It was in the 4th century B.C.E when Greek philosopher Aristotle decided to assemble the mind on the arts of rhetoric device, including three very persuasive appeals, ethos, pathos, and logos.
These three appeals can all be found in different aspects of writing, speeches, and life. In the speech “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July”, Frederick Douglass uses all three appeals to reflect on the life of being an American slave. Douglass uses these three important devices in order to single oneself out to the readers, and emphasize the emotions of the readers. In the speech, Douglass’s main focus is to abolish slavery. Why? Douglass believes the celebration for independence is not fair when all American’s have not truly had that right due to slavery. Through the use of ethos, pathos, and logos, Douglass persuades the audience into accepting that African Americans deserve the same rights as the white men.
Frederick Douglass approaches the fight for American rights in his writing, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July”. Douglass uses rhetorical device in order to build and form one’s argument. “Mr. President, Friends and Fellow Citizens”. Douglass opens the speech discussing the anti-slavery president; he then calls himself a citizen. This makes Douglass feel equal to the audience. Pathos, as we know, is the use of emotion to convince an audience of an argument. Frederick Douglass uses pathos in the speech to get the audience to side with him. In order to make the audience understand that if what he is addressing in the speech is poor in order to stop them from getting upset, Douglass uses the first paragraph of his speech. This can also be viewed as logic because Douglass uses this as a method for his audience to begin to side with him. “See, too, that girl of thirteen, weeping, yes! Weeping, as she thinks of the mother from whom she has been torn”. The emotion behind this quote shows pathos, and that even the children can be drawn from their parent’s, angering people that were not aware, making them want change.
Douglass also uses Ethos as a part of his narrative. Ethos focuses on a writer’s credibility. Throughout his narration, Christianity is something Douglass pays attention to. Douglass uses Christianity to paint an image of the ethical change leading to the practice of slavery. Ed Covey portrays himself as a very religious Christian attempting to deceit not only himself, but God as well. Douglass quotes that Ed Covey’s “…life was devoted to planning and perpetrating the grossest deceptions. Everything he possessed in the shape of learning or religion, he made conform to his disposition to deceive”. This connected the readers by showing ethical oddity of being a slave owner and a Christian. “I was born amid such sights and scenes. To me the American slave trade is a terrible reality. When a child, my soul was often pierced with a sense of its horrors.” This quote displays that Douglass is efficient to speak about the slave trade since he was in fairness, once part of it.
In today’s society, most people would review a human owning another human as unwise and brainless. Where as back then it was common for a man to own and control another man because it was “normal”. Douglass wanted the readers and audience to view the slave master as a terrible person, he wanted his readers to think with logic. He uses Logos to get readers and the audience on his side. “My people have no freedom, have no liberty”. Douglass finds it a struggle to forget the fact that his people continue to express their pain on this “day of joy “ . Douglass presents logic when saying that slaves are human beings. Douglass explains that presenting this speech itself is barbaric. The importance of the Fourth of July was not understood by the people. “This holiday is to rejoice for the sake of freedom and liberty”. Douglas makes it clear that the Fourth of July was a mockery to the oppressed. The logic of this speech is provided multiple times, including when Douglass says “My People Mourn, You Rejoice”.
In “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July” Frederick Douglass rightly argues that the Fourth of July has no meaning at all to the African Americans. Through the use of the three rhetorical appeals to reveal his true emotions on the overall message of the speech, Douglass argues that slavery should be put to an in for good in America. He “envisioned America as an inclusive nation strengthened by diversity and free of discrimination.” The most important aspect is that Douglass’ audience consists of white abolitionists. Douglass addressed the audience that supported his cause, and persuaded them to argue more. “Argue more and denounce less.. persuade more rebuke less”. The reciter feels as if the American people have failed to secure their equal rights and freedom. Douglass goes on to talk about how the American people are continuing to make the same mistakes. Anyone who is clear of prejudge will see the honest truth in his speech. The speaker ties his arguments from constitution, to God, all the way to the Bible. In the last part of his speech, Douglass calls attention to what he intends to speak about. In conclusion, Douglass speaks about the African American community, and how they should be able to enjoy the same freedom and equality as the white men. This speech is very moving to read, and can help outsiders see how badly the slaves were treated.