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Voices of the Revolution Concepts: Document Analysis. Patrick Henry’s Speech Essay

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Updated: Jan 1st, 2022

The Main Motivations of Patrick Henry

Sovereignty and the need for America to be independent and decide the course of her destiny are easily the main motivating factors towards the authorship of this document. One can see these from the scathing attacks Henry makes on the foreign-manned and foreign-run government of his day. He makes “liberty” a refrain in the speech, and such repetition draws the listener or reader of such a work that employs this style to the repeated phrase. Liberty implies self-rule, the ability to make one’s own decisions by oneself and standing tall like other people. On the opposite end is servitude, being a subject of a master other than oneself, and answering to the voice of that master, however irrational it may be. It is grave when the master is ruling one against one’s wish and in one’s house. It is this rule of a stranger in America that Henry is resisting.

The treachery of Britain forms the bulwark of factors that drive Henry to author this speech. In a few instances, he keeps referring to the dishonorable character of the English given their not keeping promises. The allusion to Judas kissing Jesus when selling him out to the Roman authority is the best illustration of this thought. According to Henry, the British lay this trap on the Americans through which they would establish a regime that is oppressive to the natives of America (Henry 1775). Henry sees this shrewd behavior when the British arm themselves in preparedness for war when peace talks are on.

The Targeted Audience

The audience targeted by this speech as members of the House, including the President. These people have organized themselves into a body that makes decisions and formulates policies that will run the whole body smoothly. The aspect of members of this governing body presents itself in two forms: the direct cognition of “the House” as seen in the first statement of Henry (Para 1), and secondly through references to the people who comprise the House, in this case, “the gentlemen”. This happens especially when Henry appeals to them in a hopeful venture to sway their decisions to his line of thought. The President too is a member of the audience. One cannot fail to notice his prime importance as the chief of the House and the most important fellow around, because he has the title “sir”.

From a literary perspective, the people who share the same ideals with Patrick Henry, but who may not necessarily be members of the House are also part of the audience. These, the patriots, feel that Henry’s words are reprints of what they want to say or hear, and they contrast sharply with members of the assembly who may not be in favor of Henry’s words but who are imperatively in the collective decision of the House.

The Main Argument in the Speech

Should America go to war against Britain, or should dialogue prevail? Britain has colonized America-or parts of it- and she even has an agency, the British ministry there. This connotes a mutual relationship between the people of Britain and the Americans. Nevertheless, here comes a scenario where one partner does not want to fulfill part of her promise and is endangering the equation with imbalance, all for her gain (Para 3). The British preach peace, but they drink war, as evidenced by their acquisition of heavy artillery and preparedness for war, in the backdrop of peaceful coexistence and calls for reconciliation. The question is what course of action one should take against these wayward people.

The sovereignty of the land can never be isolated from matters of war and peace, for every conflict has a desire for autonomy fueling it. According to Henry, major decisions need a formulation to chart the way forward for the country. These are the decisions that will determine the road the country will take, and he enumerates them as either “freedom or slavery” (Para 1). According to him, people are either free or under bondage, the former when they determine their destiny and the latter if foreign bodies map that destiny, in this case, the British. This, therefore, calls for radical surgery to oust the foreigners from the reins of power and install a homemade product.

Persuasiveness of the Author

Is he able to convince his audience of his ideology, and gain their favor on this issue? The presentation of Henry takes the bull by its horns. This implies that he does not beat around the bush with unnecessary verbiage that tends to over-represent the matters at hand. He presents his argument about the occupation of America and goes on to develop it until he gets at what he wants, that is the exeunt of the British.

He presents his arguments with indisputable facts, showing that he is a well-researched paper. When he speaks of the British ministry and its accomplishments for the last decade or so, he does this because he knows and has ascertained that, there is actually no development so far, at least none in the positive territory from this ministry. The navies and regiments he speaks of are not fictitious; they are real indicators of turbulent times ahead, and he knows, from experience, what these indicators stand for (Para 3).

The persuasiveness of the writer comes most powerfully on his concluding remarks in black and white, giving powerful reasons for what he feels should be the decision of the House, and the consequences of taking the other path. Given that it is sovereignty on the line, servitude on one hand against freedom on the other becomes a sharp focal point from which major decisions arise. He crowns it all by giving his stand that he would rather die than be a slave (Para 5). This is very persuasive.

Reference

Henry, P. (1775). Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death. Web.

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IvyPanda. 2022. "Voices of the Revolution Concepts: Document Analysis. Patrick Henry’s Speech." January 1, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/voices-of-the-revolution-concepts-document-analysis-patrick-henrys-speech/.

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