Patrick Henry strongly believed that the British colonies in America will not make progress as long as they are subservient to the monarchy stationed across the Atlantic. So, while emotion and rhetoric were key elements in his speech, rationale and logic were not also employed. For example, during the course of his speech, Henry tries to convince his audience the inherent disadvantages and encumbrances of continued British command in America, when he says, “’They tell us, sir, that we are weak, — unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? 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?” (American Rhetoric: Context and Criticism, 1989)
Hence, in sum, it could be asserted that a combination of key factors prompted Patrick Henry to make that historic speech on the eve of the American Revolution. Firstly, Henry and many fellow colonists felt humiliated by the imposition of exorbitant taxes on them by the British crown. Secondly, the command of the British monarchy from all the way across the Atlantic Ocean appeared no longer viable and practicable. Irrespective of the common Anglo-Saxon roots of the ruling elite, in the two hundred years of in habitation in America, they have assumed a unique identity of their own. Thirdly, Patrick Henry’s personality was such that he was a passionate public speaker who inspired his cadres with powerful words. It was this trait in him that prompted the utterance of those dramatic words “Give me liberty, or Give me death!”
American Rhetoric: Context and Criticism. Ed. Thomas W. Benson. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 1989.
Eddlem, Thomas R. “Liberty’s Son of Thunder: Patrick Henry’s Words Were His Most Potent Weapons. Americans Sacrificing for Their Country Today Still Echo His Thunderous Cry, “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death!”. 1990.
Lynn, Barry W. “Visiting Patrick Henry: Give Me Liberty, Give Me Debate.” Church & State May 2007: 23.
Mayo, Bernard. Myths and Men: Patrick Henry, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1959.
Tyler, Moses Coit. Patrick Henry. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1898.