Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Wood, Margaret Louise||Crawford, Paul K.||Tucker, Charles O.

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Speech


Wilberforce; William; 1759-1833; Phillips; Wendell; 1811-1884; Slavery--United States; Slavery--Great Britain


William Wilberforce and Wendell Phillips were two agitators who spoke for similar causes at different times and in widely separated geographical areas. Starting in 1789 with his first speech on the slave trade, Wilberforce carried on a battle for twenty years to abolish the slave trade in Great Britain. Wendell Phillips started his fight in 1837 to abolish slavery in the United States with his first major speech on the issue which was finally resolved by the war between the states. The primary purpose of this study was to make a comparative analysis of selected speeches by William Wilberforce on the abolition of the slave trade in England with selected speeches by Wendell Phillips on the abolition of slavery in the United States. Speeches evaluated and analyzed were Wilberforce's speeches on the slave trade delivered on May 12, 1789, and March 1, 1799, and Phillips' speeches on slavery, "The Murder of Lovejoy," delivered on December 8, 1837, 'Philosophy of the Abolition Movement," January 27, 1853, and "Harper's Ferry," November 1, 1859. A study was made of the history of the slave trade in England and of slavery in the United States to establish the historical background and setting which led Wilberforce and Phillips to follow their respective paths. Then the background and training of the two men were considered in order to determine the reasons for their dedication and the factors in their lives which accounted for their characteristics as speakers. An analysis and a comparison of the speeches were made considering the generally accepted rhetorical appraisals of audience and occasion, ideas, structure, forms of support, style, delivery and effectiveness. An overall comparison between Wilberforce and Phillips and their speaking was presented. It was concluded that, while there were naturally many differences between them, there were distinct similarities, both in their lives and in their speaking. They were brought up under similar circumstances with comparable influences in their lives. The audiences and occasions for their speeches differed considerably. Wilberforce'a speeches advocating abolition of the slave trade were delivered before the British House of Commons. Phillips' speeches were made in the United States to audiences which were comprised of all types of people. The crowds were often large and hostile. The speeches of Wilberforce and Phillips had much in common in ideas and structure. Both men believed that the issues for which they spoke were primarily moral in nature, but Wilberforce also emphasized the economic aspects. In forms of support Wilberforce used more logical appeals while Phillips appealed more to the emotions. Phillips made greater use of ethical appeals, probably out of necessity. Wilberforce*a integrity and standing in the House of Commons were wall known while Phillips was a controversial figure who continually had to attempt to prove that he was worthy of the audience's attention. Both men had a style which was clear, concise, simple, natural and sincere with Phillips employing many more figures of speech and more invective. Both adapted their styles to their audiences. Both had excellent and unusual delivery. Phillips was famous for his conversational tone. Neither Wilberforce nor Phillips was immediately successful, but ultimately the slave trade and slavery were abolished. The precise contributions of the two men cannot be determined. However, it is probable that both had considerable influence. Wilberforce, who made a career out of the slave trade issue, was considered largely responsible for the passage of the anti-slave trade bill in 1807 in England. Phillips kept the issue of slavery before the American people and promoted an awareness of the detriments of slavery, which was eventually abolished in the United States.


Includes bibliographical references.


vi, 125 pages




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