Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Speech Communication


As a spokesman for the Texas states' rights-secession movement, Oran Milo Roberts followed the overriding philosophy of the compact theory of states. His unswerving belief in this principle led him to become the president of the Texas Secession Convention and the axis around which secession revolved in Texas. Through a detailed analysis of Roberts' rhetorical acts from the beginning of the secession movement in 1850 to the secession of the state in 1861, this case study attempts to identify and evaluate the agitational strategies which Roberts utilized. The situation, strategies, and effects of Roberts' speaking and activities are examined in four conflicts: the Texas-New Mexico boundary dispute in 1850, the campaign against the Know-Nothing Party in 1855, the campaign for secession in 1860, and the Texas Secession Convention in 1861. The analysis reveals that Roberts used nine agitational strategies to achieve his rhetorical goals. These nine strategies constitute the analytical framework for the study. The strategies are: petition, the solicitation of the establishment; promulgation, the publication of the agitator's message; solidification, the unification and reinforcement of the agitator's group; polarization, the division of the enemies from the friends in order to force a conscious choice; escalation/confrontation, the deliberate harrassment of the establishment designed to goad them into violent confrontation; objectification, the placement of blame on a particular group; mythication, the emotionalization or romanticization of the agitator's cause; legitimation, the justification of the agitator's actions; and image building, the establishment of the rhetor's credibility. Because he was a lawyer and a judge, Roberts used the strategy of legitimation most frequently. He was a master of constitutional legitimation. Roberts' rhetorical strategies brought about five major results. First, he helped to keep the states' rights Democrats in power. Secondly, he justified secession to the Texans. Thirdly, he unified Texans into an activist group and convinced them to join the Confederate Union. Fourthly, he helped to ruin Sam Houston politically. Finally, he built an image of a wise and selfless leader of the state.