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word, and easy flow of language, but they have always relied on the justice of their cause to bring them success, and not on the witchery of their eloquence. The public speaker, on the other hand, just as thoroughly prepared as the orator, is governed by some motive other than truth, and relies solely on his vocal and intellectual attainments to win the victory that could not be his if justice alone prevailed.
From the time of Demosthenes down to the present day, orators have been made and not born. In making this assertion I am, I know, flying in the face of general belief, but general belief is often founded upon ignorance, and in the case of oratory, ignorance is the only foundation for the existence of the belief that orators are born with their oratorical powers full-fledged.
Demosthenes in his youth was ungainly, weak physically, and defective vocally, but possessed of indomitable courage. He became a pupil of Isaeus, who was a great teacher, as well as a great orator, and from him he learned how to use his voice, arrange his thoughts and clothe them with appropriate speech.
Henry Ward Beecher was handicapped in his early manhood in much the same manner as Demosthenes, and became an orator only by incessant
labor. On entering college, Beecher imagined he had an enlarged tongue, deformed palate, and other vocal defects that would forever prevent the realization of his hope of becoming an effective speaker, but it was his good fortune to fall into the hands of an excellent teacher of elocution who soon convinced him that his ailments were mainly imaginary, and that all he required was to know how to use his voice in order to become a good speaker.
In his own language Beecher tells us how the teacher would stand him at one end of the room while he stood at the other and have him go over whispering exercises in order to bring the sounds on the lips, and practise on the vowels in the three registers, so as to increase the compass and flexibility of the voice. Yes, Beecher possessed a glorious voice, but he gained it only after the most laborious practice.
Let me quote his own words: “The cultivated voice is like an orchestra. It ranges high, intermediate or low, unconsciously to him who uses it, and men listen, unaware that they have been bewitched out of their weariness by the charms of a voice not artificial, but made by assiduous training to be his second nature.” The eloquent advocate, John P. Curran, when
at school, was called “ Stuttering Jack," on account of an impediment in his speech, and yet he not only overcame this great vocal obstacle, but became a free and brilliant speaker. Lord Mansfield devoted years of his life to the study of eloquence. The younger Pitt was carefully trained in the orations of Demosthenes and Cicero by his renowned father. Webster, Everett, and Sumner all labored to perfect themselves in the art of speech. Henry Ward Beecher and Roscoe Conkling studied elocution from their youth to the end of their days. Clergymen, like the Rev. Dr. Ernest M. Stires and the Rev. Dr. Thomas R. Slicer, availed themselves of the aid of systematic training, and are excellent examples of what can be accomplished by those who seek to become eloquent speakers, but few ministers of churches de vote any attention to the art of vocal expression, and most of the public men of our day ally themselves with the trusts or private interests and by forming a cabal control the government of our land and follow the behests of special individuals and corporations instead of coming out boldly and speaking for the rights of the masses.
The public speaker should be informed concerning all sides of the question upon which he speaks. He should keep in mind his facts alone,
and not bother about the words that are to clothe them, but his vocabulary must be enriched by previous study and practice to such an extent that he will have always at command the words necessary to convey his ideas; he must possess perfect mastery over a voice made pliable, melodious, strong, and expressive by assiduous practice, and a knowledge of the art of expression, thus allowing the concentration of thought entirely on the facts. Keep the facts in mind and there will be words enough spontaneously flow to express them, provided the speaker has had the training necessary to fit him for his task. He must inform himself on all that can be said against the stand he takes on the question, as well as all that can be said in its favor. This applies to oratory no matter what type of man it speaks through. Webster arguing in defence of the Constitution, Clay in favor of protecting American seamen and shipping from the encroachments of England, Beecher in behalf of free labor, all exemplify this fact. Even the unschooled murderer on the scaffold, imploring his listeners to avoid the causes that brought him to his ignoble end, emphasizes and illustrates this rule.
I care not how the orator gains his knowledge, but knowledge he must have. He may gain it, as
did men like Webster, Everett, and Sumner, by a thorough collegiate education, or he may gain it, as did Patrick Henry, Henry Clay, and Abraham Lincoln, by the study of men and nature, or he may gain it even as the criminal who was unlearned in all things except those imparted to him by bitter experience. The criminal knew full well that evil surroundings, evil associations, and evil acts brought him to his ignominious end, and this knowledge made him more competent to speak on the subject of eternity, warning his hearers against
life that could only mean its early cutting off and the possible loss of a soul through its perversity in following sin, than the educated churchman schooled in the study of printed books, but ignorant of the great book of experience. Such a case as I refer to occurred in one of our Southern States, and was told to me by one of her able lawyers, who was a witness of the scene.
A human being was about to be suspended from a gibbet. The gallows was erected in the open before the jail, the criminal stood upon the platform, while over him dangled the noose that was soon to strangle out his life. Around the scaffold was a company of the National Guard, and beyond the soldiers were massed hundreds who had come to see the