This essay examines the role of “rhetorical silence” as a part of the theorizing about character in the early American republic. The case study concerns James Madison’s deliberate and continuous rhetorical silences about the comprehensive notes he took at the Federal Convention in Philadelphia in 1787. I argue that Madison’s rhetorical silences regarding his notes illustrate the shifting discourses of republican and liberal notions of virtue in the early-national period of the American republic.

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