chapter  3
Antebellum Rhetorical Culture in Theory, Criticism, and Practice
Pages 18

The purpose of the last chapter was to present an argument about the value placed on reform rhetoric in the era when Frederick Douglass would have been engaged in public speaking. It argued that most Americans in the 1820s through the 1850s had little use for strong reform rhetoric, or what can be termed the rhetoric of rebuke. Entertaining rhetoric, though, along with extreme emotionality and a combative stance all had uses as therapy; the middling classes sought them out as ways of cementing their place in the public sphere and to make them feel good about their participation in public affairs. Partly due to the limited use of rebuke rhetoric, and partly because of the great surplus of oratory in the American “Golden Age,” the abolitionists’ favored mode-rebuke rhetoric-inspired strong, sometimes violent, responses.