Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


The Republican party organized its first presidential campaign in 1856. The party was composed of men from a wide variety of political backgrounds, primarily from free soil and anti-slavery groups. The rhetoric of this first Republican campaign represented the efforts of these individual speakers to reconcile their free soil arguments with the official party platform. Although the party was loosely organized and poorly funded, many respected orators participated in the campaign. As background for the rhetorical analysis, the major political and historical events of the decade are identified in the first two chapters. Bleeding Kansas, abolitionism, and the reorganization of the major political parties are examined for their contribution to the rhetorical exigence of the political situation. The analytical portion of the study first identifies the method by which the party was organized in the period between 1854 and 1856. Then, the primary arguments employed by the Republican speakers are analyzed in three separate chapters for their logical, ethical, and emotional forms of proof. Individual speeches are analyzed for the major form of artistic proof employed by the speaker. Some speakers argued for adoption of the Republican platform on logical grounds and other men employed emotional appeals with great skill. Personal credibility, mainly the eye-witness to the violence in Kansas, was an important artistic proof in the 1856 campaign. John C. Fremont, the Republican presidential candidate, did not speak publicly during the campaign. Instead, the party was represented by surrogate speakers. Among these speakers were former Barnburner Democrats, Liberty party members, Conscience Whigs, and political abolitionists. The rhetorical constraints posed by such a wide variety of political coalitions justifies this type of individual speech analysis. The study concludes with a discussion of the effectiveness of the rhetoric of the presidential campaign of 1856. Suggestions for further study are also included.