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Even when they studied rhetoric as a theory, they neglected oratory as an art; and wbile assiduously unfolding to their pupils the bright displays of Greek and Roman eloquence, they never attempted to make them eloquent themselves.
Oratory, then, is an art. This point has not been seriously controverted in modern times, though among the Ancients it was debated with great warmth and ingenuity. A more important question, however, which has been agitated in all ages, and will, perhaps, never be placed altogether beyond the reach of controversy, is whether oratory can be numbered among the useful arts? Whether its tendencies are not as strong to the perversion as to the improvement of men? Whether it has not more frequently been made an engine of evil than of good to the world? Or whether at best it is not one of those frivolous arts, which consists more in arbitrary, multifarious subdivisions and hard words than in any real, practical utility. The question is to you, my friends, of so much importance that in justice to you, to myself, and to the institution under which I address you, I think a more ample consideration of its merits proper and necessary.
Your time and your talents are precious, not only to yourselves, but to your connections and to your country. They ought, therefore, not to be wasted upon any trifling or unprofitable, and much less to be misspent upon any mischievous, pursuit. In the observations which I shall now submit to you, it is my intention to suggest the peculia: utility of the art in the situation of this country, and its adaptation to circumstances which may probably call upon many of you for its exercise in the progress of your future lives.
In the state of society which exists among us some professional occupation is, to almost every man in the community, the requisition of necessity, as well as of duty. None of us liveth to himself; and as we live to our families, by the several relations and employments of domestic life, to our friends by the intercourse of more intimate society and mutual good offices, so we live to our country and to mankind in general, by the performance of those services and by the discharge of those labors which belong to the profession we have chosen as the occupation of our lives. Whatsoever it is incumbent upon a man to do, it is surely expedient to do well. Now, of the three learned professions which more especially demand the preparatory discipline of a learned education, there are two whose most important occupations consist in the act of public speaking. And who can doubt but that in the sacred desk, or at the bar, the man who speaks well will enjoy a larger share of reputation, and be more useful to his fellow creatures, than the divine or the lawyer of equal learning and integrity, but unblest with the talent of oratory?
SHE pulpit is especially the throne of modern eloquence. There it is that speech
is summoned to realize the fabled wonders of the Orphean lyre. The preacher
has no control over the will of his audience other than the influence of his discourse. Yet, as the ambassador of Christ, it is his great and awful duty to call sinners to repentance. His only weapon is the voice, and with this he is to appall the guilty and to reclaim the infidel; to rouse the indifferent and to shame the scorner. He is to inflame the lukewarm, to encourage the timid, and to cheer the desponding believer. He is to pour the healing balm of consolation into the bleeding heart of sorrow, and to soothe with celestial hope the very agonies of death. Now tell me who it is that will best possess and most effectually exercise these more than magic powers. Who is it that will most effectually stem the torrent of human passions and calm the raging waves of human vice and folly? Who is it
that, with the voice of a Joshua, shall control the course of nature herself in the perverted heart, and arrest the luminaries of wisdom and virtue in their rapid revolutions round this little world of man? Is it the cold and languid speaker, whose words fall in such sluggish and drowsy motion from his lips that they can promote nothing but the slumbers of his auditory, and administer opiates to the body, rather than stimulants to the soul ? Is it the unlettered fanatic, without method, without reason, with incoherent raving, and vociferous ignorance, calculated to fit his hearers, not for the kingdom of heaven, but for a hospital of lunatics ? Is it even the learned, ingenious, and pious minister of Christ, who, by neglect or contempt of the oratorical art, has contracted a whining, monotonous sing-song of delivery to exercise the patience of his flock at the expense of their other Christian graces ? Or is it the genuine orator of heaven, with a heart sincere, upright, and fervent; a mind stored with that universal knowledge, required as the foundation of the art; with a genius for the invention, a skill for the disposition, and a voice for the elocution of every argument to convince and of every sentiment to persuade? If, then, we admit that the art of oratory qualifies the minister of the Gospel to perform in higher perfection the duties of his station, we can no longer question whether it be proper for his cultivation. It is more than proper; it is one of his most solemn and indispensable duties. If
Nature never lends
more especially is the obligation of exerting every talent, of improving every faculty, incumbent upon him who undertakes the task of instructing, of reforming, and of guiding in the paths of virtue and religion, his fellow mortals.
ELOQUENCE OF THE BAR
HE practitioner at the bar, having a just idea of his professional duties, will con
sider himself as the minister of justice among men, and feel it his obligation
to maintain and protect the rights of those who intrust their affairs to his charge, whether they be rights of person or of property; whether public or private; whether of civil or of criminal jurisdiction. The litigation of these rights in the courts of justice often requires the exertion of the most exalted intellectual powers; and it is by public speaking alone that they can be exerted. For the knowledge of the law the learning of the closet may suffice; for its application to the circumstances of the individual case, correct reasoning and a sound judgment will be competent. But when an intricate controversy must be unfolded in a perspicuous manner to the mind of the judge, or a tangled tissue of blended facts and law must be familiarly unraveled to a jury; that is, at the very crisis, when the contest is to be decided by the authority of the land, learning and judgment are of no avail to the client or his counsel without the assistance of an eloquent voice to make them known. Then it is that all the arts of the orator are called into action, and that every part of a rhetorical discourse finds its place for the success of the cause. The diamond in the mine is no brighter than the pebble upon the beach. From the hand of the lapidary must it learn to sparkle in the solar beam, and to glitter in the imperial crown. The crowd of clients, the profits of practice, and the honors of reputation will all inevitably fly to him who is known to possess not only the precious treasures of legal learning, but the keys which alone can open them to the public eye.
Hence if personal utility, the acquisition of wealth, of honor, and of fame, is the pursuit of the lawyer, the impulse of eloquence can alone speed him in his course. If relative utility, the faculty of discharging in the utmost perfection the duties of his station, and the means of being most serviceable to his fellow creatures, is the nobler object of his ambition, still he can soar to that elevated aim only upon the pinions of eloquence.
HE Grecian philosophers first conceived, and Plato has largely expatiated upon,
what they call the beautiful and the good, in the abstract. Beauty and good
ness are properties, and, as to any object perceptible to the senses, neither of them can esist without some substance in which they may exist.
A good man, or a beautiful woman, is perceptible to the eye and to the reason of us all; but the qualities themselves we cannot readily discern without the aid of imagination. But as imperfection is stamped upon every work of nature, the imagination is able to conceive of goodness and beauty more perfect than they can be found in any of the works of nature, or of man. This creature of the imagination Plato designates by the name of the good and fair; that is, goodness and beauty, purified from all the dross of natural imperfection. And then, by one step more of the imagination, we are required to personify these sublime abstractions, and call up to the eye of fancy images in which goodness and beauty would appear, if they could assume a human shape. This principle was applied to the fine arts, as well as to morals; and the painters and sculptors, in imitating the productions of nature, improved upon them by these ideal images, and created those wonders of art which still excite the astonishment of every beholder. The antique statues of the Apollo and Venus have thus been considered, for nearly three thousand years, the perfect models of human beauty. Such exquisite proportions, such an assemblage of features was never found in any human form. But the idea was in the mind of the artist, and his chisel has given it a local habitation in the minds of others. It was the conception and the pursuit of this ideal beauty which produced all the wonders of Grecian art. Cicero applied it to eloquence. It appears to have been the study of his whole life to form an idea of a perfect orator, and of exhibiting his image to the world. In this treatise he has concentrated the result of all his observation, experience, and reflection. It is the idealized image of a speaker, in the mind of Cicero; what a speaker should be; what no speaker ever will be; but what every speaker should devote the labors of his life to approximate.
Let it be remembered, that this intiexible, unremitting pursuit of ideal and unattainable excellence is the source of all the real excellence which the world has
It is the foundation of everything great and good of which man can boast.
It is one of the proofs that the soul of man is immortal; and it is at the foundation of the whole doctrine of Christianity. It is the root of all real excellence in religion, in morals, and in taste. It was so congenial to the mind of Cicero, that in the treatise of which I am now speaking, he took the most elaborate pains, and the most exquisite pleasure, in setting it forth. He addressed it to his friend Brutus, at whose desire it was written; and in
one of the familiar epistles Cicero declares that he wishes this work to be con-
to settle a standard of eloquence; for the original controversy between the rival Asiatic and Attic schools, was so far from being decided that it had given rise to a third system, partaking of both the others, and usually known by the name of the Rhodian manner. Cicero, therefore, determines that there are subjects peculiarly fitted to each of these three modes of speaking, and that the perfection of the orator consists in the proper use and variation of them all, according to the occasion. The most remarkable example of which, he thinks, is to be found in the famous oration of Demosthenes for Ctesiphon, commonly called the «Oration On the Crown.” In the distinction which he draws between the schools of Isocrates and of Aristotle, we find the true criterion for judging their respective pretensions. The first he pronounces to have been the cradle of eloquence. Its florid colors, its dazzling splendors, its studied and laborious decorations, he thinks peculiarly adapted to representation, and not to action; to the first essays of youth, and not to the serious labors of manhood. But it is in judicial controversies, where the conflict of rights must be decided by the conflict of talents, that the manhood, the highest energies of the art, must be exerted. Here all the resources of in. vention, of selection, of arrangement, of style, and of action, must successively be applied, and here alone can the highest perfection of the art be found.
To professional speakers, «The Orator » of Cicero is a work which they should familiarize and master at the very threshold of their studies. It contains a lively image of what they ought to be, and
specific indication of what they ought to do. It is in
comment upon the writer's own orations. It points out the variations of his style and manner in many of those eloquent discourses, and gives you the reasons which inspired his sublime, indignant vehemence in the accusation of Verres and of Catiline; his temperate, insinuating elegance upon the Manilian law and the solicitations for Ligarius; and his close and irresistible cogency of argument in disclosing and elucidating the intricate cause of Cæcina. I would particularly recommend it to those of you, who may hereafter engage in the profession of the law, to read over these orations, and compare the management of the cause with this account, given by the author, of his motives for proceeding as he did in each of them.
But to whatever occupation your future inclinations or destinies may direct you, that pursuit of ideal excellence, which constituted the plan of Cicero's orator, and the principle of Cicero's life, if profoundly meditated, and sincerely adopted, will prove a never-failing source of virtue and of happiness. profoundly meditated, because no superficial consideration can give you a conception of the real depth and extent of this principle. I say sincerely adopted, because its efficacy consists not in resolutions, much less in pretensions; but in action. Its affectation can only disclose the ridiculous coxcomb, or conceal the detestable hypocrite; nor is it in occasional, momentary gleams of virtue and energy, preceded and followed by long periods of indulgence or inaction, that this sublime principle can be recognized. It must be the steady purpose of a life maturely considered, deliberately undertaken, and inflexibly pursued through all the struggles of human opposition, and all the vicissitudes of fortune. It must mark the measure of your duties in the relations of domestic, of social, and of public life; must guard from presumption your rapid moments of prosperity, and nerve with fortitude your lingering hours of misfortune; it must mingle with you in the busy murmurs of the city, and retire in silence with
you to the shades of solitude. Like hope it must «travel through, nor quit you when you die.” Your guide amid the dissipations of youth; your counsellor in the toils of manhood; your companion in the leisure of declining age. It must, it will, irradiate the darkness of dissolution; will identify the consciousness of the past with the hope of futurity; will smooth the passage from this to a better world, and link the last pangs of expiring nature with the first rapture of never-ending joy.
He principles of deliberative oratory are important also in another point of
view, inasmuch as they are applicable to the ordinary concerns of life.
Whoever in the course human affairs is called to give advice, or to ask a favor of another, must apply to the same principles of action as those which the deliberative orator must address. The arguments which persuade an assembly are the same which are calculated to persuade an individual; and in speaking to a deliberative body the orator can often employ no higher artifice, than to consider himself as discoursing to a single man.
The objects of deliberative eloquence, then, are almost coextensive with human affairs. They embrace everything which can be a subject of advice, of exhortation, of consolation, or of petition. The most important scenes of deliberative oratory, however, in these States are the Congress of the Union, and the State legislature. The objects of their deliberation affect the interests of individuals and of the nation, in the highest degree. In seeking the sources of deliberative argument, I shall, therefore, so modify the rules generally to be observed, as to bear constant reference to them. They include all the subjects of legislation, of taxation, of public debt, public credit, and public revenue; of the management of public property; of commerce; treaties and alliances; peace and war.
Suppose yourself, then, as a member of a deliberative assembly, deliberating upon some question involving these great and important concerns; desirous of
mmunicating your own sentiments, and of influencing the decision of the body you are to address.
Your means of persuasion are to be derived from three distinct general sources having reference respectively, first, to the subject of deliberation; secondly, to the body deliberating; and thirdly, to yourself, the speaker.
I, In considering the subject of deliberation, your arguments may result from the circumstances of legality, of possibility, of probability, of facility, of necessity, or of contingency.
The argument of legality must always be modified by the extent of authority with which the deliberating body is invested. In its nature it is an argument only applicable to the negative side of the question, It is an objection raised against the measure under consideration as being contrary to law.
It can, therefore, have no weight in cases where the deliberating body itself has the power of changing the law. Thus, in a town meeting it would be a decisive objection against any measure proposed, that it would infringe a law of the State. But in the legislature of the commonwealth this would be no argument, because that body is empowered to change the law. Again, in the State legislature a measure may be assailed as contrary to a law of the Union; and the objection, if well founded, must be fatal to the measure proposed, though it could have no influence