The relationship between rhetoric and law can be rendered in a simple syllogism; rhetoric is the art of human interpretation, and interpretation is fundamental in the perpetuation of law, therefore rhetoric is fundamental to law. Without rhetoric, law is basic, the intentions of which is left to interpretation by the reader. However, in order for a law to be successful, inconsistencies in this interpretation cannot exist. The writer of the law must use logic, emotion, authority and above all, strong wording in order to get his intentions across, this is the only way a law can be competent.
This was a tactic consistently used by the Spanish during the time of Cabeza de Vaca's Relacion. Words were expertly used to write laws which fit within the restrictions of the church, yet gave the Spanish full advantage of any situation presented. Rhetoric was present in everything from the instructions given to Cabeza de Vaca from the King, to the very report presented as the Relacion. The word of the King during the time of the Relacion was highly regarded. Its content and enforcement were executed with the force of law. An example of such instruction is the letter sent to Cabeza de Vaca from Emperor Charles V.
In the letter, he orders Cabeza de Vaca to perform several responsibilities. Because of the Emperor's authority and reputation, his ethos is that of firm importance. The Emperor requires Cabeza de Vaca to take a definite amount of control over the Native Americans and their land. "You will inform yourself of the diligence used in the collection of our revenues from whom you will receive account of what they have, and collect it of them and out of their goods" (Smith 218). Cabeza de Vaca was responsible for overseeing the taxing of the natives in order to benefit Spain.
He was to do this with great diligence and firm control in order for taxing to be successful. Not only was he to handle financial situations with great precision, but he was also instructed to write meticulous notes on all event pertaining to the natives and their willingness to follow instructions. "Informing us extensively and particularly of every matter, especially of how our commands are obeyed and executed in those lands and provinces, of how the natives are treated, our instructions observed, and other of the things respecting their liberties that we have commanded" (Smith 218).
Even in this instruction, the Emperor commands this task to be carried out in a specific manner. "You will have a separate book, wherein shall be entered the account kept by our Comptroller in those lands" (Smith 218). The purpose of such detailed orders from the Emperor was to make sure Cabeza de Vaca was fully aware what he was responsible for. Therefore, if in any case he was to fail his mission, there is little room for argument concerning the intentions of the Emperor's command. The Relacion is the final account of Cabeza de Vaca's journey containing all the details of what happened during that time.
In one respect, he is extremely compliant with the King's command; he takes exhaustive notes on everything that is said and done, without fail. He portrays himself to the King as an intelligent man, faithful to Spain, through his actions and logical arguments. He makes claim after claim of how he was one of the only competent members of the crew who possessed leadership abilities which aided in the endeavor of the mission. Using this ethos, Cabeza de Vaca manages to maintain a form of respect for his efforts.
But in doing this, he also challenges the King's will. Although the King gave clear instructions as to how he should handle situations in order to attain success, Cabeza de Vaca uses rhetoric to argue otherwise. He claims that because of bad leadership and unavoidable circumstances, it is only logical that the mission was a failure. Evidence of Cabeza de Vaca's use of rhetoric to support his actions can be found on pages 36-37. Cabeza de Vaca's Ethos is quite obvious from the first few sentences; he is very meticulous with his writing, and diligent in his post.
His reports are all detailed with dates and specific names and places; this shows that he is very careful about what he wants to tell the King when he returns from his journey. Cabeza de Vaca feels that by telling his story in writing from day one, he will avoid blame from possible failure in the trip. This is apparent when Cabeza de Vaca describes Narvaez need to consult with the others about whether or not to go to inland. Cabeza de Vaca's assessment of that was that he governor was an indecisive, unqualified leader.
This is also when Cabeza de Vaca wants to make it clear that he was himself, a clear-headed, good advisor. He continues to not only see the error in the governor's conduct, but he also presents possible alternative for the problem at hand. in whole, this paragraph was meant to enforce the idea that Cabeza de Vaca was an intelligent logical man, with excellent leadership skills. This idea also leads us into the logos of Cabeza de Vaca. He uses strong language, such as "stay with the ship", in order to make his argument is heard.
Within this passage alone, there are several arguments with evident premises and conclusions. First is the question of whether or not to leave the ships. Cabeza de Vaca sees that the pilots differ in opinion on the situation, which infers that at least some of them are incompetent, and on top of that, it was these same pilots that got the ship lost in the first place. The conclusion; do not leave the ships! The other crisis at hand was whether or not to go inland. Cabeza de Vaca brings up six different premises to reach his conclusion.
He starts off by reminding the others that their horses are in a poor condition, and there are not sufficient provisions. The land is also desolate so there is no way of getting any food or supplies. Cabeza de Vaca then goes to mention that they have no knowledge of the land and even if they ran into natives, they have no interpreter, therefore making communication nearly impossible. And lastly, he points out that they have no specific goal, and to Cabeza de Vaca, a mission cannot be successful without a solid goal.
He concludes that they should not go inland, and moreover, he presents the alternative of going to find a harbor and a better place to settle along the coast. After reading the passage, the reader (audience), is subjected to a form of emotional impact. The ethos in this passages drenches of sympathy; sympathy for Cabeza de Vaca, the crew, and even the governor. There is obvious concern for everyone due to lack of provisions. The fear of hunger is very real and although some readers cannot relate to Cabeza de Vaca's predicament, they can still empathize with him.
There is also sympathy for Cabeza de Vaca in that he has a horribly incompetent leader. The reader feels as though Cabeza de Vaca is trying very hard to deal with this mountain of problems, but no one is giving him any credit for his solutions. And although the governor is indeed incompetent, the reader may be able to sympathize to his position, because there might have been a time in their life when they were given a position they could not perform, and had to experience the embarrassment of asking others for help constantly.
The Relacion is an account saturated with rhetoric. Cabeza de Vaca's use of words to persuade an audience is remarkably convincing and his evidence for unavoidable failure is irrefutable. His use of logic to present his circumstance is done with detail, as well his reliance on the sympathy of the reader is highly effective. With these tools, Cabeza de Vaca is able to present his argument with little room for rebuttal. The Relacion proves to be a true reflection of the use of rhetoric in literature produced during his time.