Patrick Henry Speech- Liberty Or Death Essay, Research Paper
Give me Liberty, or give me Death
On March 23rd, 1775, a Virginia delegate by the name of Patrick Henry spoke concerning the arming and defense of the state of Virginia. With risk of attack from British troops, the question was what Virginia s stance should be- one of compliance with Britain, or one of independence. Before voting on what actions to take, Henry delivered a powerful speech in which he denounced Britain s actions and encouraged his fellow Virginians to stand up and fight Britain. His speech was successful and his resolutions for the arming of Virginia passed. This speech was successful because it incorporated the literary devices of pathos, ethos, and logos. Using these devices, Henry was able to persuade the men around him that liberty of the United States was a cause worth fighting for.
Throughout his speech, Henry appealed to the emotions of his audience. One of the ways he did this was by using imagery and appealing to the senses of those around him. He frequently referred to Britain s rule as being chains of slavery. While speaking of British troops, he proclaims that they are sent over to bind and rivet upon us those chains which the British ministry have been so long forging. Britain is enslaving the U.S. At the conclusion of his speech he also adds the question Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? One of the principles upon which America prided itself was its potential for freedom so by referring to their position as a country as one of enslavement Henry makes his audience realize the need to take action against this. By using these images of slavery, Henry helps those around him understand and feel the situation they are in and also emphasizes his country s need for
independence from Britain.
Another appeal to his audience s senses was Henry s use of sound in his speech.
It is recorded that Henry began the speech in a normal voice, but gradually, through his
speech, got louder and louder and at the end almost shouted the final line, give me liberty, or give me death! This change in volume made the mood of his speech grow and the emotions around him climax as he went on and made the ending, the most important part, quite emphasized. Through his change in tone, Henry appeals to the emotions of his audience. He makes them feel the way he does just through the volume of his voice.
Henry also gives himself credibility by being polite in his speech. The first two paragraphs are devoted to helping those around him understand that he does not want to offend anyone and that his intentions are morally based. He says should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and displays his desire not to offend, but his need to say what he does. Henry also remains very formal throughout his speech by using the words gentlemen and sir in reference to his audience, thereby gaining their respect for his intentions. Once his audience gains respect for Henry as a person, they are more likely to listen to his views as a Virginia delegate.
Henry also helps his audience understand their position as a country through the use of analogy. Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance, by lying supinely on our backs, and hugging the delusive phantom of hope? he asks. Hugging the delusive phantom of hope is a wonderful phrase by which Henry s listeners must have realized what a weak position they were in. Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed by a kiss, he says in reference to Britain s gracious reception of their last petition. These analogies make the situation seem more real and easier to relate to, which makes Henry s listeners realize the need for change and therefore agree with Henry s proposition.
Another analogy was given by Henry when he said I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided; and that is the lamp of experience. This lamp of experience was another way Henry reasoned with his audience. I know no way of judging of the future but by the past, he said. Past experience- Britain s lack of cooperation- showed no hope of good relations between the two countries, and this just added support to Henry s argument. By referring to the past Henry showed reasoning behind his ideas and gave evidence of Britain s hypocrisies. This made it apparent to his audience that a change was needed and made them more likely to side with Henry.
During his speech Henry presented many of his ideas in the form of questions. For example, instead of saying we have nothing left to try, he says what terms shall we find which have not been already exhausted? He asked dozens of rhetorical questions like this during his speech. When someone asks as question it is natural to think of a response, so instead of just presenting information, Henry asked questions that made his audience think. For example, when Henry asks are fleets and armies necessary to a work of love and reconciliation? the answer is obviously no and his audience basically has to agree with him. By asking the question Henry gets his listeners more involved and instead of just telling them the answer, he helps them figure out for themselves what they really think and believe.
Through pathos, ethos, and logos, Henry appealed to all aspects of thought and reason in his audience. This is what made his speech so persuasive and so great. Had he not used these devices and had his speech not been such a success, the state of Virginia may never have joined the American Revolution and this country might not be what it is today.