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Provocative Words: The Significance Of Rhetoric

1894 words - 8 pages

Provocative Words
People often take for granted the power that words can yield. Many people believe that we simply use words to communicate and to express thoughts and ideas. Is this an accurate estimation, or do words hold a greater significance? How often do we reflect on the gravity that our words carry? How often are we influenced by the words of others? How often do we make decisions based on what other people say? The use of words can indeed have a tremendous impact on our beliefs, attitudes, and worldviews. This has certainly been the case throughout history. In the United States, a few texts have been particularly effective in dramatically reshaping public opinion. Among these are ...view middle of the document...

Among his arguments was that monarchical rule was inherently evil. “Government by kings,” Paine said, “was first introduced into the world by the Heathens…It was the most prosperous invention the Devil ever set on foot for the promotion of idolatry” (Paine 12). Paine went on to say that
As the exalting one man so greatly above the rest cannot be justified on the equal rights of nature, so neither can it be defended on the authority of scripture; for the will of the Almighty, as declared by Gideon and the prophet Samuel, expressly disapproves of government by kings.
This was an especially forceful point because it persuaded colonists that overthrowing the king was a righteous act, that they would indeed be fulfilling “the will of the Almighty” by doing so. Providing Biblical support for his argument was significant given the overall religious attitude of the American colonists. Many of the colonists or their ancestors were Christians who had come to America because of a desire to practice their religion freely, so it can be said that religion played a dominant role in many of the colonists’ lives at the time.
Paine also argued that being subject to British rule could pull the colonists into European wars and foreign commitments:
any submission to, or dependence on Great-Britain, tends directly to involve this continent in European wars and quarrels; and sets us at variance with nations, who would otherwise seek our friendship, and against whom, we have neither anger nor complaint.
At the time, Europe had been known as a place of frequent and deadly wars. Conflicts between Great Britain, France, Spain, and Austria among others were not unusual. The colonists knew this, and Paine used it powerfully in his argument, instilling elements of fear and anger in the hearts and minds of colonists.
In addition, Paine argued that America could support itself and have a strong navy of its own: “No country on the globe is so happily situated, or so internally capable of raising a fleet as America. Tar, timber, iron, and cordage are her natural produce. We need go abroad for nothing” (Paine 43). Paine went on to say, “Ship-building is America’s greatest pride, and in which she will in time excel the whole world…no power in Europe hath either such an extent of coast, or such an internal supply of materials” (Paine 43). This was also significant because Great Britain was well-known for having one of the strongest navies in the world. This argument helped persuade Americans that they could put up a fight against the British, despite their perceived military prowess.
Despite Paine’s humble beginnings, his words inflamed the colonies. He appealed to the colonists’ emotion and logic, convincing them to stand up and fight for their freedom. He did as much as any writer could to encourage resistance and to inspire faith in the Continental Army. Given Great Britain’s military and naval strength, this was quite an accomplishment. Paine’s Common Sense changed the...

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