transparent portrait of Patrick Henry superimposed on an American flag

Speech to the Virginia Convention

by Patrick Henry
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In Patrick Henry's speech, how does his style affect his argument?

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In his speech in the Virginia Convention, Henry asks over twenty rhetorical questions.  Rhetorical questions are meant to engage listeners and focus them on a point--to produce active listeners who think about how they might answer. Moreover, Henry's questions are layered with appeals to logic, appeals to emotion, and allusions to both biblical chapters and verses and recent and current events with regard to how Britain is behaving.  Henry is not burying his audience in the rhetoric of a demagogue; he is appealing to his listeners as active participants in a revolution that he believes is inevitable but too slow in coming.  Henry points out that their Northern "brethren are already in the field!" and asks his audience "Why stand we here idle?"  This rhetorical question in particular puts the onus on his audience to step up and do their part to defend their fellow colonists or risk looking uncommitted and uncaring.

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