Patrick Henry

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Find 2 examples of parallelism and 2 quotations that demonstrate Patrick Henry's attempt to build/maintain ethos, logos, and pathos.

Parallelism is most clearly used in Patrick Henry's famous utterance, "Give me liberty or give me death." Logos, or appeal to logic, appears in Henry's statement that "the war is already begun" as a rationale to join the war effort. Henry uses emotional appeal, or pathos, when he states that the Americans will be "invincible" because their cause is "holy."

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Parallelism has two literary meanings: stating two ideas using the same grammatical structure, or presenting two ideas as if they are equally important. The most famous example of parallelism in Henry's address is the ending, in which he states:

Give me liberty or give me death.

We note that both sides of the "or" that acts as a fulcrum for the clause have exactly the same grammatical construction: the two-word command "give me." Second, the utterance balances two choices (ideas) that Henry assigns equal weight: liberty and death.

Another example of parallelism is in the following:

I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery.

Here, it is two ideas that are paralleled: freedom and slavery. These two ideas are antithetical and yet given equal weight. For Henry, there is no middle ground.

Logos is using appeals to logic through facts and statistics. In the following quote, Henry uses the logic (fact) that the colonies already are at war with Great Britain to argue in favor of Virginia joining the war effort. It is hard to argue with what is no longer theory, but reality. He states:

The war is actually begun! ... Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle?

Pathos is emotional appeal. Most of Henry's argument is emotional. One example is below:

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.

This makes no logical sense: of course the Americans can be defeated, and logic would say going up against a superpower like Great Britain guarantees defeat. Therefore, Henry appeals to the idea that the American cause of "liberty" is "holy" and therefore will be protected by God—an emotional appeal to an already longstanding tradition of American exceptionalism. Many times in world history, this same appeal to holiness has led to disaster.

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Most of the time, when students are looking for examples of parallelism, they look for a series of three or more. However, some of the best examples in Henry's speech are between two parallel elements which are in contrast. This is known as antithesis.  For instance, early in the speech, Henry states, "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." For Henry, he sees the convention's inaction as an acceptance of the slavery of the British Empire upon them, but with revolution, there would be freedom. This is very much an emotional appeal to the delegates. In fact, Henry uses the image of slavery throughout the speech.

One of my favorite examples of parallelism in this speech comes in the third paragraph, when Henry is really fired up: 

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.

I like this example because Henry lists the ways in which the Colonies have attempted to solve their disagreements with Britain without violence; however, the second sentences give the effect of all of their efforts, as the Crown eventually spurns them and their attempts. In this middle paragraph, Henry mostly utilizes logos to appeal to the logical side of the convention delegates. He gives the cause and effect of their actions. Because the Colonies have tried all of these peaceful actions which have been thrown back in their faces, Henry illustrates his belief that there is nothing left to do but to fight. 


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In "Speech to the Virginia Convention," Patrick Henry uses parallel structure when he questions the House about when the country will be stronger and able to endure any attacks by Britain:

"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?"

He uses parallelism here to ask the House to consider the position of the American forces.

In the entire speech, Henry moves from appeals to ethos, to logos, and then to pathos.  At the beginning of the address, he makes an appeal to patriotism to suggest his loyality to the colonies and the government:  "No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well as the abilities, of the very worth gentlemen who have just addressed the House."

In the middle of the speech, Henry moves into more logical appeals through his use of rhetorical questions that ask the House to consider the logical implications of not acting against Great Britain: 

"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."

Finally, Henry ends the speech with appeals to pathos to arouse the audience and encourage them to resist the British forces: 

"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!"

Henry maintains a continuum of appeals in his speech to persuade the House to act.

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