Oratory and Rhetoric in the Nineteenth-Century South: A Rhetoric of Defense

By W. Stuart Towns | Go to book overview

Louisiana State University built an impressive platform of research which continues strong in the 1990s.

While this scholarship has opened many doors to the rhetorical history of the American South, there is still no modern collection of speeches by southern speakers on themes that have shaped the history and life of the region. This anthology fills part of that gap and provides future students and persons interested in the South with some of the important texts on many of the major topics which reflect and have conditioned southern collective memory.

A thorough reading of these speeches will help the student of the South better understand the region. For example, it is much easier to comprehend the conflicts of the civil rights era if one has read the speeches of some of the builders of the Jim Crow system of segregation and the creators of the Lost Cause mythology. In short, these speeches, while often little known today, affected the immediate audiences of their times, and by creating part of the southern collective consciousness they also influenced audiences concerned with important issues in the twentieth century.

For the most part, these addresses are published in full--just as the original source had printed them. Due to the nineteenth century proclivity to orations that lasted for hours,24 I have eliminated portions that do not seem germane to the major ideas of the speaker's theme. In these cases, I have indicated this extensive editing using ellipsis at the end of a paragraph. In some few cases, the original texts I had available had eliminated portions of the speech and had indicated these parts with standard ellipsis marks. With the exception of modernizing the spelling and punctuation in some cases, these texts are faithful to the original sources.

The speeches anthologized here were selected, not on the basis of "greatness" or notoriety, but because from my point of view they were representative of the hundreds I have read on the major issues that have shaped the South. Other issues and certainly other speeches could have been selected (those anthologized were selected from over 600 speeches in the editor's collection), but these concerns and this set of nineteenth century speeches have certainly shaped the history and life of the American South.


NOTES
1.
Daniel J. Boorstin, The Americans: The National Experience ( New York: Random House, 1965), 308, 312.
2.
William G. Carleton, "The Celebrity Cult of a Century Ago," The Georgia Review 14 (Summer 1960),133.
3.
Waldo W. Braden, The Oral Tradition in the South ( Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1983), 42.
4.
Bertram Wyatt-Brown, Southern Honor: Ethics and Behavior in the Old South ( Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982), 330.

-8-

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