A recently taken public opinion poll by Gallup found that nearly one in two American associate Patrick Henry with his heroic oratory.
According to the poll results, he stands alongside Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt as one of the most inspiring public speakers in American history.
While the speech can be used to investigate issues of freedom, power, and rights of the governed, this lesson focuses upon effective rhetoric.
The speech includes several Biblical allusions — revolutionary rhetoricians often used Biblical references because it allowed them to speak more strongly against Britain without using overtly treasonous speech.
Patrick Henry, speech to the Virginia Convention, March 23, 1775. In the Text Analysis section, Tier 2 vocabulary words are defined in pop-ups, and Tier 3 words are explained in brackets.
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His voice rose louder and louder, until the walls of the building, and all within them, seemed to shake and rock in its tremendous vibrations.
His last exclamation, ‘Give me liberty, or give me death!
Virginia ranked among the largest, wealthiest, and most populous colonies in 1775, and her political and military support for independence would be crucial for success.
In this speech Patrick Henry (1736–1799) uses powerful rhetoric to convince influential, affluent, landed men of Virginia with much to lose to move past their current diplomatic posture opposing British aggression to the more treasonous one of open military preparedness. For more information on text complexity see these resources from