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Nineteenth Century Orators of France
HE history of France in recent times has been
unique and highly interesting. Nowhere else
in history can be found the record of a country that had four political revolutions, each followed by a transformation in the government, within a century.
Such has been the case in France. The unparalleled revolution of 1789 was followed by feebler copies in 1830, 1848 and 1871, a republic following the monarchy in three of these cases, while a change of dynasty took place in the second.
Here was abundant political change, uprooting of old institutions, exposure of administrative abuses, radical variations in conditions. In all this there was abun. dant occasion for oratory, and that of the most strenuous character. The type of eloquence to which the first revolution gave occasion we have already shown. That of the succeeding ones was less vehement. Only one orator of recent France can be named who in any sense compares in character with those of the age of Mirabeau.
This is Victor Hugo, whose assaults on "Napoleon the Little” were as cutting and virulent as the most unbridled diatribes of the days of the guillotine. As a rule, however, the nineteenth century oratory of France was in a quieter and more classical vein, some of the most famous and polished orators winning their reputation on non-political issues. As regards the leaders in political oratory-Lamartine, Thiers, Gambetta and others-those, while vigorous and aggressive in tone, were of a far milder type than the fiery orators of the previous century or the indignant and incisive Hugo of their own.
LOUIS ADOLPHE THIERS (1797-1877)
AN ORATOR OF THE OPPOSITION
HIERS was one of that patriotic band who vigorously opposed
the imperial methods of Louis Napoleon, not, like Victor
Hugo, in exile, but on the floor of the French Parliament. He was an orator of the opposition in the latter years of Louis Philippe's reign, and when Napoleon seized the empire he ceased to be his partisan and became his persistent foe. In 1867 he made a strong speech against Napoleon's foreign policy, and in 1870 he vigorously opposed the war with Prussia, declaring that Napoleon had committed another blunder. When the French Republic was organized, in 1871, he was elected its President, but resigned in 1873, after having done much to overcome the evil effects of the war. As a historical author he is known for his “ History of the Revolution” and “ History of the Consulate and Empire,” two works that have been very wilely read. As a statesman he was a man of indomitable courage and of deep and genuine patriotism.
THE WASTEFULNESS OF THE IMPERIAL FINANCE. [As a favorable example of the oratorical manner of M. Thiers, we offer a selection from his speech in the Budget of June 2, 1865, in which he points out, with a critical and sarcastic clearness that must have been very annoying to the administration, the wilful blindness with which the revenues of the empire were being expended.]
Since our new institutions diminished the share which our nation took in managing its own affairs, it was feared that the activity of mind with which I am reproached might be dangerous, unless means should be found to occupy the attention of the country. These means, sometimes dangerous, always odious, have been wars abroad, and enormous expenditure and great speculations at home. After great wars come small onessmall, if we consider the number of men engaged, but large if we consider
Orators of Southern and Central Europe
HE countries of Europe aside from Great
Britain and France with which we have so far
chiefly dealt-have had their orators; men equipped by nature and education to control the opinions and move the feelings of mankind; but, seemingly, in no great numbers. Certainly the paucity of names of distinguished public speakers leads to the conclusion that oratory of a high order has not flourished in those countries. Greece in modern times has produced no rival of Demosthenes, nor Italy of Cicero, nor even any orators worthy to be compared with those of minor fame in classic times. The same is the case with the remainder of Europe. Take Germany, for instance, that land of thinkers and philosophers--where are its Burkes and Gladstones, its Mirabeaus and Hugos, its Websters and Clays ? The fact would seem to be that the long division of Germany into minor kingdoms has checked the growth of forensic or political oratory in that country, there being little opportunity afforded for the cultivation of the art of eloquence. The same may be said of Italy. Moreover, despotic institutions have certainly had a limiting effect upon oratory wherever they have existed, and the fine oratory of the world is limited to the republics of Greece and Rome, the revolutionary periods of England, France and the United States, and the free institutions of these countries in the nineteenth century. As a result, modern Europe, outside of France, has not been rich in oratory, and we are not able to present an extended or very notable list.