Patrick Henry’s “Speech in the Virginia Convention"
In Patrick Henry’s address, “Speech in the Virginia Convention,” Henry uses repetition and rhetorical questions as techniques to persuade the colonists to rebel against Great Britain. Throughout Henry’s speech, there are several uses of repetition to appeal to the people’s emotions. For example, after Henry calls to attention the numerous, disregarded petitions and pleads that the colonists have made to the English king, he exclaims, “We must fight! I repeat I, sir, we must fight!” (205).
Henry repeats that the colonists must fight to generate passion and pride in the courtroom. Generally, when a statement is repeated multiple times, it places emphasis on its meaning. Henry uses repetition of “we must fight” to add significance and importance to it. Continuing, Henry declares that the time has come for the colonist to fight back: “and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come!” (206). Henry argues that the people have been under England’s oppression for too long, and the time has come for war. He repeats “let it come” to show that he is welcoming the battle between the colonies and England.
Also by repeating the statement, he taps into the colonists’ national pride and augments their need to become independent from England. In conjunction with repetition, Patrick Henry offers many rhetorical questions in which he challenges his listeners to think logically. Henry mentions that English think of the colonists as weak and submissive. Even though most of the colonists do not believe this to be true, Henry questions, “But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year?” (205). Many of the colonists do not consider England’s power over the colonies as an urgent matter. Henry uses these rhetorical questions to denounce this ideology.
By posing a question that does not require a response, listeners can ponder on the answer for themselves. Henry uses the questions to bring about rational thinking and get the audience to realize the urgency of the situation. Furthermore, Henry also calls to attention the fact that Great Britain has been sending navy ships filled with weapons and machinery to American ports. He questions, “Has Great Britain any enemy in this quarter of the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies?” (Henry 204). The colonists have not realized that England has no need for navy ships in the Americas due to the fact that its enemies are in other parts of the words. When Henry poses this question, it causes the people to think logically and infer that the weapons are for them.
Not only does the question strengthen Henry’s argument, but it also persuades the people to rise up and defend themselves against Great Britain.