THE FAMOUS 1873 SPEECH BY SUSAN B. ANTHONY
In the 19th century, the women in the USA had no legal right of voting. However, Susan B Anthony casted her vote in the presidential election. She was then arrested, tried and fined $100 which she refused to pay. She gave this speech after her arrest.
The speech is seen as one of the greatest speeches as the choice and proper use of language styles is openly depicted. Anthony starts by identifying her audience. She says, “Friends and fellow citizens”. This gives the reader of the speech easy time to identify whom the speech is directed to. The content of the speech is highlighted in the introductory paragraph. The speech begins by preparing the audience on its contents. The eagerness of the audience to get deep into the speech is aroused. This case depicts the use of prolegomenon as a stylistic device.
In the introductory part, we encounter use of several styles. The use of litotes as a rhetorical device is achieved in the phrase “I not only committed no crime, but, instead, simply exercised my citizen’s rights, guaranteed to me and all United States citizens by the national constitution, beyond the power of any state deny.” Here, the affirmative is expressed by the negative of the contrary “I not only committed no crime” and “beyond the power of any state deny”. This brings out the sincerity, and the genuineness of the speaker. It further affirms that the speaker is well informed about the laws and is ready and willing to challenge the law.
Sardonicism is also employed perfectly. Her style of the speech is characterized by bitter, contemptuous, and scornful derision.
The use of repetition and epanorthosis is also brought out clearly in the phrase “it was we, the people; not we, the white male citizens; nor yet we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people.” In this case, emphasis has been put to strengthen the point on equality and fairness. The phrase tries to criticize the discrimination that is done on the people by the white male citizens.
Several cases of irony are depicted in the speech. The use of irony can be said to be successful as it brings out clearly the disparity between the white men, and the women. Considering the phrases “not to give the blessings of liberty but to secure them, the whole people - women as well as men.” It is quite ironical to talk about the blessings of liberty while the women are denied the right to vote, and this is the only means of securing this liberty.
The speaker employs greatly the use of criticism. She says “…this government has no just powers derived from the consent of the governed. … this government is not a democracy. It is not a republic. It is an odious aristocracy; a hateful oligarchy of sex;….”. Strong points about the government’s actions are highly brought out here and thoroughly criticized. The need for equality is also set up. The audience is left wondering about the injustices of their government. The desire to have a government of the people, by the people, and for the people is accelerated and immediate actions called for.
In the last part of the speech, we encounter the application of eretosis as a rhetorical device. Looking at the phrase “the only question left to be settled now is: are women persons?” this question presupposes an answer that is a strong affirmative. It is clear that women are citizens and the laws should not deprive them of their privileges. The conclusion of the speech gives a brief summary of the whole discussion and the expected solutions, by affirming that “every discrimination against women in the constitution and laws of several states is today null and void.”
It can be said that the speaker is successful in the choice and use of rhetorical devices. In almost every case where such devices are used, a clear message is passed to the audience. The intention of the speaker to drive her points home is properly achieved. This speech is one of the most effective ones. The timing of the speech is very appropriate as it is given just after the arrest of the speaker. By confirming publicly that the speaker had not committed any illegal act, a platform for scrutinizing and establishing the effectiveness of the law is built. Several questions about the inequality and discrimination then emerge. The speaker points out clearly the need for equality, and triggers the search for it. The main aim of the speech is reached finally.
CITED WORK LIST
Harper, Ida Husted (1908). The life and work of Susan B. Anthony. Vol. 3. Indianopolis: the Hellenbeck Press.
Ellen C. (1992). The Elizabeth Candy Santon – Susan B. Anthony reader: correspondence, writings, speeches, pp. 282–283. Northeastern University Press.
Phelps, E.S, and Carol F. (1985) The Story of Avis. Rutgers University Press