I want to lay out the section headers because they seem to quietly elaborate on what I cannot, especially knowing that I will likely miss something. I primarily focused on a few sections rather than on the book as a whole. Jefferson’s Pauses Agency and the Invention of Responsibility The Elocutionary Revolution Dialectical Words Soft Compulsion Plagiarism, and Authorship, and Improvement Harmonies: Homer, Fugues, and Chairs The Oratorical Ideal, Racial Politics, and the Natural Theatricality Making of Americans The Figure of Patrick Henry Social Leveling and Stage Freight Private Lives and Public Scrutiny
I want to lay out the section headers because they seem to quietly elaborate on what I cannot, especially knowing that I will likely miss something. I primarily focused on a few sections rather than on the book as a whole.
Jefferson’s Pauses Agency and the Invention of Responsibility
The Elocutionary Revolution Dialectical Words
Soft Compulsion Plagiarism, and Authorship, and Improvement
Harmonies: Homer, Fugues, and Chairs The Oratorical Ideal, Racial Politics, and the Natural Theatricality Making of Americans
The Figure of Patrick Henry
Social Leveling and Stage Freight
Private Lives and Public Scrutiny
In the first few sections of his book, Declaring Independence, Jay Fliegelman exposes Jefferson’s aversion to oration as well as his tendency toward musical and poetic devices in his writing that perhaps enabled him to more comfortably deliver his addresses. The introduction presents terms such as Jefferson’s ‘lost world,’ which, in this case, Fliegelman describes as the “lost world of eighteenth-century theories and practices of rhetoric, the…art of persuasive communication that prescribed the…character of public speaking in England and America” (1). The next phrase he defines is ‘elocutionary revolution’ – the period when “a new language was composed not of words themselves, but of the tones, gestures, and expressive countenance with which a speaker delivered those words” (2). In section one, Jefferson’s Pauses, Fliegelman (hereafter deemed ‘F.’) discusses the particular marks that show up throughout Jefferson’s writings, namely “the Declaration,” as F. refers to it, and his essay “Thoughts on Prosody,” (7). F. claims that these are not pauses for breath or punctuation, but rather “rhythmical pauses of emphatical stress that divide the piece into units comparable to musical bars or poetic lines” (10). On page 11 F. lays out an example of a passage from the Declaration that Jefferson originally intended – single pauses (the / ) indicate one breath of silence while a new line signals two breaths.
in every stage / of these oppressions
we have petitioned for redress / in the most humble terms;
our repeated petitions / have been answered only by repeated injuries.
a prince whose character is thus marked / by every act which may define a tyrant,
is unfit to be the ruler / of a free people who mean to be free.
future ages will scarce believe / that the hardiness of one man
adventured within the short compass / of twelve years to build
a foundation / so broad and undisguised,
By incorporating such pauses Jefferson makes “a crucial link between oratory and music, which…is also distributed by phrase, demi-phrase and measures” (14). F. argues that like playing a musical instrument, oration incorporates the self, “private feelings” as he calls it, while simultaneously insisting on “conformity to the social and musical etiquette of measured regularity and an articulation of the character and conventions of common speech” (15). In this way the process allows for the opportunity of inciting emotions through certain breaks which inevitably emphasized the words around them, giving the listener more time to focus on the words and phrases in degrees rather than absorbing the whole.
The “elocutionary revolution” of the eighteenth century was structured by the movement away from rhetoric as trope. It moved toward a revitalized rhetoric of persuasion in an effort to re-establish the classical qualifications of a rhetoric that moved and influenced men “galvanizing their passions, interests, biases, and temperament” (29). Rhetoric was not meant to “suppress” men’s passions through instruction as Francois Fenelon, Archbishop of Cambray declared (28), but to incite them to action through persuasion and facts. F. describes rhetoric as an appeal to emotions with facts through “natural persuasion,” and being less about “ceremonial” or eloquent and ornamental arguments (29).
In Soft Compulsion F. goes on to emphasize the characteristics of oratory that most efficiently persuaded the population, determining that the senses are more “excited by powerful delivery than by rational thought” (36). He says that:
Increasingly it signified an oratorical ability, not merely to persuade by rational argumentation, but to excite, animate, motivate, and impress. Those verbs must be understood according to the period’s sensationalist view of knowledge as a set of extrapolations from sense events, of action as produced by the power of the single strongest motive, and of the human mind and heart as impressionable instruments whose psychological natures…could best be played upon by sound, looks, and gestures. (36)
Plagiarism, Authorship, and Improvement discusses how Jefferson was accused of plagiarizing everything from congressional minutes to “the so-called Mecklenburg Declaration…written by a group of North Carolinian citizens on May 20, 1975” (164). F. uses this instance to explain how folks now associated “authorship with originality and the novelty of thought,” with individuality rather than with “one’s social nature” (165). Jefferson maintained the “Declaration…as an expression of the American mind” (165). However, if originality did not lay in the “language or ideas” of the Declaration, then certainly it is evident in the manner and character of presentation and the form of composition. “Jefferson, in one particular reader’s view, had succeeded in giving voice to the new oratorical ideal on paper, if not in person, in composition, if not in reading,” signifying the movement into “a new theatrical era in political rhetoric” (187).