Abstract The parliamentary diary of Sir Henry Cavendish, probably the most detailed record of speaking practices in the eighteenth-century House of Commons, confirms the claims made, from the beginnings of the rhetorical tradition, for the power of ethos as a means of persuasion. Yet precisely because it is such a valuable rhetorical resource, the parliamentarian's character inevitably excites contradiction and dissent. Drawing on the debates reported by Cavendish, this article argues that the influence of party divisions in the later eighteenth-century House sharpened these contests for character. It concludes by illustrating the tendency of the speaker's character, even as it is constructed in parliamentary discourse, to disclose the terms in which it may be challenged or negated.
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