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Patrick Henry's Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death Speech

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Language
Wordcount: 1558 words Published: 12th Nov 2020

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Liberty or Death?

The fight for freedom was very valuable to us because of the liberty we achieved from it. In about 1776-1779 Patrick Henry served as the governor of Virginia in which he gave the speech titled “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death.” This speech was meant to serve as closure between the two sides of the argument which were to wait out Britain's response or fight against Britain. These two sides were for the most part split until Patrick unified them together. Patrick uses logos, ethos and pathos in order to get the delegates to see that war was not only necessary, but was happening. The metaphors he used, as a means to give examples of what can happen. One of the biggest tools in his arsenal was the ability to effectively use rhetorical questions/statements in order to support his clause. “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” has a lot of carefully chosen diction, and is a persuasive speech with the purpose to fight. Patrick Henry uses rhetoric in his speech to give himself credibility, get the people emotional, and show that going to war was the best option for the colonies.

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In the speech “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” Patrick Henry used ethos in order to show that his expertise. “No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well as abilities, of the very worthy gentlemen who have just addressed the House.” In this statement he is his personal beliefs of patriotism as the ethos. He is saying that no one has the same love for the colonies then him, inferring that he would not say something that would go against the government. In him saying this he must know that the people in the forum know this and so they will be more inclined to listen to his proposal. He admits that the other delegates are wise, but since he is highly patriotic and wise himself the people should listen to what he has to say. He puts this in his speech at the beginning in order to set the tone right away for this speech. 

“Opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely, and without reserve.” He used his patriotism ethos in order to transition into this next statement. Here he acknowledges that people have different opinions then him, but he will say what he has to say. Even if the people do not like or approve of it. The reason he is going to say what he has to say come a little later in his speech. “Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offence, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country” This ethos is important. Here he is stating that if he doesn’t say the truth he is a traitor. Being charged with treason was a death sentence and was a serious offence. So in the opening saying this got the people excited. They also knew what it was going to say would be serious. This was a cry of ethos to the people.

Next Henry uses pathos as a tool to get people emotionally committed to going to war.

Patrick henry uses various types of speech in order to make one point, war is what is needed. One trick he used was pathos. Pathos was used as a means to get the delegates rallied. “Question before the House is one of awful moment to this country. For my own part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery;” Patrick henry is saying either they are going to be free or become slaves. This is an appeal to pathos. Slavery is being stripped of your rights, and being someone’s property. So when he says freedom or slavery he is playing off the emotions of people to get them sad, angry and upset with the British. Another example of pathos is, “Sir, we are not weak, if we make a proper use of the means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. Three millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us.

Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us.” Here he brings in religion to add to the emotion facts. Also he plays off the emotions of pride by saying “were not weak” he is trying to tell delegates that why not go to war we are strong. People do not like to feel weak. Next part of this is when he brings up God. God is used in order to play off the religious emotions of the people. The founding fathers were religious and this speech had a few references of god. Patrick Henry used pathos in order to feed off people’s emotions in order to get them proactive for war for independence.

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Patrick henry uses logos in order to justify his argument and his point of view for war. "What terms shall we find which have not been already exhausted? Let us not, I beseech you, sir, deceive ourselves longer. Sir, we have done everything that could be done to avert the storm which is now coming on. "Patrick henry in this excerpt uses logic in order to justify going to war. He says that they have done everything in order to avert the war. This is important because it’s showing the justification of why war is necessary. They have exhausted every possible non- violent solution, so in response people shouldn’t be blind and not lie to themselves. The next excerpt that is important for logos is, “I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past.” Here is important: he was saying that looking at the past you can look for what to expect in the future. This piece of logic seems simple but in the past Britain has been unfair to them and has tried to bully them so basically looking at the past you can see the true colors of Britain. Also this can represent that if the future looks as grim as the past then there will not be a future. Either way without logos, pathos and ethos his arguments couldn’t be as impactful as they were. Without this argument, the colony’s would have denounced war and been dominated.

Without schemes and tropes his message would not have been flat and not as powerful. Patrick henry uses a lot of rhetoric in his speech. The first example is allusions. . “Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss.” This is in reference to Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus by kissing him on the cheek. This is important because he is trying to urge the members of the convention to not be blind or trust the British, doing so would leave them betrayed and captured. If Judas would not have sold Jesus out then he wouldn’t have been killed. In connection with his speech he is saying not to give the British trust or the colonies will be looking at the same fate as Jesus. He uses metaphors effectively, for example “They are sent over to bind and rivet upon us those chains which the British ministry have been so long forging." This is powerful in terms of imagery and diction. This metaphor has pathos present in it. This metaphor is expressing that the British want to come down and put chains on them, and make them slaves. Not just that but also that king George has been planning this for a while since they have been forging the chains.

Patrick Henry next used rhetorical questions in order to express his idea. "But when shall we be stronger? Shall it be the next week, or the next year?” this is powerful at this point he is stating why not fight now, is there going to be a better time. They are as strong as they are going to be so why not? This is directed at the people who are not for the war. The last thing that is prominent in his speech is anaphora. He uses it to stress key points and or to urge a direct response. Anaphora "We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves..." These words were chosen to show that they have tried everything. They have plead, protested, begged, and figuratively laid face down. Doing all this and still haven’t had any results. Patrick Henry understands that being passive and or laying down was not acceptable. Doing that would be appeasement and would allow the British to take advantage of the colonies. Patrick would rather die a free man then to allow tyranny to come upon their newly established colonies. The people ultimately agreed with his reasoning. Without the use of schemes and tropes his speech would have lacked the power it had.

Patrick Henry and his speech gives strong examples of rhetoric. He uses rhetoric effectively and in order to sway a group of delegates in his favor. He uses logos to establish his credibility, pathos to get the audience emotional and logos to show logic and to offer examples to why war was necessary. The other form of rhetoric he uses is schemes and tropes. These are used in order to give examples, in the form of allusions and metaphors. Also to get the crowd hyped by repetition. Patrick Henry's main clause is that if the colonies do not stand up and fight for their independence then they will fall and become slaves and or killed. Looking at the options his speech swayed the votes which led for the fight for independence. Analyzing his speech he uses a combination of rhetoric in order to show he was credible, as well as war was needed and was happening. This speech changed the outcome of history and will be remembered forever.


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