Persuasive Speech Instructions

For the Old South Literary Debate Society

Assignment

On debate days, a representative from the selected "Literary Society" will have to create and deliver a 5-10 minute persuasive speech arguing his/her society's assigned position in the debate.  These speeches must include the following components:  citing at least three scholarly articles or books on the subject; and quoting from at least two contemporary people from the time discussed.  For instance, when making an argument, state: "according to Eugene Genovese in his book Roll, Jordan, Roll, slaves were . . . ." OR "In 1847, for instance, James Mallory, an Alabama plantation owner stated . . . ." Students are also encouraged to bring any visual aids that they believe will help their case.

Two types of persuasive speeches can be applicable to this process: 1) Speeches on Questions of Fact, and 2) Speeches on Questions of Value.  These two are described below:

1) Speeches on Questions of Fact:

    Of course, with history, we are dealing with facts.  All speeches must contain facts.  But many questions of historical fact cannot be answered absolutely.  There is a true answer, but we do not have enough evidence to know it absolutely.  Your job is to take the position of fact assigned to you and to try to convince your classmates of that position.  In other words, this is not simply an informative speech, where you tell your classmates the bare facts (this is what happened).  You are not simply a lecturer or teacher.  You are to be partisan.  You are to act as an advocate.  Your aim is not to be impartial, but to present one view of the facts as persuasively as possible.  You may mention competing views of the facts, but only to refute them.  You can organize your speech a variety of ways:

Sample historical question:  Was slavery was the main cause of the Civil War?

A) Topical approach (sample outline):
Specific Purpose:  To persuade my audience that slavery was the main cause of the Civil War.

Central Idea: There are four main reasons why it can be said that slavery was the main cause of the Civil War.

Main Points:    I. Slavery was the main factor to separate North and
                            South economically.

                        II. The issue of the expansion of slavery dominated
                             the American sectional debate since the time of
                             the constitution.

                        III. Northern opposition to slavery on moral grounds
                              grew continually throughout the antebellum period.

                        IV. Lincoln's election in 1860 threatened primarily southern
                              slaveholders, leading to the secession crisis, and ultimately
                              war.

B) Spatial approach (sample outline)
Specific Purpose:  To persuade my audience that slavery was the main cause of the Civil War.

Central Idea:  The issue of slavery was a major concern for people in all areas of the country.

Main Points:    I. In the industrial North, slavery was seen as a threat
                            to free labor and its expansion.

                        II. In the Upper South, slavery was still important to the
                             economy, but the prospect of freeing slaves was also
                             quite upsetting to the white population.

                        III. In the Lower South, slavery was seen as essential to
                              both the economic and social makeup of the region.

                        IV. In the West, slavery was more of a political and
                              economic, rather than a special issue.

C) Chronological approach (sample outline)
Specific Purpose:  To persuade my audience that slavery was the main cause of the Civil War.

Central Idea:  Four major events of the antebellum period show that slavery was the main cause of the Civil War.

Main Points:    I. The Compromise of 1850 and its aftermath showed
                            that the slavery issue could no longer be sidestepped in
                            the American political process.

                        II. The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 opened the door
                             to violence over the issue of expansion of slavery.

                        III. The Dred Scott Decision of 1857 convinced Southerners
                               that they were right and convinced Northerners of a
                               Southern "slaveocracy."

                        IV. John Brown's Raid of 1859 convinced Southerners that
                              all Northerners were bent on destroying the South, and
                              that the slave South, must therefore, be defended against
                              Northern aggression.
 

2) Speeches on Questions of Value:

Some of the questions debated here will be more questions of value than simply of fact.  Such questions involve matters of fact, but they also demand value judgments--judgments based on a person's own beliefs about what is right or wrong, good or bad, moral or immoral, ethical or unethical, proper or improper.  This does not mean that questions of value are totally subjective or totally matters of personal opinion.  When speaking about questions of value, you must justify your opinion.  If, for instance, you were arguing that states' rights was an immoral and illegal position for the South to take, you would have to justify your argument by some identifiable standards.

Example:
Specific Purpose:  To persuade my audience that states' rights was an immoral and illegal position for the South to take.

Central idea:  States' rights allowed slavery to continue and it violated the spirit of the constitution, as designed by the founding fathers.

Main points:  I. States' rights was pushed by southern states as a
                         major means to protect slavery--an immoral institution.

                    II. States' rights violated the principle established by the
                        ratification of the constitution--that we are a nation
                        of the people, not of the states.


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