Benjamin Franklin’s Speech In The Convention And Patrick Henry’s Speech In The Virginia Convention

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According to the dictionary, compromise is an agreement or a settlement of a dispute that is reached by each side making concessions. Compromise is important to build anything successful and a great tool in resolving conflicts. But, don’t compromise on the things that matter most. Compromises should be made that align with one’s core values and keep integrity intact. Benjamin Franklin and Patrick Henry were two of the most prominent individuals in American History. Benjamin Franklin’s “Speech in the Convention” and Patrick Henry’s “Speech in the Virginia Convention” helped guide our nation to independence and democracy and showed how they are great examples of being able to compromise yet stand firm in their beliefs. When we compare the speech of Patrick Henry and Benjamin Franklin, there are a few similarities but there are also a lot of differences.

On March 23, 1775, during the Second Virginia Convention in Richmond, Virginia, Patrick Henry addressed the Convention’s president, Peyton Randolph of Williamsburg. The main purpose of Henry’s speech was to inspire the representatives in attendance. He pointed out that he was tired of trying to get England to understand. They needed to fight them as a last resort to become their own nation. Henry said, “Sir, we have done everything that could be done to avert the storm which is now coming on. We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the ministry and Parliament.” Here, Henry points out that they have been trying to persuade the British government for years to hear their arguments through various petitions and letters. He explains that every action towards diplomacy and resolving the conflict peacefully has failed and the only recourse now is to revolt against England with no more compromises.

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On September 17, 1787, Benjamin Franklin addressed the members of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia to get the Anti-Federalists to support the Constitution. He was opposed to some aspects of the Constitution, but he is ready to compromise and set aside differences towards the achievement of a greater ultimate outcome. Franklin said, “I have experienced many instances of being obliged by better information, or fuller consideration, to change opinions even on important subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise.” In this line, Franklin acknowledges that the importance of compromise is to recognize that we have different views, experiences and priorities. He wants his audience to realize that nobody will obtain everything they want from the Constitution and that it is better to put their reservations aside and accept the document as a compromise for the sake of unity.

The two speeches occurred about 12 years apart, but both speeches were very influential and played a huge part in achieving our country’s independence and ratification of the Constitution. Both speeches were a huge success and effectively delivered. In that Henry and Franklin were able to persuade their respective audiences to acquiesce and heed their recommendations. The “Speech in the Virginia Convention” was delivered by Patrick Henry in a passionate and enraged tone, making the speech sound more urgent. In his speech, Henry is no longer open to compromise due to the critical nature of their situation. On the other hand, Benjamin Franklin’s “Speech in the Convention” was spoken in a more conciliatory tone. He was contemplative in his delivery and willing to compromise despite having reservations. Even though the purpose behind the two speeches and their outcomes were somewhat similar, the tone and the speaker’s willingness to compromise are very distinctly different.  

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