Are there any claims in Patrick Henry’s Speech to the Virginia Convention?

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teachsuccess eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Hello! Claims in Patrick Henry's speech to the Virginia Convention:

1)The British are intent upon subjugating the colonists to their will.

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?

2)Freedom is at stake and prompt action is needed to counter the British threat. Time is of the essence whether the colonists have the military strength to counter the formidable British Navy/Army or not.

They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? 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? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance, by lying supinely on our backs, and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot?

3)The fight for freedom is just; Patrick Henry claims that God will fight on the side of the colonists if they would just gather their courage for the war.

There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations; and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave.

4)Any possible British capitulation is a mirage. The war has already been brought to their doorstep.

Patrick Henry warns the Convention to pay attention to what they see instead of trusting in the illusion of hope.

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.

There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged!

The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms!

 I hope this answers your query. Thanks for the question!

edcon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In formal rhetoric there are three types of claims, and Henry's speech contains examples of all of them. 

The first kind of claim is the claim of fact; it is an assertion that something is true or not true.  Henry believed that war between the colonies and Britain was certain to break out in the future, and he makes this claim of fact when he states "the war is inevitable."

A second kind of claim is the claim of value; this is a claim that something is good or bad, desirable or undesirable.  Henry makes a claim of value when he says "there is no retreat but in submission and slavery!" His point is that if the colonies don't declare war against Britain, the people of the colonies will be subjugated, an undesirable state of being.

The third type of claim is the claim of policy.  This claim asserts that a certain course of action is superior to others.  Henry's overall purpose in addressing the House of Burgesses that day was to get others to agree that the colonies should declare a war of independence.  He makes his claim of policy very clear when he exclaims, "We must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight!"

Read the study guide:
Speech to the Virginia Convention

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