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What emotional and logical appeals did Patrick Henry use in his speech to the Virginia...

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user3107324 | eNotes Newbie

Posted December 16, 2012 at 8:24 PM via web

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What emotional and logical appeals did Patrick Henry use in his speech to the Virginia convention?

 

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted December 16, 2012 at 9:05 PM (Answer #1)

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This speech, delivered on March 23, 1775, is of course full of emotional appeals, which were very much in keeping with Henry's rhetorical style. He began by characterizing the affairs confronting the committee as "events of awful moment," "a question of freedom or slavery," and of course concluded with his memorable phrase, "give me liberty or give me death!" So he was certainly employing pathos in his speech. But he also, as did many of his contemporaries, made an argument about the logical conclusion of British actions, one which suggested that "the conduct of the British ministry of the last ten years" offered no evidence that they would be responsive to anything but armed resistance. He claimed that the British had no interest in compromise, and that conciliatory appeals would do nothing but embolden the British:

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.

Even worse, Henry claimed that these actions, especially the dispatching of troops to Massachusetts, pointed logically toward the total subjugation of the American people:

I ask, gentlemen, sir, what means this martial array, if its purpose be not to force us to submission? ...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.

So while the tone of the entire speech is strident, even shrill, and it is no doubt full of emotional appeals, Henry also based his argument on a certain logic. The Americans, he argued, were no longer in a position where compromise had a hope of success. 

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