W. T. (William Tenney) Brewster.

English composition and style; a handbook for college students online

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argumentative structure (see p. 400), is possible, the same
method of showing the relation of evidence to proposition can
be employed. The Erskine brief is introduced to show the
" brief " method, quite as much as to illustrate the structure
of a particular argument.

Style in argumentation. The foregoing brief shows not
only the structure of a particular argument, the possible divi-
sions thereof, and the value of the " brief," it also may be
made to illustrate the question of style, that is to say, the
difference between the skeleton of the ideas and these same
ideas as framed into actual discourse. It must be remembered
that briefs are valuable only in so far as they show the facts
more concisely, revealing the essential things devoid of orna-
ment. Evidently, the same skeleton of facts might be dec-
orated in a great variety of manners, according to the occa-
sion, the personality of the writer, and the effects that he
wished to convey. Therefore, what applies to the style of
one argument will not necessarily apply to another, but it may
be convenient to quote at length a passage from Erskine's
speech to show how different it actually was from the dry
presentation of the same ideas. Let us take the examination
of part of the evidence of the witness Hay (C, i, a and b).
This is the way that Erskine actually handled it :

This will fully appear hereafter; but let us first attend to the
evidence on the part of the Crown.

The first witness to support this prosecution is William Hay
— a bankrupt in fortune he acknowledges himself to be, and I
am afraid he is a bankrupt in conscience. Such a scene of im-


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408 English Composition and Style

pudent, ridiculous inconsistency would have utterly destroyed his
credibility in the most trifling civil suit; and I am, therefore,
almost ashamed to remind you of his evidence, when I reflect that
you will never suffer it to glance across your minds on this solemn

This man, whom I may now, without offense or slander, point
out to you as a dark Popish spy, who attended the meetings of
the London Association to pervert their harmless purposes, con-
scious that the discovery of his character would invalidate all his
testimony, endeavored at first to conceal the activity of his zeal,
by denying that he had seen any of the destructive scenes im-
puted to the Protestants. Yet, almost in the same breath, it came
out, by his own confession, that there was hardly a place, public
or private, where Riot had erected her standard, in which he had
not been; nor a house, prison, or chapel that was destroyed, to
the demolition of which he had not been a witness. He was at
Newgate, the Fleet, at Langdale's, and at Coleman Street; at the
Sardinian Ambassador's, and in Great Queen Street, Lincoln's
Inn Fields. What took him to Coachmakers' Hall? He went
there, as he told us, to watch their proceedings, because he ex-
pected no good from them; and to justify his prophecy of evil,
he said, on his examination by the Crown, that, as early as De-
cember, he had heard some alarming republican language. What
language did he remember? "Why, that the Lord Advocate of
Scotland was called only Harry Dundas ! " Finding this too
ridiculous for so grave an occasion, he endeavored to put some
words about the breach of the King's coronation oath into the
prisoner's mouth, as proceeding from himself; which it is no-
torious he read out of an old Scotch book, published near a cen-
tury ago, on the abdication of King James the Second.

Attend to his cross-examination. He was sure he had seen Lord
George Gordon at Greenwood's room in January; but when Mr.
Kenyon, who knew Lord George had never been there, advised
him to recollect himself, he desired to consult his notes. First,
he is positively sure, from his memory, that he had seen him
there; then he says, he cannot trust his memory without referring
to his papers. On looking at them, they contradict him; and he
then confesses that he never saw Lord George Gordon at Green-
wood's room in January, when his note was taken, nor at any
other time. But why did he take notes? He said it was be-


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Argumentation 409

cause he foresaw what would happen. How fortunate the Crown
is, gentlemen, to have such friends to collect evidence by anticipa-
tion! When did he begin to take notes? He said, on the 21st
of February, which was the first time he had been alarmed at
what he had seen and heard, although, not a minute before, he
had been reading a note taken at Greenwood's room in January,
and had sworn that he had attended their meetings, from appre-
hensions of consequences, as early as December.

Mr. Kenyon, who now saw him bewildered in a maze of false-
hood, and suspecting his notes to have been a villainous fabrica-
tion to give the show of correctness to his evidence, attacked him
with a shrewdness for which he was wholly unprepared. You
remember the witness had said that he always took notes when
he attended any meetings where he expected their deliberations
might be attended with dangerous consequences. " Give me one
instance," says Mr. Kenyon, " in the whole course of your life,
where you ever took notes before." Poor Mr, Hay was thunder-
struck; the sweat ran down his face, and his countenance bespoke
despair — not recollection: "Sir, I must have an instance; tell
me when and where?" Gentlemen, it was now too late; some
instance he was obliged to give, and, as it was evident to every-
body that he had one still to choose, I think he might have chosen
a better. "He had taken notes at the General Assembly of the
Church of Scotland, six-and-twenty years before!" What! did
he apprehend dangerous consequences from the deliberations of
the grave elders of the Kirk? Were they levying war against
the King? At last, when he is called upon to say to whom he
communicated the intelligence he had collected, the spy stood con-
fessed indeed. At first he refused to tell, saying he was his friend,
and that he was not obliged to give him up; and when forced
at last to speak, it came out to be Mr. Butler, a gentleman univer-
sally known, and who, from what I know of him, I may be sure
never employed him, or any other spy, because he is a man every
way respectable, but who certainly is not only a Papist, but the
person who was employed in all their proceedings, to obtain the
late indulgences from Parliament He said Mr. Butler was his
particular friend, yet professed himself ignorant of his religion.
I am sure he could not be desired to conceal it. Mr. Butler makes
no secret of his religion. It is no reproach to any man who lives
the life he does. But Mr. Hay thought it of moment to his own


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410 English Composition and Style

credit in the cause, that he himself might be thought a Protestant,
unconnected with Papists, and not a Popish spy.

So ambitious, indeed, was the miscreant of being useful in this
odious character, through every stage of the cause, that, after
staying a little in St George's Fields, he ran home to his own
house in St Dunstan,'s church-yard, and got upon the leads, where
he swore he saw the very same man carrying the very same Hag
he had seen in the fields. Gentlemen, whether the petitioners em-
ployed the same standard-man through the whole course of their
peaceable procession is certainly totally immaterial to the cause,
but the circumstance is material to show the wickedness of the
man. " How," says Mr. Kenyon, " do you know that it was the
same person you saw in the fields? Were you acquainted with
him?" "No." "How then?" "Why, he looked liked a
brewer's servant" Like a brewer's servant t "What, were they
not all in their Sunday's clothes?" "Oh I yes, they were all
in their Sunday's clothes." "Was the man with the flag then
alone in the dress of his trade ? " " No." " Then how do you
know he was a brewer's servant ? " Poor Mr, Hay I — nothing but
sweat and confusion again! At last, after a hesitation, which
everybody thought would have ended in his running out of court,
he said, " he knew him to be a brewer's servant, because there was
something particular in the cut of his coat, the cut of his breeches,
and the cut of his stockings!"

You see, gentlemen, by what strange means villainy is detected.
Perhaps he might have escaped from me, but he sunk under that
shrewdness and sagacity, which ability, without long habits, does
not provide. Gentlemen, you will not, I am sure, forget, when-
ever you see a man about whose apparel there is anything par-
ticular, to set him down for a brewer's servant.

Mr. Hay afterward went to the lobby of the House of Commons.
What took him there? He thought himself in danger; and there-
fore, says Mr. Kenyon, you thrust yourself voluntarily into the
very center of danger. That would not do. Then he had a par-
ticular friend, whom he knew to be in the lobby, and whom he
apprehended to be in danger. "Sir, who was that particular
friend? Out with it Give us his name instantly." All in con-
fusion again. Not a word to say for himself; and the name of
this person who had the honor of Mr. Hay's friendship will prob-
ably remain a secret forever.


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Argumentation 411

The style of the foregoing might be called forensic or
oratorical to distinguish it from the quieter forms of argu-
mentative style. In any event, it will be noticed that, besides
its naturalness to the speaker, any style in argument, like style
elsewhere, aims to give to the meaning the greatest clearness
that it will bear, and if the matter is of a persuasive character,
of interest and force also. Hence the characteristics of style
in argument do not really differ from the characteristics of
good style elsewhere. There is no specific style in argumenta-
tion apart from the circumstances and the facts to be pre-
sented. If argument deals, as frequently, with narration or
exposition, the style will aim to present facts of whatever kind
as well as possible.

Smnmary; practical applications and suggestions. Ar-
gumentation, that form of writing which deals with the estab-
lishing of belief or of ways of conduct, implies a choice, a
question with two sides. The results are established by a
system of comparisons. Ordinarily, the matters to be argued
about are referred in a simple and informal way to one's de-
sires, to one's notions of duty, justice, expedience, and interest,
but they may also be made matters of very formal treatment,
and that treatment may call for much analysis and elaboration.
In any event, argument depends on evidence, that is, on ac-
cepted fact derived from human experience and knowledge.
Argumentation, then, is constantly adding to the store of
facts in the world by referring to other facts, rather than
by observation. In argument it is of especial importance
that these facts be rightly applied to one another; failure
to make good application results in fallacy, of which there
are many instances in the world, and against which it is a
matter of chief concern to be on one's guard. The best
method of argumentation is probably the exposition of the
diverse points of view or the diverse bodies of fact, and an
exposition of the reasons for preferring one set to another,
but in certain instances the more elaborate structure of a
formal movement through masses of fact that has been de-


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412 English Composition and Style

scribed is preferable. Good style in argumentation is amen-
able to the same restrictions as good style in any discourse;
it should be in accordance with the usual standards of the
English language, it should aim, within the limits of good
usage, to express the ideas with which it deals in as clear a
manner as possible and with such force as may be appropriate
to the occasion.

In argument that requires any care, several things should
be done. Those of most practical importance would seem
to be (i) to read in order to tmderstand the meaning of the
question under discussion, and herein Gibbon's practice, as
described in the Memoirs (cf. p. 34, ante), is of great use
in the sharpening of one's intellect. Again, (2) make a cast
of the kind of proof of which a proposition is susceptible.
(3) Read widely in likely places for facts bearing on the
various points of your proof. (4) Classify what you note by
way of available evidence tmder proper heads. (5) Dis-
criminate carefully between facts of observation and testi-
mony, on the one hand, and inferences and opinions on the
other. (6) Jot down exact references for what you read, in
order to be able always to refer to evidence definitely. (7)
Above all, one might almost add, do not startle at general and
vague question-begging terms and metaphors, the common
stock in trade of political oratory, as " tendency toward social-
ism," "paralyze our trade," "empty the full dinner-pail,"
"encroachment of labor," "menace of the trusts," for these
phrases are likely to assume points at issue, and assuredly do
stand in need of analysis. Any student who wishes to gain a
common sense view of such matters, should give his days and
nights to the study of Mill and Bentham, of which latter
writer The Book of Fallacies is a valuable addition to our
instruction in common sense.


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Argumentation 413


1. Draw up a list of the argumentative discourses that you
have heard during the day, and make some classification of them
by purpose, bearing, evidence, reasoning, or in any other way that
seems to be descriptive of them.

2. Show the difference in meaning among the following propo-
sitions or any set of propositions having one common term.
Which would be the easiest to define and to demonstrate?

1. The present system of examinations at college should be


2. The present system of examinations at college works hard-
ship to the student

3. The present system of examinations at college does not

work well.

4. The present system of examinations -at college is not for

the best interests of college.

3. If you were asked to collect material for an argument on
each of the following subjects, how should you go about it?
Name indexes and reference books that would be likely to help
you. In what kind of sources would most of your material be
found? What terms would need to be defined? How should you
go about getting the necessary definitions?

1. Is it wise for a Barnard student to travel two hours each day
for the sake of living at home?

2. Did Calhoun interpret the constitution of the United States cor-

3. Should advertising by bill-boards be prohibited ?

4. Should New York City own model tenements?

5. Is it justifiable for the President of the United States to expose
himself to personal danger in hunting or travel?

4. What sorts of evidence would you probably use in deciding
each of the following questions? In other words, what facts in
connection with each would you try to ascertain before forming
an opinion? Indicate briefly but definitely the line of argument
which you would adopt in proving the affirmative or the negative
of the questions.

1. Does Harvard attract older students than Yale?

2. Was the victory of Japan over Russia for the best interests of


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414 English Composition and Style

3. Should James Jones elect Mathematics rather than Italian?

4. Is Poe the greatest literary genius America has produced?

5. Will Matthew Arnold live as a poet?

6. Is it expedient for New York City to own and operate a munici-
pal lighting plant?

7. Is the principle of Prohibition right?

8. Drunkenness in the United States Army has increased since the
abolition of the army canteen.

9. The best poetry has a power of ennobling, elevating, and sus-

taining us as nothing else can.

5. What kinds of argimient would be useful in the following
subjects? In other words, by what methods should you reason
from evidence to conclusions :

1. Was Luther responsible for the Peasants' Revolt?

2. Did Sir Philip Francis write the "Junius" Letters?

3. Should senators be elected by direct popular vote?

4. Should a voter ever abstain from voting when able to be pres-
ent at the polls?

5. Has athletic success an eflfect on the attendance at colleges?

6. Do the women of Massachusetts desire the suffrage?

7. Should saloons be closed on Sunday?

8. Can the historical novel adequately represent the life of the

9. Is Thackeray a greater novelist than Dickens?

la Will the cost of the Panama Canal exceed the estimates?

6. How much knowledge of the following questions is nec-
essary for an adequate analysis:

1. Was the execution of Charles the First justifiable?

2. Was the occupation by Italy of Tripoli justifiable?

3. Were the missionaries responsible for the Boxer outbreak in

4. Is compulsory vaccination justifiable?

5. Are trusts beneficial?

6. Was Margaret Fuller's estimate of Longfellow just?

7. Analyze the following statements and propositions:

1. Few men of any generation can be great authors because few
men have ideas that interest large bodies of people.

2. With consistency the great mind has simply nothing to do.

3. Sir Walter Scott's failure in business was a good thing because
it led to the display of his heroic spirit.


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Argumentation 415

4. America is heir to all the ages.

5. Anarchy should be swept away.

6. Self-sacrifice enables us to sacrifice other people without blush-

7. Men are wise, not in proportion to their experience, but to
their capacity for experience.

8. If we could learn from experience, the stones of London would
be wiser than the wisest men.

9. In an ugly and unhappy world, the richest man can produce
nothing but unhappiness.

10. A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.

11. The fact that state ownership of railroads would not be suc-
cessful in the United States is proved by the fact that state
ownership in Italy has failed.

N. B. In analyzing the foregoing quotations, a student will be
aided by trying to understand what is meant by the terms. The
propositions usually "depend on what you mean," but, in addi-
tion, one or two have no logic to stand on, arc based on as-

8. Test the following " brief " arguments, with view especially
to noting any fallacious connection between evidence and conclu-
sion or any undue vagueness in the statement of evidence:

I. Government ownership of railroads would not give infinite op-
portunity for political corruption, for
A. The appointing power could be abolished by the rigid
civil service reform (Ref. Bliss, The Encyclopedia of So^
cial Reform, p. 1174).
6. Railroads could not possibly be more in politics than at
the present time (Ref. R. T. Ely, The Independent, August
21, 1890).
II. The execution of Mary, Queen of Scots was not justifiable po-
litically, for
A. It precipitated the war with Spain.
6. It did not remove all claimants to the throne, for

I. Mary*s rights were transferred to her son James,
C. It was not the only solution, for

I. Mary could have been sent to France.

III. The execution of Mary was not morally justifiable, for

A. It was an indignity to royalty.

IV. The claim that ownership of the railroads by the United States
government would cost the people too much is not defensible, for

A. In Prussia the financial success of government ownership
has surpassed anticipation.


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4i6 English Composition and Style

V. Railroads would not be incapable of progressive improvement
under government ownership, for
A. It has been tried in Belgium and Germany with success.
VI, The actual result on the discipline of the army and the char-
acter of the men from the sale of liquor in the canteen must be
taken into consideration in determining the morality of the can-
teen, for
A. The abolition of the canteen injures the morals of the
army in two ways (Ref. George Kennan, Outlook, Jan.
I, 1901; p. 736), for

1. It tends to keep from enlistment men who resent
being put under bondage.

2, It drives those who enter to seek for social com-
panionship in places without the camp, the social
atmosphere of which is vitiating and degrading (Ref.

VII. Though Steele left college without a degree, this was not to
his discredit, for

A. It was not at all unusual at that time (Ref. G. A. Aitkin,
Life of Steele, Vol. I, p. 43).

B. His university career had been respectable if not brilliant
(Austin Dobson, Miscellanies, p. 61).

C. It was a credit to Steele to rise to the place he held in
literature and politics after the cutting short of his edu-

VIII. It is morally right for the Government to allow the sale of light
wine and beer in the canteen, for
A. Whether drinking is wrong or not depends on the time,
the place, the circumstances, and the person (Ref. Public
Opinion, vol. xxx, Jan. 17, 1901 ) , for

1. Each person is to judge for himself as to the time,
the place, and the circumstances.

2. The soldier is entitled in this respect to the same lib-
erty which most communities accord to others (Ref.
Outlook, Feb., 1901), for

a. He has a right to his club.

b. He has a right to decide what he will eat and
drink at his club.

IX. The immigrants lower the standard of living, for

A. The number of paupers in the United States is greatly
increased through them.
X. Further restriction of immigration would, theoretically, be prac-
ticable, for
A. Further restriction has always been practicable in the
United States in the past.


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Argumentation 417

XI. The immigrants are a social menace to the people of the United
States, for

A. They form absolutely foreign colonies in our cities.

B. The tendency of immigrants throughout the United States,
as far as can be ascertained by statistics, is to intermingle
as little as possible with the natives of the United States
and to intermarry very seldom.

9. Comment at length on the following passages, stating
whether they seem to you argumentatively sound or unsound, and
why. Other passages will be found on pages 116-139 and 159-172.

1. But the most potent evil effect upon men resulting from
women's wage-earning is described in a letter by a working woman
in Rhode Island to the State Bureau of Labor : " Because women
will work for less pay than men, all about me they are employed to
the exclusion of men. I often see the wife and mother at work,
while the husband walks the streets unemployed, manly pride gone,
home and children neglected."

At once it will be urged by advocates of woman's right to all
work that doubtless the lack of employment of the man was the
occasion of the woman's going to work. Perhaps, but it neverthe-
less should be made clear to woman that nothing but eventual dis-
aster results from such a course; that it is better even for the
family to suffer want than to entail upon the man the degradation
of character imposed upon him when he becomes dependent upon
a woman's earnings for support.

2. A recent report of the Massachusetts Bureau of Statistics,
entitled " Sex in Industry," furnishes an instructive resume of the
extent to which self-support is carried by the women of that State.
Nearly one-third of the gainful workers of Massachusetts, or a
little more than 300,000 out of 1,000,000, are women. Their num-
bers have increased more than 100 per cent, in the last decade.
During the same period the number of female children at work has
more than doubled. The rate of industrial increase has been least,
however, in those professions and industries which were the first to
be entered by women. In domestic service the increase has been
less than 30 per cent., in factories 28 per cent, and in teaching about
35 per cent. On the other hand, there has been an increase of
nearly 50 per cent in the number of women partners and stock-
holders, and 40 per cent, in the professional classes.

In commenting on the above figures a woman said yesterday:
"Taken by themselves, these figures, while interesting, would
indicate little more than that a steadily increasing number of women
were supporting themselves either from necessity or choice. But,


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4i8 English Composition and Style

coupled with the statistics for births, deaths and divorces for the
same period, they indicate a social tendency which seems nothing
less than deplorable.

** In the last ten years the marriage rate has dropped in Massa-
chusetts from nineteen to seventeen per thousand. During the last

Online LibraryW. T. (William Tenney) BrewsterEnglish composition and style; a handbook for college students → online text (page 36 of 43)