« PreviousContinue »
Orators of the American Revolution
REAT occasions bring forth great men and lead
to great events. What would have been
known of Washington but for the struggle for American Independence, of Napoleon but for the French Revolution, of Grant but for the American Civil War? Men like these would, no doubt, have made their mark under any circumstances, but their fame would have been limited by the lack of opportunity for the display of their special powers, and the history of their achievements would not have stirred the world It is the same with oratory as with other branches of human effort, its great triumphs have been dependent upon great exigencies in human affairs.
While orators have been as numerous almost as | autumn leaves, world-famous orations seem as few
as the planets of our solar system. The orator who would win fame must have, not only fine powers of thought and expression, but the impulse of momentous events, some vast stir in the tide of history to call 'forth his genius to the uttermost and to give his words a living force and a permanent vitality.
The first such occasion in American history was that exciting era which gave birth to the American Republic. It is the stirring events of this historymaking epoch that produced the earliest outburst of American oratory, due to such masters of the art as Henry, Otis, Ames, Hamilton and their contemporaries, and it is from this epoch, therefore, that our first selections are drawn.