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It was March of 1775. After ten years of harsh laws and unfair taxes, hope of negotiating with the British government was fading.
Colonists began to fear there would be a British invasion to force them into submission. The Second Virginia Provincial Convention was held to decide whether Virginia would take up arms and form a resistance. At this convention, Patrick Henry made his fiery speech to move the delegates to act.
Henry addressed the convention in an educated manner. He argued his points clearly, with elevated language. He gave utmost respect to the delegation. The persuasive value of intelligent arguement is shown, for if he had presented himself in a careless manner, he might have been percieved as but a radical fool.
“Are fleets and armies necessary to a work of love and reconciliation?”, Henry askes… “What means this martial array, if its purpose be not to force us to submission?” Many rhetorical questions are asked of the the panel, and it sees the hard truth behind the answers. Henry queries them boldy, as all answers point to war, and it is war the that Henry advertises.
A strong appeal to emotion is found throughout the the speech. Henry argues that war is a step toward the path of liberty. He tells of how the people are on the side of freedom, and not just the people. God himself is for freedom. He plays on the ethics of the matter, and states that liberty is a holy cause. Surely the freedom-loving delegates will agree.
Henry’s goal was to persuade the delegates of the convention to vote to act decisively against the British threat. He did this using strong persuasive rhetoric, and appeal to the fear, anger, and uncertainty of the time. His efforts were not in vain, as a month later the army was formed, and the revolution begun. His words echo through our nation’s history until the end: “Give me liberty, or give me death!”
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