Alexandria Library -- Special Collections
Document of the Month
August 2007

“Virginia in the Revolution” by John Esten Cooke
Harper's New Monthly Magazine, Volume LIII
June to November 1876

A century after the colonies fought for their freedom from Great Britain’s leadership, Harper’s Magazine published this article, complete with illustrations, to commemorate Virginia’s role in the American Revolution. “Virginia in the Revolution” by John Esten Cooke, a former Confederate Captain and historian, outlines the significant events of this critical time in United States and Virginia history. It also presents a profile of Virginia life during this tumultuous time. The illustrations below portray pivotal moments and influential people in the American Revolution.

Give me liberty or give me death! -- These words, spoken by Patrick Henry to the House of Burgesses in March of 1775, led to Virginia’s significant role in the American Revolution. Although the Revolution had already begun, Virginia had not yet joined in the war. It was Henry’s words that provoked Virginians to take an active role in this fight for individual rights and freedoms.

The illustrations below portray three Virginians that were leading figures in the American Revolution: Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington.


John Esten Cooke posed the following question: “What was the character of the society from which issued the great protest in favor of human freedom, and from which sprung in turn Henry the tongue, Jefferson the pen, and Washington the sword of the Revolution?”

Patrick Henry, the Tongue – his profound words and passionate speech encouraged people to consider the rights of individuals to be free. He is most well-known for his statement, "Give me liberty, or give me death!" as illustrated on page 10.

Thomas Jefferson, the Pen – his written words were so profound that he was
chosen to write the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson's impact is highlighted in the paragraphs beginning on page 11.

George Washington, the Sword – the American Revolution was fought and won under his leadership. The accounts of the war and Washington’s role are discussed beginning with page 12.

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