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-* greatest orators and statesmen of Europe, including Disraeli of England, Bismarck of representatives of Italy, France, Holland and Russia.

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JOHN PHILPOT CURRAN (1750–1817)

THE HUMOROUS ORATOR OF THE IRISH BAR

EVER had Ireland another legal orator like Curran. He was a N member of the Irish Parliament after 1783, but his career there was quite eclipsed by that at the Bar. His eloquence, humor and sarcasm brought him an extensive practice. In crossexamination he was inimitable; “he argued, he cajoled, he ridiculed, he mimicked, he played off the various artillery of his talent upon the witness,” Charles Philips says. “There never lived a greater advocate; certainly never one more suited to the country in which his lot was cast. His eloquence was copious, rapid and ornate, and his power of mimicry beyond all description.” He began his career with a defect in speech, the school-boys calling him “Stuttering Jack Curran.” Like Demosthenes, he overcame this by earnest effort, practicing before a glass, declaiming celebrated orations and other means. Antony's oration over the dead body of Caesar was his favorite model

of eloquence.
THE PENSION SYSTEM

[As an example of Curran's sarcasm, we append a brief extract from his remarks in 178o on the Pension System.] This polyglot of wealth, this museum of curiosities, the Pension List, embraces every link in the human chain, every description of men, women, and children, from the exalted excellence of a Hawke or a Rodney, to the debased situation of the lady who humbleth herself that she may be exalted. But the lessons it inculcates form its greatest perfection ; it teacheth that Sloth and Vice may eat that bread which Virtue and Honesty may starve for after they have earned it. It teaches the idle and dissolute to look up for that support which they are too proud to stoop and earn. It directs the minds of men to an entire reliance on the ruling Power of the State, who feeds the ravens of the Royal aviary, that cry

494 John PHILPOT CURRAN

continually for food. It teaches them to imitate those saints on the Pension List that are like the lilies of the field; they toil not, neither do they spin, and yet are arrayed like Solomon in his glory. In fine, it teaches a lesson, which, indeed, they might have learned from Epictetus, that it is sometimes good not to be over-virtuous; it shows that, in proportion as our distresses increase, the munificence of the Crown increases also ; in proportion as our clothes are rent, the royal mantle is extended Over 11s. THE MARCH OF THE MIND

[From a speech in the Irish Parliament in 1796 we choose the following brief extract, in which Curran replaces satire and humor by eloquence, and strikingly delineates the march of the human mind.]

Gentlemen say the Catholics have got everything but seats in Parliament. Are we really afraid of giving them that privilege P Are we seriously afraid that Catholic venality might pollute the immaculate integrity of the House of Commons?—that a Catholic member would be more accessible to a promise, or a pension, or a bribe, than a Protestant 2 Lay your hands upon your hearts, look in one another's faces, and say Yes, and I will vote against this amendment. But is it the fact that they have everything 2 Is it the fact that they have the common benefit of the Constitution, or the common protection of the law 2

Another gentleman has said, the Catholics have got much, and ought to be content. Why have they got that much 2 Is it from the minister 2 Is it from the Parliament which threw their petition over its Bar 2 No! they got it by the great revolution of human affairs; by the astonishing march of the human mind; a march that has collected too much momentum, in its advance, to be now stopped in its progress. The bark is still afloat; she is freighted with the hopes and liberties of millions of men; she is already under way; the rower may faint, or the wind may sleep, but, rely upon it, she has already acquired an energy of advancement that will support her course and bring her to her destination; rely upon it, whether much or little remains, it is now vain to withhold it; rely upon it, you may as well stamp your foot upon the earth, in order to prevent its revolution. You cannot stop it! You will only remain a silly gnomon upon its surface, to measure the rapidity of rotation, until you are forced round and buried in the shade of that body whose irresistible course you would endeavor to oppose 1

THE EVIDENCE OF MR. O'BRIEN

[The following is an example of Curran's method of presenting the evidence of a witness to a jury.]

JOHN PHILPOT CURRAN 495

What is the evidence of O'Brien P what has he stated? Here, gentlemen, let me claim the benefits of that great privilege which distinguishes trial by jury in this country from all the world. Twelve men, not emerging from the must and cobwebs of a study, abstracted from human nature, or only acquainted with its extravagances; but twelve men, conversant with life, and practised in those feelings which mark the common and necessary intercourse between man and man. Such are you, gentlemen; how, then, does Mr. O'Brien's tale hang together ? Look to its commencement. He walks along Thomas Street, in the open day (a street not the least populous in the city), and is accosted by a man, who, without any preface, tells him he'll be murdered before he goes half the street, unless he becomes a United Irishman Do you think this a probable story 2

Suppose any of you, gentlemen, be a United Irishman, or a Freemason, or a Friendly Brother, and that you met me walking innocently along, just like Mr. O'Brien, and meaning no harm, would you say, “Stop, sir, don't go further, you'll be murdered before you go half the street, if you do not become a United Irishman, a Freemason, or a Friendly Brother ?” Did you ever hear so coaxing an invitation to felony as this 2 “Sweet Mr. James O'Brien, come in and save your precious life; come in and take an oath, or you'll be murdered before you go half the street ! Do, sweetest, dearest, Mr. James O'Brien, come in and do not risk your valuable existence.” What a loss had he been to his king, whom he loves so marvelously

Well, what does poor Mr. O'Brien do? Poor, dear man, he stands petrified with the magnitude of his danger; all his members refuse their office; he can neither run from the danger, nor call for assistance; his tongue cleaves to his mouth, and his feet incorporate with the paving stones; it is in vain that his expressive eye silently implores protection of the passenger; he yields at length, as greater men have done, and resignedly submits to his fate: he then enters the house, and being led into a room, a parcel of men make faces at him ; but mark the metamorphosis—well may it be said, that “miracles will never cease,”—he who feared to resist in the open air, and in the face of the public, becomes a bravo, when pent up in a room, and environed by sixteen men; and one is obliged to bar the door, while another swears him ; which, after some resistance, is accordingly done, and poor Mr. O'Brien becomes a United Irishman, for no earthly purpose whatever, but merely to save his sweet

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RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN (1751-1816)

THE CELEBRATED ORATOR AND DRAMATIST

Britain's most famous orators—Edmund Burke and Richard Brinsley Sheridan, though both of them spent their lives and won their fame in England. Sheridan was a man of double, or triple, powers; the greatest of modern English dramatists; a wit of the first water; and an orator of striking ability. Studying in Dublin and at Harrow, he wasted his time in indolence, and left school with the reputation of “an impenetrable dunce.” There never was a greater mistake. He might have graduated with a splendid record, if he had chosen to study. Sheridan first showed his powers in the drama. The “Rivals,” first played in 1775, soon became very popular. The “Duenna” met with brilliant success, and the “School for Scandal” established his reputation as a dramatic genius of the highest order. It also showed his great powers as a wit, it scintillating with witty sayings from end to end. His reputation made in the drama, in 1780 Sheridan entered Parliament, where he was destined to make his mark brilliantly in oratory. It was especially in the trial of Warren Hastings, in which Sheridan, Burke, Fox and others represented the House of Commons before the House of Lords, sitting as a court of impeachment, that he established his fame, his Begum speech creating an extraordinary sensation at the time, and being still regarded as one of the most splendid examples of eloquence extant.

1) UBLIN has the honor of being the birthplace of two of Great

THE ARRAIGNMENT OF WARREN HASTINGS [Sheridan made two famous speeches in the Hastings trial. The following extract gives an excellent idea of his powers. It is a fine example of ironical oratory, ending with an earnest appeal to the principles of honor and virtue.]

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