Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Speech Communication


The purpose of this study is to analyze the speech practices and rhetorical strategies of Senator Benjamin Franklin Wade. Wade was a member of the United States Senate from 1854-1869, representing the state of Ohio. He was an antislavery spokesman prior to his election to the Senate and became a leading force in the national forum. Focusing on his antislavery speeches in the Senate, the study explores (1) Wade's rhetorical background and experience, (2) the rhetorical setting in which Wade spoke, (3) the rhetorical proofs used by Wade, and (4) the effectiveness, quality and ethics of his speaking. The study focuses on six antislavery speeches delivered by Wade. Transcripts of the speeches from the Congressional Globe were compared with texts printed for mass circulation. There were no discrepancies in the texts. Wade, who was born in New England, moved to Andover, Ohio in his early twenties. He soon enrolled in a law curriculum in Warren, Ohio. After entering the bar, Wade returned to his native Ashtabula County and practiced law with Joshua Giddings in the county seat, Jefferson, Ohio. Here he made a name for himself by being active in civic and political affairs. He served as county prosecuting attorney, state senator and circuit judge before being elected to the United States Senate. At the time of his election Wade faced a number of rhetorical constraints. These include the divergent interpretations of the Constitution. Antislavery activities in the nation and Wade's own Western Reserve were a second constraint. Political loyalties as well as increasing sectionalism were the third and final constraints. In his antislavery speeches Wade utilized effective logical proof. While his reasoning was proper, his evidence could have been stronger. The emotional proof in his antislavery speeches was varied and effective. In addition, Wade's ethical proof was proper. While Wade's speeches did not have the immediate effect of removing slavery from the country, the long term effect is obvious. The quality of Wade's speeches is noteworthy as it was not equal to those of his congressional peers. History has, of course, vindicated the ethical nature of Wade's antislavery speeches.