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Imprison'd WranglersThe Rhetorical Culture of the House of Commons 1760-1800$
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Christopher Reid

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199581092

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199581092.001.0001

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Where Character is Power

Where Character is Power

(p.156) 7 Where Character is Power
Imprison'd Wranglers

Christopher Reid

Oxford University Press

Beginning with Aristotle's insight that the speaker's character (ethos) ‘is almost, so to speak, the most authoritative form of persuasion', this chapter looks at the various manifestations and uses of character in the eighteenth-century House of Commons. The construction (and also the undermining) of the speaker's character in the House is considered with close attention to the debates reported by Sir Henry Cavendish, and with reference to the thinking of contemporary rhetorical theorists such as George Campbell. Arguing that parliamentary character is always deeply coloured by the context of debate, the chapter examines these contests for character against a background of sharpening party divisions and shifting conceptions of political morality. It concludes with the use of the important but unstable eighteenth-century idea of candour in ethical appeals, as exemplified by the parliamentary career of Lord North.

Keywords:   character, ethos, candour, ethical appeal, aristotle, George Campbell, Lord North

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