The use of rhetoric appeals to strengthen the message is a common instrument for many orators, and Patrick Henry is no exception to the rule. In his speech “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death,” he resorts to all possible means to convince the new government that the war with Great Britain is inevitable (“Patrick Henry – Give me liberty or give me death,” n.d.). In this way, his viewpoint is not entirely of a theoretical nature but a call to action to gain ultimate freedom. Therefore, the consideration of the inclusion of ethos, pathos, and logos in Henry’s argument in the speech will demonstrate the way he attracted the attention of the audience to the presented issue.
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The first tool which Henry used to persuade people in the need to fight was related to the attempts to prove the credibility of his thoughts by referencing other reliable sources. Thus, for example, he provided extensive information on the past development of the situation by saying that the British ministry unwillingly received their petition (“Patrick Henry – Give me liberty or give me death,” n.d.). The orator also added that the presence of fleets and armies by their shores did not resemble an attempt to find a peaceful way to negotiate (“Patrick Henry – Give me liberty or give me death,” n.d.). Hence, logos was the principal instrument, which he employed to convince others of the inadequacy of actions of Great Britain by invoking their reaction to American initiatives.
The second method contributing to the good reception of Henry’s speech was pathos, and it was more frequent than the previous technique. As can be seen from the text, the author incorporated it in the very first sentence by referring to the patriotic feelings of his fellow citizens (“Patrick Henry – Give me liberty or give me death,” n.d.). He further included this appeal in the inquiry about any other possible motives that his listeners could ascribe to the actions of the British government rather than deprive them of liberty (“Patrick Henry – Give me liberty or give me death,” n.d.). In this way, Henry emphasized the need to understand their general attitude contrasted to the patriotism of Americans and thereby evoked their emotional response.
The third rhetoric appeal inherent in the speech was ethos, which implied conveying respect to the author’s personality and, therefore, his specific thoughts on the matter. In this way, the upcoming war and its significance for the prosperity of the country were demonstrated through the lens of his personal credibility. For instance, when telling about the actions of American citizens in negotiating with Great Britain, he highlighted his involvement in the decision-making process alongside other leaders (“Patrick Henry – Give me liberty or give me death,” n.d.). Hence, the consideration of his contribution to the political affairs of the country persuaded the listeners in his awareness of the actual problems.
To summarize, Patrick Henry successfully used logos, pathos, and ethos in his speech intended to demonstrate the necessity of war actions against Great Britain. First, he referred to credible sources of information reflecting on the measures taken by the British government in relation to their country. Second, Henry appealed to the patriotic feelings of his fellow citizens to attract their attention to the global problem. Third, the orator presented himself as a person directly involved in negotiations and, therefore, aware of the current situation. Thus, the effectiveness of his attempts to transmit his thoughts on the matter was conditional upon the use of the mentioned rhetoric appeals.
Patrick Henry – Give me liberty or give me death. (n.d.). The Avalon Project. Web.