What does Patrick Henry seem to feel are the colonists' strengths and weaknesses?

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mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In his speech to the Virginia Convention, Patrick Henry states the following weaknesses of the colonists:

  1. Some entertain "the illusions of hope" since there is nothing in the last ten years to justify the hopes of the members of the House.
  2. Some "shut their eyes against a painful truth" as many of those at the convention have and avoid the "whole truth."
  3. Some are deluded that the "martial array" is not present to force the colonists into submission.

Henry preceives these strengths;

  1. The colonists are strong:  "we are not weak."
  2. There are three million of them
  3. "Three millions are invincible in a holy cause of liberty"
  4. The "brethren are already in the fields"; there are others to support the Virginians
akannan's profile pic

Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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An eloquent and passionate defender of colonial rights, Henry's major argument and strength in motivating the colonists is his belief in freedom and autonomy (the ability to decide for oneself what is best.)  In his mind, he feels this strength to be the overriding one for the colonists.  His speeches that protest against various acts of British encroachment (Stamp Act, for example) speak to this.  In his mind, the methods the British used to collect money from the colonists to pay for their involvement in the French and Indian War should galvanize the colonists to action.  He feels that if the colonists rally around this particular point, they cannot be defeated by the British.  His commitment is quite clear:  "Give me liberty or give me death."  There is very little room for negotiation or appeasement in such a statement.  His feelings are that if all the colonists feel this way, the British won't stand a chance.  I am not certain he sees many weaknesses for the Colonists.  Naturally, he was wary and disparaging of the Loyalist element in Colonial society.  He felt that these individuals were weak, taking away from the central commitment the colonists needed to have to their cause.  It's interesting because his approach to the Loyalists was to perceive them as treasonous, and in his speeches and words, he would flip the label onto himself to highlight the Loyalists' ways:  "If this be freedom, make the most of it" was his way of describing his attitude towards the British and their acts that took from colonial political and economic freedom.

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