Persuasion Used in Speech in the Virginia Convention

May 2, 2018
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In Patrick Henry’s “Speech in the Virginia Convention”, the persuasive techniques of rhetorical questioning and repetition are shown through the thought provoking questions in his speech and the repeated ideas and phrases that get stuck in the listeners’ heads. Throughout Henry’s speech, the topic of opening the listeners’ eyes and realizing how Britain is not a friend is expressed with many rhetorical questions on the matter. In paragraph three, Henry asks, “Are fleets and armies necessary to a work of love and reconciliation?” (204). This question associates with the large amount of naval ships Britain recently sent over during the time of his speech, and makes listeners lose the false hope they could have had about it being a good thing. This rhetorical question uses logos, and asks a clear question for the listeners to answer in their heads with logic. With this question, people of the colonies are forced to open their eyes and get rid of any hopeful thoughts about Britain’s military coming over and clearly see that war is on its way.


Later in his speech, Henry uses rhetorical questioning to mess with the emotions of the men on the council by calling out their weakness if nothing is done about Britain. In paragraph four, he does this by asking the questions, “Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs..?” (Henry 205). In these questions, he uses the technique of pathos to make the people of the council question their strength. Since most of the men on the council were definitely defendant of their own strength because being perceived as weak was one of the worst characteristics a man could have, it makes sense Henry would use these questions here. By agreeing with Henry’s questions, the men would be proving their strength. To conclude, Patrick Henry asks rhetorical questions in his speech because they convince the listeners to go with his point by making people open their eyes with logical question and playing with the emotions of listeners. 


Another technique Patrick Henry uses in his speech is repetition, which drills ideas in the listener’s head. In paragraph three, Henry states, “They are sent over to bind and rivet upon us those chains which the British ministry have been so long forging,” (204) which is saying that the British have been planning to enslave the colonies’ people and they are finally going to do it. Also, in paragraph four he states,”There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged!” (Henry 205). Both these statements repeat the same message of slavery. It is a warning that the British will enslave the colonies unless something is done, and that something is war. This idea is repeated throughout the speech, and because of the repetition it is extremely memorable. Another example of repetition is in the final paragraph five, “Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace-- but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field!” (Henry 206). These dramatic statements are some of the final sentences of Henry’s speech and all portray the notion that they must fight because the war has already begun. The repetition of this idea makes sure no one forgets it or does not hear it. This is the main point of the speech so having it repeated enforces it. To end, Henry’s repetition gives the speech a more dramatic feeling and reinforces important ideas that convinces people of his cause.






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