This famous phrase of the American Revolution, introduced by Patrick Henry, is embedded within every educated American, most simply because of its importance to history. His words, spoken towards the truly American leaders like General Washington, assisted in fanning the flames of revolution that guided the 13 colonies on to draft a Declaration of Independence, fight against the Intolerable Acts, and eventually fight a war against a powerful nation, though that is not for over a year after he spoke. Henry kindled the flame of hope with his passionate preach of freedom and the honorable speech of a governor, feeding the flame of America.
Using the methods of fiery pathos and hard-earned ethos, his greatest words have been taught generations after his death.
At the heart of the most memorable speeches are the singing hearts of the speakers who stood in front of the people and told them how life should be. The display of Mr. Henry is a prime example of this ideal.
In the beginning, he speaks of patriotism, of freedom and slavery, of fear, and he only gains passion as he rants over the failed attempts at peace, of Britain’s growing force, of how fighting was needed now, before “when we are totally disarmed, and when a British soldier shall be stationed in every house.” He knew that “the war is inevitable” and made sure everyone else did too, telling them to “let it come! I repeat, sir, let it come” (Cite). In the end, his war spoke true and the nation was thrust into a fight for his ideals of patriotism, of freedom, of liberty.
He used his words to light a flame of passion and pride within those who heard him out before condensing the feeling into a simple, seven-word phrase in the very end, “give me liberty, or give me death!”
Although his words were filled to the tittle with emotion and passion, there was an underlying theme of logic associated with him. For example, his words on the incoming British forces explained what everyone knew but refused to admit, “Has Great Britain any enemy, in this quarter of the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies? No, sir, she has none. They are meant for us: they can be meant for no other” (Cite). It is here that one can begin to see where he is coming from with his point. Henry goes on, running through any option for peace to show that they have either tried it, or it would fail with them in either metaphorical bindings, literal chains, or both. “And what have we to oppose to them? 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” (Cite), and he continues in this manner, checking off tactics like treaties, petitions, remonstration, and others. Another point addressed was over their weakness, to which he said “They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger?… Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot?” He is aware that should they attempt at gathering strength, the British will invade and shut down their rebellion. It was his belief that they had ran out of time for peace; the only option was to fight or be defeated.