Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

not be. Still for convenience we may wish to distinguish the discourse as belonging to one class or the other, and then we shall have to be guided by what seems to be its principal object, whether it is intended to inform, to correct, or to arouse, whether it aims to explain a fact, to prove a statement, or to influence an action. We have seen that an argument may be most effective sometimes if made up almost wholly of exposition. In like manner the ends of persuasion may often be effected by simple exposition or argument, or by a combination of the two. The citation from Herbert Spencer in the last exercise contained scarcely a directly persuasive word and yet it was offered as an example of persuasive discourse because its object so manifestly is to move people to lay more stress on scientific studies in ordinary education.

The precise method adopted in any case will depend on many considerations, - on the general character of the persons appealed to, on their present attitude and feeling, on the kind of action desired, whether calm or violent, immediate or remote, etc. Thus far we have treated of persuasive discourse that is written and intended to be read. In such the calmer expository and argumentative methods are very appropriate. When we come, as we now do, to the more ordinary form under which this style of discourse is found, declamation, oratory, these methods will naturally fall into the background in order to give more prominence to direct address and stirring appeals.

It has been said that oratory is on the decline, that we have no more Ciceros, Pitts, Burkes, Websters, Beechers. Perhaps this is true in a certain degree. It

may well be that the extension of printing, making it possible to appeal at once to a vast audience in nearly every part of the world, has dwarfed the importance of oratory. Why should people crowd the galleries of our congressional halls when they can read the speeches over their coffee the next morning? Or why should a speaker address a hundred people here and another hundred there, when he can with so little trouble put his speech in print and address thousands ?

But of course the peculiar charm and value of oratory are not dead. People will still be made to listen who could never be made to read, and people hearing will be aroused who reading would sit unmoved. And men speaking will still find their tongues tipped with a fire which would never irradiate the point of their pens.

Nor is the need for oratory past. A felicitous response to a toast will give a life, a character, and a unity to a dinner-party that nothing else can give. In no more fitting way than by a fervent speech can we dedicate buildings and consecrate enterprises. Inaugural addresses, baccalaureate addresses, Labor-day speeches, memorial sermons, Fourth of July orations, — all of these occasional forms of oratory we still demand, to say nothing of the forms regularly practiced in politics, the law, the ministry, etc. It will be noticed that into some of these forms the element of persuasion scarcely enters at all, but since they come under the general head of oratory it seems best to include them here.

The following plain but graceful speech was delivered at a public dinner in Philadelphia in 1846 by the Hon. Samuel Breck, who presided. The address is complimentary to Daniel Webster, in whose honor the dinner was given :

GENTLEMEN:— I rise to propose a toast, expressive of the great esteem and honor in which we hold the illustrious guest whom we are assembled to welcome. It is cause for felicitation to have this opportunity to receive him, and to meet him at our festive board.

In Philadelphia we have long been accustomed to follow him, with earnest attention, in his high vocations in the legislative hall and in the Cabinet ; and have always seen him there exercising his great talents for the true interests of our wide-spread Republic. And we, in common with the American people, have felt the influence of his wisdom and patriotism. In seasons of danger, he has been to us a living comforter ; and more than once has restored this nation to serenity, security, and prosperity.

In a career of more than thirty years of political agitation, he, with courageous constancy, unwavering integrity, and eminent ability, has carried out, as far as his agency could prevail, the true principles of the American system of government.

For his numerous public services we owe him much, and we open our grateful hearts to him in thanks ; we say to him, with feelings of profound respect and warm affection, that we are rejoiced at his presence here, amid his Philadelphia friends — his faithful Philadelphia friends and admirers.

Thirteen years later, and seven years after the death of Daniel Webster, the seventy-seventh anniversary of the great statesman's birthday was commemorated by a banquet at which the orator, Rufus Choate, made an address. The opening words of that address were as follow :

I would not have it supposed for a moment that I design to make any eulogy, or any speech, concerning the great man whose birthday we have met to observe. I hasten to assure you that I shall attempt to do no such thing. There is no longer need of it, or fitness for it, for any purpose. Times have been when such a thing might have been done with propriety. While he was yet

personally among us, while he was yet walking in his strength in the paths or ascending the heights of active public life, or standing upon them, and so many of the good and wise, so many of the wisest and best of our country, from all parts of it, thought he had title to the great office of our system, and would have had him formally presented for it, — it was fit that those who loved and honored him should publicly — with effort, with passion, with argument, with contention - recall the series of his services, his life of elevated labors, finished and unfinished, display his large qualities of character and mind, and compare him, somewhat, in all these things, with the great men, his competitors for the great prize. Then was there a battle to be fought, and it was needful to fight it.

And so, again, in a later day, while our hearts were yet bleeding with the sense of recent loss, and he lay newly dead in his chamber, and the bells were tolling, and his grave was open, and the sunlight of an autumn day was falling on that long funeral train, I do not say it was fit only, it was unavoidable, that we all, in some choked utterance and some imperfect, sincere expression, should, if we could not praise the patriot, lament the man.

But these times have gone by. The race of honor and duty is for him all run. The high endeavor is made, and it is finished. The monument is builded. He is entered into his glory. The day of hope, of pride, of grief, has been followed by the long rest ; and the sentiments of grief, pride, and hope, are all merged in the sentiment of calm and implicit veneration. We have buried him in our hearts. That is enough to say. Our estimation of him is part of our creed. We have no argument to make or hear upon it. We enter into no dispute about him. We permit no longer any man to question us as to what he was, what he had done, how much we loved him, how much the country loved him, and how · well he deserved it. We admire, we love, and we are still. Be this enough for us to say.

Is it not enough that we just stand silent on the deck of the bark fast flying from the shore, and turn and see, as the line of coast disappears, and the headlands and hills and all the land go down, and the islands are swallowed up, the great mountain standing there in its strength and majesty, supreme and still — to

see how it swells away up from the subject and fading vale ? to see that, though clouds and tempests, and the noise of waves, and the yelping of curs, may be at its feet, eternal sunshine has settled upon its head ?

EXERCISE LXI.

ORATORY. – THE STUMP.

Subjects:
The Need of Civil Service Reform. Down with Monopolies.
Irish Home Rule.

Dignity of Labor.
Freedom of the Press.

Political Rings and Bosses. Purification of the Ballot.

Female Suffrage. State Rights and Individual Rights. Municipal Misrule. Uphold the Constitution.

In this country every Presidential campaign and indeed every local election involving important issues gives occasion to the politician to endeavor by public speeches to influence votes and increase his constituency or that of his favorite candidate. Owing to an earlyday frontier practice of speaking from the stumps of trees, such speakers are still commonly said to “ take the stump.” In England and Ireland they “mount the hustings.”

Doubtless this method of electioneering is much abused; but we may not decry it on that account. The addresses are made directly to the voters and often to a class of voters who do not read much and who need enlightenment on the issues of the day. The difficulty lies in the fact that nearly all of these great questions have two sides, each with its sincere advocates,

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »