Comparing Paine's Common Sense and Henry's Speech

Categories: Thomas Paine

There are many similarities and differences in Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” and Richard Henry’s Speech to the Second Virginia Convention. Both of these famous speeches were made by colonists to persuade the people of the colonies to dissolve all connections with Great Britain and fight for their own freedom. Patrick Henry made his speech before the Declaration of Independence to persuade the colonists to start making a plan to get away from Great Britain and to make the colonists “riled up”.

Thomas Pine wrote “Common Sense” to boost the colonists’ morale because they faced many hardships while fighting for independence from Great Britain and felt like giving up on the cause.

Both of these famous speeches have many things in common. They both contain strong, confident, and persuading diction and tones. These two literary works are among the most famous Colonial America works. In Richard Henry’s speech, “Give me liberty, or give me death!” is one of the most famous quotes in all of American history.

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“Common Sense” is most well known for, “But there is something absurd, in supposing a continent to be perpetually governed by an island.”

Both of these speeches are persuade the colonists to completely break away from Great Britain. Both of these speeches were to boost morale and patriotism. Some say that these two speeches are, perhaps, the most important literary works in American history in terms of what they started. These two speeches are most of the reason that we are now the United States of American and not still Great Britain’s colonies.

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Patrick Henry’s Speech to the Second Virginia Convention had many rhetorical devices such as rhetorical questions, allusions, and metaphors. Patrick Henry used rhetorical questions very precisely to make the listeners think for themselves so the message would sink in further. They made the members of the Second Virginia Convention think about what position they were in.

They started to think that our only choices were freedom or slavery. Henry used many allusions to the Bible in this speech so people could relate this speech to things that were very common such as the Bible. “Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss,” was one of these allusions that was alluding to when Judas kissed Jesus to show the Roman authorities that he was the one to be captured. He alluded to the Bible because that’s ninety percent of what people knew during this time period. The Bible was used to teach in schools and in churches.

He used many eloquent metaphors in this speech to compare what we were doing with things that were well known as bad. “We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren, till she transforms us into beasts,” is one of the famous metaphors in this speech. It was saying that we could just ignore the truth and act like it’ll go away even though it won’t or fight for the right cause. Patrick Henry used many great rhetorical devices in this very famous speech that made it more appealing to his crowd.

Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” had many rhetorical devices such as anecdotes, repetition, and juxtaposition. Paine used many anecdotes in this literary work to make quotes that would stick with people so when they were in the heat of battle, they would remember them. “Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered,” is a very famous anecdote. It shows that hell is almost impossible to conquer and tyranny isn’t any easier to conquer. The tyranny of Great Britain consumed us so much that we lost all of our unalienable rights and we weren’t even considered humans anymore.

Thomas Paine used repetition to place emphasis on certain things. He used the word “we” many times to place emphasis on the only way that we could overcome this tyranny that was Great Britain, we would need to stick together. He also used juxtaposition to put two things together with a contrasting effect. “Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness,” was making the people believe that the British government was wicked, which it was. Thomas Paine, in this literary work, used many rhetorical strategies to boost the colonists’ morale.

There are many similarities and differences in Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” and Richard Henry’s Speech to the Second Virginia Convention. Even though these two literary pieces have differences, they were both made to persuade the colonists to dissolve all ties to Great Britain. These two speeches are among the most important literary works in all of American history.

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Comparing Paine's Common Sense and Henry's Speech. (2021, Nov 08). Retrieved from

Comparing Paine's Common Sense and Henry's Speech
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