Liberty or Death

Topics: Rhetoric, Virginia, Martin Luther King, Jr. Pages: 5 (1755 words) Published: March 13, 2013
Liberty or Death
“Liberty or death!” This phrase was used by both Patrick Henry and Malcolm X in their speeches. Even though these men gave their speeches almost two centuries apart their goal was the same. They both wanted to convince their audience to fight for freedom. Through the use of rhetorical strategies, Patrick Henry was successful in convincing the colonies to fight for their freedom from Britain and Malcolm X was successful in convincing African Americans to fight for their rights.

To begin with, Patrick Henry was one of the first opponents of British rule in the colonies. He was famous for giving speeches on American Democracy. Patrick Henry’s wit, eloquence, and rhetorical gifts made him a great orator. He eventually became an influential leader during and after the American Revolution (Henry). Patrick Henry’s “Speech to the Virginia Convention” was given before the American Revolution. By the time that Henry gave his speech, many colonists already wanted to break away from Britain. However, other colonists were not too sure about rising up against British rule.

At the beginning of the “Speech to the Virginia Convention,” Patrick Henry uses the either or fallacy when he tells the audience, “I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery. He uses this fallacy to convince the audience that they only have two options, freedom or slavery, when there are really more options. It also makes the situation seem very serious (Henry 226). As the speech continues Patrick Henry says, “Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss.” This is a biblical allusion to Judas’ kiss. Henry uses this allusion to say that Britain may act like it is concerned about the well-being of the colonies, but Britain will betray them eventually (Henry 228). Further into the speech he says, “We have done everything we could to avert the storm.” He is using a metaphor to compare the revolution with a storm. Henry is saying that the revolution has become unavoidable and no matter how much they try to avoid having a revolution it will happen (Henry 229). Also, throughout the entire speech Patrick Henry uses rhetorical questions. To prove his point Henry asks, “Have we shown ourselves so unwilling to be reconciled that force must be called in to win back our love?” As he asks these questions to the audience Patrick Henry answers them himself to make his point clear. At the end of his speech, Patrick Henry uses the either or fallacy again. His last words to the audience are, “Give me liberty or give me death!” He uses this fallacy to make the situation seem very important by only giving the options of being free or being dead. He saves this line for the end of his speech because he wants the audience to remember those words (Henry 230). This great speech by Patrick Henry was very successful in convincing the colonists to fight for their freedom.

Another great orator was Malcolm X, an important black leader. He was a very influential figure during the Civil Rights Movement in America. Malcolm X supported African American self-defense (Colelge). Unlike Martin Luther King Jr., another prominent figure at the time, Malcolm X preached that if violence was necessary than it was justified (Brief). Malcolm X gave “The Ballot or the Bullet” speech on April 12, 1964. The speech was given during the time of the Civil Rights Movement. This was a time of great turmoil and unrest for both blacks and whites in America (Miller). This turmoil that was caused by the inequality that African Americans suffered gave Malcolm X many reasons to give his powerful speech.

At the beginning of “The Ballot or the Bullet” speech, Malcolm X uses the either or fallacy. He says, “In my humble way of understanding it, it points toward either the ballot or the bullet.” He uses the fallacy to convince the audience that there are only options are voting or violence. He wants the audience to feel that if they do not vote for good representation, there...

Cited: “A Brief Summary.” History in an hour . 21 Feb. 2011. Web. 11 Oct. 2012.
Malcolm X. “The Ballot or the Bullet.” Edchange. Web. 2 Oct. 2012.
Miller, Keith
1. Speech was given on April 12, 1964
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