Burke, Campbell, Johnson, and Priestley: A rhetorical analysis of four British pamphlets of the American Revolution
School: Purdue University (0183)
Date: 1993 pp: 285
Advisor: Berlin, James A.
Source: DAI-A 54/07, p. 2555, Jan 1994
Subjects: Language, General (0679); Literature, English (0593)
ProQuest Document Number: 304066605
UMI Number: AAT 9334350
This study was undertaken to increase knowledge of an important but largely unexamined genre of public discourse in the late eighteenth century: the political pamphlet. The four texts selected were Edmund Burke’s A Letter to the Sheriffs of Bristol, George Campbell’s The Nature, Extent, and Importance of the Duty of Allegiance, Samuel Johnson’s Taxation No Tyranny, and Joseph Priestley’s An Address to Protestant Dissenters.
A revised version of neo-Aristotelian rhetorical criticism was designed, providing a synthesis of the theories of Aristotle and Kenneth Burke. The new methodology proposes that the occasion of a rhetorical text is not only a matter of the historical and social conditions that contributed to its composition and reception, but that the rhetor will reconstruct the occasion within the text itself. There will be a relationship between the reconstructed occasion and the arguments employed in the text; this will not, however, exclude a relationship between the arguments and external conditions. Kenneth Burke’s system of dramatistic analysis (the ‘pentad’) offers a technique for the description of textually reconstructed occasions. Finally, identification provides a basic rhetorical principle to explain the operation of the traditional forms of argument described by Aristotle: ethos, logos, and pathos. All appeals, whether explicit or implicit, may be described in terms of identification or dissociation.
The four pamphlets demonstrate a variety of rhetorical techniques. The most common include extended and detailed refutation, appeals to such traditional aspects of the British political system as the consituation and virtual representation, a reliance upon historical and legal precedents for the foundation for rational arguments, an identification between civil unrest and madness, and the characterization of opponents in highly negative terms. All four texts illustrate clearly that the individual rhetor’s reconstruction of the occasion is a central aspect of the overall argument.