Themes in Speech in the Virginia Convention

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Themes in Speech in the Virginia Convention

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Activity Overview


Themes come alive when you use a storyboard. In this activity, students will identify key themes in Patrick Henry’s “Speech in the Virginia Convention”, and support their choices with details from the text.


Themes and Ideas to Discuss

The Nature of True Patriotism

During this time, many considered talk of breaking with England to be unpatriotic. Many considered anyone unwilling to compromise to be a traitor. Patrick Henry addresses this by saying that while he appreciates that point of view, others see the same topic in a different light. For Henry, he sees the calls to maintain ties with the homeland to be unpatriotic, because he believes it comes down to whether or not the colonies will be free, or slaves to England.


The Necessity of Courage

Many colonists were, understandably, afraid of breaking with the strength of England, and having that strength turned on them. They were afraid of war, and of change. Henry addresses this fear by examining the claims that the colonies are too weak, and then discarding these claims. He says that there are three million people, armed with the holy cause of liberty, which makes them invincible. They also are currently armed, and the full force of the British army is not yet on their shores. In addition, they will find powerful allies. If they do not find the courage now, their indecision will lead them to be ruled by fear instead.


The Importance of Sacrifice

Henry lays out the methods that have already been tried by the colonists: they have argued, entreated, supplicated, petitioned, remonstrated, prostrated themselves before the throne, and implored. Each time, they have been slighted, insulted, and spurned by the king. Henry says that if the colonists mean to be free, they cannot abandon their struggle; they must fight. Fighting involves sacrifice, but it is for a greater cause. If they don’t fight, if they don’t sacrifice their lives and their peace, then they will be purchasing the chains of slavery.


The Choice of Freedom or Slavery

Throughout the speech, Henry makes one thing perfectly clear: there is no more gray area, no more room for compromise with England. Instead, the people must “choose” freedom or slavery. By their inaction, they are “choosing” to be slaves: England will send their full army over to disarm the colonists, and freedom will slip away. Instead, by fighting and sacrificing their lives, they can “choose” freedom by giving up their fears of losing everything that is important to them, and, perhaps, gaining something even more important.




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Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that identifies recurring themes in “Speech in the Virginia Convention”. Illustrate instances of each theme and write a short description below each cell.


  1. Click "Start Assignment".
  2. Identify the theme(s) from “Speech in the Virginia Convention” you wish to include and replace the "Theme 1" text.
  3. Create an image for examples that represent this theme.
  4. Write a description of each of the examples.
  5. Save and submit your storyboard.

Template: Theme

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