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Vocabulary in Speech to the Second Virginia Convention

Vocabulary Examples in Speech to the Second Virginia Convention:

Text of Henry's Speech

🔒 8

"delusive phantom of hope,..."   (Text of Henry's Speech)

Henry, a pragmatist by nature, discouraged relying too heavily on hope. He believed in action above thought, and was one of the earliest proponents in the resistance efforts against the British. With the use of visual imagery, Henry characterizes hope as a “delusive phantom.” The word “delusive” refers to the act of tricking while a phantom connotes an illusion or hallucination. By describing hope as a phantom, he compares it to something intangible, ephemeral, and unreal.

"God of hosts..."   (Text of Henry's Speech)

Translated from the Hebrew word sabaoth, the word “host” refers to armies. First referred in the Old Testament, specifically 1 Samuel 1:3, the “God of hosts” is the God of the armies of heaven. In addition to an appeal to warfare, he calls on the God of war to aid the American people in their revolutionary efforts. This reflects Henry’s devout sense of faith, even in the case of war.

"if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges..."   (Text of Henry's Speech)

In this passage, Henry argues that hope is no longer enough to defend against British tyranny. The colonies must turn to fighting in order to keep the nation “inviolate,” meaning pure, and to maintain its “inestimable,” meaning valuable, privileges.

"insidious smile..."   (Text of Henry's Speech)

The adjective “insidious” describes something that is full of plots or wiles. An “insidious smile,” then, is like a veneer or mask that disguises treachery. Henry uses this image to illustrate the British Parliament’s underhanded dismissal of their petition. It suggests that the British received the petition but never addressed it seriously.

"to solace..."   (Text of Henry's Speech)

As a verb, “to solace” means to comfort oneself. With this term, Henry “wishes to know” what his fellow delegates have found comforting about British rule. Henry’s query is a rhetorical one, for he finds no source of solace in the actions of the British government. He urges his countrymen to no longer take solace and to revolt against their mistreatment.

"treason..."   (Text of Henry's Speech)

The word “treason” describes the act of betrayal. In an appeal to ethos, Henry claims that, should he keep his opinions to himself and not share them with his fellow delegates, it would be akin to betraying the country. With this statement, Henry asserts his persistent devotion to the thirteen colonies.

"awful moment ..."   (Text of Henry's Speech)

Describing the question at hand as an “awful moment” speaks to the complex position of the American people. The word “awful” is especially contentious because it can mean, at once, dreadful and awe-inspiring. The decision to engage in war is not only a frightening decision, it is also one that must be taken seriously and respectfully. The word “moment” serves to define a time of great import or significance. The question Henry poses—whether or not to engage in war against the British—is an important matter. With this phrase, Henry speaks to the weight of this decision, to how awe-inspiring, terrifying, and incredibly important it is for the nation.

"supinely..."   (Text of Henry's Speech)

The adverb “supinely” applies to actions performed while laying face-up. “Supine” can also refer to the idea of failing to protest injustice or, colloquially, to “taking something lying down.” When Henry references “lying supinely on our backs,” he is indicating that if the colonists continue trying to make piece with the British, they will ultimately face their own subjugation.

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