Compare/Contrast the writing styles and technique used by Thomas Jefferson and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Essay by Sasha813College, UndergraduateA+, November 2004

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Thomas Jefferson and Martin Luther King, Jr. were brilliant men. The Declaration of Independence, written primarily by Jefferson, and the Letter From Birmingham Jail, written by King, are perfect examples of their intellect. Looking at these documents and observing the tactics they use while attempting to move their audience toward their ultimate goal, one can see the finesse that both Jefferson and King possessed. The Declaration of Independence had aspirations of obtaining a new form of government, away from the King of England, while the Letter From Birmingham Jail was intended to help move America toward a desegregated future. Jefferson was charged with moving the Colonists to armed revolution, as well as not alienating the King of England and his powerful allies. King's priority, in the Letter From Birmingham Jail, was addressing the clergymen, who were primarily responsible for his jailing, but he was also attempting to draw the black community and, on a smaller scale, the white community, into the Civil Rights Movement.

Many similar factors dictated how Jefferson and King attempted to move their respective audiences, including emotional and logical appeal, as well as appeals to authority, however; the extent to which each used specific strategies varied drastically: Jefferson was concise and cleverly subtle with his aim toward different parts of his audience, while King was very detailed and forthright with all of his audiences.

In retrospect it is not inane to say that both Jefferson and King were excellent and effective rhetors, however; in their time they were both quite audacious in their endeavors. Jefferson was committing treason, a crime punishable by death, and he was asking his fellow countrymen to do the same. Similarly, King was asking people to follow him in breaking the law, taking the risk of going to jail or tolerating...