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the example of their mighty leader, rushed again and again to the onset, —tell me if, for an instant, when to hesitate for an instant was to be lost, the “aliens’’ blenched 2 And when, at length, the moment for the last and decided movement Had arrived, and the valor which had so long been wisely checked was, at 1ast, let loose,_when, with words familiar, but immortal, the great captain commanded the great assault, tell me if Catholic Ireland with less Heroic valor than the natives of this your own glorious country precipitated herself upon the foe 2 The blood of England, Scotland, and of Ireland flowed in the same stream, and drenched the same field. When the chill morning dawned, their dead lay cold and stark together; in the same deep pit their bodies were deposited; the green corn of spring is now breaking from their commingled dust; the dew falls from heaven upon their union in the grave. Partakers in every peril, in the glory shall we not be permitted to participate; and shall we be told, as a requital, that we are estranged from the noble country for whose salvation our life blood was poured out?

THE HORRORS OF CIVIL WAR

War in Ireland would be worse than civil. A demon would take possession of the nation's heart, every feeling of humanity would be extinguished,—neither to sex nor to age would mercy be given. The country would be deluged with blood; and when that deluge had subsided, it would be a sorry consolation to a British statesman, when he gazed upon the spectacle of desolation which Ireland would then present to him, that he beheld the spires of your Established Church still standing secure amidst the desert with which they would be encompassed. You have adjured us, in the name of the oath which we have sworn on the gospel of God, I adjure you, in the name of every precept contained in that Holy book; in the name of that religion which is the perfection of humanity; in the name of every obligation, divine and human ; as you are men and Christians, to save my country from those evils to which I point, and to remember, that if you shall be the means of precipitating that country into perdition, posterity will deliver its great finding against you, and that you will not only be answerable to posterity, but responsible to that Judge, in whose presence, clothed with the blood of civil warfare, it will be more than dreadful to appear.

THOMAS BABINGTON MACAULAY
(1800–1859)
THE BRILLIANT ORATOR, HISTORIAN AND ESSAYIST

HE whole story of Macaulay's life is too broad for us to detail T here, our concern being simply with his record as an orator. Whatever he touched he adorned. There are no essays with the glowing charm of those of Macaulay. There is no history which holds its readers so entranced. There are no poems with the galloping swing of his “Lays of Ancient Rome” and his “Battle of Ivory,” and in oratory his marvelous power in the use of language is equally displayed. While a student at Cambridge he won distinction as an orator, and on entering Parliament in 1830 he fulfilled the highest expectations of his friends. His speeches on the Reform Bill and on the renewal of the charter of the East India Company were among the finest examples of his powers. His rapidity of speech, however, detracted from the effect of his orations, and they are among those that are more effective when read than they were in delivery. Of his style as writer and orator it is said, “Its characteristics are vigor, animation, copiousness, clearness, above all, sound English, now a rare excellence.”

SUPERFICIAL KNOWLEDGE

[We cannot offer a more interesting example of Macaulay's oratorical style and method of handling than in the following extract from the speech delivered by him at the opening of the Edinburgh Philosophical Institute, in 1846. Its lucid picturing of the superficiality of all human knowledge is marked by his most effective lucidity and interest of statement and charm of manner.]

Some men, of whom I wish to speak with great respect, are haunted,

as it seems to me, with an unreasonable fear of what they call superficial

knowledge. Knowledge, they say, which really deserves the name, is a

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great blessing to mankind, the ally of virtue, the harbinger of freedom. But such knowledge must be profound. A crowd of people who have a smattering of mathematics, a smattering of astronomy, a smattering of chemistry, who have read a little poetry and a little history, is dangerous to the commonwealth. Such half knowledge is worse than ignorance. And then the authority of Pope is vouched : “Drink deep or taste not;” shallow drafts intoxicate; drink largely and that will sober you. I must confess that the danger which alarms these gentlemen never seemed to me very serious; and my reason is this, that I never could prevail upon any person who pronounced superficial knowledge a curse and profound knowledge a blessing to tell me what was his standard of profundity. The argument proceeds on the supposition that there is some line between profound and superficial knowledge similar to that which separates truth from falsehood. I know of no such line. When we talk of men of deep science, do we mean that they have got to the bottom or near the bottom of science 2 Do we mean that they know all that is capable of being known 2 Do we mean even that they know, in their own special department, all that the smatterers of the next generation will know? Why, if we compare the little truth that we know with the infinite mass of truth which we do not know, we are all shallow together, and the greatest philosophers that ever lived would be the first to confess their shallowness. If we could call up the first of human beings, if we could call up Newton and ask him whether, even in those sciences in which he had no rival, he considered himself as profoundly knowing, he would have told us that he was but a smatterer like ourselves and that the difference between his knowledge and ours vanished when compared with the quantity of truth still undiscovered, just as the distance between a person at the foot of Ben Lomond and one at the top of Ben Lomond vanishes when compared with the distance of the fixed stars. It is evident, then, that those who are afraid of superficial knowledge, do not mean by superficial knowledge knowledge which is superficial when compared with the whole quantity of truth capable of being known. For, in that sense, all human knowledge is, and always has been, and always must be, superficial. What, then, is the standard 2 Is it the same two years together in any country 2 Is it the same, at the same moment, in any two countries 2 Is it not notorious that the profundity of one nation is the shallowness of a neighboring nation ? Ramohun Roy passed, among Hindoos, for a man of profound Western learning ; but he would have been but a very superficial member of this institute. Strabo was justly entitled to be called a profound geographer eighteen hundred years ago; but a teacher of geography who had never heard of

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America would now be laughed at by the girls of a boarding school. What would now be thought of the greatest chemist of 1746 or of the greatest geologist of 1746? The truth is that, in all experimental science, mankind is, of necessity, constantly advancing. Every generation, of course, has its front rank and its rear rank ; but the rear rank of a later generation occupies the ground which was occupied by the front rank of a former generation. You remember Gulliver's adventures. First he is shipwrecked in a country of little men, and he is a Colossus among them. He strides over the walls of their capital; he stands higher than the cupola of their great temple; he tugs after him a royal fleet; he stretches his legs, and a royal army, with drums beating and colors flying, marches through the gigantic arch ; he devours a whole granary for breakfast, eats a herd of cattle for dinner, and washes down his meal with all the hogsheads of a cellar. In his next voyage he is among men sixty feet high. He who in Lilliput used to take people up in his hand in order that he might be able to hear them, is himself taken up in the hands and held to the ears of his masters. It is all that he can do to defend himself with his hanger against the rats and mice. The court ladies amuse themselves with seeing him fight wasps and frogs; the monkey runs off with him to the chimney top; the dwarf drops him into the cream jug and leaves him to swim for his life. Now, was Gulliver a tall or a short man 2 Why, in his own house at Rotherhithe, he was thought a man of the ordinary stature. Take him to Lilliput, and he is Quinbus Flestrin, the Man Mountain. Take him to Brobdingnag, and he is Grildig, the little Manikin. It is the same in science. The pigmies of one society would have passed for giants in another. It might be amusing to institute a comparison between one of the profoundly learned men of the thirteenth century and one of the superficial students who will frequent our library. Take the great philosopher of the time of Henry III. of England, or Alexander III. of Scotland, the man renowned all over the island, and even as far as Italy and Spain, as the first of astronomers and chemists. What is his astronomy 2 He is a firm believer in the Ptolemaic system. He never heard of the law of gravitation. Tell him that the succession of day and night is caused by the turning of the earth on its axis. Tell him that in consequence of this motion, the polar diameter of the earth is shorter than the equatorial diameter. Tell him that the succession of summer and winter is caused by the revolution of the earth round the sun. If he does not set you down for an idiot, he lays an information against you before the Bishop and has you burned for a heretic. To do him justice, however, if he is ill-informed on these points, there are other points on which Newton and Laplace

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were mere children when compared with him. He can cast your nativity. He knows what will happen when Saturn is in the House of Life, and what will happen when Mars is in conjunction with the Dragon's Tail. He can read in the stars whether an expedition will be successful; whether the next harvest will be plentiful; which of your children will be fortunate in marriage, and which will be lost at sea. Happy the State, happy the family, which is guided by the counsels of so profound a man | And what but mischief, public and private, can we expect from the temerity and conceit of sciolists who know no more about the heavenly bodies than what they have learned from Sir John Herschel's beautiful little volume? But, to speak seriously, is not a little truth better than a great deal of falsehood 2 Is not the man who, in the evenings of a fortnight, has acquired a correct notion of the solar system, a more profound astronomer than the man who has passed thirty years in reading lectures about the primum mobile, in drawing schemes of horoscopes 2 As it has been in science, so it has been in literature. Compare the literary acquirements of the thirteenth century with those which will be within the reach of many who will frequent our reading room. As to Greek learning, the profound man of the thirteenth century was absolutely on a par with the superficial man of the nineteenth. In the modern languages, there was not, six hundred years ago, a single volume which is now read. The library of our profound scholar must have consisted entirely of Latin books. We will suppose him to have had both a large and a choice collection. We will allow him thirty, nay forty manuscripts, and among them a Virgil, a Terence, a Lucan, an Ovid, a Statius, a great deal of Livy, a great deal of Cicero. In allowing him all this, we are dealing most liberally with him; for it is much more likely that his shelves were filled with treatises on school divinity and canon law, composed by writers whose names the world has very wisely forgotten. But even if we suppose him to have possessed all that is most valuable in the literature of Rome, I say with perfect confidence that, both in respect of intellectual improvement and in respect of intellectual pleasures, he was far less favorably situated than a man who now, knowing only the English language, has a bookcase filled with the best English works. Our great men of the Middle Ages could not form a conception of any tragedy approaching “Macbeth " or “Lear,” or of any comedy equal to “Henry IV.” or “Twelfth Night.” The best epic poem that he had read was far inferior to the “Paradise Lost: ” and all the tomes of his philosophers were not worth a page of the “Novum Organum.”

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