What is the Author’s Purpose in Patrick Henry’s Speech
Revolution was in the air in early 1775. But a few months before, delegates from the American colonies had held the first Continental Congress and sent Britain’s Rex George Iii a petition for redress of grievances, among them the repeal of the so-called “Intolerable Acts.” A mass boycott of British goods was underway, and Boston Harbor however languished nether a British blockade equally punishment for 1773’s Boston Tea Party. In a speech to Parliament in tardily-1774, King George had denounced the “daring spirit of resistance and defiance to the law” which seemed to be spreading like wildfire across the American continent.
Amid these mounting tensions, the 2nd Virginia Convention convened to talk over the Old Rule’s strategy in negotiating with the Crown. The roughly 120 delegates who filed into Richmond’s St. John’s Church were a veritable “who’s who” of Virginia’due south colonial leaders. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were both in attendance, as were five of the six other Virginians who would subsequently sign the Declaration of Independence. Prominent among the bewigged statesmen was Patrick Henry, a well-respected lawyer from Hanover County. Blessed with an unfailing wit and mellifluous speaking voice, Henry had long held a reputation every bit one of Virginia’s nearly vociferous opponents of British revenue enhancement schemes. During the Stamp Human action controversy in 1765, he had even flirted with treason in a speech in which he hinted that Male monarch George risked suffering the same fate as Julius Caesar if he maintained his oppressive policies. As a recent consul to the Continental Congress, he had sounded the call for colonial solidarity by proclaiming, “The distinctions between Virginians, Pennsylvanians, New Yorkers and New Englanders are no more. I am not a Virginian; I am an American.”
Henry giving his “Freedom or Expiry” speech.[/caption]
Henry was convinced that war was around the corner, and he arrived at the Virginia Convention determined to persuade his fellow delegates to adopt a defensive stance against Great Britain. On March 23, he put forward a resolution proposing that Virginia’s counties heighten militiamen “to secure our inestimable rights and liberties, from those further violations with which they are threatened.” The suggestion of forming a militia was non shocking in itself. Other colonies had passed like resolutions, and Henry had already taken it upon himself to raise a volunteer outfit in Hanover Canton. Nevertheless, many in the audience balked at approving any measure that might be viewed equally combative. Give-and-take that King George had rejected the Continental Congress’s petition for redress of grievances was yet to reach the colonies, and some still held out hope for a peaceful reconciliation with Britain.
Later several delegates had spoken on the upshot, Patrick Henry rose from his seat in the third pew and took the floor. A Baptist minister who was watching the proceedings would later describe him every bit having “an unearthly fire called-for in his eye.” Just what happened next has long been a subject area of debate. Henry spoke without notes, and no transcripts of his exact words have survived to today. The but known version of his remarks was reconstructed in the early 1800s by William Wirt, a biographer who corresponded with several men that attended the Convention. According to this version, Henry began by stating his intention to “speak forth my sentiments freely” before launching into an eloquent alarm against appeasing the Crown.
“I accept but 1 lamp by which my feet are guided,” he said, “and that is the lamp of feel. I know of no mode of judging of the future but by the past. And judging by the past, I wish to know what there has been in the comport of the British ministry for the last ten years, to justify those hopes with which gentlemen take been pleased to solace themselves, and the House?”
Henry so turned his attending to the British troops mobilizing beyond the colonies. “Are fleets and armies necessary to a piece of work of beloved and reconciliation?” he asked. “Have nosotros shown ourselves then unwilling to be reconciled, that force must exist called in to win back our dear? …Has Uk any enemy, in this quarter of the world, to phone call for all this aggregating of navies and armies? No, sir, she has none. They are meant for us; they can be meant for no other.”
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Equally he continued speaking, Henry’s dulcet tones began to darken with anger. “Excitement began to play more and more upon his features,” the government minister later said. “The tendons of his neck stood out white and rigid similar whipcords.”
“Our petitions have been slighted,” Henry said, “our remonstrances accept produced boosted violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne…we must fight! I echo it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of Hosts is all that is left us!”
Henry stood silent for a moment, letting his defiant words hang in the air. When he finally began speaking again, it was in a thunderous bellow that seemed to milk shake “the walls of the edifice and all within them.” His fellow delegates leaned forrard in their seats every bit he reached his crescendo.
“The war is actually begun!” Henry cried. “The next gale that sweeps from the n will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand nosotros here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life and then honey, or peace and then sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?” As he spoke, Henry held his wrists together as though they were manacled and raised them toward the heavens. “Forbid information technology, Almighty God! I know non what course others may take; merely as for me, give me liberty”—Henry outburst from his imaginary chains and grasped an ivory letter of the alphabet opener—“or requite me expiry!” Every bit he uttered these last words, he plunged the alphabetic character opener toward his chest, mimicking a knife accident to the heart.
For several moments after Henry sat dorsum down, the assembled delegates seemed at a loss for words. “No other member…was yet adventurous plenty to interfere with that voice which had and then recently subdued and captivated,” delegate Edmund Randolph later said. A hushed silence descended on the room. “Every eye all the same gazed entranced on Henry,” said the Baptist minister. “Men were beside themselves.” Colonel Edward Carrington, one of the many people watching the proceedings through the church windows, was and then moved that he stood and proclaimed to his young man spectators, “Let me be buried at this spot!” When he died decades later, his widow honored his asking.
While some of the Convention’s delegates clung to their loyalist stance—one fifty-fifty called Henry’s words “infamously insolent”—the “Liberty or Death” speech tipped the scales in favor of defensive activeness. Subsequently Richard Henry Lee and Thomas Jefferson both lent their support, the resolution passed by merely a few votes. Henry was appointed the head of a new committee charged with readying the Virginia militia for gainsay.
Henry’s telephone call to arms came at a pivotal moment. Less than a calendar month later on, skirmishes betwixt British troops and colonial minutemen at Lexington and Concord resulted in “the shot heard round the world” and the first casualties of the Revolutionary State of war. In Virginia, scores of colonials—many of whom had embroidered the words “Liberty or Death” onto their shirts—flocked to bring together local militias. “The sword is now drawn,” wrote the Virginia Gazette, “and God knows when it will be sheathed.”
Patrick Henry would go along to serve every bit both a delegate to the Second Continental Congress and as Virginia’south governor. He played a crucial role in securing men and artillery for George Washington’s Continental Army, merely many would credit his silver tongue every bit having been his almost indispensable contribution to American independence. “It is not now piece of cake to say what we should accept washed without Patrick Henry,” Thomas Jefferson afterward wrote. “He was before united states of america all in maintaining the spirit of the Revolution.”
What is the Author’s Purpose in Patrick Henry’s Speech