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readiness in thinking on his legs. His oratorical training was as severe as any Greek ever underwent."
In a letter which is dated March 10, 1823, and written to Zachary Macaulay, with reference to the oratorical education of his son, Thomas Babington, Lord Brougham has these words: “I composed the peroration of my speech for the Queen in the Lords after reading and repeating Demosthenes for three or four weeks. I composed it twenty times over at least, and it certainly succeeded in a very extraordinary degree, and as far above any merits of its own.' This famous peroration is as follows. The climax in the opening sentence has been much admired:
“Such, my lords, is the case now before you! Such is the evidence in support of this measure — evidence inadequate to prove a debt — impotent to deprive of a civil right ridiculous to convict of the lowest offence — scandalous if brought forward to support a charge of the highest nature which the law knows monstrous to ruin the honor, to blast the name of an English Queen! What shall I say, then, if this is the proof by which an act of legislation, a parliamentary sentence, an ex post facto law, is sought to be passed against this defenceless woman? My lords, I pray you to pause. I do earnestly beseech you to take heed! You are standing upon the brink of a precipice — then beware! It will go forth your judgment, if sentence shall go forth against the Queen. But it will be the only judgment you ever pronounced which, instead of reaching its object, will return and bound back on those who give it.
“Save the country, my lords, from the horrors of this catastrophe save yourselves from this peril rescue that country of which you are the ornaments, but in which you can flourish no longer when severed from the people than the blossom when cut off from the roots and stem of the tree. Save the country that you may continue to adorn it — save the crown, which is in jeopardy — the aristocracy, which is shaken - save the altar, which must stagger with the blow that rends its kindred throne!
“You have said, my lords, you have willed — the church and the King have willed — that the Queen should be deprived of its solemn service. She has, instead of that solemnity, the heartfelt prayers of the people. She wants no prayers of mine. But I do here pour forth my humble supplications at the Throne of Mercy that that mercy may be poured down upon the people in a larger measure than the merits of their rulers may deserve, and that your hearts may be turned to justice.”
Undoubtedly this is powerful rhetoric, though by no means beyond the reach of criticism; but the following passage from Lord Brougham's speech in the House of Commons in 1830, on negro slavery, is, I think, more vigorous and impulsive:
“Tell me not of rights — talk not of the property of the planter in his slaves. I deny the right - I acknowledge not the property. The principles, the feelings of our common nature rise in rebellion against it. Be the appeal made to the understanding or the heart, the sentence is the same that rejects it. In vain you tell me of laws that sanction such a claim.
“There is a law above all the enactments of human codes - the same throughout the world, the same in all times such as it was before the daring genius of Columbus pierced the night of ages, and opened to one world the sources of power, wealth, and knowledge — to another all unutterable woes. It is the law written in the heart of man by the finger of his Maker; and by that law, unchangeable and eternal, while men despise fraud, and loathe rapine, and abhor blood, they will reject the wild and guilty phantasy that man can hold property in man! In vain you appeal to treatises, to covenants between nations, the covenants of the Almighty, whether of the old covenant or the new, denounce such unholy pretensions.”
As a contrast to the rushing vehemence of Brougham let me quote a brief passage of calm beauty from Daniel Webster's oration on Adams and Jefferson. To me it seems almost
perfect specimen of what the subtle grace of simple words can effect when they are combined by the hand of a master:
Although no sculptured marble should rise to their memory, nor engraved stone bear record to their deeds, yet will their remembrance be as lasting as the land they honored. Marble columns may indeed molder into dust - time may erase all impress from the crumbling stone -- but their fame remains, for with American liberty it rose, and with American liberty only can it perish. It was the last peal of yonder choir, “Their bodies are buried in peace, but their name liveth evermore.' I catch the solemn song, I echo that lofty strain of funeral triumph, “Their name liveth evermore.'
The first of ancient critics asserted of the diction of Plato that it resembled a piece of sculpture or fine chasing rather than written composition. In like manner it can be shown, by innumerable quotations from the speeches of John Bright, that severe simplicity of style is in many cases the result of exquisite workmanship. I select two examples from parliamentary speeches delivered during the Russian war, to which, as indeed to all wars, Mr. Bright was strongly opposed.
“I am not, nor did I ever pretend to be a statesman; and that character is so tainted, and so equivocal in our day, that I am not sure that a pure and honorable ambition would aspire to it. I have not enjoyed for thirty years, like these noble lords, the honors and emoluments of office. I have not set my sails to every passing breeze. I am a plain and simple citizen, sent here by one of the foremost constituencies of the Empire, representing feebly, perhaps, but honestly, I dare aver, the opinions of very many and the true of all those who have sent me here. Let it not be said that I am alone in my condemnation of this war, and of this incapable and guilty administration.
“ And even if I were alone, if mine were a solitary voice, raised amid the din of arms and the clamor of a venal press,
I should have the consolation I have to-night - and which I trust will be mine to the last moment of my existence priceless consolation that no word of mine has tended to promote the squandering of my country's treasure, or the spilling of one drop of my country's blood.”
The second sample that I shall quote is equally simple and effective:
“I cannot but notice that an uneasy feeling exists as to the news which may arrive by the very next mail from the East. I do not suppose that your troops are to be beaten in actual conflict with the foe, or that they will be driven into the sea; but I am certain that many homes in England in which there now exists a fond hope that the distant one may return - many such homes will be rendered desolate when the next mail shall arrive.
“ The Angel of Death has been abroad throughout the land; you can almost hear the beating of his wings. There is no one, as when the first-born were slain of old, to sprinkle with blood the lintel and the two sideposts of our doors, that he may spare and pass on. He takes his victims from the castle of the noble, the mansion of the wealthy, and the cottage of the poor and lowly; and it is on behalf of all these classes that I now make this solemn appeal.”
Though Mr. Bright is no classical scholar, he is obviously indebted to Horace for the wording of part of this passage. To
prove, moreover, with what care he refines and elaborates his sentences,
mention that in the first edition of his speeches the passage to which I refer read as follows: “But he calls at the castle of the noble and the mansion of the wealthy, equally as at the cottage of the humble.” The alteration, no doubt, is slight, but the improvement is undeniable.
Equally simple in its diction is the peroration of Mr. Gladstone's speech in 1866 on Lord Grosvenor's amendment to the motion for the second reading of the Suffrage Extension Bill. I will read it to you as it is not long:
"We stand or fall with this bill, as has been declared by my noble friend, Lord Russell. We stand with it now; we may fall with it a short time hence. If we do so fall, we, or others in our places, shall rise with it hereafter. I shall not attempt to measure with precision the forces that are to be arrayed against us in the coming issue. Perhaps the great division of to-night is not to be the last, but only the first of a series of divisions. At some point of the contest you may possibly succeed. You may drive us from our seats. You may slay, you may bury the measure we have introduced. But we will write upon its gravestone for an epitaph this line, with certain confidence in its fulfilment:
Exoriere aliquis nostris ex ossibus ultor.
You cannot fight against the future. Time is on our side. The great social forces which move onward in their might and majesty, and which the tumult of these debates does not for a moment impede or disturb, those great forces are against you; they work with us
- they are marshalled in our support. And the banner which we now carry in the fight, though perhaps at some moment of the struggle it may droop over our sinking heads, will yet float again in the eye of heaven, and will be borne by the firm hands of the united people of the three kingdoms, perhaps not to an easy, but to a certain and to a not distant victory.”
purposed when I began this address merely to offer some plain and practical hints on the subject of public speaking hints drawn partly from a personal study of many of the best English speakers, and partly from wise counsels that I have at times received from competent instructors, but I have dwelt so long upon the patient and indispensable labor by which almost all famous orators have attained their renown, that I have left myself no space for my intended observations. This, however, I cannot regret, as the time has, I
1 Some avenger shall arise from our ashes. Orations. Vol 22—6