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Patrick Henry
by [?]

Most of the time they were at the home of the bride’s parents–not by invitation–but they were there. The place was a wayside tavern. The girl made herself useful in the kitchen, and Patrick welcomed the traveler and tended bar.

So things drifted, until Patrick was twenty-four, when one fine day he appeared on the streets of Williamsburg. He had come in on horseback, and his boots, clothing, hair and complexion formed a chromatic ensemble the color of Hanover County clay. The account comes from his old-time comrade, Thomas Jefferson, who was at Williamsburg attending college.

“I’ve come up here to be admitted to the bar,” gravely said P. Henry to T. Jefferson.

“But you are a barkeeper now, I hear.”

“Yes,” said Patrick; “but that’s the other kind. You see, I’ve been studying law, and I want to be admitted to practise.”

It took several minutes for the man who was to write the Declaration of Independence to get it through his head that the matter wasn’t a joke. Then he conducted the lean, lank, rawboned rustic into the presence of the judges. There were four of these men: Wythe, Pendleton, Peyton and John Randolph. These men were all to be colleagues of the bumpkin at the First Continental Congress at Philadelphia, but that lay in the misty future.

They looked at the candidate in surprise; two of them laughed and two looked needlessly solemn. However, after some little parley, they consented to examine the clown as to his fitness to practise law.

In answer to the first question as to how long he had studied, his reply was, “About six weeks.”

One biographer says six months, and still another, with anxious intent to prove the excellence of his man, says six years.

We had better take Jefferson’s word–“Patrick Henry’s reply was six weeks.” As much as to say: “What difference is it about how long I have studied? You are here to find out how much I know. There are men who can get more in six weeks than others can in six years–I may be one of these.”

The easy indifference of the fellow was sublime. But he did know a little law, and he also knew a deal of history. The main thing against him was his unkempt appearance. After some hesitation the judges gave the required certificate, with a little lecture on the side concerning the beauties of etiquette and right attire as an adjunct to excellence in the learned professions.

Young Mr. Jefferson didn’t wait to witness the examination of his friend–it was too painful–and besides he did not wish to be around so as to get any of the blame when the prayer for admission was denied.

So Patrick had to find Thomas. “I’ve got it!” said Patrick, and smiled grimly as he tapped his breast-pocket where the certificate was safely stowed.

Then he mounted his lean, dun horse and rode away, disappearing into the forest.

* * * * *

As a pedagogic policy the training that Patrick Henry received would be rank ruin. Educational systems are designed for average intellects, but as if to show us the littleness of our little schemes, Destiny seems to give her first prizes to those who have evaded all rules and ignored every axiom. Rules and regulations are for average men–and so are average prizes.

Speak it softly: There are several ways of getting an education. Patrick Henry got his in the woods, following winding streams or lying at night under the stars; by mastering horses and wild animals; by listening to the wrangling of lawyers at country lawsuits, and the endless talk of planters who sat long hours at the tavern, perfectly willing to leave the labors of the field to the sons of Ham.

Thus, at twenty-four, Patrick Henry had first of all a physical constitution like watch-spring steel; he had no nerves; fatigue was unknown to him; he was not aware that he had a stomach. His intellectual endowment lay in his close intimacy with Nature–he knew her and was so a part of her that he never thought of her, any more than the fishes think of the sea. The continual dwelling on a subject proves our ignorance of it–we discuss only that for which we are reaching out.