Fall 2010
“In this action-packed history, award-winning author Harlow Giles Unger unfolds the epic story of Patrick Henry.”

Hanover Review, Winter 2010
“The first major new biography of Patrick Henry in a generation.”

Kingman Daily Miner, 12/3/10
 “Exactingly researched…Unger has captured the essence of Henry…Highly recommended…[A] personable historical account of one outstanding patriot.”

The Lone Star,
November 2010
“This excellent book should be read by all Americans.”
Our History Project Book Review, 1/10/11
“In this magnificent book Harlow Unger paints a portrait of Patrick Henry that will inspire, recharge and get us excited; if not passionate; about what freedom is and why we as Americans strive, desire and covet that ideal…[He] combines true story telling mixed with sound academic research.”
WhatWouldtheFoundersThink.com, 1/10/11
“One of the most interesting facets of this book was how the author tied the various actors in the Revolution together and placed them at various events.”
Charleston Post and Courier, 2/6/11
“A well-written story of one of the key figures in America's Revolutionary movement and his later efforts in safeguarding the hard-won freedoms during the formation of the new nation…The author is a good storyteller, and his brisk, narrative style ably conveys the importance of the life and contributions of this great ‘Lion of Liberty’…An informative and enjoyable read.”
Reference & Research Book News, February 2011
“A popular biography of the public and private life of Patrick Henry…A compelling story that illustrates Henry's beliefs by centering on his actions and the events of his life.”
Washington Times, 2/16/11
“A highly readable account of the life of one of our most prominent revolutionaries.”
The Waterline, 2/24/11
“Unger brings Colonial Williamsburg to life.”
Magill Book Reviews
“An engaging account of Patrick Henry’s lifelong quest to promote individual liberties and fight against government interference.”
American Spectator, April 2011
“[An] admirable new biography…Goes far to restore that able, eloquent, and courageous man to a proper place in our national memory…Unger’s vivid, gracefully written narrative brings Patrick Henry back to life.”

San Francisco Book Review, 4/5/11, and Sacramento Book Review, 4/8/11
Lion of Liberty, a book by Harlow G. Unger, is in many ways like Patrick Henry. Both don’t seem special from the outside, and both seem modest and homely at first glance. Yet, inside these two ordinary objects is a fire that excels on natural talent. a marvelous biography and has a different take on revolutionary heroes. Remember that they were mortal men.”

Collected Miscellany, 5/5/11
“A light and refreshing read of Henry’s life…This biography is history at its best, telling a story both human and philosophical. As Unger points out, Henry’s words continue to echo across America and inspire millions to fight government intrusion in their daily lives.”
Choice, July 2011
“[Unger] wields a facile pen…There is insightful treatment of Henry’s family life and Henry as a lawyer…Recommended.”

Portland Book Review, 4/3
“[A] peek at the experiences of one of the most colorful and opinionated of America’s founding fathers. Anyone with an interest in American history will be fascinated with Henry’s myriad of speeches on independence and liberty. This book presents a behind the scenes look at not only the men who signed the Declaration of Independence, but one of the men who fought for its very existence…Cleverly written…Students and adults alike will enjoy this read about an incredibly important time in American history.”

Christian Science Monitor, 11/12/12

About the Author

A veteran journalist, broadcaster, educator, and historian, Harlow Giles Unger is a former Distinguished Visiting Fellow in American History at Mount Vernon and is the author of sixteen books, including five other biographies of America’s Founding Fathers. He lives in New York.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; First Edition edition (October 26, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306818868
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306818868
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.2 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #590,092 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Robert Kirk VINE VOICE on November 25, 2010
Format: Hardcover
As a fan of US history, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to increase my knowledge about one of the true founding fathers. The author did a great job of summarizing Henry's achievements but the book left me wanting more. At only 260 pages or so, it simply doesn't dive into Henry's life enough. The book does a good job of painting a picture of him as a hardworking, persistent family man and that's what I think I enjoyed most... the humanity of Patrick Henry. This book also made a few comments about Henry not being a fan of the US Constitution due to it's power it gives a centralized government and I found that extremely interesting. In today's politics, the right wing is always preaching to get back to the basics of the US Constitution and I would have liked to read more about about Henry's apprehension about the certain parts of the constitution. In summary, great book and great job by the author.
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Format: Hardcover
This is an informative book, but a highly partisan one. I leaned a lot about Patrick Henry, but sometimes the highly partisan nature of the text made it difficult for me to accept what was being presented. This aspect of the book is discussed in the last paragraph of this review.

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK. Having read this book I now have a much better idea of Patrick Henry's background, how this formed his view of the world, and how this influenced his actions. Henry is generally referred to as a planter and this has led me to put him in the same category as Jefferson, Washington and the other Tidewater aristocrats. However, I now understand that while Henry was a planter, but his did his farming in the backwaters of the Virginia colony. He was much more of a frontiersman than a rich farmer and he was not even a very successful farmer at that (at least early in life). He turned to the law when he failed as a farmer, but unlike Jefferson he was not university trained or even trained as an apprentice. He was self-educated and a self-made man in all respects. This gave him a sense of self-reliance and a dislike of government interference that he carried through his life. However, as Governor of Virginia he assumed almost dictatorial powers when the Revolutionary War required it. I found the section on his opposition to the US constitution to be most interesting and now knowing more about his background was able to better understand his position. Given just this aspect of the book, I would have given it five-stars, however my impression of the book was altered by much that I found that detracted from this presentation.

WHAT I DID NOT LIKE ABOUT THE BOOK. The writing of the book was much too partisan for my taste.
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The early years of our republic sure brought out some fascinating, intelligent, and strong willed personalities, and Patrick Henry is one of those. Born in the woods of the western part of Virginia where hunting, fishing and staying alive were the important skills of the day Henry somehow just rose up to display, by all eyewitness accounts, an amazing oratorical skill, an ability to study and retain information, a keen sense of logic, and no fear of voicing his opinion. Here is the man who literally started the revolt against the Stamp Act, whose words were used by others to rally colonists together to a revolution. He argued against the established English church, advocated that whites should marry Indians (and get a cash bonus for producing offspring), had a deep love of children and a strong sense of duty, among other characteristics. The author brings all his research into a interesting portrait of a truly fascinating individual, showing both strengths and weakness of the man. A very good read for anyone with any interest in the remarkable characters of the time period.
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We all have heard the quote from Patrick Henry, "Give me liberty, or give me death." Patrick Henry really valued personal liberty. Perhaps he could be known as the first "Libertarian." As I remember, he even thought the Constitution was too limiting on personal liberty to be adopted. It has been said that although childless George Washington has been called "The Father of His Country," Patrick Henry more literally could claim that title. He fathered something like 15 or 18 children, having had a second wife after his first wife passed on. I read this book a while back, so I don't remember exactly how many children. Mr. Unger, an excellent biographer, brings the colorful Patrick Henry of western Virginia to life for us. I heartily recommend this book.
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Currently reading a third of Harlow Giles Unger's numerous works, I continue to be amazed and thrilled. "Lion of Liberty..." is the second of his books that I have read. Never having heard of Unger, I was uncertain as to whether I was embarking on a story by a "one-book-wonder" and if I would find his writing great, good or so-so. It didn't take me long to discover that at least the first book, "American Tempest..." was going to be good. Therefore, I checked out the reviews and found it well received by most readers. After reading it, I was sufficiently impressed to see what else he had written. Since I had read nothing focused specifically on Patrick Henry, I ordered "Lion of Liberty..." and was not disappointed with it either.

One of the most impressive features of this work is the dynamic presentation of Henry's "Give me liberty or give me death" speech, located on pages 97-99. Reading it as though I was listening to it, I finished with the feeling that I had actually heard a sample of his style and dramatic talent. I felt that I had been present at the very historical moment. I found myself awed at Henry's oratorical talents. As a retired Baptist pastor, I found myself wishing that I had been able to move a congregation with the same power that Henry moved his audience. On finishing the book, I found myself wishing I could go back in time and be the proverbial "fly on the wall" when he addressed his audiences, both political and legal.

Harlow Giles Unger has left me with a strong understanding of who Patrick Henry was, how he accomplished what he wanted to accomplish, and how and why he failed on the few instances when he did not succeed.

I am indebted to Mr. Unger for his excellent presentation of this great American to whom we owe such a debt of gratitude.
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