“Give me Liberty or Give me Death” by Patrick Henry is an example of how a powerful persuasive speech can be delivered through a manipulative use of language and word choices. In the speech, Henry is attempting to convince the colonists to come together to go to war against Britain. As mentioned in the speech, the colonists are having numerous issues with the British and its ruling to the point where suggestion to fight and break apart from Britain has surfaced.
To make the colonists see his point of view and support his idea, Henry tries to fire up his audience’s emotion by repeatedly stressing that there is no other alternative but to fight for freedom. Patrick Henry skillfully uses biblical passages familiar to the colonists to motivate their spirits. He always mentions God and his power that will lead them through the fight, as they fight for the righteous cause. Numerous rhetorical devices have been used in his speech to emphasize on the issues that matter more to the colonists in order to get the colonists willingly, to pick up their arms to enter the war with Britain.
Patrick Henry brings forth an idea of freedom or slavery, “I consider it nothing less than question of freedom or slavery. ” He wants the colonists to realize, with their current state, the future for them is to have freedom or to become slaves for the British. Some colonists are opposed towards the idea to fight against the British. In order to persuade everyone to be on board with the idea, Henry repeatedly stresses that fighting is the only way to live. All the hopes to avoid the war but not to live in slavery are just futile as he says: “Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope…
If we wish to be free… we must fight. ” Henry states, “…war-like preparations which cover our waters and darken our land,” which says that the British are suffocating the colonists and imprisoning them. Furthermore, he makes the audience realize the reality of the situation by listing all their past efforts to try to make peace with Britain, that do not involve fighting, and how all of them have come to no avail. He points out that the British has prepared to force them into submission by asking “Are fleets and armies necessary to a work of love and reconciliation?
… They are meant for us… They are sent over to bind and rivet upon us those chains… There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! ” Throughout the speech, Henry talks about the significance of God and how he has an impact on the situation that the colonists are in. In the beginning of his speech, Henry implies how he still has respect for the British government, king, etc. but there are problems with their ruling. He talks about God and that God is on their side, as he labels the fight is to “…fulfill the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country.
” Referring to his previous statement, Henry states that he puts God above the English King, “I should put myself as guilty of treason towards my country and an act of disloyalty toward the majesty of heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings. ” Also with these words, he tries to gain the audience’s approval and at the same time to give them courage that the fight will be the right thing to do and God’s power will be on their benefit. Back in the 1700s, the people were morereligious and familiar with words of God.
It is a powerful persuasion for Henry to mention bible verses and to convince the audience where God stands as the colonists are considered the underdogs, “They tell us, sir, that we are weak… Sir, we are not weak… are invincible by any force… There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations; and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. ” Henry’s speech is filled with the use of rhetorical devices to put power, emotion, and persuasion into his words. In the beginning of his speech, he uses a rhetorical shift, “…
very worthy gentlemen who have just addressed the house, but different men often see the same subject in different lights,” the shift expresses the idea, men see things differently, there is not just one way to see it. For example, British ruling is seen differently to the British than it is seen to the colonists. Allusions are also used throughout the speech; the allusions refer to many biblical verses or situations that the colonists are familiar with, enabling them to realize more of the wrongdoing of the British and their laws.
Henry also chooses his words carefully to properly describe the British; “insidious smile” this enforces that the British may seem nice, but they are fooling everyone. At the climax of his speech, he uses parallel repetition and many rhetorical questions followed with the answers. The repetition is used in parallel sentences to put more emphasis on what he is stating, thus give strong emotional uproar to the audience. Henry’s use of rhetorical questions has a huge impact on his speech to convince the audience.
With the rhetorical questions, Henry challenges the audience’s ego and puts them on the spot where they cannot do otherwise but to fight the British, “Why stand here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? ” To respond towards those questions, he gives his famous line, “give me liberty or give me death. ” On March 23, 1775, Patrick Henry gave a speech, expressing his opinion towards the British and providing the reality for what the colonists’ next step should be.
According to him, the colonists can only choose freedom or slavery. If they wanted freedom, they must fight. Understanding the circumstances, the momentum, and the audience’s belief and emotion, Henry provides much needed facts and spirits to the colonist to justify the fight. Henry’s speech is very powerful, emotional, and convincing; it is an excellent example of how the right use of rhetorical devices and emotive language can motivate a person’s opinion to agree with the speaker’s idea.