Men have always cherished the means to govern themselves. Since the beginning of history, we have continually fought and persevered over oppressive tyrants to achieve our freedom. Through his use of parallel structure, pathos, and imagery, Patrick Henry attempted to convince the Virginia Convention to fight England for their rights.
In his speech, Patrick Henry created an image of enslavement and danger to tap into the uncertainties of the colonists. At the time of his address, Americans held disdain for the new British policies of taxes and government. Deriving what they believed a right for home rule, the Americans asked the crown for further freedom. He reminded the colonists that “we have petitioned, we have remonstrated, we have supplicated, we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of ministry and parliament.” Each sentence of the passage used by Henry started with “we have” and stated the various actions the colonists had taken to secure their rights from England. The parallel structure in those lines emphasized how the measures taken by Americans became more and more desperate as they transitioned from petitioning to prostrating.
Henry’s argument reached its climax when he measured the final action equating to pleading on the floor to King George himself. In addition, he implemented images of the British slavery of the colonists to persuade them to battle England. He had the colonists “ask themselves how [the] gracious reception of [their] petition comported with [the] warlike preparations which covered [their] waters and darkened [their] land.” Henry used this argument to paint a contrasting picture of a peaceful and humble petition rejected by the punishment of armies to contain America. This punishment was represented in warfare that would “cover” and “darken” the colonies. Using this metaphor, the orator illustrated Britain’s navy sweeping across and suffocating the colonists under their rule. Incontrovertibly, Patrick Henry employed a description of the terror that awaited America to arouse the colonist’s emotions and set up for a drastic call to action. Having depicted every option of peace unattainable, Henry moved to exemplify open warfare as the only means of liberty by instilling fear.
He questioned the convention if “Great Britain [had] any enemy, in this quarter of the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies?” and responded that “they [were] meant for [them]; they [could] be meant for no other. They [were] sent to bind and rivet upon [them] the chains the British ministry [had] so long been forging.” By subsequently answering his question, Patrick Henry emphasized the military action the crown was taking. Highlighting the swelling of invading forces, he compared Britain’s armies to “chains” that would “bind and rivet” the colonists into enslavement. The speaker created the image of the British stripping them of freedom and subjugating them under their might. His fellow delegates feared England’s power and Henry played out their emotions to infuse a sense of urgency. Next, Patrick Henry proposed to the Virginia Convention the need to fight as a response for British transgressions. He claimed that war was the last and only course of action as “it [was] too late now to retire from the contest.
There [was] no retreat but in submission and slavery! [Their] chains [were] forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston.” Henry once again continued the purpose of the British to divest the Americans of their rights. However, as the speech went on, those “chains” the British had prepared for the Americans came closer. From merely heading to America in the form of armed forces, the “plains of Boston” represented the close intimacy of English enslavement. By the end of the speech, the Convention members would have been able to hear and see them enslaved.
Without doubt, by relaying to his peers the proximity of the British threat and depicting enslavement or war as the only viable option, Patrick Henry sought to inspire his fellow delegates to war with Britain. Americans of the colonial era held freedom above all other joys in life. In his speech to his fellow delegates, the speaker took advantage of the prospect of freedom to provoke them into open warfare. By relaying to the Virginia Convention an image of enslavement and to recover their freedom through the use of arms, Patrick Henry influenced the colonists into the war against England.