In 1775, Patrick Henry made his speech to his audience of Virginia legislators to convince them that Virginia should join the War of Independence.
a. Identify and discuss three main points Henry uses to support his argument.
b. Explain why these points were appropriate to convince his audience to join the war.
Three main points that Patrick Henry makes in order to support his argument:
1. There is no reason to think that England will treat the colonies more justly. When the first Continental Congress protested against new tax laws, King George III had only conditionally withdrawn the laws. Henry argues,
Our petitions have been slighted...our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne.
Let us not deceive ourselves, sirs. These are the implements of war and subjugation....
Henry argues that the colonists have always been mistreated, and they have been spurned every time through taxation, oppressive guards in their doorways, and other acts of subjugation. England has clearly demonstrated that it refuses to respect them.
2. The colonists have exhausted all avenues of diplomacy.
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....
"There is no longer any room for hope"; there is nothing that England does to give the colonists any reason for hope that they can live as free men.
3. If the colonists do not act, they will become so subjugated and oppressed that they will be unable to fight. They must act now because they will never be stronger than they are now; moreover, the time is ripe now.
There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations....The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave....Our chains are forged!....The war is inevitable.
Patrick Henry takes a great chance in scolding the members of the Virginia Convention for their disinterest in hearing the truth, but he encourages them with his three arguments, hoping to appeal to both their reason and love for their new land. Finally, he appeals to the desire in all men to be free with his most famous line, "I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!"