Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Harold Mixon


This study investigated the pro-slavery rhetoric of selected Presbyterian ministers in the antebellum South from 1843 to 1861. The first half of the Nineteenth Century was marked by significant social, political, and religious events to which Southern Evangelical Protestantism (i.e., Baptists, Methodists, and Presbyterians) was forced to respond. Representative of Southern Evangelical Protestantism, Presbyterian clergy had a reputation for education, influence, and pulpit eloquence. As evidence of their puissance and persuasion, the sermons in this study were circulated in print, most of them at the request of the local communities and newspapers of the day. A synthesis of two methodologies was used in this research. First, the rhetorical situation as proposed by Lloyd Bitzer provided a context within which the religious utterances took place. Examining the exigence, constraints, and audience(s) rendered greater insights and understanding of the rhetorical choices made by southern pro-slavery clerics. Due to the general cultural homogeneity of the antebellum South, the constituent element of "audience" was expanded into Bitzer's broader concept of "public." This afforded a description of the people of the Old South who comprised the audiences to whom the sermons were delivered. Second, stasis theory allowed the research to focus upon the key issues which were of greatest concern to the pro-slavery clergy. Examining the staseis of the sermons proved to be useful in analyzing the defensive rhetoric of the pro-slavery position, identifying the points of contention between the North and the South in reference to slavery, and discovering the lines of counterargument used by the southern clerics in response to the perceived Abolitionist attacks. To defend slavery was to defend the very essence of the southern way of life. Religion and its spokesmen held the responsibility of infusing the southern culture with the moral strength of divine support, thereby confirming southern values and solidifying the southern position.