Why did Patrick Henry use rhetorical questions in his "Speech to the Virginia Convention"?
Rhetoric is the art of persuasion. As such, it's inevitably a very important component of public speaking, especially during periods of great political tumult. Patrick Henry's famous speech to the Virginia Convention certainly falls into this category. Quite a large number of delegates to the Convention still thought it possible to reach some kind of amicable settlement with the British. Henry's speech was a largely successful attempt to disabuse such men of what he regarded as their naivety.
Rhetorical questions are not posed to glean opinions; rather they're a way of forcing each member of a speech's audience to ask themselves the question being raised:
"Are fleets and armies necessary to a work of love and reconciliation?"
Ask yourself this question, says Henry, if the British really want peace, then why are they sending more ships and troops to America? Henry emphatically answers his original question in the negative, but he's also hoping that some of the waverers in the...
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