In his "Speech to the Virginia Convention," what beliefs does Henry share with his audience?

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In his "Speech to the Virginia Convention," Patrick Henry shares a number of his beliefs regarding the relationship between the 13 colonies and Great Britain. Henry also shares his belief that the proper action the colonists should undertake is to go to war with Great Britain. It is important to note that Henry's position and belief would not necessarily have been that of the majority. While many of his peers were unhappy with British actions, they were not necessarily convinced that military action was necessary at that time.

In his speech, Henry repeatedly brings forth the argument that attempts by the colonists to petition the British government to address their grievances have been ignored. This is evidenced in the following excerpt from Henry's speech:

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.

Furthermore, Henry also makes it clear in the above excerpt that he feels there is no more room for hope regarding changes coming about from further petitions. He believes that greater action must be taken.

Henry also promotes his belief that the arrival of increased British forces in the colonies is intended for no reason other than to suppress and subjugate the colonists. He points out that the British do not have any enemies in this part of the world and that the arriving armies and navies are intended for the colonists. He sees this as a threat to their rights, freedom, and well-being.

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. 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 motives 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 on the subject? Nothing.

Henry also seeks to express his belief that the colonists must act now. He feels that they are strong enough to fight against the British and that waiting for a future time is not the best approach. He argues that waiting may give the British time to better occupy the colonies and disarm them. He states that inaction will not bring about the change that is sought.

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Strange as it may seem today, but many of those present at the Virginia Convention were highly reluctant to support outright independence from Britain. Patrick Henry's speech is a concerted attempt to change their minds, to convince them of the absolute necessity of breaking free from the mother country. In particular, he wants to convince his audience that the sacred, cherished liberties to which they are committed are under serious threat so long as the American colonies remain shackled to the British. And to those worried about the prospect of war, Henry states emphatically that America is already at war and that the chances of a negotiated settlement are long gone, due to British intransigence and high-handedness. So there's no point in sitting around and debating the matter any longer; America is effectively at war with Britain and must be prepared to fight for her liberties, her inalienable, God-given rights.

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Even though Henry was one of the few advocating for outright war with Britain in his "Speech in the Virginia Convention," all in attendance would have agreed that changes needed to be made in the relationship between the American colonies and their sovereign.

When Henry cites examples of what the colonies had already tried in their negotiations with Britain, he expresses their shared belief that the colonies had been civil and reasonable in their previous approaches.

"We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves before the tyrannical hands of the ministry and parliament."

Though "prostrating" themselves was a bit hyperbolic, Henry did make a point that his supporters and critics both believed: the colonies had a decade-long history of trying to resolve differences diplomatically.

Both Henry and his audience believed that future violence between the colonies and Britain was inevitable because there had already, by March of 1775 when he delivered the speech, been armed conflict in Boston. Henry alludes to it near the end of the speech: "Our brethren are already in the field!"

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