In Abraham Lincoln’s famous speech, “The Gettysburg Address”, Lincoln uses emotional appeal, persuasive traits, and powerful diction to make one of the most well known and respected speeches of our time. Also the “Speech in the Virginia Convention” by Patrick Henry is similar to Lincoln’s speech in all the same ways. Both of these speeches have similar characteristics, all of which contribute to their effectiveness.
One of the first things that are noticed of any good speech is the effect that the speaker has on his audience. In the case of these two speeches, the emotional appeal was an integral part of the success of both of these works. Abraham Lincoln took advantage of the war situation and spoke of great hope and prosperity for the future. By promising his audience a “new birth of freedom”, and that the new government shall be “of the people, for the people, by the people”, Lincoln allows the listeners to have optimism during a rough era. I know that if I were in Lincoln’s audience the day he gave this speech, his sympathy and compassion definitely would move me. In the “Speech in the Virginia Convention”, Henry has his audience eating out of his hand by asking rhetorical questions such as: “Should I keep back my opinions at such a time as this??” and “When shall we be stronger?” These questions make his listeners look at the situation through his perspective and therefore make them on his “side”. Also, Henry makes his speech even more emotional by comparing the colonists’ situation with slavery. These subtle tactics draw the reader to the meaningful side of Henry’s speech.
Furthermore, both speeches are intensely persuasive. In “The Gettysburg Address”, Lincoln encourages the country to change their view of people, with comments like “?all men are created equal”, and “?the dead shall not have died in vain”. Lincoln’s speech changed the way people viewed the soldiers that fought in the Civil War- therefore they are given even more respect than before. In Henry’s speech, Henry was all for speaking his mind and he roused his listeners to do so as well. Henry also uses a blend of logic and emotion to get his point across. With many references to the Bible, Henry gets his opinions across easily. At the end of his speech, Patrick Henry undoubtedly put a whole new perspective on independence, and he forced the colonists to have a new mindset on their status as a nation.
Finally, diction is the major element that ties all of these aforementioned characteristics together, making the speech sharp, polished, and brilliant. In The Gettysburg Address, most of the words have a strong and noble connotation. Only Lincoln can give a eulogy that is as strong and brilliant as The Gettysburg Address. With phrases such as “?[This war] tests weather that nation, or any nation so conceived and dedicated can long endure”; a whole new light is shed on how the public’s attitude towards the war should be. In the “Speech in the Virginia Convention”, Henry uses strong diction throughout his whole speech. Repetition, parallelism, and restatement are all good examples of Henry’s diction. Henry repeatedly uses phrases of strong connotation such as “delusive phantom”, “illusions of hope”, and “anguish of spirit”. These phrases paint a picture in the listener’s mind, allowing them to see the objective much more clearly. In addition, Henry’s strongest diction is in the last paragraph. His most famous quote “Give me liberty or give me death!” has been and will continue to be the battle cry for many generations to come.
In conclusion, both of these speeches greatly captured both the sorrow and determination of Lincoln and Henry in their respective time periods. With their use of emotional appeal, persuasiveness, and prominent diction, these speeches serve as a noteworthy blueprint for bigger and better speeches to come.