Copyright
Samuel P. (Samuel Penniman) Bates.

Lectures on mental and moral culture online

. (page 7 of 22)
Online LibrarySamuel P. (Samuel Penniman) BatesLectures on mental and moral culture → online text (page 7 of 22)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


into a bolder note, as he uttered some emphatic thought ; but he in-
stantly fell back into the tone of earnest conversation, which ran
throughout the great body of his speech. A single circumstance will
show you the clearness and absorbing power of his argument I



SPOKEN THOUGHT. 109

Case of every college. Pathetic appeal.

auditory, and that in the few pathetic sentences,
with which he closed his argument, he so wrought
upon the feelings of his hearers that he left them



observed that Judge Story, at the opening of the case, had prepared
himself pen in hand, as if to take copious minutes. Hour after hour
I saw him fixed in the same attitude, but, so far as I could perceive,
with not a note on his paper. The argument closed, and / could not
discover that he had taken a single note. Others around me remarked
the same thing, and it was among the on dits of Washington, that a
friend spoke to him of the fact with surprise, when the judge re-
marked, " Every thing was so clear, and so easy to remember, that
not a note seemed necessary, and, in fact, I thought little or nothing
about my notes." The argument ended. Mr. Webster stood for
some moments silent before the court, while every eye was fixed
intently upon him. At length, addressing the Chief Justice, Marshall,
he proceeded thus : " This, sir, is my case. It is the case, not merely
of that humble institution, it is the case of every college in our land.
It is more. It is the case of every eleemosynary institution through-
out our country of all those great charities founded by the piety of
our ancestors to alleviate human misery, and scatter blessings along
the pathway of life. It is more. It is, in some sense, the case of
every man among us who has property of which he may be stripped ;
for the question is simply this: shall our State Legislatures be al-
lowed to take that which is not their own, to turn it from its original
use, and apply it to such ends or purposes as they, hi their discretion,
shall see fit ? Sir, you may destroy this little institution ; it is weak ;
it is in your hands ! I know it is one of the lesser lights in the liter-
ary horizon of our country. You may put it out. But if you do so,
you must carry through your work. You must extinguish, one after
another, all those great lights of science which, for more than a cen-
tury, have thrown their radiance over our land.

" It is, sir, as I have said, a small college. And yet, there are those
who love it ."

Here the feelings which he had thus far succeeded in keeping down,



110 THE POWER OF

Words of tenderness. Emotion of the judges. Scene for a painter.

and even that grave bench of judges, moved with
the strongest emotions, and eyes suffused with tears.
It was my lot to have heard Mr. Webster but once.



broke forth. His lips quivered ; his firm cheeks trembled with emo-
tion ; his eyes were filled with tears ; his voice choked, and he seemed
struggling to the utmost, simply to gain that mastery over himselr
which might save him from an unmanly burst of feeling. I will not
attempt to give you the few broken words of tenderness in which he
went on to speak of his attachment to the college. The whole
seemed to be mingled throughout with the recollections of father,
mother, brother, and all the trials and privations through which he
had made his way into life. Every one saw that it was wholly un-
premeditated, a pressure on his heart, which sought relief in words
and tears. The court-room, during these two or three minutes, pre-
sented an extraordinary spectacle. Chief Justice Marshall, with his
tall, gaunt figure, bent over as if to catch the slightest whisper, the
deep furrows of his cheek expanded with emotion, and eyes suffused
with tears ; Mr. Justice Washington at his side, with his small and
emaciated frame, and countenance more like marble than I ever saw
on any other human being leaning forward with an eager, troubled
look ; and the remainder of the court, at the two extremities, pressing,
as it were, towards a single point, while the audience below wero
wrapping themselves round in closer folds beneath the bench to catch
each look, and every movement of the speaker's face. If a painter
could give. us the scene on canvas those forms and countenances,
and Daniel Webster as he then stood in the midst, it would be one of
the most touching pictures in the history of eloquence. One thing it
taught me, that the pathetic depends not merely on the words uttered,
but still more on the estimate we put upon him who utters them.
There was not one among the strong-minded men of that assembly
who could think it unmanly to weep, when he saw, standing before
him, the man who had made such an argument melted into the
tenderness of a child.

Mr. Webster had now recovered his composure, and fixing his



SPOKEN THOUGHT. Ill

Alma Mater. Personal recollection of Mr. "Webster.

He had been secured by a " Library Association" to
deliver an address. The occasion was one of simply
ordinary interest the usual weekly lecture. But
long before the time announced, the spacious hall
was filled to overflowing. I was so fortunate as
to secure a favorable seat, and waited patiently for
hours that I might fully satisfy the desire of seeing
and hearing the American Cicero. At a few mo-
ments before eight o'clock the side door opened, and
a hale, well-formed man, something past the meridian
of life, advanced unattended to the platform, which
he mounted with a ready step, and advancing a few
paces, retaining a kid glove upon the left hand in
which he held his hat, he bowed gracefully to the
audience, and retired to a sofa. Daniel Webster was
before us ! The grace and noble bearing of the man
upon his entrance, which seemed to sit so easily



keen eye on the Chief Justice, said, in that deep tone with which he
sometimes thrilled the heart of an audience : " Sir, I know not how
others may feel," (glancing at the opponents of the college before him,)
" but, for myself, when I see my alma mater surrounded, like Caesar in
the senate-bouse, by those who are reiterating stab upon stab, I would
not, for this right hand, have her turn to me, and say, Et tu, quoque,
mi fili ! And tkov, too, my son /" He sat down. There was a death-
like stillness throughout the room for some moments; every one
seemed to be slowly recovering himself, and coming gradually back to
his ordinary range of thought and feeling. Choate's Eulogy on Daniel
Webster, page 35. Incident communicated by Dr. Chauncey A. Good-
rich.



112 THE POWER OF

Emphatically a man. The Constitution. His voice.

upon him, produced a favorable impression. The
thought that came to my mind, as we were greeted
with the bow, was, that if a being from another world
were to come upon this earth and desire to see a
specimen of the race, here is the individual I would
present, in form in features in full-souled bear-
ing, so entirely a man. As he arose to speak, I could
observe him more minutely. His cheeks were ruddy,
his eye was clear and bright, his dress was simple but
tasteful a blue coat, a buff vest and black pants,
his usual dress for a public occasion. His hair, thin
and sprinkled with the frosts of age, was brushed
back as represented in the pictures.

His subject was the Constitution, that instrument
which he first read, when a boy, printed upon his
pocket handkerchief, and the theme which of all
others he most delighted to speak about. The dis-
course was entirely extempore, and was mainly de-
voted to a history of the formation of the Consti-
tution, and the opinions entertained of it by the
framers. There was nothing particularly striking or
original in the matter. Yet there were many facts
which he had learned from the mouths of the men
who took part in those grave deliberations, which
were deeply interesting, and at times held the au-
dience breathless. His voice was bold and majestic,
like the full-toned bell of some lofty tower. It was



SPOKEN THOUGHT. 113

Eulogy of Adams and Jefferson. " Sink or Swim."

the voice which could represent our race. But there
was something in that presence which no pen can
describe a majesty which we attach to kings and
emperors. Sometimes he faltered for an instant, and
when the precise word or thought would not come at
his bidding, that noble eye would invariably roll up
in the socket as if in search, and he would pass his
hand over his forehead as though to arouse it. His
countenance rarely changed lofty and majestic like
the fabled countenance of Jove in the halls of the
gods. Every feature was lit up with the brightness
of a great mind filled with generous thoughts.

Once only during the discourse a smile was seen
to play upon his countenance. The occasion of it
was this: in that part of his lecture in which he
alluded to Adams and Jefferson, he said that at their
death he had, at the request of his fellow-citizens,
delivered a eulogy ; and in that part which referred
to Mr. Adams. that he might inspire it with life,

"^. '

he was desirous of introducing his speech on the
adoption of the Declaration of Independence. As
Congress sat in secret session at that time, and no
speeches were reported, the remarks of Mr. Adams
were lost. He accordingly composed and inserted in
the eulogy, what he thought Mr. Adams would be
likely to have said, beginning, " Sink or swim, live
or die, survive or perish, I am for the Declaration."



114 THE POWER OF

Instrument of good as well as of evil.

Since the delivery of that eulosry, Mr. Webster said
that he had received, on an average, two letters a
month, from 1824 to the time he was speaking, in
1851, from persons in various parts of this country
and from Europe, asking where he found that speech
of Mr. Adams, stating that they had searched the
records and the archives of state, without being
able to discover any trace of it.

My impression from this personal reminiscence of
Mr. Webster, is, that our opinion of his eloquence is
greatly modified by our appreciation of his overshad-
owing mind. At all events, it is a matter of consola-
tion to have seen the man and to have heard his voice.
It is good to look upon the face of one in whom com-
manding talents have been united with majesty of
person, to behold grace and dignity where nature has
set them, and to come into immediate contact and sym-
pathy with one of the leading minds of the world.

Spoken thought is an instrument of great power.
Its influence is confined to no sphere of action, and
may be employed for purposes of evil as well as of
good. It may be made to minister to virtue and
happiness. It may be the instrument of wrong and
incalculable sorrow. In the hands of the licentious
villain, it may arouse in the breast of innocence the
worst passions of which our nature is susceptible.
From the lips of the earnest minister of the gospel,



SPOKEN THOUGHT. 115

In the science of government.

it may lift us up and transport us to the very gate of
heaven.

At the tribunal of justice it may turn the scale in
favor of wrong, trample upon the most sacred prin-
ciples of honor, and crush the very heart of inno-
cence ; or it may inspire the evil doer with terror,
and lead him in the way of virtue. It may paralyze
the rights of the poor injured victim of that heart-
less man who would take advantage of weakness
and ignorance ; or it may pour into the wounded
breast a balm, and convince mankind that there
still is faith on the earth, and that the spirit of jus-
tice has not yet taken her final flight.

In the science of government it may serve the
purpose of duplicity and personal selfishness ; or it
may inspire the breast with undying courage in the
defense of liberty and the rights of civil society.
The man in whose heart burns not one generous
aspiration for the public good, who would sell the
liberties of his country for his own personal aggran-
dizement, may go on from court-house to court-
house, from city to city, and from State to State,
pouring out as it were his very heart in burning
eloquence, and all that his particular friend may be
elected President, and he be appointed a member of
the cabinet, a minister to a foreign court, or the
governor of a territory. Or it may be in the hands



116 THE POWER OF



The achievements of virtue.



of the disinterested, noble-minded patriot, the power
which sunders the bonds of the oppressed, which
lights the torch of civil liberty, which rouses in
a nation the spirit that has slept for centuries,
and makes the heart of the abused and long suffer-
ing serf to leap for gladness. With the philan-
thropist it vindicates the brotherhood of man. It
binds up the broken heart, and alleviates the sor-
rows and distresses of the unfortunate.

If there is any thing that can be achieved by fo-
rensic eloquence by the spirit of man, which can be
a source of pride in life, which can adorn the name
when he who bore it lies mouldering in the tomb,
it is the achievement of virtue. If a distinguished
orator makes a speech on a topic which concerns the
public interest, what is the judgment of mankind
concerning it? If he has appealed to the sense of
right and justice, if he has shown a clean heart and
a disinterested purpose, and moves with power upon
their feelings, he is honored and revered, and his
memory is sweet to them. But if he displays the
traces of a low, mean ambition, if he attempts by
smooth words to create an under current, which
shall some day carry him into some position of
emolument, the universal sense of mankind is to
damn and execrate him for it. The orator, and es-
pecially the political orator, is too often captivated



SPOKEN THOUGHT. 117

Eloquence among the Greeks. Their language.

by present honors and gratifications than the more
enduring fame ; is better pleased with a green exotic
than the fadeless laurel.

No state, either ancient or modern, ever yielded so
much to the power of eloquence as did the Greeks.
They lived in a tropical climate where warm and
quick passions are nurtured. Theirs was the land of
the orange and the olive a pure atmosphere and
balmy breezes. Their language, too, was the most
accurate, comprehensive, and beautiful that has ever
been invented by the ingenuity of man ; capable of
expressing the profound conceptions of Plato, the
most accurate and exact rules of Aristotle, the re-
sistless eloquence of Demosthenes, the playful fancies
of Anacreon, and the liquid strains of Pindar. The
art of printing among them was unknown ; the free-
dom ot speech was unbounded ; and the passion of the
people was to hear news, and witness theatrical per-
formances. No wonder that eloquence among them
had such unbounded sway. The Athenian assem-
blies were stormy and tumultuous, and Athenian
oratory was of a corresponding character. Laws
were made and public ordinances passed by the voice
of the whole people. It will be readily perceived
that such a deliberative body would be liable to
be deceived and duped by the artful and designing
demagogue, who possessed in an eminent degree the



118 THE POWER OF

Themistocles successful. Aristides banished.

power of forensic eloquence. But what has been the
judgment of succeeding ages respecting Athenian
statesmen? The glory has not been awarded to him
who best succeeded, but to him who best deserved
success. The wrangling orator who sought for per-
sonal advancement, and opened unprovoked attacks
upon the wise and virtuous to secure their banish-
ment, has merited and received the scorn of all
succeeding times; while he who was firm in his
attachment to the prosperity of his country, and who
would rather submit to banishment or even death
than compromise its honor or his own veracity, has
always been held in grateful remembrance. The
demagogue may be successful for a time, and the
good man may suffer deep wrong. But these cir-
cumstances only make us more thoroughly despise
the former, and bind to our hearts more firmly the
latter. Themistocles was eminently successful. Yet
we never pronounce his name without thinking that
he was a deep, designing politician, who was ever
working to secure to himself some political end. But
Aristides will ever be loved and venerated; and
though he is banished from his country by the in-
trigues of Themistocles, and by those who were tired
of hearing him called "the just;" yet as he steps
upon the trireme that is to bear him away into ban-
ishment, he can drop a tear of pity for his enemies,



SPOKEN THOUGHT. 119

Kemark of Sir Joshua Eeynolds to Mr. Burke.

and offer a prayer to the gods for the protection and
prosperity of his native city, that city for whose
glory he had toiled so long and sacrificed so much.

When we see the blackness and perfidy that is
wrapped up in the breast of Catiline, who does not
tremble for the fate of Kome, and grow indignant
over the story of this heartless villain ? But will not
those noble sentiments that burst forth from the soul
of Cicero, make us better citizens and greater lovers
of country? admirers not more of the beauty, ele-
gance and resistless power of his eloquence, than the
courage and fearless honesty of his heart ? We scorn
those tribunes who flattered the people with the prom-
, ise of securing some rights for the public good, and
when power was firmly in their grasp turned a
haughty look upon the plebeians. But when we re-
member the honesty and devotion of Fabricius, and
the noble death of Cato, it is pleasant to -think that
such men have lived.

Sir Joshua Eeynolds once made the following re-
mark to Mr. Burke : " I do not mean to flatter you,
Mr Burke, but when posterity reads one of your
speeches in Parliament, it will be difficult to believe
you took so much pains, knowing with certainty, as
you did, that it could produce no effect, that not one
vote would be gained by it." " Waiving your com-
pliment to me," was the reply, " I shall say in general



120 THE POWER OF

Confederated republic. Liberty of the orator.

that it is very well worth while for a man to take
pains to speak well in Parliament. And if a man
speaks well, he gradually establishes a certain repu-
tation and consequence in the general opinion, which
sooner or later will have its political rewards. Be-
sides, though not one vote is gained, a good speech
has its effect. The bill you oppose may pass into a
law, but it will be modified and softened by it."

This little fragment of personal remark opens to
our view the heart of the great statesman. We dis-
cover that principle in his character upon which he
was willing to stake his reputation. It was not the
rule of mere expediency, or party triumph, or per-
sonal advancement upon which he acted. But deep
and unyielding devotion to those principles which in
his judgment were right, a fixedness of purpose
which no circumstance could change, obedience to
conscientious conviction that no hope of reward could
alter, were the elements which gave luster to the char-
acter of him who is the pride of British statesmen and
civilians, and which will entwine about the name of
Burke in perennial beauty.

In some respects civil society among us is similar
to what it was among the Greeks. Ours is a confed-
erated republic, and with us, as with the Greeks, the
orator is at liberty to think what he pleases and speak
what he thinks. Successful oratory is in high repute.



SPOKEN THOUGHT. 121

Our nation. Its destiny.

"We pay great deference to the man who affects and
moves us by the expression of his opinions. We are
therefore, like the Greeks, as a people, liable to be de-
ceived by him who has a false heart and a persuasive
tongue. In many respects the prospects before our
nation are flattering. It occupies the fairest portion
of this western continent. It is situated in the most
beautiful and productive region of the whole earth.
It has ample territory, and boundless resources. For
beauty and grandeur of scenery, salubrity of air, and
serenity of sky, it is not surpassed. Its people are of
that stock who are ever restless and unsatisfied. The
arts eminently flourish. Intellectual culture is duly
appreciated and patronized. But, alas for its fate
if wicked men are suffered to control its destiny I
Heaven grant that wisdom may direct, that virtue
may prevail 1



LECTURE IV.

YOCAL CULTURE.

ACOEEECT and ready elocution can not be
overvalued in a system of education. Speech
is that one of our faculties which is in almost con-
stant use. From the artless prattle of infancy to
the last trembling accents of age, the voice rarely
remains long unused. If it be employed for the
purpose of public speaking, there is special need
of a happy and effective utterance. But even in
ordinary conversation it is pleasant to hear a mu-
sical voice equally removed from ignorant vulgar-
ity and studied affectation. It is exhilarating to feel
in the tone, the sentiments that glow in the mind
of him who addresses us. An easy elocution is
among the first of accomplishments, because it is
one which constantly shows. They who labor so
assiduously to maintain a claim to aristocracy in
manners and dress should not neglect this.

When we speak, it is our object to convey to the
minds of others the thoughts which we have in our
own minds. We may fail to effect this purpose,



VOCAL CULTURE. 123

Tone repulsive. True idea of reading.

either wholly or in part, from a defective or care-
less habit of utterance. We receive and retain the
thoughts of some persons, because of the pleasant
and striking style in which they are spoken, and we
forget what another has said before he has done
speaking, because his style of address is so repulsive
and bungling. If we gain the attention of the one
we address and his mind is in a receptive state, still
we may fail to make him feel the force of a thought
as we do, because we have not the faculty of throw-
ing it fully into the words we speak. "We have all
observed that there is music, a magic in some voices
that is charming and attractive, while others are
capable of blunting our perceptions and forcing us
to close our ears.

If we read aloud what another has written, the
task becomes more difficult ; for in addition to what
has been named above, we have to learn and ap-
preciate what was the idea of the author. Heading
consists in conveying to the minds of those who
listen, the thought as it originally existed in the
mind of him who wrote it. If we fail to understand
and fully appreciate the meaning of the piece as we
proceed, then we do not read, but simply call words
like the parrot. If we have a correct understanding
of it, but still fail to communicate it by the words
we use, then we do not read in the proper accep-



124 VOCAL CULTURE.

Imitation. False habits.

tation of that term. The requisites for reading are
an appreciation of the thought of the author, and a
correct and effective elocution which enables us to
convey that thought to the hearer.

The first knowledge of the use of the voice we
acquire by imitation. The child, before it is old
enough to talk, will express its ideas by a correct
modulation. In youthful play and sport we rarely
hear an incorrect inflection, and if the example has
been good scarcely a principle of elocution will be
violated. But when the child learns its letters, and
then to combine those letters into words, it usually
fails to understand and appreciate the thought, and
consequently fails to communicate it. Beading, ac-
cording to the conception of the child, is a process of
calling words more or less rapidily, and stopping to
spell out only the more difficult ones. The habit is
formed of reading and speaking in a set, measured
tone, without any reference to the sense, and ob-
serving none of the principles of inflection and in-
tonation which were in infancy correctly learned.
As the boy grows up he often indulges in animated
and impassioned conversation, and by using lan-
guage rapidly and without care, the very bad prac-
tice is indulged of omitting many sounds, and of
obscuring others, and the habit is soon formed of
incorrect and imperfect articulation.



VOCAL CULTURE. 125

Object of elocution. Enunciation.

The object of vocal culture or elocution is to
break up false habits and to establish those which
are correct, and to arouse the emotional nature of
the reader to a just conception of the thought to be
communicated. It is not the province of this science
to create an emotional nature, but simply to awaken
and direct that which already exists. It can not
bestow on the voice any new elements of power ;
but it may give to those which we have a new vital


1 2 3 4 5 7 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22

Online LibrarySamuel P. (Samuel Penniman) BatesLectures on mental and moral culture → online text (page 7 of 22)