Persuasive Analysis – Henry’s Speech to the Virginia Convention

Hieu Nguyen Period 1 Persuasive Analysis – Henry’s Speech to the Virginia Convention Patrick Henry in the speech, “Speech to the Virginia Convention” suggest that the American Colonists join his cause to fight against Britain in order to gain liberty. Henry uses many rhetorical devices in order to persuade the audience to join his fight. Some of the devices Henry uses include ethos, logos, pathos, allusions, and so on. Even though most of Henry’s logic benefited him in persuading his audience, there were some parts of his logic where he exaggerated too much as well.
In the speech to the Virginia Convention, Henry uses the rhetorical devices of ethos, pathos, rhetorical questions, and metaphors to his advantage in winning over the minds of the American colonists. Henry starts his speech by saying “My. 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. ” Henry uses ethos to set a good image of himself. By saying that he thinks highly of patriotism, people will see his as a good man who knows what he is doing. For my own part, I consider it as nothing less than a questions of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. ” Henry also uses ethos to make the colonist believe that he is a person who is fighting for the good of freedom. “I have but on lamp by which my feet are guided; and that is the lamp of experience. ‘ This is not only a metaphor, but an allusion that appeals to ethos and pathos as well. In metaphorically calling experience a lamp, he is saying that experience will show or “light” the way for the future.
There is a Biblical allusion here to the scripture which that God’s word is a “lamp unto thy feet and a light unto thy path. ” This is an appeal to authority (God or the Bible). This is also an appeal to ethos and pathos because it shows him as a spiritual person (ethos) and it suggests safety and security (pathos). By saying this quote, he has easily swayed the colonist to join him after they hear all the assurance Henry showed. “Can gentlemen assign any other possible motives for it? Has Great Britain any enemy in this quarter of the world to call for all this accumulation of navies and rmies? No, sir, she has none. ” In paragraph 4, Henry uses a series of rhetorical questions then follows each one with a declarative sentence answering his questions. The rhetorical effect is that he emphasizes the military procedures which the British are taking. This creates an appeal to pathos because it evokes fear in the minds of the American colonists, which would bring them to join Henry Even though Henry uses his logic well to persuade the Americans, there are also some parts where he exaggerates as well .

One common type of fallacy that Henry uses is an either-or fallacy; either gain independence by war with Britain or forever stay under the manipulation of the British empire. For example, “For my own part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery… the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate.. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth… ” Henry claims that freedom from Britain is the only solution to their problems. By doing so, the audience is more engaged on his side of the agreement and may not see any sense of the argument as a result. There is no retreat but in submission in slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! ” Henry’s statement only commits the fallacy of only two alternatives. Either America fights in order to obtain freedom, or America submits to being enslaved by the British. “They tell us, sir, that we are weak – unable to cope with the 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? ” This demonstrates an appeal to consequences. Henry, although never outright says it, is trying to say that we are strong enough to fight back. He states this indirectly by asking when we will be strong enough and then he hints at the consequences.
Also you can read Rhetorical Devices in Night Walker by Brent Staples
The consequence would be the result of the colonies not fighting back against Britain in time. He is trying to tell the audience that they need to realize they are strong enough to resist the British, and that if they do not, then they will suffer the consequences. The is over exaggerating since Henry only sets out two choices instead of all the other possible choices there could be. Henry’s purpose in the speech to the Virginia Convention was to persuade his audience to join his fight against the British in order to gain liberty and independence.
Patrick Henry uses ethos to apply authority and a good image to himself in order to sway the colonist into believing him. He also uses pathos to strike fear into the hearts of the Americans or provide security and hope. But even though Henry sways his audience with his logic, there are certain parts where he exaggerates too much and provides only two possible outcomes. Either fight against Britain and gain freedom, or submit and become enslaved. This only gives the audience two things to think about and they do not consider any other outcome.

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