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A Comparison of the persuasive techniques Essay

Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry were avid patriots who mastered the used of persuasion. “The Declaration of Independence” and Patrick Henry’s “Speech in the Virginia Convention” were both very effective in motivating their intended audiences. “The Declaration” and the “Speech to the Convention” possess some similarities and some differences, but their main premise is the same: to support independence from Great Britain.

One difference between the two works is their format. Patrick Henry is considered to be the most compelling orator of the American Revolution. His “Speech to the Convention” was exactly that, a speech that was meant to be read aloud. His oration helped to motivate many colonists to seek their independence from Great Britain (Carroll 184). Thomas Jefferson was known as the “silent member” of the congress. He lacked great verbal skills, but because of His ability to write, he was selected to draft “The Declaration” (http://www.whitehouse.gov/history/presidents/tj3.html). ” The Declaration” was a document that was not necessarily meant to be read aloud. It was an article that was meant to be read silently or to a small group.

There are both similarities and differences in the message “The Declaration” and the “Speech in the Convention” is trying to convey. The purpose of “The Declaration” is to proclaim the independence of the colonies to Great Britain. The document states that the colonies are not going to suffer under tyrannical rule any longer. You can see evidence of this in the following passage, “…that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new government…” (156). The purpose Patrick Henry’s “Speech to the Convention” was to rally support for the fight for independence. Henry believed that fighting was the only solution left. You can see evidence of this in the following passage:

We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated…Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded…If we wish to be free…we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight (188-189)!

Henry’s “Speech in the Convention” and Jefferson’s “Declaration” were intended for different audiences. “The Declaration” was written to be approved by congress, and then sent to King George III of Great Britain. Indirectly, the colonists were also an audience for “The Declaration.” The document was a formal statement of independence, and everyone in the world was watching to see what would happen. The audience for Henry’s “Speech in the Convention” was the Virginia Provincial Convention. This consisted of delegates and wealthy landowners who had a stake in the outcome of the meetings. Although most of the speakers at the convention that day argued that the colonies should seek a compromise with Great Britain, Henry was not afraid to state his conflicting opinion. There is evidence of this in the following passage,

No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well as the abilities, of the very worthy gentleman who have just addressed the House. …I hope it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen if, entertaining as I do opinions of a different character very opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely and without reserve (187).

If the colonies would have lost the Revolutionary War Henry could have been hanged for treason.

Jefferson and Henry both used similar diction in their works. “The Declaration” was written eloquently and “The Speech in the Convention” was delivered with conviction and flamboyance. Both Jefferson and Henry used extensive vocabulary that added to the fluency of the “Declaration” and the “Speech to the Convention.” This made the works sound impressive and illustrated the education of Jefferson and Henry. The tone of the document and speech were also similar. There was a tone of importance, certainty, and steadfastness in both the document and the speech.

Parallelism was a vital persuasive technique the was used in “The Declaration” and in the “Speech in the Convention.” It is useful in emphasizing and linking related ideas (Carroll R12) It was used frequently by Jefferson in “The Declaration.” The use of parallelism can be observed in the following passage,

· He has refused his assent to laws…

· He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance…

· He has refused to pass other laws for the accommodation of large districts of people… (157)

While the use of parallelism is not as prevalent in Henry’s “Speech in the Convention”, it is still used. It can be observed in the following segment, “We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated…” (188).

The use of metaphors can also be seen in both works. A metaphor is a figure of speech in which one thing is spoken of as though it were something else (Carroll R10). An example of a metaphor in “The Declaration” can be seen in the following passage, “They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity” (159). The use of metaphor in “The Speech in the Convention” can be observed in the following excerpt, “Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot” (189).

Patrick Henry uses the persuasive technique of rhetorical question throughout his speech. A rhetorical question is one that requires no answer because the answer is evident and does not need to be stated. The speaker of the rhetorical question is not looking for an answer, but is making some kind of a point (www.dictionary.com). A few examples of this technique can be seen in the following passages, “Is it that insidious smile with which our petition has been lately received?” (188), “Are fleets and armies necessary to a work of love and reconciliation?” (188), and “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery” (190)? There is no use of rhetorical question in “The Declaration.”

Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry both made immense contributions to the patriot’s cause during the Revolution. Henry’s talent for elocution and Jefferson’s gift for writing helped to rally support for independence. Undoubtedly “The Declaration of Independence” and the “Speech in the Virginia Convention” are two of the most historically influential pieces ever composed.


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