Rotunda at dusk

Patrick Henry v. Thomas Jefferson: The Crisis of Union That Died in 1799





John Ragosta, a fellow at Virginia Humanities and author of Patrick Henry: Proclaiming a Revolution (Routledge Press, 2016), will begin this talk at the end. He will look at Patrick Henry’s final political speech and campaign—when he defended the community’s right to decide issues at the ballot box and under the Constitution—and why that speech and campaign were not simply forgotten, but intentionally suppressed. If you study Patrick Henry, having a sense of how his story ends may assist you in seeing patterns and context. His life presaged what he would become, although many of the signs were missed or forgotten—making Patrick Henry, in many ways, a “Forgotten Founder.”


John Ragosta

Fellow at Virginia Humanities; author of Patrick Henry: Proclaiming a Revolution

John Ragosta is a historian, lawyer, and award-winning author. He has taught law and history at the University of Virginia, George Washington University, and Oberlin, Hamilton, and Randolph Colleges. Ragosta has held fellowships at the International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello and is currently a fellow at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. He authored Religious Freedom: Jefferson’s Legacy, America’s Creed, released in 2013 by the University of Virginia Press, and Wellspring of Liberty: How Virginia’s Religious Dissenters Helped to Win the American Revolution & Secured Religious Liberty, Oxford University Press 2010. His most recent book, Patrick Henry: Proclaiming a Revolution, was released by Routledge Press in 2016. Ragosta is a frequent speaker and commentator, having appeared at, inter alia, Monticello, Poplar Forest, Colonial Williamsburg, the David Library of the American Revolution, Montpelier, The Smithsonian, and the Virginia Festival of the Book; his comments have appeared, for example, in the pages of The Washington Post and Richmond Times Dispatch. Ragosta is lead faculty for Summer Jefferson Symposium sponsored by Lifetime Learning in UVA’s Office of Engagement.

Before returning to academia, Ragosta was an international trade and litigation partner at Dewey Ballantine LLP and was deeply involved in litigation before the World Trade Organization, NAFTA, and U.S. courts and agencies, and he frequently represented clients before Congress and administrative agencies. Holding both a PhD (early American history) and a JD from the University of Virginia, Ragosta also received an MA from George Washington University (early American/U.S. legal) and a BS (Physics-Chemistry, Philosophy) from Grove City College. Ragosta is also a beekeeper.

Free Course on Patrick Henry

If you are interested in learning more about Patrick Henry, Lifetime Learning invites you to register for a special offering of Patrick Henry, Forgotten Founder, an online course by Coursera. This FREE online course, sponsored by Lifetime Learning and offered to all UVA alumni, parents, and friends, will open on March 1 for six weeks. You do not need to be registered for the online Coursera course to register for John Ragosta’s virtual lecture.

Learn about the online course on Lifetime Learning’s website.

Resources on Patrick Henry

Couvillon, Mark. The Demosthenes of His Age. Dexter, MI: Thomas Shore, Inc., 2013

Fontaine, Edward. Patrick Henry: Corrections of biographical mistakes,…, ed. by Mark Couvillon. 1872, reprint, Brookneal, VA: Patrick Henry Memorial Foundation, 2011

Fontaine, P.H. “New Facts in Regard to the Character and Opinions of Patrick Henry.” DeBow’s Review (October 1870)

Henry, William Wirt. Patrick Henry: Life, Correspondence, and Speeches, 3 vols. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1891

Henry, William Wirt. “Patrick Henry: A Vindication of his Character, as an Orator and a Man.” Historical Magazine (November, 1873, December 1873)

Kukla, Jon. Patrick Henry: Champion of Liberty. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2017

Meade, Robert Douthat. Patrick Henry. 2 vols. Philadelphia: J.P. Lippincott Co., 1957, 1969

Patrick Henry in His Speeches and Writings and in the Words of His Contemporaries. Compiled by James M. Elson. Lynchburg, VA: Warwick House Publishing, 2007

Ragosta, John A. Patrick Henry: Proclaiming a Revolution. New York: Routledge Press, 2017

Ragosta, John A. “’Caesar Had His Brutus’: What Did Patrick Henry Really Say?” Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, 126:3 (2018): 282-97

Tyler, Moses Coit. Patrick Henry. Reprint 1887, Langhorne, PA: Chelsea House, 1980


Additional Resources

Kaminski, John P., ed., Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution, 42 vols. expected. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1976 to present

Founders Online, National Archives,

Beeman, Richard R. Patrick Henry: A Short Biography. New York: McGraw-Hill Co., 1974

Briceland, Alan V. 1788: The Year of Decision: Virginia’s Ratification of the United States Constitution. Richmond: Virginia Department of Education, 1989

Buckley, Thomas E. “Patrick Henry, Religious Liberty, and the Search for Civic Virtue.” In The Forgotten Founders on Religion and Public Life, ed. by Daniel L. Dreisbach, Mark David Hall, and Jeffry H. Morrison. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2009

Onuf, Peter S. Jefferson and the Virginians: Democracy, Constitutions, and Empire. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2018

Wirt, William. Sketches of the Life and Character of Patrick Henry. Ithaca, NY: Andrus, Gauntlett, & Co., 1850


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Program Host

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