American Literature: Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death, But I'd Prefer Liberty

We’ll take one order of liberty, but hold the death.

19th-Century Literature19th-Century American Literature
American Literature19th-Century American Literature
All American Literature
CoursesAmerican Literature
LanguageEnglish Language
LiteratureAmerican Literature

Transcript

00:42

which means to speak but not to just chat about the weather when you orate

00:47

you generally are talking to a live audience of people and your speech tends

00:52

to be elevated lots of big words five-dollar words fancy phrasings maybe

00:57

even a metaphor or two if you're feeling frisky plus the subject of your speech [Boy on stage talking]

01:01

is going to be something important so you might orate about the fact that

01:05

giraffes are going extinct this is bad or about the troubles of a struggling

01:11

economy this is really bad or about the fact that kesha has a successful singing [People protesting about Kesha]

01:16

career this is really really bad like a sign of the Apocalypse bad so yeah

01:21

people tend to listen when an orator especially a great orator speaks Patrick

01:26

Henry is definitely in the category of great orator's well he never became

01:30

president or commanded a victorious army or invented the cell phone and yet we [Henry speaking on a cell phone]

01:35

remember him and his words which by the way is why we're learning about this guy

01:39

in a literature class you might have read most of his writing aloud while

01:43

he was brilliant when it came to crafting a persuasive argument that's

01:48

why we're studying him in fact you might be able to learn a thing or two from him [About Patrick Henry book appears]

01:51

before beginning your next essay assignment.. anyway Henry is most

01:55

famous for the speech he gave at the second Virginia convention in 1775 for a

02:00

bunch of fuddy-duddies and powdered wigs gathered to discuss the possibility of

02:05

going to war with Britain but he's really famous for one line from that

02:09

speech in particular say it with me give me liberty or

02:13

give me death... so what did he mean and what's the big deal about this speech [Man discussing Henry's speech]

02:17

of his anyway well the Revolutionary War began shortly after the convention and

02:22

there's good chance that what Henry said in his speech motivated the colonists to

02:27

get off their trousers and rush into battle let's read the transcription of [Colonists walking into battle]

02:31

the speech in full and see if we can get to the bottom of Henry's death wish

02:35

unless you're the world's fastest reader you'll want to pound that pause key.

03:26

Let's use our stellar summarizing skills to simplify each paragraph and once we've

03:31

translated everything into basic english it'll make it easier to [Patrick Henry to english typed into shmoogle search bar]

03:34

understand and then we'll think about what Patrick Henry was trying to

03:37

accomplish and whether or not it worked well in the first paragraph Henry seems

03:41

to be prepping his audience letting them know he's about to throw down some truth [Henry holding truth dynamite]

03:45

whether they like it or not he says that different men often see the same subject

03:51

in different lights well so he's trying to propose his own view of America's

03:56

difficulties with an oppressive English rule you know all the stuff about

03:59

Britain celebrating a culture of obedience and submission to the King not [Lemonade stand whipped]

04:03

to mention their religious worship of tradition including the passing of power

04:08

along lines of family lineage rather than by you know ability but at the same [King drops dead and crown falls on crying baby's head]

04:13

time he's saying hey these other guys who just spoke before I did the ones who

04:17

don't think we need to go to war well they're entitled to their opinions which

04:22

are perfectly balanced but hear me out alright well he's basically making nice

04:26

he doesn't want to come right out and attack anyone individually because he

04:30

wants to sway people to his way of thinking not just a you know ruffle [Man swaying side to side]

04:35

their collars so he's setting the stage he goes so far as to say that withholding

04:39

his opinion would be equivalent to treason ie it's only because he loves

04:44

his country so much that he's willing to voice an unpopular opinion which would [Patrick Henry on a chopping block]

04:49

just about be grounds for execution across the pond in England okay second

04:53

paragraph here Henry suggests that it's time for everyone to open their eyes and

04:57

face the truth however unpleasant that truth might be he says we are apt to [Truth dynamite explodes]

05:03

shut our eyes against a painful truth well sure we've probably closed our eyes

05:08

and put our fingers in our ears when our preferred presidential candidate lost or [Person puts fingers in ears and close eyes]

05:14

when the object of our affection turned down our invitation to the prom

05:18

or when McDonald's discontinues the McRibwich

05:22

Henry argues that the choice the members of the convention are about to make [Henry speaking to an audience]

05:27

might not be the easiest decision but they are bound by their duty to their

05:32

fellow countrymen to make the right decision all right moving on in the

05:36

third paragraph Henry talks about how his experience and knowledge of the past

05:39

has guided him to his present conclusion that there is now no other answer to the

05:45

standoff with Great Britain's than war ...Okay so here's what Henry

05:50

speech has been leading up to until now he's only hinted at his position with [Man carries pizza to Patrick Henry]

05:54

regard to war but here he leaves no room for interpretation he uses some pretty

05:58

convincing arguments to sell his story what means this martial array of fits

06:04

purpose be not force us to submission well the martial array Henry's referring

06:09

to was an assembly of armed forces the British had been gathering well he's

06:13

saying look these guys aren't here for a dinner party obviously England is [Patrick Henry discussing England]

06:18

sending these dudes with guns to keep us in line which is no bueno, so it becomes

06:23

a matter of freedom if they don't act now and fight England while they still

06:26

can it might soon be too late.... moving on to the fourth paragraph Henry

06:30

presents some arguments as to why the time is right to engage with the Brits

06:34

now in short, colonists have the British outnumbered the colonists have the will

06:38

in other words they have more at stake considering they're very liberty and [Colonists carrying a flag]

06:42

lives are on the line and will battle more passionately than the Brits and oh

06:46

yeah they just happen to have God on their side plus the only alternative is

06:51

submission and slavery if they don't act now the English forces in the colonies

06:56

will grow too numerous and too powerful and their chance at freedom and liberty [English forces sailing to shore and colonists look shocked]

07:01

and all that will be gone all right moving on in the fifth and final

07:03

paragraph Henry presents his smart and sassy conclusion during his listeners to

07:07

action and of course finishing off with one of the most famous quotes in

07:11

American history give me liberty or give me death all right well what does that

07:15

line mean? well, we probably need to back up and delve into the preceding passages

07:20

first so let's do that..Well first the speech as a whole - what's its

07:23

purpose like I'm sure the guy loved to hear himself talk but surely there's [Henry looking into a mirror]

07:27

something more there well yeah in short he's speaking to a room full of people

07:32

many of whom don't believe war is the answer some of them might think

07:36

there's still room for diplomacy now maybe others feel you know they'd be [Soldiers pushing a canon]

07:41

outmatched and are afraid for their lives all that kind of basic stuff well

07:45

and maybe others are still holding on to the thin thread of hope that they're

07:48

about to wake up and discover the whole thing was just a dream whatever their [Man wakes up in bed and soldier appears]

07:53

reasons many of Henry's listeners needed a fire lit under their breeches to

07:56

convince them that it was just going to take up arms and Henry came prepared

08:00

with an oily rag and a whole can full of gasoline and cigarettes for everyone [Henry carrying cigarettes and can of gasoline]

08:05

metaphorically speaking of course even back then you know there were fire codes

08:08

one by one Henry presented the arguments he'd heard put forth by his many

08:12

dissenters and proceeded to rip them apart...Britain wasn't looking to

08:17

subjugate them ie keep them under control well then why are they

08:21

assembling these powerful militia forces well maybe we can try reasoning with them...

08:26

oh I've been there tried that but the situations got worse we petition

08:30

we grovelled, we begged none of it's doing any good well it isn't the right time to go

08:34

to war because we're not prepared enough yeah?....yeah well when are we ever going to

08:39

be prepared enough the Brits are going to bring more men more guns and a

08:42

longer we wait the slimmer our odds are going to get... Henry was smart methodical

08:46

but passionate at the same time, a tough combo to pull off... okay so now what

08:51

about that last line what did Henry mean when he said give me liberty or give me

08:55

death well clearly he's not quite two-face here getting ready to flip the [Two face flipping a coin]

08:59

coin Henry's not saying he wants to die what he is saying is that Liberty is

09:03

so important he's willing to die fighting for it if that's what it takes

09:07

rather than continue to live but without freedoms he holds dear right so yeah [Henry in a prison cell]

09:12

Henry drives it home in the bottom of the ninth inning by telling his audience

09:16

that their decision to go to war is literally a matter of life and death

09:20

it's just that death isn't necessarily the worst option on this table...

09:25

now why are we reading the speech and learning about this orator fella hundreds

09:29

of years after he got both liberty and death well first of all the [Man riding a horse]

09:33

revolutionary war hadn't happened you think you'd even be here it sort of

09:37

changed the course of history no and if it wasn't for Henry the colonists might [British soldier firing a canon]

09:41

have kept dragging their buckled shoes until British forces

09:45

overwhelmed to them so just in terms of helping America win its freedom this

09:48

speech was kind of a big deal our nation's culture is all about freedom

09:52

freedom to speak our minds, freedom to work hard, and make a good living without

09:56

being taxed to death freedom to wear our baseball cap sideways. Without Henry's [Boy wearing baseball cap sideways on TV]

10:00

stirring speech we may not have any of our sacred freedoms today no capitalist

10:05

system, no American dream but doesn't it also teach us a little something about the

10:09

power of the written and spoken word well if a guy can get up in a room and [Sword appears out of the soil]

10:14

talk for 20 minutes and change so many minds what else is possible with the

10:18

power of language okay turning it over to you now careful for that itchy

10:22

trigger finger there what is Henry's tone ie his attitude toward the subject

10:27

matter in his speech what sort of things does he say and how does he say them in

10:31

order to achieve his purpose what types of appeals does Henry use in his

10:36

argument we're looking here for elements of ethos logos and pathos here....

10:40

ethos is he trying to appeal to his audience a

10:44

sense of ethics of the quality of their character or sense of right and wrong

10:49

logos if he trying to appeal to his audience a sense of logic by trying to [Logos explained]

10:54

rationalize their decision to go to war or pathos is he trying to appeal to his

10:58

audience's emotions to convince them to listen to their hearts or their guts and

11:03

finally how effective do you personally think Henry's words were if you were one

11:07

of the folks objecting to war would you have been swayed would he have won you [Man objecting to war]

11:11

over yep, but these bullets didn't want to use them yep just need to get one

11:16

more hole punched on my planned battle club card...or nope I didn't really hear

11:21

what he said had my beats on... right well shoot look at the time I must get

11:26

some shut-eye so I must get to bed I'm sorry gun humor [Man goes to sleep in bed with a rifle]