Feeling Out Loud: Sentimental Rhetoric in Parliament, the Pulpit, and the Court of Law

  • Brycchan Carey
Part of the Palgrave Studies in the Enlightenment, Romanticism and Cultures of Print book series (PERCP)


Spoken rhetoric was as important to the campaign against the slave trade as it was to any other political activity. At the local level, scenes of oratory included meetings, debates, readings, and hustings. At another level, priests and judges pronounced on the spiritual and legal reasons why slavery and the trade should, or should not, be tolerated. Finally, at the point when the campaign came nearest to realising its goals, Parliament took up the question, debating for long hours in committee rooms and, at last, in the chamber of the House of Commons itself. For the most part, these many speeches and conversations are utterly lost to us. Minutes of abolition meetings tend to record resolutions, not the debates that led up to them. Most of the many sermons preached each week were neither published nor preserved. Court records, with forensic pedantry, record many forms of evidence including personal testimony, but remain legally blind to tone, nuance, and innuendo. Even Parliamentary debate itself is represented to us, not through the verbatim reports that would later appear in The Official Record, otherwise known as Hansard, but through competing and contradictory reports in newspapers and magazines. Quite clearly, scholars face a difficult task in the attempt to reconstruct or analyse the role of spoken rhetoric in the abolition debate.


Slave Trade Slave Owner Late Eighteenth Century Parliamentary Debate Middle Passage 
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© Brycchan Carey 2005

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  • Brycchan Carey

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