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a moment, when he had recovered his composure, he continued by saying:
“Sir, I know not how others may feel (glancing at the opponents of the college before him), but for myself, when I see my Alma Mater surrounded, like Cæsar in the Senate House, by those who are reiterating stab after stab, I would not, for this right hand, have her turn to me, and say, Et tu quoque, mi fili! And thou too, my son !” 1
Summary of the Subject of Speech-Composition. — There is no danger that a student of debate will underrate the importance of problems in the composition of his speeches ; but there is great danger that he will undertake to solve these problems with no definite ideas of the fundamental principles that he must observe. He is likely, for instance, to approach the actual work of composition with no definite notion of how it should be conducted, and, worse than that, without any definite plans for his Introduction and Conclusion. Such errors in composition almost invariably lead to disappointment and failure; and, hence, the student should spare no pains to become familiar with all the general principles of composition, and especially with all the different types of Introduction and Conclusion that he may use to serve his purpose best.
1 Lodge, Daniel Webster, pp. 89-91.
Preliminary Statement. — The task of making the plea in a debate demands of a speaker, not only that he should have a knowledge of all the different principles of conviction, persuasion, and speech-composition; but also that he should be thoroughly familiar with every art of debating strategy. The last main topic for consideration, therefore, under the general subject of making the plea, must be the subject of strategy.
Definition of Strategy. - Strategy in debate, like strategy in war, consists in arranging and directing one's forces in such a way as to gain an unexpected advantage over an adversary in respect to the conditions of fighting.
Purpose of the Study of Strategy. — All forms of strategy in debate are regarded by many persons as being contemptible and unworthy of the speakers; but, in reality, the strategy of debate may be as honorable as that adopted by any military commander in planning a campaign and in directing his forces on the field of actual battle.
Some forms of strategy are, of course, contemptible such strategy, for instance, as that which deliberately conceals the truth, or that which takes an unfair advantage of an opponent — and all honorable debaters will scorn a resort to such methods of controversy, just as all honorable military commanders will scorn a resort to treacherous methods of warfare.
1 For lesson assignments on Strategy, see Appendix A,
The study of strategy in debate should not be discouraged, therefore, because some forms of strategy are contemptible; but should be encouraged, rather, in order that the debater may employ every honorable method of advancing a good cause, and in order that he may be able to block every dishonorable method of promoting a bad cause.
Common Forms of Debating Strategy. — The term strategy is, by its origin, a strictly military term; and, hence, all the different forms of debating strategy referred to in this treatment of the subject will be given names derived from military usage. The most common forms of strategy employed in debate are:
1. Strategy of Direct and Overwhelming Assault 2. Strategy of Taking over the Enemy's Positions 3. Strategy of Scattering the Enemy's Forces 4. Strategy of Retreat 5. Strategy of Skirmishing 6. Strategy of Drawing the Enemy's Fire 7. Strategy of Bottling-Up the Enemy 8. Strategy of Evading Traps 9. Strategy of Concealed Objective 10. Strategy of Withholding Reserves
Strategy of Direct and Overwhelming Assault. - No
strategy in debate is more effective than for a speaker to attack at once all along the whole front, forcing his opponent everywhere to take the defensive, and keeping him so busy repairing his losses that he, in turn, has almost no opportunity to launch an offensive of his own. This form of strategy is known as that of direct and overwhelming assault.
To employ this kind of strategy, the speaker should waste no time on his Introduction beyond what is absolutely necessary to state his general position in regard to the proposition; he should weave into his argument the greater part of his narration and his definition of terms; and he should then pour down upon his opponent such an avalanche of points, that little opportunity is given to record them, and no opportunity is given to prepare answers for them.
This type of strategy is well illustrated in the following speech taken from a college debate on the repeal of the Esch-Cummins Railroad Law: 1
“No problem facing the nation to-day is more important than the railroad problem; for the railroads to-day are approaching a condition of utter collapse. Before the World War, the railroads showed signs of a break-down, because they were caught in a nutcracker between the demands of the Interstate Commerce Commission for better and better service at lower and lower rates, and the demands of labor for higher and higher wages and less and less work. Government operation of the roads during the World War tided them over a period when collapse seemed to be inevitable; but when the government turned the roads back to their private owners, they were left, not only in a dilapidated condition, but also on the verge of bankruptcy. The EschCummins Law attempted to remedy this situation so that the roads might recover their financial stability and, thereby, be able to render to the public adequate service at reasonable rates; but, in this attempt, the Esch-Cummins Law has proved to be an utter failure. It has only accentuated and perpetuated the problem it was intended to solve. We of the Affirmative, advocate, therefore, its total repeal.
“Let us examine this law for a moment to see why we think
Opening Speech by Knox College Debater in Knox-Beloit Debate of 1921.
it should be repealed. The law contains provisions of two fundamentally different types. Some of its provisions are merely temporary, and some are intended to be permanent. Its temporary provisions have already served their purpose. They are now dead letters, because they have passed into history. They cannot be considered, therefore, in a dispute concerning the repeal of the law. The permanent features of the law are the ones to which we object; because they cannot secure to the public adequate service at reasonable rates. We propose, therefore, that these permanent provisions, which now constitute the Esch-Cummins Law, should be repealed.
“What are these permanent provisions to which we object ? They are the rate-making provisions, the excess-profits provisions, the Labor-Board provisions, the supervisory provisions, and the consolidation provisions. Each of these provisions operates to destroy adequate service at reasonable rates; and, therefore, we advocate that all of these provisions, that is, the entire law as it now exists, should be repealed.
“ The rate-making provisions of the law operate to prevent adequate service at reasonable rates; for the law provides for a regional flat-rate, with exceptions in cases of obvious injustice. Now, if the regional flat-rate is based on average operating conditions, it will drive the poorer roads into bankruptcy. And, if it is based on the worst operating conditions, it will give all the better roads exorbitant rates that are unfair to the public. And, if it provides for exceptions, it will create numberless appeals for exception after exception, until all the rules of rate-making are thrown into chaos. A regional flat-rate based on operating costs will lead, furthermore, to inflated valuations of railroad properties, and to collusion with manufacturers of railroad supplies to boost the prices of materials, with the result that the