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Analysis of Rhetorical Strategies in The Speech of Miss Polly Baker before a Court of Judicature

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The speech “Miss Polly Baker, before a Court of Judicature,” was given in a court in 1747. Miss Polly Baker who lives in New England was prosecuted for the fifth time for having children without marriage. She represents her financial instability, so she is unable to hire an attorney to argue for her. She is addressing her difficulties and the worse time she is suffering from and making an effort to convince the court to pass out with her punishment and to persuade one of the judges to marry her the next day. Initially, she disagrees with this law and argues that she brought up in an inoffensive environment. She built her arguments asserting that she would absolutely admit her fine if she had ever done anything wrong with any man, women, or child. Furthermore, she reprints her emotions “I cannot conceive (may it please your Honors) what the Nature of my Offence is. Pathos I have brought Five fine Children into the World, at the Risk of my Life.” She realizes the judges, it is not a crime in the nature of things that she has given birth to five children at her own risk of life? she didn’t cheat with any other woman’s husband, but still is being punished for unreasonable law. Baker conveys a message that religion has nothing to do with the Act of Assembly, so why is she being punished? She has been excluded from the church, but still being punished as an extra punishment with laws of Assembly. She asserts that instead of her crime, the court should consider “the great and growing Number of Bachelors in the Country…… Hundreds of their Posterity to the Thousandth Generation.” Finally, she asserts that instead of compelling her, compel people with law and fines who are responsible for fornication. Baker says my examples and advice should be considered and there should be a new history upon my speech. The speaker uses several rhetorical strategies, such as logos, pathos, and ethos to convince the judges to revoke her fine and to convey her message as an example for the next generations.

The individual of this speech uses pathos the good use of appeal to emotions. Baker uses emotions to convince the judges about her financial instability as baker asserts, “May it please the Honorable Bench to indulge me in a few words: I am a poor unhappy Woman, who have no Money to fee Lawyers to plead for me.” She begins her arguments by giving respect and honoring judges and indulging them into emotions. She represents her as an innocent and poverty-stricken lady who does not have enough money to hire an attorney to argue for her. As we know she has brought to the court for the fifth time for having children without marriage and she is suffering from heavy fines by the court. She arguments with judges using the strategy of emotions to display her poverty and to revoke her fine. She wants her fine to be passed out as she says that she is already suffering from her poverty and this fine is increasing her difficulties which makes her intolerable. It is the fact when you are financially unstable, you face, suffer, and bear from this type of complications as Baker is suffering from.

The speaker of this speech is using logos rhetorical strategy (appeal to logic) to represent her arguments in order to convince the judges about her lawfulness. As she asserts “but since Laws are sometimes unreasonable in themselves…I take the Liberty to say, That I think this Law, by which I am punished, is both unreasonable in itself.” Cleverly, Baker uses logic to represents her arguments to convince judges about her arguments. She asserts with the freedom that the laws can also be untrue and the law from which she is being punished is nonsensical for her. It is the fact that laws are sometimes unreasonable and causes public dispute and strikes. For example, according to U.S history, British imposed law and expected colonists (which today is America) to pay tax and for their own defense from the continued threat of Indians. Colonists were outraged by the taxes and began to organize protests. She has been humiliated by the court for no reason although she didn’t do any murder, robbery, and sex trafficking.

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Using Pathos appeal to emotions, Baker appeal to emotions are its well-built arguments. She uses emotions to assure judges that her sin has no existence “Abstracted from the Law, I cannot conceive (may it please your Honors) what the Nature of my Offence is. I have brought Five fine Children into the World, at the Risk of my Life.” She is using rhetorical strategy (pathos) to persuade judges, as she says that she has given birth to five children with putting her life in danger. According to my point of view, the government should not have any interference in public personal matters. Furthermore, she argue that “I have maintained them well by my own Industry, without burthening the Township, and would have done it better, if it had not been for the heavy Charges and Fines I have paid.” she contends that she has brought up her children at her own expense without bothering the township. She would do one step ahead if the government had imposed no fine. Although law enforcement is made to lower the crime and to provide justice, this kind of laws would surely make it difficult for an alone woman to survive. It is all true that government is made to give human rights and to protect its citizen, but in this case, an alone woman is being punished for a crime that has no existence in the mother nature.

The speaker again builds her character, an appeal to emotions, here by telling her sorrowful story “ I readily consented to the only Proposal of Marriage that ever was made me, which was when I was a Virgin; but too easily confiding in the Person’s Sincerity that made it, I unhappily lost my own Honor, by trusting to his; for he got me with Child, and then forsook me.” She illustrates her dejected past with the only guy who proposed her for marriage and then ran away. She uses emotions to declare that she was maiden that time and she lost her honor trusting him.

Baker makes an appeal to ethos, here by augmenting that “the Precepts of Religion are violated by my Transgressions. If mine, then, is a religious Offence, leave it to religious Punishments.” she is using a rhetorical strategy (ethos) to argue that if she is guilty in her religion and subject to punishment by GOD, leave it to her, there shouldn’t be any interference of government. However, It is all true that there should not be any interference of government in the matter of religion. If someone is guilty in front of his/her GOD, we don’t keep the right to punish him/her.

Finally, Polly Baker in her speech makes good arguments that there should be no fines upon giving birth to children without marriage as all human deserve the rights to live their own life. Furthermore, she contends that instead of punishing an incapacitated woman, impel bachelors by law who are responsible for infidelity. In my point of view, Baker use of logic, emotions, and authority made me more favorable at her side. She clearly uses rhetorical strategies to cogent her arguments, overall, she is effective as a speaker. It is all true that this kind of law has no existence in our world, therefore, it should be stopped.

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Analysis of Rhetorical Strategies in The Speech of Miss Polly Baker before a Court of Judicature. (2022, August 12). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 21, 2024, from
“Analysis of Rhetorical Strategies in The Speech of Miss Polly Baker before a Court of Judicature.” Edubirdie, 12 Aug. 2022,
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Analysis of Rhetorical Strategies in The Speech of Miss Polly Baker before a Court of Judicature [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Aug 12 [cited 2024 Feb 21]. Available from:
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