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By B. Carey

Carey argues that members within the past due eighteenth-century slavery debate built a unique sentimental rhetoric, utilizing the language of the center to robust influence. interpreting poetry, novels, journalism, and political writing, Carey indicates that slave-owners and abolitionists alike made strategic use of the rhetoric of sensibility within the desire of influencing a studying public completely immersed within the "cult of feeling."

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Extra resources for British Abolitionism and the Rhetoric of Sensibility: Writing, Sentiment and Slavery, 1760-1807

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The emotional subversion of the intellect The emotional subversion of the intellect is a method by which the impact of a logical, or even merely a reasonable, argument is altered by an appeal to the emotions. Classical rhetoric, under the heading of pathos, had always provided for a degree of emotional subversion of the intellect, but in the main it was felt that these sorts of arguments were rather below the dignity of a competent and well-bred orator. Indeed, they were frequently brought together under the heading of ad populam arguments, reflecting the belief that rational debate was the province of the upper classes while passionate appeals were of more use in persuading the lower classes.

Although concerned with all of the emotions, pathos in classical rhetoric nonetheless dealt with pity and suffering under that broad heading, and classical rhetoricians were clear that if an audience could be brought to sympathise with suffering then this was a powerful persuasive tool. 44 In this respect, the rhetoric of sensibility could be viewed as merely an eighteenthcentury habit of according pathos, in particular the sympathetic part of pathos, a privileged position over other forms of rhetorical proof.

In Smith’s lectures we have, almost fully developed, a sentimental rhetoric with a central man of feeling who is capable of strongly sympathising with the grief of others and of passing on, also by means of sympathy, that grief to an audience of sympathising and sympathetic listeners. While the essence of Smith’s theory of communication is sympathy, the essence of a good orator appears to be the ability to sympathise. Smith wants us to have no doubts about this. In his thirtieth lecture he discusses Cicero, the man who had long been held up as the greatest rhetorician of all time.

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