Patrick HenryPatrick Henry, (1736-1799) US Founding Father

Patrick Henry Quote

“I have the highest veneration of those Gentleman, -- but, Sir, give me leave to demand, what right had they to say, We, the People? My political curiosity, exclusive of my anxious solicitude for the public welfare, leads me to ask who authorized them to speak the language of, We, the People, instead of We, the States? States are the characteristics, and the soul of the confederation. If the States be not the agents of this compact, it must be one of great consolidated National Government of the people of all the States.”

Patrick HenryPatrick Henry
~ Patrick Henry

in Debates in the 1788 Virginia debates, stated on June 4, 1788

Ratings and Comments

cal, lewisville

i feel it should have said "We, the states" as statehood was strong then and foks in one state should not have to live as folks in another state might desire to live. Ron Paul answered most questions asked of him by saying, "that's a state issue!"

Mike, Norwalk

Mr. Patrick Henry's point was very well made from the venue in which he spoke. The individual sovereign, being the supreme master over all servants (inferior government(s)), had a bifurcated representation in such federal venue with the State representation being closer to the source and more potent.

Waffler, Smith

Very interesting indeed and apropos to the latter day discussions we have been having here. Henry points out that the Articles of Confederation was a confederation of states, whereas "in order to form a more perfect union" the Constitution and the government which it set forth and gave life to was a federation of people. "We the people in order to form" and not "we the states in order to form". A soverign is an all powerful person, one whom cannot be arrested, taxed, or commanded by anyother. There are no soverign persons in America. There are few in the world. One may be soverign in ones home, when you step on to the steet or sidewalk you are no longer soverign.

Mike, Norwalk

Waffler, you oops again. Your slave's perspective of a sovereign is incorrect.SOVEREIGN. A chief ruler with supreme power; one possessing sovereignty. (Bouvier's Law Dictionary) A person, body, or state in which independent and supreme authority is vested; a chief ruler with supreme power; (Black's Law Dictionary) Governments are the servants, not the masters of the people. (Thomas Jefferson) In the Confederation / Constitutional U.S., the individual is, in all ways, a king / queen, priest / priestess, Caesar, etc. Anything more or less than this, in the several States, or in their united representation is a de facto tyranny. The slave mentality you suffer under, and wish all did, is not a lawful state of existence in the de jure USA.

  • Reply
Anon    5/2/09

Great points Mike and I add - "The slave mentality you suffer under, and wish all did, is not a lawful state of existence in the de jure USA" - because it is not a natural state of existence and individual sovereignty is. Thus the main reason for the protection of natural law principles by writing and adopting our Constitution.

E Archer, NYC

Interesting take by Patrick Henry -- something we don't hear very often. How can the parties of the Constitutional Convention speak for the people directly when they merely represented the sovereign states from which they came? Maybe if it had been 'we the states' the people wouldn't have been so easily duped into accepting nationalist rule over them from Washington. This brings up a point I have mentioned before: none of us have signed the Declaration of Independence, or any state or federal Constitution, therefore, at what point in our lives is our allegiance to the government assumed? Should we not upon the age of 18 make our own declaration to support and defend these Constitutions? We are kept as permanent wards of the state -- signing dozens of government forms waiving our rights and responsibilities for government privileges. 'We the People' haven't spoken for a LONG time -- the time may be coming when the people of the world will have to pick a side and take a stand.

Ken, Allyn, WA

That's an interesting idea, Archer; a right to opt out upon reaching the age of maturity. So, if one did opt out and chose to remain living here, would he be a resident alien or still a citizen? A citizen of the State only and not of the United States? Could one be drafted to fight in a war of the United States if he were part of a States militia?

Waffler, Smith

Read the Constitution Ken, all miltiary force in the USA comes under the President including organized and unorganized militia. In terms of military I guess you could say that the USA is totalitarian.

Waffler, Smith

Mike you should try poetry rather than polictical economey. Your soverign bullshit sounds poetic but it is a crock since your and I are subject to arrest for any number of violations. A soverign is above all law for they are the law. If you insist I poetry why don't you try in on a poetry site.

Will Jacobs, San Diego, CA

Patrick Henry wanted "We, the states" in the confederation because in his perspective the states were what made up a confederation and "We, the people" wasn't a nation in his eyes they were just people AND NOT A NATION.

y, ny
  • Reply
y, ny    5/1/10


David Guidry, Bridge City, TX

The militia could be called into the service of the national government for only three reasons as stated in the Constitution in Article I Section 8 Clause 15: execute the Laws of the Union, suppress insurrections, and repel invasions. That is all and nothing else. Standing armies were to be appropriated for common defense against foreign enemies of the Confederation.

Lucius wombwell, Florida City

I once read this quote to a younger man as a way to broaden his idea of what the founding fathers intended for this country, even during the time of constitutional reform. After I finished reading the entire speech to him not just this quote, he said to me "from what voice is the individual heard of there is not a group of men voicing the same idea. From federal power there is only one voice heard. But from the collaboration of many voices, that hold true rule over the central power, ideas are formed, solutions are made and the people's rights are held indefinitely. In term, how do you represent the people when we don't represent the loyalty of the states compact".


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