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title:“Reminiscences of Patrick Henry's Thunderstorm Speech”
date written:1788-6-24

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last updated:Jan. 22, 2013, 8:31 a.m. UTC
retrieved:Dec. 5, 2023, 9:40 p.m. UTC

"Reminiscences of Patrick Henry's Thunderstorm Speech." The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution. Vol. 10. Ed. Gaspare J. Saladino and John P. Kaminski. Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 1993. 1511-12. Print.

Reminiscences of Patrick Henry's Thunderstorm Speech (June 24, 1788)

William Wirt, 1817
Towards the close of the session, an incident occurred of a character so extraordinary to deserve particular notice. The question of adoption or rejection was now approaching. The decision was still uncertain, and every mind and every heart was filled with anxiety. Mr. Henry partook most deeply of this feeling; and while engaged, as it were, in his last effort, availed himself of the strong sensation which he knew to pervade the house, and made an appeal to it which, in point of sublimity, has never been surpassed in any age or country of the world. After describing, in accents which spoke to the soul, and to which every other bosom deeply responded, the awful immensity of the question to the present and future generations, and the throbbing apprehensions with which he looked to the issue, he passed from the house and from the earth, and looking, as he said, "beyond that horizon which binds mortal eyes," he pointed-with a countenance and action that made the blood run back upon the aching heart-to those celestial beings, who where hovering over the scene, and waiting with anxiety, for a decision which involved the happiness or misery of more than half the human race. To those beings-with the same thrilling look and action-he had just addressed an invocation, that made every nerve shudder with supernatural horror-when lo! a storm, at that instant arose, which shook the whole building, and the spirits whom he had called, seemed to have come at his bidding. Nor did his eloquence, or the storm, immediately cease but, availing himself of the incident, with a master's art, he seemed to mix in the fight of his aetherial auxiliaries, and "rising on the wings of the tempest, to seize upon the artillery of Heaven, and direct its fiercest thunders against the heads of his adversaries." The scene became insupportable; and the house rose, without the formality of adjournment, the members rushing from their seats with precipitation and confusion)
(a) The words above quoted are those of judge Archibald Stuart; a gentleman who was present, a member of the convention, and one of those who voted against the side of the question, supported by Mr. Henry. The incident as given in the text, is wholly founded on the statements of those who were witnesses of the scene; and by comparing it with the corresponding passage in the printed debates, the

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