GIVE ME LIBERTY
Patrick Henry’s Speech in the Virginia Convention is not only a model persuasive speech, but also displays his extraordinary persuasive speaking skill. He spoke concerning the American colonies’ relations with England, and urged his audience to accept the inevitable war rather than try to make amends. Several key aspects of his speech, such as emotion and tone, were essential in support of his point of view. Like preachers of the Great Awakening, Henry knew his audience and was thus able to manipulate their minds through logic and strong feelings.
Early in the speech Henry used three speaking techniques that displayed his proficiency in persuading: his appropriate tone, his “support” of his opposers, and his choice of words, or diction, that demonstrated his open-mindedness. Calm and composed, Henry began by attempting to soothe his opposers and convey a good impression of himself to the audience. He then began by explaining that everyone was entitled to a point of view, and asked that people who disagreed would understand this liberty of thought. Henry moved on to lay the grounds for his forthcoming rebuttal by actually supporting the statements made earlier by others that he disagreed with. This technique displayed his open-mindedness and encouraged his audience to heed his words.
The crescendo of his speech rising, Henry resorted to an open show of strong feelings to further influence the audience. He agreed with others that events leading to the American Revolutions were merely misunderstandings resulting from narrow-mindedness, selfishness, and greed, but argued that they were irreversible. The erratic course of British-colonial relations could not be rectified, he argued, and the colonies should prepare for the oncoming war with England.
Henry summarized his thoughts for his audience as his speech came to a close, and although the speech’s resonance began to subside, the mood in the room became excited and patriotic. The keystone to his speech was indeed his final sentence: “Give me liberty, or give me death!” (The American Experience, p.128) It was this sentence, burst out after a calm conclusion, which was transformed into the essence of the colonial viewpoint of the American Revolution.
The result of Henry’s speech was the convincing of many of Virginia’s political figures that war waged against England was the only solution to the whirlpool of conflicts that colonial America was caught in. Henry used a precise blend of diction, emotion, tone, logic, and facts to not only back up his liberal opinion, but to touch the hearts and minds of his listeners and avert their opinions to see his own thoughts in clarity. Henry was an expert at persuasive speaking, and used his talent to his benefit during his Speech at the Virginia Convention, fueling the forthcoming Revolution.