Reading the Rhetoric of the Revolution

 E Pluribus Unum




It can be difficult to analyze the arguments and techniques used by speakers and writers to persuade their audiences, and that difficulty is compounded when we are trying to interpret texts that were written or spoken over two hundred years ago. Fortunately, once you become familiar with the arguments and techniques popular in America and England during the 1770s, iit becomes much easier to understand the kinds of debates that took place in the years leading up to and during the revolution.

Below are links to a selection of pages on this site designed as guides to the rhetoric of the revolution.  Although most of these pages are part of other exhibits on this site, they are put together here in an easy-to-use menu for those interested in this subject.

Guides to Frequently Used
Arguments and Techniques of the Revolution


What is Rhetoric? Dialogue and Debate in the Writing of the Revolution


A Rhetoric of Rights:

The Arguments Used in the "American Conversation" in the Era of the Revolution
A Step-by-Step Guide to Constructing Quick Analyses of Revolutionary-Era Texts


Investigating the History of Slavery in Early America:

A Guide to Critical Reading
Evaluate the Reasoning
Evaluate the Reliability of Evidence
Finding Your Own Answers

Texts that Illustrate
Typical Arguments and Techniques


Excerpts from John Adams' "A Dissertation on the Canon Feudal Law": An Illustration of Arguments Used by American Patriots in the Rhetoric of the Revolution

Excerpt from Connecticut Governor Jonathan Trumbull's Fast-Day Proclamation of 1775

A Debate on Natural Rights from Hutchinson's “A Dialogue between an American and a European Englishman”

An interesting example of the way one group of Americans used these core arguments to petition for freedom can be found in the Slave Petition to the Governor, Council, and House of Representatives of the Province of Massachusetts, 25 May 1774: The Petition of a Grate Number of Blackes of this Province who by divine permission are held in a state of Slavery within the bowels of a free and christian Country at The Founders Constitution Here you will find a case in which the debate is going on not between the colonists and the English but between a group of African-Americans and a ruling group of white Americans.

Orations on the Boston Massacre

The Rights of the Colonists: The Report of the Committee of Correspondence to the Boston Town Meeting, by Samuel Adams, November 20, 1772

See Also on Another Site:

For more resources on this subject, see Making Sense of Documents/Scholars in Action at History Matters.



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The E Pluribus Unum Project is funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. It is co-directed by Dr. John McClymer, Professor of History, Assumption College; Dr Lucia Knoles, Professor of English, Assumption College; and Dr. Arnold Pulda, Director of Gifted and Talented student programs for the public schools in Worcester, MA. Visitors are encouraged to send inquiries or suggestions.