Political rhetoric has been used since the ancient times. It has been used by public speakers from everywhere and to spring their audience to action. A great public speaker or writer is determined by his or her choice of words. In American history there have been documents that have had a tremendous impact on public opinion. Political rhetoric is extremely important because it can bring a society together for one common cause. When someone uses rhetoric effectively the reader starts to have a stirring in their heart because they feel inspired by what is being said.
This usually leads them to take action and support the cause their referring to which in this case was the American Revolution. Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, the VA Declaration of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence were documents that greatly shifted public opinion and led the colonists to support the revolution with their use of rhetoric. Thomas Paine’s Common Sense was a political pamphlet written at the heels of the America Revolution that became extremely popular among the colonies.
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Thomas Paine was a Pennsylvania journalist during the time of the American Revolution. He began working on it in late 1775 and it was published in 1776. The rhetoric of this pamphlet along with its popularity greatly turned the tide in favor of rebelling against Great Britain. Paine wrote this pamphlet in a style that a common person could understand. The title itself contains rhetoric. By making the title Common Sense it implies that the contents of the pamphlet contain many common sense ideas that everyone reading it should understand.
The wording of his pamphlet was very simple and contained many biblical references so it was also relatable to the colonists. It was extremely important that all colonists could understand the pamphlet because it would create a sense of unity and understanding among the rich and poor colonists. Paine’s main arguments were that it is foolish for such an island to rule a continent, Britain had selfish intentions in ruling the colonies, and being a part of Britain would involve America in unnecessary European wars that would limit their economic possibilities.
Paine in the first section creates a distinction between society and government. He says society is a patron that promotes happiness and government is a punisher that restrains society. To best describe his vision on the relationship that society and government should have he gives an example of a few people who live in nature without government.. He gives the example of the few people creating a society because the colonists can relate that to themselves. At one point in time Great Britain left the colonies alone for the most part and they lived in peace.
Once the government got involved and began to take for themselves is when the colonists started having all these problems. Paine also argues that all men are created equal and that the distinction of the king from his subjects oppresses this idea. “MANKIND being originally equals in the order of creation, the equality could only be destroyed by some subsequent circumstance; the distinctions of rich, and poor, may in a great measure be accounted for, and that without having recourse to the harsh, ill-sounding names of oppression and avarice.
Oppression is often the consequence, but seldom or never the means of riches; and though avarice will preserve a man from being necessitously poor, it generally makes him too timorous to be wealthy. But there is another and greater distinction for which no truly natural or religious reason can be assigned, and that is, the distinction of men into KINGS and SUBJECTS. ” Paine in his third section discusses the problems between the colonies and England and says the best route is to declare their independence from England.
In his final section he offers great optimism about the militia during the revolution and how it can win this war. Thomas Paine’s use of rhetoric in Common Sense is the reason why it was so persuasive and popular and could have possibly been the reason that the colonists finally came and decided to revolt against Great Britain. The Virginia Declaration of Rights was written in 1776 to proclaim the natural rights of man including the right to rebel against an inadequate government. George Mason was the author of this document, which was adopted unanimously by the Virginia Convention of Delegates in 1776.
It was the first document that protected individual rights rather than protecting just members of Parliament. The declaration states that all men have their natural rights, which are life, liberty, and property. The rhetoric in this document influenced future significant documents in American history. Thomas Jefferson drew great inspiration from this document when he wrote the Declaration of Independence a month later. He borrowed the idea of natural rights of man and implemented them into his document.
James Madison was also influenced by the rhetoric and ideas of the Virginia Declaration when drawing the Bill of Rights. Aside from being incredibly influential for latter documents; the Virginia Declaration of Rights asserted the right of the Virginia people to rebel against Great Britain The Declaration of Independence was one of the greatest documents ever written in American history. This document officially stated that the 13 colonies had broken away from the control of Great Britain who they were at war with at the time.
It stated the reasons for why the colonies declared independence and listed the grievances against the king of England. The rhetoric in this document is what makes it such a powerful piece of literature. This declaration contains many powerful quotes that can emotionally affect a reader. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. This quote has been called one of the most potent and consequential in American history and for good reason. The rhetoric in this quote is very powerful because it uses a religious reference and relates it to the colonists. By saying that the Creator as in God has given colonists certain rights, it leads them to believe that nobody can take them away and this gives them a sense of worth and purpose that no government could take away. Jefferson listed the many grievances that the colonies had against Great Britain to give reason for their breaking apart.
These were complaints that the colonists all had against the government and so it created a sense of unity among them all. The Declaration of Independence had to have strong rhetoric in order for it to be a successful document. It had to take a stand against the tyranny America was facing and had to show that they were serious about their independence. Not only did they have to show it to Great Britain but as well as the common people of the colonies because they were the ones fighting in the war and they needed the reassurance that this war was worth fighting for.
The creators, by signing the declaration on the last page gave the colonists this reassurance because it showed them that they were not just aristocrats writing a document in Pennsylvania while the common people fought on the battlefield but they were also putting their lives on the line. The signers knew that if they were to lose the war they would be killed and so the colonists recognized this and were inspired by their willingness to die for this cause. This gave the colonist the reassurance they needed to finish out the war, eventually defeat England and gain their independence.
In conclusion political rhetoric has had a dramatic influence on public opinion during the American Revolution. Thomas Paine’s Common Sense greatly shifted the public opinion towards revolution while the Virginia Declaration of Rights and the Declaration of Independence gave the colonists a sense of purpose and inspired them to rise up against Great Britain. It is hard to imagine what life in America would be like in present day had these documents not been written with such emotion and resolve.
It is a good thing we do not have to find out. Bibliography: “Virginia Declaration of Rights. ” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 29 Aug 2009, 01:20 UTC. 29 Aug 2009 . “United States Declaration of Independence. ” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 21 Sep 2009, 03:39 UTC. 21 Sep 2009 . “Common Sense (pamphlet). ” Wikipedia. Web. 19 Sept. 2009. . Paine, Thomas. Common Sense. Philadelphia: R. Bell, 1176. Print. “The Declaration of Independence. ” Ushistory. org. Independence Hall Association, 4 July 1995. Web. 20 Sept. 2009.