What Historical Facts Inspired Patrick Henry to Write the Give Me Liberty Give Me Death



The history speech first appeared in William Wirt’s biography in the year 1817 (Mayo, 1959).&nbsp. This essay will examine the factors that motivated Patrick Henry to give this historic speech. One of the reasons for the popularity of the speech and the folk hero status of its speaker emerges from his firebrand persona – he was not so much an intellectual as he was an impassioned leader of men. For example, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson – prominent founding fathers – were both prolific writers. A compilation of their work brings up a tally of close to a hundred volumes. While Washington and Jefferson were also known for their engaging public addresses, it was their writing prowess that would remain as a lasting legacy. Patrick Henry, on the other hand, was not part of the pre-independence political establishment in America. He was one among the masses. The popular appeal of the person and his words is attributable to this heritage of Patrick Henry. It is in this context that the poet Lord Byron referred to Henry as ‘the forest-born Demosthenes’ (Eddlem, 1990). Henry Stephens Randall, a clergyman, was present during Patrick Henry’s speech. He gives a first-hand account of the atmosphere during the speech. His account is consistent with the widely held view of Patrick Henry being a firebrand orator and an inspirational public speaker. According to Randall, "Henry rose with an unearthly fire burning in his eye. He commenced somewhat calmly, but the smothered excitement began more and more to play upon his features and thrill in the tones of his voice.&nbsp.The tendons of his neck stood out white and rigid like whipcords. 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!’ was like the shout of the leader which turns back the rout of battle.

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