Thomas B. (Thomas Brackett) Reed.

Modern eloquence; (Volume 11) online

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Betsy Thayer Fricke














Copyright, 1903



EDWARD EVERETT HALE, Author of "The Man Without a

JOHN B. GORDON, Former United States Senator.

NATHAN HASKELL DOLE, Associate Editor " International
Library of Famous Literature."

JAMES B. POND, Manager Lecture Bureau; Author of " Eccen-
tricities of Genius."

GEORGE McLEAN HARPER, Professor of English Literature,
Princeton University.

LORENZO SEARS, Professor of English Literature, Brown Uni-

EDWIN M. BACON, Former Editor "Boston Advertiser" and
"Boston Post."

J. WALKER McSpADDEN, Managing Editor "Edition Royale"
of Balzac's Works.

F. CUNLIFFE OWEN, Member Editorial Staff "New York

TRUMAN A. DEWEESE, Member Editorial Staff "Chicago
Times- Herald."

CHAMP CLARK, Member of Congress from Missouri.

MARCUS BENJAMIN, Editor, National Museum, Washington,
D. C.

CLARK HOWELL, Editor "Atlanta Constitution."








NOTE. A large number of the most distinguished speakers of this
country and Great Britain have selected their own best speeches for
this Library. These speakers include Whitelaw Reid, William Jennings
Bryan, Henry van Dyke, Henry M. Stanley, Newell Dwight Hillis,
Joseph Jefferson, Sir Henry Irving, Arthur T. Hadley, John D. Long,
David Starr Jordan, and many others of equal note.


ORATORY, according to Aristotle, is an art subordi-
nately included in that master art of politics or
statesmanship, by which states are constituted, controlled,
and developed. In its most general character, as implying
the public expression of opinion and feeling in language at
once fitting, clear, and ornate,* oratory, like poetry, is an
eternal concomitant of human life, activity, and progress.

The public utterances in which the leaders of their fellow
men have expressed their thoughts and aspirations, have
uttered their warnings, and revealed their hopes, have
proved themselves to be directors of popular enthusiasm,
inspirers of self-sacrifice, and exemplars of national great-
ness, thus form a long and closely linked succession in the
department of universal literature, in which the voice of
to-day is often little more than the echo of some daring
prophet, innovator, or reformer in the past. The first ora-
tors of Greece were poets, and while Solon the legislator
corrected and enlightened his Athenian fellow countrymen
in Homeric hexameters, Tyrtaeus by his war songs roused
to battle the less volatile minds of the Lacedaemonians.
How near the present is to the past is proved by the fact
that only in recent history do we read that the British gov-
ernment caused the verses of the Spartan poet to be trans-
lated from Greek into English and recited in the hearing
of its red-coated squadrons, in the hope of infusing into
them the spirit of those who fought and fell at Thermopylae,
twenty-five centuries before.

It is necessary that we should consider oratory, and
especially political oratory, from this point of view, in order
to fully understand its dignity and importance. We must

* Oratoris est apte, distincte, ornate, dicere. Cic.


look upon this manifestation of human intellect as a stream
which cleaves the landscape at our feet, but whose springs
are only to be found in the dim and distant mountain
heights. That current has flowed in unabated profusion
through many tracts of history. Sometimes we see the
foam and hear the thunder of the impetuous torrent in the
indignant protestations of Demosthenes, when he points
out to his laggard countrymen the threats and machinations
of Philip. And again, upon the surface of the stream is
mirrored the civilization of antique Rome, in the speeches
of Cicero, but of Rome in her swift descent from republican
liberty to Caesarian absolutism.

But this river receives tributaries from every point of
the compass, from the Congress of America, from the Par-
liament of England, from the blood-stained rostrum of the
French convention, from the Cortes of Madrid, where the
florid eloquence of Castelar pleads for the emancipation of
the Porto Rican slaves. The mighty torrent widens its
area as it echoes the voices of Chatham, Patrick Henry,
and Daniel Webster. And to-day its current flows on still,
less impetuously it may be, but with a calmness which is
full of life and reality. The tones of our living orators are
in harmony with the great ideals of the past, and the foun-
tain of their inspiration, as they are prompted to speak of
the great questions of the moment, is the same as that
whose murmurs thrilled the contemporaries of Pericles, of
Cicero, of Burke, of Mirabeau, of Webster, and of Abraham

And this leads us to point out the specific character of
the present five volumes of " Political Oratory." In the
previous volumes of "Modern Eloquence" room had been
found for addresses whose main feature was speculative or
literary. Even the lighter vein of eloquence is there ex-
emplified in the genial and witty after-dinner speeches of
such men as Clemens and Depew. The contents of these
former volumes afford abundant evidence that amid the
clash of politics and the absorbing pursuits of commercial
life, leisure and cultivation still attract the most strenuous
minds within the circle of a more placid atmosphere, where
delicate fancy, historic allusion, and brilliant description
might be permitted to form the staple of a public utter-


ance, which thus takes the shape of a lucubration, intended
neither to threaten, to challenge, nor to rebuke, but merely
to delight and interest often to elevate the mind of the
auditors, by a succession of images lit up with moral enthu-
siasm, pathos, national sentiment, and the inspirations of
an ideal life.

The compilation of the present five volumes of "Political
Oratory" has a somewhat different object. The orations
herein contained are practical and deal with actualities.

Here we see exhibited in the oration the springs and
motives of the most stirring incidents in history.

We see to the heart of great events, because we see laid
bare in eloquent utterances the hearts of those men who
were the chief instigators and actors in the transaction of
those events.

History is thus turned into a vivid drama of struggle
and progress, alive with heroic figures, who speak the clear
and deliberate logic of conviction, with the forecast of the
statesman and the prescience of the seer, or shake the
world like a storm or an earthquake, by their passionate
expression of patriotism, love of liberty, or disinterested
zeal for the emancipation of the downtrodden, for the dif-
fusion of political privilege among the depressed and the
degraded. In this survey we plainly discern the progress
of historic evolution. We see upon what principles new
nations may be built up and old nations renovated and
restored. Not only is the power of speech, the application
of language to its highest and widest purpose, exemplified
in political orations, by which senates have been swayed,
legislative assemblies directed, whole nations roused to
enthusiasm for right and justice, or to fury against oppres-
sion, but we see how the general course of historic events
is guided in ever-widening paths of liberty and enlighten-

The ancient historians were well aware of this illumina-
tive power of the oration, and it is in the many speeches
which he introduces into his history that Thucydides has
most plainly laid bare the policy of Athens and Lacedaemon.
Thucydides was called by William Pitt the "statesman's
handbook." Picturesque, clear, and interesting as are
the Greek historian's descriptions of sieges and battles by


sea and land, we must read the orations which he puts into
the mouth of men like Pericles, Alcibiades, and Cleon,
before we can understand the passions that swayed the
public assembly at Athens, and learn the underlying causes
and motives of human events throughout all history.

The annals of our own country are unique in the com-
pleteness of what we may style their uninterrupted line of
oratorical illustration. The United States fought their
way to independence through the leadership of orators
before they threw off the yoke of England at the point of
the sword. The reign of great orators always precedes the
reign of great soldiers. Since the time James Otis in colo-
nial days denounced the iniquity of writs of assistance in
words, at which, as John Adams says, "the child Inde-
pendence was born," up to the present moment, the his-
tory of our country has been written in the speeches of her
orators, and only what the voice has sown has the sword
reaped. In fact it is impossible to learn aright the course
of events on this continent, from the Boston Massacre to
the Declaration of Independence, from the inauguration of
George Washington to the inauguration of Abraham Lin-
coln, and thence onward to the battles of Santiago and
Manila, and the annexation of Hawaii, without studying
the speeches of those who have been called to guide the
country by their eloquent counsels.

It would be a broad, but scarcely inaccurate generaliza-
tion to state that such a collection as "Political Oratory"
contains a history of liberty, or political freedom and inde-
pendence. Prominent in this collection must stand forth
the figure of Demosthenes, "the old man eloquent," who
spoke for the liberties of Greece. To see how living is the
influence of his orations we must remember that Brougham
recommends all oratorical students to translate and retrans-
late the Greek speeches uttered against Philip; and, indeed,
Brougham, in his greatest forensic effort, the defense of
Queen Caroline, went to Demosthenes for his peroration,
which is merely an imitation of the closing sentences in the
" Oration on the Crown." The advice of Brougham is
echoed by Senator Hoar in his scholarly introduction to
our first volume. In the historical analysis which follows,
it will be seen that liberty in some shape or other is the


staple subject of European as well as American oratory.
During the palmy days of British oratory, the liberty of
the press, the liberty of the slave, religious liberty, and the
independence of Ireland, were subjects that inspired the
eloquence of the foremost statesmen and agitators viz.,
Curran,Wilberforce, O'Connell, Peel, and Grattan. Even in
the British Parliament the voices of Burke and Chatham
were raised to defend the liberties of colonial America.
The frenzy of the French Revolution was roused by a spirit
of vengeance for liberties long violated, as well as by a pas-
sionate desire for constructive measures calculated to insure
to the people their natural rights. This frenzy is reflected
in the utterances of iconoclasts like Marat, Danton, and
Robespierre; while Mirabeau, the only constructive states-
man of the revolutionary group, advocated the establish-
ment of such a constitution as would set the individual
liberty of every Frenchman on a permanent basis.

The constitutional history of the United States, from
James Otis to Henry Ward Beecher, as represented by
their speeches in our collection, is plainly the history of
American liberty as safeguarded by American nationalism.
This period culminated with Lincoln's abolition proclama-
tion, and its indorsement by the Thirteenth Amendment
to the Constitution, which came into effect in 1865. With
the close of the war we see the establishment of the princi-
ple that every American citizen is first a citizen of the
United States, and then a citizen of the state in which he
resides; i.e., that the United States is a nation, national
citizenship takes the precedence of state citizenship, and
state sovereignty is implicitly declared contrary to the
Constitution by the Fourteenth Amendment.

This outlines the battle-field of American oratory for
more than a century, i.e., between the years 1761 and 1865.
A careful study of the speeches in our collection will show
this. The foundation of the republic was laid in the work
of five great men, all represented by their speeches in the
present work viz., George Washington, the Sword of the
Revolutionaries, and not only the Sword, but the Father
of his Country, in wise counsel and example; James Madi-
son, the principal framer of the Constitution ; Alexander
Hamilton, the author of the " Federalist," who "touched


the dead corpse of public credit, and it sprang upon its
feet"; Thomas Jefferson, who taught what democracy
meant, and swept away the last vestige that remained from
the class and official convention of monarchical Europe;
and Chief-Justice John Marshall, whose profound and judi-
cious interpretation of the Constitution multiplied tenfold
the force and expansiveness of that inimitable document.

During the middle period of American history the two
burning questions were state sovereignty and slavery, and the
anti-Federalist side of the discussion is well illustrated by
John C. Calhoun's last speech. But as champion for the
Union, that irresistible opponent of nullification, Daniel
Webster, one of the greatest of English-speaking orators,
ascended the tribune and answered Hayne, in a speech
which has ever since been the watchword of American con-
stitutionalism. This middle period of American oratory,
which may be said to end with the election of Garfield, is
notable for the national importance of the questions which
became subjects of public discussion and debate, and the
corresponding oratorical power of those engaged in the
struggle Webster, Calhoun, Thomas H. Benton, William
Pinckney, Wendell Phillips, and John Quincy Adams. The
last of the great orators of this time was Abraham Lincoln,
whose mastery of the English language as a vehicle of
sound statesmanship and inspiring counsel equaled that of
the best among his contemporaries, and even predecessors.

The immense strides made in advancement by the Ameri-
can republic since the Civil War result from the country's
release from those deep-seated and rankling differences
which had rendered the war as inevitable as it was neces-
sary, and up to the nomination of Abraham Lincoln had
been obstacles and entanglements in the way of national

Since 1865, and the subsequent reconstruction period,
an era of commercial preeminence has set in, and the orators
of the United States have been chiefly occupied in ques-
tions connected with the country's wealth and material
prosperity, with the tariff and the currency. This is illus-
trated by the orations in our collection. Bimetalism finds
an advocate in D. B. Hill, and free silver is championed
in the speeches of Richard P. Bland ; while Bourke Cockran,


in his answer to William J. Bryan, maintains that to estab-
lish in this country a double standard of value in the cur-
rency would be contrary to sound finance and public honor.
Tariff revision is discussed by Grover Cleveland in his
message of 1887, and an exactly contrary position to that
assumed by the Democratic President is taken by J. G.
Elaine in his "A Century of Protection."

The end of the nineteenth century has witnessed some
important changes in the attitude of the United States
toward foreign territorialism. The Spanish war laid upon
our country claims and responsibilities which are treated
from divers points of view in the orations of Senator Hoar,
J. P. Dolliver, and J. W. Bailey. The annexation of
Hawaii, while opposed by Champ Clark in 1898, had been
favored by Senator Davis in his speech delivered five years
earlier. Minor matters of contemporary history furnish
subjects for G. C. Perkins on the exclusion of the Chinese,
and John Tyler Morgan on the Nicaragua Canal. These
political orations may therefore be said to throw light on
almost every subject of national importance which has
occupied our statesmen throughout the history of the
United States.

The contemporary history of the British Empire is also
illustrated by the speeches of Lord Salisbury, Arthur J.
Balfour, Lord Rosebery, and Lord Milner.

It may be objected that the collection of speeches which
I here introduce is of very unequal as well as of very
varied literary value. On the other hand, I contend that
literary perfection is not the main requisite in a public
address. What makes the great orator is thorough convic-
tion and absolute sincerity of purpose. The first duty of
the public speaker is the advocacy of truth as he sees and
believes it to be. High moral qualities are essential to the
production of true eloquence, whether the matter dealt
with be great or small. The most powerful and the most
influential speeches, ancient or modern, were those uttered
in strict accordance with the needs of the hour, and uttered
out of an overflowing heart excited by some future contin-
gency dreaded or desired. A really great speech, however,
requires a great occasion, and we must remember that great
occasions are those which are accompanied with danger or


anxiety, and the great speech is called forth by prognosti-
cations of coming disaster, or the sense of falsehood to be
unmasked, truth to be vindicated, and public salvation to
be secured. There is some cause for national gratulation
that the speeches that are here published as uttered by con-
temporary statesmen do not reach that pitch of sublimity
which the orator never attains excepting under the con-
sciousness of impending calamity, national ruin, or danger to
some vital principle of personal or political life. The great-
est speeches that were ever made were delivered when the
orator foresaw with the unerring eye of divination the
eclipse of his country's liberties an event which, in spite of
foreboding and philippic, most surely came to pass.

It is a cause for gratitude that these speeches of our
later orators are calm, businesslike, and unclouded by
anxiety or despair. What they lack in comparison with
the burning utterances of Demosthenes, Patrick Henry, or
Webster, they gain as testimonies and records of history.
They bear on their face plain evidence that they were
uttered in a day when tempests and cataclysms no longer
threatened the stability of the state; when the country
could continue its advance in calmness and strength toward
the fulfilment of a wider destiny, in which she should
not only become the market and financial center of the
world, but should have power to hold out a helping hand
for the deliverance of weaker peoples from the grasp of

We venture to hope that the general and topical index
appended to these five volumes will be of valuable service
to those who desire to use the work intelligently, and to see
many great epochs and incidents in the world's history illus-
trated by the power of contemporary eloquence. Especially
useful such an index will prove to those who are studying
the political history of the United States.

It will be noted that although " Political Oratory " be-
longs to the series entitled " Modern Eloquence," we have
included in the selections a few specimens of ancient Greek
and Roman oratory so few, indeed, as by no means to alter
the nature of the work, but rather to emphasize its essential
character and aim. The models of the classic world are
indeed of distinctly modern importance, as is indicated by


the advice of Lord Brougham and Senator Hoar, both of
which high authorities direct the attention of the modern
student of oratory to the study of Demosthenes and Cicero,
without whose names a list of political orators would have
palpably been incomplete.


THE secret of eloquence eludes every attempt to dis-
cover it. Many writers, ancient and modern, have
tried to tell the nature of it, or to instruct the ambitious
youth in that which he covets as the art of all arts, the
power of controlling the will of other men by the gift of
speech. Cicero said the best things ever said about it.
Perhaps Emerson has come next to him. Each was a great
orator in his own way. But it is like poetry. When you
have got the most comprehensive definition your attention
is called to some example clearly outside your definition,
which everybody will agree is genuine eloquence or genuine
poetry. When you have studied carefully all the rules of
the school and got by heart all the instruction of the pro-
fessor, some untaught genius like Burns, or Patrick Henry,
spontaneously, as a bird sings, eclipses all the trained

A good style is an essential in an orator. It is acquired
commonly by infinite labor and pains. To get it the scholar
must have the benefit of the best masters and the severest
criticism. He is told that to perfect himself he must study
foreign tongues, must know how Cicero or Demosthenes
handled a legal argument, or swayed a deliberative assem-
bly. But when he has got through his study he finds him-
self beaten on his own ground by John Bright, or Erskine,
or some Methodist or Hard-shell Baptist preacher from the

For all that, it is true that training makes the orator.
There will be no great orator, as there will be no great
poet, with rare exceptions, who does not observe Horace's

" Nocturna versate manu, versate diurna."


There have been natural orators who seem to have owed
little to study. There have been a few famous speeches
that were without premeditation. But the number of either
is very small. Little that has been produced in that way
keeps a permanent place in literature. In general, so far
as eloquence is remembered, after the occasion that called it
forth has gone by, or so far as anybody cares to read
it afterward, it is like every other human accomplishment,
the result of careful and laborious training. I have no
doubt that the great natural orators of the world who have
had no help from books or masters, and owe little to pre-
vious study, would all agree in lamenting their disadvantage
and in envying their more fortunate rivals, whatever they
may have done that was well done on the inspiration of an
instant occasion. They would have done better if their
faculties had been trained by study, and they would have
done great things a hundred times as often. The great
natural orators of the world are few in number, and each of
them is remembered by one or by very few speeches only.

If the American youth aspires to this desirable accom-
plishment, which he is likely to desire beyond all others, he
had better take Cicero or Quintilian, or the best writers or
instructors in the art of oratory for his guide. He had bet-
ter make careful preparation rather than trust himself to
the inspiration of the sibyl, who will be quite unlikely to
be at hand when most needed.

The longer I live, the more highly I have come to value
the gift of eloquence. Indeed, I am not sure that it is not
the single gift most to be coveted by man. To be a perfect
and consummate orator is to possess the highest faculty
given to man. He must be a great artist, and more. He
must be a master of the great things that interest mankind.
What he says ought to have as permanent a place in liter-
ature as the highest poetry. He must be able to play at
will on the mighty organ, his audience, of which human
souls are the keys. He must have knowledge, wit, wisdom,
fancy, imagination, courage, nobleness, sincerity, grace, a
heart of fire. He must himself respond to every emotion
as an Eolian harp to the breeze. He must have

An eye that tears can on a sudden fill,

And lips that smile before the tears are gone.


He must have a noble personal presence. His speech must
be filled with music and possess its miraculous charm and

Which the posting winds recall,
And suspend the river's fall.

He must have the quality which Burke manifested when
Warren Hastings said, "I felt, as I listened to him, as if I

Online LibraryThomas B. (Thomas Brackett) ReedModern eloquence; (Volume 11) → online text (page 1 of 43)