Patrick Henry's "Speech to the Virginia Convention"
Patrick Henrys Speech to the Virginia Convention Give me liberty or give me death! Rhetorical & Persuasive Strategies SOAPSTone When reading Henrys speech, one must consider the following key pieces: Speaker: Patrick Henry Occasion: the meeting of the VA Convention, before we declared independence Audience: delegates of the VA Convention Purpose: to encourage them to take up arms to fight the British Subject: Fight! Tone: urgent, pleading & inflammatory The important consideration is who he is addressing. Persuasion: a form of discourse (speaking/writing) that uses Reason (Logos), Authority (Ethos), and Emotional Appeals (Pathos) to convince another person to act/think in a certain way Rhetorical Devices: are structures within language that appeal to readers or listeners and communicate ideas
Types of Devices: A rhetorical question is a question to which no answer is expected (meant to make the reader/listener think) Parallelism is a kind of repetition in which words or phrases in the same grammatical form connect ideas. Antithesis or Either/Or Fallacy expresses contrasting (juxtaposing) ideas in parallel grammatical structures Repetition is the recurrence of words, phrases, or lines. Allusions are references to events, figures, or phrases from the Bible. In this selection, biblical allusions have the rhetorical appeal of shared beliefs. Persuasive terminology Appeal in rhetoric, the means of persuasion in an argument. According to Aristotle, there are three fundamental appeals to convince a person: reason (logos), ethics/authority (ethos), and emotion (pathos). Concession - an acknowledgement of part of your opponent's argument as valid; also known as giving credit where it is due. Refutation - part of an argument in which a speaker or writer contradicts the opposing points of view or disproves the opposing arguments Juxtaposition - two things being seen or placed close together with contrasting effect. Literary Terminology motif the recurring or dominant structure of a literary work; the intentional repetition of a word, phrase, event, or idea as a unifying theme. metonymy the name of one thing substituted for another thing that most readers associate with the first.
oxymoron contradictory terms onomatopoeia sound word metaphor a subtle comparison in which the author describes a person or thing using words that are not meant to be taken literally. periodic sentence Parallel subordinate clauses before a main clause. St. John's Church, Richmond, Virginia March 23, 1775. Why begin his speech this way? MR. PRESIDENT: 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. But different men often see the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, I hope it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen if, entertaining as I do, opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely, and without reserve. Light: represents truth and spiritual illumination, aligning his view of the need to fight with Gods purpose Appeal to authority Ethos *This could be regarded as a concession to the opposing view that patriotism is
important. *It could also be a refutation to the opposing side who may say that only those who are not patriots would fight the British. **He is showing respect for those who hold the opposing view to his. *Persuasive: flattery This is no time for ceremony. The 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; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfill the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country. 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, and of an act of disloyalty toward the majesty of heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.
*This is the hook or attention grabber. *Henry is referring to the need to fight for freedom. *This is known as an either/or fallacy to create PATHOS. *He creates an appeal to authority, or ETHOS, calling on Gods truth (fighting for freedom). He aligns God on the side of the colonists fighting for their freedom. *Majesty of heaven = God. This is metonymy. *By juxtaposing (contrasting) God as majesty of Heaven, and king for King George, he creates an appeal to authority, or ETHOS, placing God above the king. God has a greatness of character; the king only has a position of authority. Allusion to The Odyssey (Mythical Allusion) Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed
to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it. Allusion to The Bible (Biblical Allusion) Parallel Structure (to know, to know, to provide) What part of the argument is it when he addresses the President again? *a concession to the opposition & a refutation (argument against their side) He refutes by saying that freedom without fighting is only an illusion---it cannot be a reality. *Henry is metaphorically comparing how the British are saying things to colonists, which are false hopes to how Circe (in Homers Odyssey) transformed men into swine after charming them with her singing. *appeal to authority (ETHOS) through use of allusions *appeal to emotions (anguish of spirit) (PATHOS)
*appeal to logic (LOGOS) I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided; and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past. And judging by the past, I wish to know what there has been in the conduct of the British ministry for the last ten years, to justify those hopes with which gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves, and the House? Is it that insidious smile with which our petition has been lately received? Trust it not, sir; it will prove a snare to your feet. Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss. Ask yourselves how this gracious reception of our petition comports with these war-like preparations which cover our waters and darken our land. Are fleets and armies necessary to a work of love and reconciliation? Have we shown ourselves so unwilling to be reconciled, that force must be called in to win back our love? Let us not deceive ourselves, sir. These are the implements of war and subjugation; the last arguments to which kings resort. *Henry uses a metaphor of the lamp, which is also a Biblical allusion saying that Gods word (which is truth) is a lamp unto thy feet and a light unto thy path.
*This is an appeal to authority (God/Bible) and an appeal to ETHOS, because it shows him as a spiritual person. *An appeal to LOGOS (logic) when Henry says he can judge the future by using his knowledge of the past *insidious smile is an oxymoron that appeals to PATHOS (British fooling colonists) *Biblical allusion and metaphor---Judas betraying Jesus *Henry also employs the rhetorical question to make the colonists recognize that British are prepping for war *Henry also appeals to PATHOS by using words like implements of war and subjugation I ask, gentlemen, sir, what means this martial array, if its purpose be not to force us to submission? Can gentlemen assign any other possible motive for it? Has Great Britain any enemy, in this quarter of the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies? No, sir, she has none. They are meant for us; they can be meant for no other. They are sent over to bind and rivet upon us those chains which the British ministry have been so long forging. And what have we to oppose to
them? Shall we try argument? Sir, we have been trying that for the last ten years. Have we anything new to offer upon the subject? Nothing. We have held the subject up in every light of which it is capable; but it has been all in vain. Shall we resort to entreaty and humble supplication? What terms shall we find which have not been already exhausted? *Henry continues rhetorical questions that are followed by a declarative sentence answering the questions. *Henry uses parallel independent clauses with they are meant for us; they can be meant for no other. *Henry also uses a metaphor with those who bind and rivetthose chains, creating an appeal to PATHOS (with slavery). This is not the first reference to slavery and therefore establishes a motif of slavery. *Henry asks the audience: 1) What can we use to go against them? (argument?) 2) Is there anything we have not yet said? (nope) 3) Shall we kiss up to the King? (nope) 4) What promises should we try that
have not already been used? Let us not, I beseech you, sir, deceive ourselves. Sir, we have done everything that could be done, to avert the storm which is now coming on. We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the ministry and Parliament. Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne. In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation. There is no longer any room for hope. *Henry employs the parallel structure of We have...we have and ourour which indicates that all actions are equally important, but they become more emphatic in word choice. *These are meant to create an
appeal to PATHOS. *The word choice is inflammatory, with words like additional violence and insult and spurned. *These also create a rhetorical structure of cause and effect. If we wish to be free, if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending, if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained, we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of Hosts is all that is left us! *This is Henrys Call to Action in a long periodic exclamatory sentence, which state the results of fighting. *He creates a sense of urgency by using the exclamation point at the end of the repetition of
we must fight! *This is also an appeal to PATHOS. *He is showing the desirable outcomes before he shows the undesirable way of attaining these goals, by fighting, which so many of them wanted to avoid. They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance, by lying supinely on our backs, and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot? Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those 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. *Henry begins with the opposing argument that the colonists are weak. *This area is also incorporating rhetorical questions and a statement that refutes them. *He creates an appeal to PATHOS through his description of the outcome of waiting. Henry also uses a metaphorical comparison here. *The motif of slavery is extended, creating PATHOS again. *He refutes the statement, appealing to authority or ETHOS, giving credit to their power coming only from God. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations; and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their
clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable, and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come. *Henry is again uniting freedom with Gods will and saying that God is raising up allies. Parallel structure the vigilant, the active, the brave. *His last point of refutation is that there is no choice, because retreat would only result in slavery (motif). *This is yet another appeal to PATHOS, as listeners can picture themselves in chains (motif), controlled by Britain. *He uses onomatopoeia by saying, Their clanking may be heard.. *Here he creates an urgent call to arms in his imperative, exclamatory sentence of repetition. It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace, but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears
the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death! *The last opposing argument is when he says, Peace, Peace.. creating an appeal to PATHOS. This is also an allusion to the Bible (ETHOS). *He metaphorically describes the advancement of the British military as a gale which will sweep the North. *Through the comparison, he is saying that just as a storm cannot be stopped by man, the British will not be stopped by mans human strength. *This refers back to his point that only through Gods power can the colonists win. (ETHOS) *Henry also creates an appeal to PATHOS with the concept of slavery (motif) in the rhetorical question.
*Henry uses antithesis (either/or fallacy) to show that liberty is equally as valuable and desirable as death (metaphorically under Henrys Speech http://www.history.org/almanack/life/politics/giveme.cfm (listen to the audio file of the speech) http://youtu.be/WsuWR5niBzA Interesting project on the first lines of the speech Bibliography Notes on the Boston Tea Party and Patrick Henry http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/pa trick-henry-voices-american-opposition-to-briti sh-policy http://www.history.org/almanack/people/bios /biohen.cfm
Photographs www.socialstudiesforkids.com Digital Text Version Wirt, William. Sketches of the Life and Character of Patrick Henry. Philadelphia: 1836, as reproduced in The Worlds Great Speeches. Lewis Copeland and Lawrence Van Lamm, 1973.
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