Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors][ocr errors]
[graphic]

FREDERICK DOUGLASS AND BOOKER T. WASHINGTON
These two Orators, of African descent, were both born in slavery and rose to eminence by their own efforts.
Frederick Douglass was the orator of Emancipation, and Booker T. Washington is the orator of Education
and Civilization of the Negro Race, and the head of the Tuskeegee Institute in Alabama.

CHARLES SUMNER (1811-1874)

WEBSTER'S FAMOUS SUCCESSOR

[ocr errors]

N the 22d of May, 1856, took place an event which formed the

legitimate climax of the long and virulent slavery contest in the

Congress of the United States. On that day Preston S. Brooks, a South Carolina Representative, attacked Charles Sumner, a Massachusetts Senator, in his seat in the Senate chamber, beating him on the head with a heavy cane till he became insensible, and injuring him so seriously that it was years before he fully recovered. It was the appeal to violence; the first blow in the Civil War. It indicated that the conflict was passing the limits of debate and argument, and entering the arena of physical force. Injured as he was, Sumner was not disarmed. On his return to the Senate in 1859, his unrelenting hostility to the “peculiar institution” was again manifested in a speech on “The Barbarism of Slavery,” which produced an immense effect. Sumner's career in the Senate began in 1850, when he was elected to succeed Daniel Webster, then made Secretary of State. He continued there during the remainder of his life, taking an active part in the debates during the war and the reconstruction period that followed. He was chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations from 1861 to 1870, and lived to witness the triumph of the principles for which he so long and strenuously contended. Among his important services was the production of the Freedman's Bureau Bill.

Sumner holds rank with Webster and Everett, as one of the three greatest orators of New England. In oratory he was a notable representative of the academic method. Eloquence with him was not native, but acquired; the result of special study and mental cultivation. Superior to Webster in scholarship, he was not his equal in native powers of oratory, or in the art of moving men's minds. Yet

[blocks in formation]

his influence in the councils of the nation was great, the more so as his honor continued unimpeachable and his moral dignity was elevated far above that of many of his Congressional associates.

THE TRUE GRANDEUR OF NATIONS [Sumner first won fame as a great orator on the 4th of July, 1835, when he delivered in Boston an oration on “The True Grandeur of Nations," which was very widely read, attracting much attention not alone in the United States and Canada, but in Europe as well. Its purpose was the promotion of the cause of peace. We select from this fine example of his eloquence its effective deprecation of the worship of military glory and the horrors of war, and its statement of the elements of true national greatness.]

In our age there can be no peace that is not honorable; there can be no war that is not dishonorable. The true honor of a nation is to be found only in deeds of justice, and in the happiness of its people, all of which are inconsistent with war. In the clear eye of Christian judgment vain are its victories; infamous are its spoils. He is the true benefactor and alone worthy of honor who brings comfort where before was wretchedness; who dries the tears of sorrow; who pours oil into the wounds of the unfortunate ; who feeds the hungry and clothes the naked; who unlooses the fetters of the slave; who does justice ; who enlightens the ignorant; who enlivens and exalts, by his virtuous genius, in art, in literature, in science, the hours of life; who, by words or actions, inspires a love for God and for man. This is the Christian hero ; this is the man of ionor in a Christian land. He is no benefactor, nor deserving of honor, whatever may be his worldly renown, whose life is passed in acts of force, who renounces the great law of Christian brotherhood ; whose vocation is blood ; who triumphs in battle over his fellow-men. Well may old Sir Thomas Browne exclaim : “ The world does not know its greatest men;" for thus far it has chiefly discerned the violent brood of battle, the armed men springing up from the dragon's teeth sown by Hate, and cared little for the truly good men, children of Love, Cromwells guiltless of their country's blood, whose steps on earth have been as noiseless as an angel's wing. . .

Thus far mankind has worshiped in military glory an idol compared with which the colossal images of ancient Babylon or modern Hindostan are but toys ; and we, in this blessed day of light, in this blessed land of freedom, are among the idolaters. The heaven-descending injunction, “Know thyself," still speaks to an ignorant world from the distant letters of gold at Delphi—know thyself; know that the moral nature is the most noble part of man ; transcending far that part which is the seat of passion,

[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

strife, and war; nobler than the intellect itself. Suppose war to be decided by force, where is the glory ? Suppose it to be decided by chance, where is the glory? No; true greatness consists in imitating, as near as possible for finite man, the perfections of an Infinite Creator ; above all, in cultivating those highest perfections, justice and love-- justice, which like that of St. Louis, shall not swerve to the right hand or to the left ; love, which like that of William Penn, shall regard all mankind of kin. “ God is angry,” says Plato, “when anyone censures a man like himself, or praises a man of an opposite character. And the Godlike man is the good man.' And again, in another of those lovely dialogues, vocal with immortal truth, “Nothing resembles God more than that man among us who has arrived at the highest degree of justice.” The true greatness of nations is in those qualities which constitute the greatness of the individual. It is not to be found in extent of territory, nor in vastness of population ; nor in wealth ; not in fortifications, or armies, or navies; not in the phosphorescent glare of fields of battle; not in Golgothas, though covered by monuments that kiss the clouds : for all these are the creatures and representatives of those qualities of our nature which are unlike anything in God's nature.

Nor is the greatness of nations to be found in triumphs of intellect alone; in literature, learning, science or art. The polished Greeks, the world's masters in the delights of language, and in range of thought; and the commanding Romans, overawing the earth with their power; were little more than splendid savages; and the age of Louis XIV., of France, spanning so long a period of ordinary worldly magnificence, thronged by marshals bending under military laurels, enlivened by the unsurpassed comedy of Moliere, dignified by the tragic genius of Corneille, illumined by the splendors of Bossuet, is degraded by immoralities that cannot be mentioned without a blush, by a heartlessness in comparison with which the ice of Nova Zembla is warm, and by a succession of deeds of injustice not to be washed out by the tears of all the recording angels of heaven.

The true greatness of a nation cannot be in triumphs of the intellect alone. Literature and art may widen the sphere of its influence; they may adorn it; but they are in their nature but accessories. The true grandeur of humanity is in moral elevation, sustained, enlightened, and decorated by the intellect of man. The truest tokens of this grandeur in a state are the diffusion of the greatest happiness among the greatest number, and that passionless, Godlike justice, which controls the relations of the state to other states, and to all the people who are committed to its charge. .

WILLIAM M. EVARTS (1818–1901)

MANHATTAN'S MOST FAMOUS ADVOCATE.

I

N the judicial history of the United States, the most imposing

spectacle was that which took place in 1868, when President

Johnson was put on trial, impeached for “high crimes and misdemeanors," the Senate of the United States sitting as the Court, and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presiding. Prominent among those who took part and chief counsel for the President, was William Maxwell Evarts, the most brilliant legal light of the New York bar, and a man of national reputation in the field of forensic eloquence. We need scarcely repeat the well-known fact that the President was acquitted, and that his advocate aided in the result through his legal acumen and deep knowledge of Constitutional law. The services of Evarts were rewarded by his appointment as AttorneyGeneral of the United States, which he filled during the brief remainder of President Johnson's term. He subsequently severed as Secretary of State under President Hayes.

A WEAK SPOT IN THE AMERICAN SYSTEM [As a legal orator Mr. Evarts had great ability. An excellent example of his powers in this respect was his able argument for the defendant in the great impeachment trial. As evidence, we give an extract from this very fine forensic effort.]

There are in the Constitution but three barriers against the will of a majority of Congress within the terms of their authority. One is, that it requires a two-thirds vote to expel a member of either House; another, that a two-thirds vote is necessary to pass a law over the objections of the President; and another, that a two-thirds vote of the Senate, sitting as a court for the trial of impeachment, is requisite to a sentence. And now how have these two last protections of the Executive office disappeared from the Constitution in its practical working by the condition of parties that has

« PreviousContinue »