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[Detail] Preface from Punchinello 1, no.1 (1870).

Persuasive Writing

Persuasive writing attempts to convince the reader to believe what the writer believes or to take an action urged by the writer. Among the techniques used by persuasive writers are employing strong language, supporting their positions with data, linking their positions with other things that the reader values (such as freedom or safety), appealing to the reader's self-interest, referring to respected sources, and refuting the views of their opponents.

The Nineteenth Century in Print: Periodicals collection is rife with persuasive writing. For example, read the letter to the editor entitled "A Chinese View of the Statue of Liberty," written by Saum Song Bo and reprinted in The American Missionary, October 1885.

. . . I consider it as an insult to us Chinese to call on us to contribute toward building in this land a pedestal for a statue of Liberty. That statue represents Liberty holding a torch which lights the passage of those of all nations who come into this country. But are the Chinese allowed to come? As for the Chinese who are here, are they allowed to enjoy liberty as men of all other nationalities enjoy it? Are they allowed to go about everywhere free from the insults, abuse, assaults, wrongs and injuries from which men of other nationalities are free? . . .

Whether this statute against the Chinese or the statue to Liberty will be the more lasting monument to tell future ages of the liberty and greatness of this country, will be known only to future generations.

Liberty, we Chinese do love and adore thee; but let not those who deny thee to us, make of thee a graven image and invite us to bow down to it.

From "A Chinese View of the Statue of Liberty," The American Missionary, Volume 39, Issue 10, October 1885

  • Why does Saum Song Bo object to donating money to build the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty? What point was he making about U.S. law?
  • What techniques of persuasive writing did he use in the letter?
  • How persuasive do you find his letter?

Search the collection for articles on a nineteenth-century reform movement in which you are interested. Look for persuasive pieces in support of the cause. Analyze the persuasive techniques used by the authors. Then write an article expressing your sentiments on the issue. Express agreement or disagreement with the consulted articles and explain the position you have taken.