Unconfirmed Quote attibuted to Patrick Henry

David Barton pictured below:

Part 4 David Barton: Were Founding Fathers Deists?
Only 5% of the original 250 founding fathers were not Christians (Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Aaron Burr, Thomas Paine, Ethan Allen, Joe Barlow, Charles Lee, Henry Dearborn, ect)

In the next few weeks I will be looking at this issue of unconfirmed quotes that people think that the Founding Fathers actually said and the historical evidence concerning them. David Barton has collected these quotes and tried to confirm them over the last 20 years. These unconfirmed quotes are used every single day and unfortunately my group of conservatives have been guilty of using them more than the liberals have. This website HALT (HaltingArkansasLiberalswithTruth.com) includes the T for the word ‘truth.” I want to always tell it like it is and that includes this fact: Conservative Republicans will be more likely than their liberal counterparts to  stand up today in state legislatures all across the country and use quotes that have not been confirmed with original sources linking them to the Founding Fathers.
I am not really that upset about this Patrick Henry quote since I know that he was definately an evangelical Christian. Plenty of evidence exists that he believed what is in this quote. Take a look.

1. It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ! — Patrick Henry (unconfirmed)

Few could dispute that this quotation is consistent with Henry’s life and character. (Interestingly, those who advocate a secular society today view Henry as an arch enemy.) One early biographer describes how Henry reprinted and distributed Soame Jennings book, View of the Internal Evidence of Christianity, and also that Henry looked to the restraining and elevating principles of Christianity as the hope of his country’s institutions. Bishop Meade, writing of Virginia families in general, says of Henry that, despite possible periods of alienation, his attachment to the [Episcopal] Church of his fathers is clearly established. In one of many courtroom speeches, Henry offered these thoughts (one need not agree with his ideas to understand the context):

I know, sir, how well it becomes a liberal man and a Christian to forget and forgive. As individuals professing a holy religion, it is our bounden duty to forgive injuries done us as individuals. But when the character of Christian you add the character of patriot, you are in a different situation. Our mild and holy system of religion inculcates an admirable maxim of forbearance. If your enemy smite one cheek, turn the other to him. But you must stop there. You cannot apply this to your country. As members of a social community, this maxim does not apply to you. When you consider injuries done to your country your political duty tells you of vengeance. Forgive as a private man, but never forgive public injuries. Observations of this nature are exceedingly unpleasant, but it is my duty to use them.

In a 1796 letter to his daughter Henry stated:

Amongst other strange things said of me, I hear it is said by the deists that I am one of their number; and, indeed, that some good people think I am no Christian. This thought gives me much more pain than the appellation of Tory; because I think religion of infinitely higher importance than politics; and I find much cause to reproach myself that I have lived so long and have given no decided and public proofs of my being a Christian. But, indeed, my dear child, this is a character which I prize far above all this world has, or can boast.

Bishop Meade, mentioned above, also describes a letter from Rev. Dresser, who was addressing two Church historians. Concerning Patrick Henry, Dresser wrote:

It is stated, in an article which I saw some time ago, from the Protestant Episcopalian, and, I presume, from one of you, that Patrick Henry was once an infidel, &c. His widow and some of his descendants are residing in this county, and I am authorized by one of them to say that the anecdote related is not true. He ever had, I am informed, a very abhorrence of infidelity, and actually wrote an answer to Paine’s Age of Reason, but destroyed it before his death. His widow informed me that he received the Communion as often as an opportunity was offered, and on such occasions always fasted until after he had communicated, and spent the day in the greatest retirement. This he did both while Governor and afterward. Had he lived a few years longer, he would have probably done much to check the immoral influence of one of his compatriots [?], whose works are now diffusing the poison of infidelity throughout our land.

Henry’s religious persuasion is well-established. However, there is more evidence that should be considered. Biographer William Wirt Henry relates that a visiting neighbor recalled Henry holding up the Bible and stating:

This book is worth all the books that ever were printed, and it has been my misfortune that I have never found time to read it with the proper attention and feeling till lately. I trust in the mercy of Heaven that it is not yet too late.

Despite his regret for not having spent more time in the Bible, Henry knew the value of Scripture. Taken together with his efforts while in public life, there is an ample foundation for this excerpt from his Last Will and Testament:

This is all the inheritance I can give my dear family. The religion of Christ can give them one which will make them rich indeed.From a copy of Henry’s Last Will and Testament obtained from Patrick Henry Memorial Foundation, Red Hill, Brookneal, VA

As a final thought, there is a possibility that the unconfirmed quote came from Henry’s uncle, the Reverend Patrick Henry. We find no record of the Reverend’s letters or writings. Therefore, until more definitive documentation can be presented, please avoid the words in question.


This below is a profile of a State Lawmaker from a 2009 interview from the Morning News:

Kim Hendren

Wed, Jan 7, 2009


Senate District 9
Serving his second term in the state Senate in the age of term limits, although he served earlier in the Senate from 1979 to 1983. Served one term in the House from 2001 to 2003.
Committees: Chairman of Energy; Rules; Joint Budget; Legislative Council; Education.
Special connections: An engineer and businessman whose interests include car dealerships.
How to reach him: E-mail address: hendrenk@arkleg.state.ar.us. Business number: 479-787-6500. “If my office doesn’t answer you’ll get my voice mail, which I check.”
What you should know: Has a special chagrin against state laws and regulations that try to micromanage school districts.
His priority: “Everybody’s priority is education, both higher education and general.” Will repeat earlier attempts to pass a law requiring that cell phones used in cars be hands-free. Wants state scholarships to higher education to include some “sweat equity” requirements.
Firmest prediction: “We will ask for more efficiency in the education area to save public money. There will also be resistance to any increase in taxes.”


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  • COMALite J  On September 23, 2014 at 2:43 am

    No, the Patrick Henry quote did not come from him, nor did it come from his namesake uncle. The language of the quote itself makes it flatly impossible to have originated in their time, since it uses both terminology that wasn’t in use yet (such as “religionists” as used in the sense used — the term did exist in Henry’s day, but not with that meaning [the meaning it had was pretty much the 180° diametric opposite], not to mention “propaganda” in the longer version that simply hadn’t been coined yet nor would it be until decades after the death of both men) and concepts that didn’t exist yet (such as the USA being “this great nation” [at the time it was barely even a new nation that was little more than a 200-mile-wide strip of land along the Atlantic coast]).

    We now know exactly where the quote came from, and nearly every link in the chain that led it to being so widespread in recent decades.

    The quote actually originated in an April, 1956 issue of a little-known secessionist rag of a newspaper called The Virginian (Vol. II #3), but the way it spread involved a space-filling “pull quote” from it being reprinted in a more well-known sister publication, The American Mercury, in their September issue of that year, occupying the bottom ½ of Page 134.

    When read in context, even in the pull quote, it’s quite obvious that the text often quoted was not even claimed to be from Patrick Henry himself, but was rather the original The Virginian article-writer’s commentary about a (also spurious) quote alleged to be from Patrick Henry’s will, about his Christian faith being the greatest inheritance that he could leave to his heirs.

    The first two ¶s of that commentary were followed immediately by a third ¶: “In the spoken and written words of our noble founders and forefathers, we find symbolic expressions of their Christian faith, The above quotation from the will of Patrick Henry is a notable example.

    Even though the alleged quote from Henry’s will was visually separated from the commentary and clearly postscripted as being by “PATRICK HENRY, VIRGINIA | His Will,” someone decades later apparently saw that pull quote in The American Mercury (or, much less likely, in The Virginian Vol. II #3) and somehow was so sloppy as to have actually thought that the words “The above quotation from the will of Patrick Henry…” referred not to the text clearly labeled as such that was printed in the same pull quote box and visually separated from the 1955-written commentary text, but to the two ¶s of said commentary that immediately preceded that third ¶.

    This someone was almost certainly one Stephen C. Dawson, who, in 1988, put together a self-published dot-matrix-printed green-construction-paper-covered book of pro-Christian quotations allegedly from the Founding Fathers entitled God’s Providence for America. I can find no earlier citing of this quote in any book nor Internet article that has quoted it, and quite a few cite this book, albeit strangely enough with a slightly different title: “Steve C. Dawson, God’s Providence in America’s History (Rancho Cordova, CA. Steve C. Dawson, 1988), Vol I, p. 5.” Among the people who cite it this way are David Barton, in his The Myth of Separation: What is the Proper Relationship Between Church and State?

  • Everette Hatcher III  On October 7, 2014 at 2:10 pm

    Very good facts. Thanks for sharing. By the way the Barton book MYTH OF SEPARATION was released in 1988 and had over a dozen UNCONFIRMED QUOTES in it and that is when David Barton started compiling his UNCONFIRMED QUOTE LIST.

    One of my best friends in all the world was the late Dr. John George. John was a secular humanist and his good friend Paul Boller had written an extensive book on George Washington. John did say that Patrick Henry and Sam Adams would be considered evangelicals in today’s climate.

    Those on the evangelical side such as myself have erred at times by claiming too much concerning all the founding fathers being evangelicals, but many of the liberals have gone too far also. The truth is somewhere in the middle.


    Who Were the Founding Fathers?
    Historical proof-texts can be raised on both sides. Certainly there were godless men among the early leadership of our nation, though some of those cited as examples of Founding Fathers turn out to be insignificant players. For example, Thomas Paine and Ethan Allen may have been hostile to evangelical Christianity, but they were firebrands of the Revolution, not intellectual architects of the Constitution. Paine didn’t arrive in this country until 1774 and only stayed a short time.As for others–George Washington, Samuel Adams, James Madison, John Witherspoon, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, John Adams, Patrick Henry, and even Thomas Jefferson–their personal correspondence, biographies, and public statements are replete with quotations showing that these thinkers had political philosophies deeply influenced by Christianity.The Constitutional ConventionIt’s not necessary to dig through the diaries, however, to determine which faith was the Founder’s guiding light. There’s an easier way to settle the issue.The phrase “Founding Fathers” is a proper noun. It refers to a specific group of men, the 55 delegates to the Constitutional Convention. There were other important players not in attendance, like Jefferson, whose thinking deeply influenced the shaping of our nation. These 55 Founding Fathers, though, made up the core.The denominational affiliations of these men were a matter of public record. Among the delegates were 28 Episcopalians, 8 Presbyterians, 7 Congregationalists, 2 Lutherans, 2 Dutch Reformed, 2 Methodists, 2 Roman Catholics, 1 unknown, and only 3 deists–Williamson, Wilson, and Franklin–this at a time when church membership entailed a sworn public confession of biblical faith.[1]This is a revealing tally. It shows that the members of the Constitutional Convention, the most influential group of men shaping the political foundations of our nation, were almost all Christians, 51 of 55–a full 93%. Indeed, 70% were Calvinists (the Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and the Dutch Reformed), considered by some to be the most extreme and dogmatic form of Christianity….

    What Did the Founding Fathers Believe and Value?
    When you study the documents of the Revolutionary period, a precise picture comes into focus. Here it is:

    Virtually all those involved in the founding enterprise were God-fearing men in the Christian sense; most were Calvinistic Protestants.
    The Founders were deeply influenced by a biblical view of man and government. With a sober understanding of the fallenness of man, they devised a system of limited authority and checks and balances.
    The Founders understood that fear of God, moral leadership, and a righteous citizenry were necessary for their great experiment to succeed.
    Therefore, they structured a political climate that was encouraging to Christianity and accommodating to religion, rather than hostile to it.
    Protestant Christianity was the prevailing religious view for the first 150 years of our history.


    The Fathers sought to set up a just society, not a Christian theocracy.
    They specifically prohibited the establishment of Christianity–or any other faith–as the religion of our nation.

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