Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

"A Higher Law": Taking Control of William H. Seward's "Higher Law" Rhetoric After the Christiana Riot
by Riley, Ethan M., M.A., Northern Arizona University, 2013, 135; 1537804
Abstract (Summary)

Freshman Sen. William H. Seward of New York was not expected to say anything noteworthy in his "Freedom in the New Territories" speech against the Compromise bills on March 11, 1850. The venerated "Great Triumvirate" had previously addressed the Senate—Sen. Henry Clay on Jan. 29, Sen. John C. Calhoun on March 4, and Sen. Daniel Webster on March 7—so everything there was to say was thought to have been said. Seward's "Freedom in the New Territories" speech, however, is recalled as one of the more divisive of Compromise orations and most significant of Senate maiden speeches in history because of its appeal to "a higher law than the Constitution." The utterance drew a maelstrom of criticism from the partisan press and congressional adversaries and colleagues; however, Seward's rhetoric introduced a reformist interpretation of the phrase "higher law" to the slavery discourse.

This thesis applies concepts from the literature on rhetoric of agitation and control and ideographs to define Seward's rhetoric as managerial, show his motives as socio-economic, and discover how the senator's reformist arguments were controlled by the establishment after the Christiana Riot in 1851. The researcher suggests that the establishment employed a kind of denial of rhetorical means to obstruct Seward's reformist rhetoric of its solidifying slogans. Future research into the control response to agitative rhetoric is suggested to understand the strategies and tactics used to control reformist rhetoric.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Short, Brant
Commitee: Hardy-Short, Dayle C., Torn, Jon
School: Northern Arizona University
Department: Communication
School Location: United States -- Arizona
Source: MAI 51/06M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: American history, Communication, Political science, Rhetoric
Keywords: Christiana Riot, Higher law, Ideograph, Seward, William H., Symbolic politics
Publication Number: 1537804
ISBN: 978-1-303-09684-6
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