Wendell Phillips' on Toussaint-Louverture

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8 April 2013
Wendell Phillips’ Speech Rhetorical Analysis Essay
White American abolitionist, Wendell Phillips, in his 1861 speech, demonstrates the power and strength of political leader and revolutionary, Toussaint-Louverture. Phillips’ purpose is to remind his audience that heroes have come from the least likely people, and as a result, African-Americans should be allowed to serve in the military. By adopting a reverent and reflective tone, appealing to pathos and logos, and using historical and mythological allusions throughout his speech, Phillips persuades his indecisive audience to adopt his belief that African-Americans should be allowed to join the Civil War efforts.

Phillips opens his speech by alluding to two great leaders before him, Washington and Napoleon, who have served their countries, in order to establish ethos and pathos with his audience. Phillips contrasts how Frenchmen speak of Napoleon, but find “no language rich enough to paint the great captain,” with the reluctance of Britons, Frenchmen, and Spaniards who shared no kind words for Toussaint-Louverture and “despised him because he was a negro and a slave.” Phillips acknowledges how each leader is viewed in order to set up the introduction of the underappreciated Toussaint-Louverture, a Haitian general who led the struggle of liberating other enslaved Haitians.

Phillips then moves to introducing Toussaint-Louverture alongside a mythological allusion to the Greek god, Zeus. Like Zeus, Toussaint-Louverture “forged a thunderbolt,” but Toussaint-Louverture hurled it at his own opposition- the Spaniards. By using this comparison, Phillips exhibits the magnitude of Toussaint-Louverture’s accomplishments. Unlike Zeus, Toussaint-Louverture was not a god, but that did not stop him from challenging the “proudest blood in Europe.” Phillips magnifies Toussaint-Louverture’s deeds then compares them to that of other well-known leaders to insist that the praise of Toussaint-Louverture should be...
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