Speech to the Virginia Convention

At the start of colonization, Virginia was one of the very first successful colonies that began to thrive after colonists successfully grew tobacco. After the successful colonization of Virginia, new settlements began to develop and, overtime, the disagreements between the colonies and the British helped unite the colonies, which made them more powerful. The Virginia Conventions were one of the meetings between representatives from each of the colonies that discussed the future relations with Britain. At one of the five Virginia Conventions, Patrick Henry seized the opportunity to share his ministry with his audience that became extremely famous and influential. In the “Speech to the Virginia Convention,” Patrick Henry expressed his desire to separate the colonies from the British Empire, persuaded the delegation to arm its people against England, and stirred the rebellious spirit of the Americans that led to the American Revolution.

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Historical Background

After the French and Indian War, or the Seven Years’ War, the British turned their attention back to the colonists and tried to take control again. However, there was tension between the American colonists and the British due to the enforcement of the Proclamation Act of 1763. The British parliament passed the Proclamation Act of 1763 that opened Quebec and Florida up for settlement, but set aside French lands between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River for Indians (“1763-65: The War Ends in Europe”). The Proclamation Act of 1763 was created by the British after the French and Indian War ended and did not allow the colonies to expand westward. The British were tired of sending more troops over to the colonies for defense and did not want the colonies to be any farther from the British empire across the sea than they already were. “Many Americans resented the Proclamation Act, however, because they thought the point of the war against the French and Indians was to make this land safe for British settlers. They felt as if their reward had been taken away” (“1763-65: The War Ends in Europe”).

This policy that the British imposed on the colonies greatly angered the Americans because they felt as if their reward of winning the Seven Years’ War was being taken away from them. They felt that it was unfair that the British allowed their enemies to occupy the land that the colonies wanted to expand in. The colonists’ resentment towards the British and the Proclamation Act of 1763 provided a push toward the American Revolution.

One of the key factors that gave the colonists more of a reason to start a revolution were continuous new tax laws that the British imposed on the colonies to pay off their war debt. In 1764, the British monarchy began passing a series of new taxes on the colonies to help pay Great Britain’s war debts (“1763-65: The War Ends in Europe”). Once the French and Indian War finished, Britain was left with a tremendous amount of war debt that they believed the colonists should take part in paying off. They believed that since they used their money and soldiers on defending the colonies, the colonies should pay back for all the services that the British provided them. With this mentality, the British began to impose a number of new taxes on the colonies, which annoyed the colonists because they had their own financial issues to deal with too. “Harsher laws and restrictions on trade were put in place by British authorities. But as a result of this crack-down, the colonies drew closer together in their opposition to Great Britain” (“”Henry, Patrick””). Due to all the new policies that the British enforced after the war, American resentment towards Great Britain unified the once separate colonies to work together to protest against the British.

At first, the First Continental Congress’s main purpose was not to separate from the British; it was to deal with the Intolerable Acts the Britain created to punish Boston for their crimes. However, the effort that the congress put into repealing the Intolerable Acts was ignored by the British Parliament, which angered the colonists. The Virginia Conventions were a series of five meetings that were held after the Boston Tea Party to decide the future relations between the colonies and England (“”Virginia Conventions””). As a result of the ignorance that the British gave in response to the colonists’ petitions, the colonies gathered at a series of meetings to discuss whether or not the colonies should separate from the British and become its own independent nation or continue following the strict laws of the British. The second convention met in Richmond, Virginia, Patrick Henry presented his “”Give me liberty or give me death”” speech, which inspired the colonists to follow the cause (“”Virginia Conventions””). Henry was sent to the convention as a delegate from Virginia and persuade his audience to secede from the British and prepare themselves for a war and His became one of the inspirations for the start of the American Revolution.

Author’s Biography

Henry did not originally plan to take a part in the political society until he discovered that had interest in speaking for the common people and began to practice law. Patrick Henry was the son of John Henry, a wealthy planter, and was born on May 29, 1736, in Hanover County, Virginia (“”Henry, Patrick””). Henry grew up in an household that was well off and because his father was a planter, so he had no intentions of having a career in politics. He inherited ……… “For a few years he attended the local schools, but he was mostly taught by his father, who had attended college in his Scottish homeland” (“”Henry, Patrick””). Henry was educated in local schools of Virginia, but his education was mostly influenced by his father. He tried to head towards the profession as a planter and a store owner, which both failed, until he began to study law and discovered that he was a talented orator.

After he gained a reputation as a lawyer, he began to become more involved with political affairs and developments in Virginia and the rest of the colonies. “Henry began his political career in 1765 when he won a seat in the House of Burgesses, the lower house of the Virginia legislature” (“”Henry, Patrick””). Henry is shown to be taking his first steps into the political world by winning a seat in the House of Burgesses which gave him more of an influential figure during the pre-revolutionary era. “Henry’s reputation spread beyond Virginia when he took part in protests against taxes the British imposed on the colonies” (“”Henry, Patrick””). This quote describes how he began to gain popularity in political society by taking part in protests that supported American independence. His involvements in the protests for independence, especially his protest against the Stamp Act, helped him gain the trust and loyalty of the colonists.

During Patrick Henry’s time in politics, he was able to establish groups that went against the British including the Committees of Correspondence. Additionally, he was as one of the seven delegates from Virginia who attended the Virginia Conventions and was given the opportunity to share his speech. In 1773, Henry helped establish committees of correspondence that aroused public opinion and organized acts of defiance against Great Britain (“”Henry, Patrick””). The Committees of Correspondence that Henry helped establish helped the colonies form a political union to become more powerful as a whole and encourage the opposition of the British policies over the colonies. “This meeting marked the highpoint of Henry’s fame. It was here that he uttered his legendary remarks in support of preparing for war” (“”Henry, Patrick””). Henry’s “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” speech made him well known in American history as one of the Founding Fathers of the United States.

Analysis Of Document

Patrick Henry’s main objective was to persuade his audience to take action against the British to gain their independence. He believed that his opinion should be heard and that their peaceful pleas and petitions should not be ignored so easily.

“Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne! In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation. There is no longer any room for hope” (Henry, 83).

Henry expresses his frustration that is caused by the ignorance that the colonies have received in response to their peaceful petitions. He believes that all hope for a peaceful protest against the British has been crushed by their ignorance. “Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the Majesty of Heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings” (Henry, 83). Henry is trying to convey that they have a right to speak out and complain to the king and what they are doing is just. He believes that there is no king that has more power than the Majesty of Heaven, which is God, who will be on their side when they fight against the British.

The second key point of this document urges the people to arm their men against the British for it was the only solution left for them turn British Parliament’s attention to the colonies.

“Shall we try argument? Sir, we have been trying that for the last ten years. Have we anything new to offer upon the subject? Nothing. We have held the subject up in every light of which it is capable; but it has been all in vain. Shall we resort to entreaty and humble supplication? What terms shall we find which have not been already exhausted?” (Henry, 84)

Henry complains that they have tried every peaceful way of protesting for ten years, which has failed. He states that the British leave them no choice, but to turn towards the military forced to fight against the British. “If we wish to be free…we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of hosts is all that is left us!” (Henry, 84) Patrick Henry urges the colonist to take action and declare a war against the British for their independence. His use of emotional language motivated and gave the colonist the courage to put up a fight against the British.

In addition, Henry uses his ministry to stir the rebellious spirit of the colonists of America. He convinces his audience that it is God’s will for them to separate the colonies from the British empire and that he will be on their side and not the British.

“Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us” (Henry, 84).

Henry reassures his audience that God will be on their side when time comes to fight. This message motivated the religious men to fight with the belief that they have God’s support and it is God’s will for them to fight for their independence. “Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death!” (Henry, 85). Patrick Henry’s most famous message to his audience meant that he would sacrifice himself for what he is fighting for. This famous line greatly influenced and motivated the colonists to take action against the British and also sacrifice themselves for liberty.

Conclusion

Patrick Henry’s speech was one of the most important and influential ministries that successfully expressed his anger at the British for ignoring their petitions, persuaded the colonists arm their men for a war against the British, and strengthened the colonists’ spirit for a rebellion. The colonists were angered that the British Parliament did not respond to their petitions and Henry used this as one of his points in his speech to persuade the colonists to the separate from Britain’s control. Additionally, he convinces the colonists that initiating a war was the only solution they had to get the attention of the British government. He also reassures his audience of his proposals by guaranteeing that it is God’s will for them to fight for their independence and separate from the British rule. His speech was extremely influential to the colonists and their rebellion against the British and motivated them to fight the British head on.

Works Cited

  1. “”1763-65: The War Ends in Europe, but Conflicts Continue in North America.”” French and Indian War, edited by Laurie Collier Hillstrom, et al., vol. 1, UXL, 2003, pp. 102-119. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/CX3411000021 /GVRL?u=ppjsh_ca&sid=GVRL&xid=6ca707f0. Accessed 13 Feb. 2019.
  2. “”Henry, Patrick.”” American Revolution Reference Library, edited by Barbara Bigelow, et al., vol. 1: Biographies, Vol. 1, UXL, 2000, pp. 218-227. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/CX3411900035/GVRL?u=ppjsh_ca&sid=GVRL&xid=521b4b63. Accessed 13 Feb. 2019.
  3. Henry, Patrick. “”Speech to the Virginia Convention.”” Holt Element Literature, 5th Course: Essentials of American Literature, Jolt, Rinehart and Winston, 2007, pp. 82-85
  4. “”The American Revolution (1754–1820).”” Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. History: Government and Politics, vol. 1, Gale, 2008. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/CX3048400006/GVRL?u=ppjsh_ca&sid=GVRL&xid=caade85f. Accessed 13 Feb. 2019.
  5. “”Virginia Conventions.”” West’s Encyclopedia of American Law, edited by Shirelle Phelps and Jeffrey Lehman, 2nd ed., vol. 10, Gale, 2005, p. 237. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/CX3437704594/GVRL?u=ppjsh_ca&sid=GVRL&xid=4935b5c7. Accessed 13 Feb. 2019.
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Speech to the Virginia Convention. (2021, Mar 20). Retrieved December 9, 2022 , from
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