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Speech to the Virginia Convention

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Daniel Sanchez Reyes and Noel Perez
Ms. Horvath
Speech to the Virginia Convention/1
11-29-11

In 1775, a young American scholar by the name of Patrick Henry delivered a very famous speech that most historians remember today. One of his most famous quotes “Give me liberty or give me death” persuaded the Virginia Convention to agree that the time for war is now. At the time, Great Britain was the most powerful country in the world and for Patrick Henry to convince the colonies to go to war he used rhetorical devices, allusions, and symbolism.

Patrick Henry uses a variety of allusions to convince his listeners at the convention that they have suffered for ten years. An allusion is a reference to someone or something that is known from history, religion, or literature. “Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss.” This allusion refers to Judas from the bible who betrayed Jesus with a kiss for 30 pieces of silver. In the Odyssey, the sea maiden’s seductive songs lured sailors to their deaths. Henry insists that the British are luring them in with all of these false hopes and promises.

“Has Great Britain any enemy, in this corner of the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies?” (81). Patrick Henry exhausts this rhetorical question to grab the attention of the Convention by implying that if Great Britain is not against us, why are troops going to be formed around them.

The second rhetorical question is “What terms shall we find which have not been already exhausted?” Meanings that what compromises and boundaries could they find to keep with Britain that they didn’t already have or argue over a third one, “But when shall we be stronger?” (82). Because he is asking them if we are not strong enough today, when will we be stronger? That was no logical excuse.

Henry’s speech to the Virginia Convention is one of the most persuading speeches of all time. He convinced a weak country to go to war against the strongest country of the world at that time. He used allusion, rhetorical devices, and symbolism.

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