Page images

unschooled, uncared-for negro who had committed murder in endeavoring to escape from a farmer, whose house he had robbed. How he escaped lynching my friend did not inform me, but he had been tried, found guilty, and now stood to deliver up his life at the mandate of the law. He looked out upon that sea of faces with eyes that were kindled by an unusual light, and he seemed to be gazing into the unknown future, permitted by the nearness of its approach to see beyond the portals of the new existence. Inwrapped, as he was, with awful dread of the leap into eternity, his heart bursting with strange emotion, his eyes glowing with a weird light, he looked out upon the faces before him, and implored his listeners to profit by his terrible example — to turn from animal wickedness, and embrace spiritual uprightness. His language was ungrammatical, his diction was far from scholarly, but sincerity was in every tone, word, and look, and a deep impression was made upon the gathered throng. This was such a burst of eloquence as described by Webster:

comes, if it come at all, like the outbreaking of a fountain from the earth or the bursting forth of volcanic fires, with spontaneous, original, native force.

It is action, noble, sublime, godlike action.” This poor negro's life was not unproduc

66 It

tive of good, even though he broke what is considered by man the greatest of the commandments, for he was at last used as the humble instrument of God to carry one of His lessons to the erring children of men.

It must not be supposed that I use this illustration in order to belittle the need of preparation – vocal, physical, and mental — of the orator for his work, for, on the contrary, the points I wish to emphasize are that nothing but knowledge can furnish the material out of which the structure of oratory is erected, and that truth, absolute sincerity, is the foundation stone upon which the oration must rest. A union of truth and knowledge is necessary to the production of oratory. The orator should know his subject, know his art, know himself, and believe in all three.

“ Out of the fulness of the heart the mouth speaketh.”

Speaking is an art. The production and management of speech should not be left to chance, or entirely to nature, but should be cultivated and perfected by means of the adoption of tried principles, for only. in this manner can its best effects be produced.

No doubt many will inwardly smile at this, and think : 6 Gracious! is he going to turn speaking

into an art, will he attempt to make public speaking more common than it is?” Some, perhaps, will recall the words of Carlyle: “ Silence is the eternal duty of man,” and also his remark that “ England and America are going to nothing but wind and tongue." But before accepting the dictum of the learned Doctor, we must bear in mind that he was not an impartial critic, that he was a pessimist of pessimists, a lover of truth, as he saw it, but inclined to think that the truth another saw was either a falsehood or a dream. He was, however, always consistent, and ended his life's work as he began it — by pounding his ideas and views into the heads (if not the hearts) of his listeners. This I say with all due respect, because I admire the great Scotchman for his satirical humor, his steadfastness of purpose, and his genius.

Horace states that one Novius, an office-holder at Rome,— a tribune,— was elevated to the station he held chiefly by the force of his lungs. “ Has he not a voice,” demanded his supporters, “ loud enough to drown the noise of two hundred wagons and three funerals meeting in the forum? It is this that pleases us, and we have therefore made him tribune.” 1 Possibly Dr. Carlyle took 1 “ Oratory and Orators,” by William Matthews.

this specimen as his idea of speech, and if so, he was justified in crying out against the extension of such public speaking. But should we not be permitted to see the question from its other side — from the side men like Gladstone, Ruskin, Lincoln, Clay, Beecher, and their kind saw it? For these men agreed with Cicero in believing that it is most glorious to excel men in that in which men excel all other animals. Shakespeare says: “ It is not enough to speak, but to speak true.” He does not advise us to keep silent and thus lose the power of speech, for, in the words of Cardinal Newman, “ He who does not use a gift, loses it; the man who does not use his voice, loses power over it,” but he tells us to speak true, true not only in the statement but in the manner.

Delivery possesses many forms befitting the different occasions and many matters on which public speakers are called upon to speak, and does not consist of mere loudness of voice and exaggerated use of gesture. The delivery characteristic of the political speaker would not be appropriate to the clergyman, the fitting delivery of the clergyman would not suit the lawyer, but each of the many forms of delivery must be given its proper attributes. Daniel Webster splendidly sums up the matter in three phrases: “It must exist in the

[ocr errors]

man, in the subject, and in the occasion." Let us say by way of paraphrase: The delivery must befit the man, the subject, and the occasion.

Oratory may be divided into five distinct classes. First. Philosophic oratory, whose province it is to instruct. Second.— Demonstrative oratory, to arouse feeling. Third.— Forensic oratory, argumentative in nature. Fourth.— Deliberative oratory, pertaining to assemblies of a legislative character. Fifth.- Social oratory, to entertain or amuse.

The first class, Philosophic, and the third class, Forensic, appeal only to the intellect. They are the classes where one mentality speaks to the many, aiming to persuade and move by reason, and not by any kind of passion. These classes stand on the foundation of justice, and aim to convince by demonstrating that they are right, and for that reason alone demand to prevail.

The second class, Demonstrative, appeals to the heart, and not to the mind. It aims to move by making its appeal to the passions, and to sway an audience instantly, without any consideration as to the righteousness of the appeal that moves the listener. Its sole aim is to move, and it is not always particular as to the means it uses, so long as the means accomplish the purpose for

« PreviousContinue »