Speech To The Virginia Convention Logos Analysis

On March 23, 1776, Patrick Henry delivered a persuasive, either-or speech that harnesses counterfactual logos to persuade the delegates to fight against British control. He states that there are two options, “freedom or slavery”, in which the delegates must pick from. This weak logic creates a fallacy; a sense of either-or and no other options in between. The actual argument has multiple sides and multiple options, but he narrows it down to only two. Henry begins to create logic in a personal manner by saying that “[he has] no way of judging the future” except for by looking at past events. By doing this, he addresses the idea that the past repeats itself and this undeniable repetition is the only way to predict future events.

That logic is faulty. Future events can be predicted by statistics and mathematical trends, not only by the past, or events could be entirely random. He speaks of history as if it were a sphere that constantly rolls in the same circle at the same pace, and that it’s undeniably going to repeat the same events in the same way. Because of what has been seen in history, he is convinced that there’s no way to “justify those hopes” of freedom for the American people. Even if his logic of the past predicting the future’s outcome was undeniable, there were multiple happenings in the past that turned out skewed and different based off each existing factor and situation.

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The British could have been trying to protect the Americas from other attack or enforce British laws. Henry is constant on the idea that the British would only bring “war and subjugation” with no other outcome. Henry uses hypophora and rhetorical questioning to further emphasize his logos by causing the delegates question what they think and what they plan to do. Henry asks if Great Britain has enemies to “call for all this accumulation of natives and armies” and answers himself. He is certain that they are “meant for [them]” and “for no other”.

It is impossible for Henry to be certain that Britain had not made any new enemies. Britain could have kept their plans for war with somewhere besides America confidential. Henry begins to speak of what is to come with graphic images of “the storm”, the, according to his logic, inevitable war. He doesn’t address any other option or outcome. He tries to convince the delegates that they have come to “bind and rivet [upon them] those chains” which Britain has been supposedly saving for Americans and Americans only. Henry uses rhetorical questioning again as he asks the delegates if they shall succeed with “irresolution and inaction” and require “effectual resistance” by “hugging [a] delusive phantom of hope”.

The answer that Henry assumes the delegates, most likely, would say ‘no we will not succeed with no action taken’, but his logic could take another turn in their minds. There are multiple sides they could have chosen and he has no way to enforce that their answer would be as black and white as his logic. They could assume that inaction would result in the ordeal blowing over, or that clinging to hope and faith will bring better times upon them. Nearing the end of his persuasive speech, Henry refers to life as “dear” and peace as “sweet”, then proceeds to ask the delegates if it’s worth it to be “purchased as the price of chains and slavery”. There’s no absolute happening that would guarantee their peace and life being consumed by slavery.

That’s a heavy accusation on his part. Everything could potentially result in peace and prosperity without action being taken by the British or the Americans. Henry’s accusations alone could be the trigger that could alert the British of colonists planning to revolt. Henry’s allegation of the British could lead to higher suspicion and an uncalled for war. Henry’s speech could just as well be the savior of them as it could be the destructive force. If Henry didn’t provide ethos and pathos into the mix of his speech, his logic would have never gotten him far.