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define it? History, he will say, is the picture of past ages, held out for the instruction of those who are to come: it is an exact representation of the rise and fall of empires, and of the cause of their progress or decline : it is the impartial record of the actions and passions, the virtues and vices, the glory and infamy of mankind : it is, in short, the great repository of the wisdom and experience of the whole human race, where every lesson is rendered almost irresistibly impressive by the force of example.
Etymology, or the derivation of a word from its original, may be made the ground of some little argument ; but it has so much the air of pedantry, and betrays such an ostentation of learning, that it should seldom be resorted to. “ The word Physician,” says an able advocate for presenting medical instructions in a plain, clear, and intelligible form—“The word Physician strictly means the admirer, the student, the pupil of Nature. Let us then copy her beautiful simplicity: let us lay aside all mystery and artifice : let us withdraw the veil under which pride and self-interest have too long concealed the most important truths : let us shew mankind," &c.
Things are often best defined by their contraries, as well as happily illustrated by Similitudes, or Comparisons. In what does true dignity of manners consist ? Not, as CHESTERFIELD very justly observes, in pride or arrogance, the pretensions of which are commonly treated with sneer and contempt; nor in abject flattery and indiscriminate assentation, which are always degrading. But a modest assertion of one's own opinion, and a complaisant acquiescence in other people's, preserve dignity.
As to similes, we see with what effect one of them is made use of by WARBURTON, to shew how soon the lessons, which the Jews had learned in bondage, were forgotten in prosperity. “ All those exalted ideas of piety and virtue,” says he, “ raised like a beautiful kind of
frost-work in the cold season of adversity, dissolved and disappeared at the warm aspect of good fortune.”
Some orators are indebted for no small share of their fame to a judicious and animated Enumeration of the parts, as they are termed, of a subject. Thus, instead of shewing that we should love virtue, it is proved in detail to be our duty to love and cherish prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance. The French are very fond of this common place; and one of their critics compares such details, not indeed to a thunderbolt, of which they have neither the force nor the lustre, but to hail, which does not beat down the traveller, but compels him to give way and to seek for shelter.
Nearly related to this is another common place, well known by the name of the Genus and the Species. Thus it is easily demonstrated that we should love justice, because we should love virtue ; and reciprocally, that it is our duty to love virtue, because we ought to love justice, which is one of its species.
Circumstances have also great weight, when happily chosen in a narrative, or forcibly urged as presumptive evidence in trials at the bar.
“ This art to Poets not confin'd alone
I grant, 'tis to the skilful Pleader known,
An Accumulation of thoughts, of facts, of circumstances, heaped one upon the other to overwhelm the hearer by their number, is often introduced with great effect, if the art be concealed, by their appearing to start out of the subject, and to rush unsought for on the speaker's mind. Thus when Cicero enumerates the great qualities of POMPEY:
“ What language can equal the valour of Pompey? What can be said either worthy of him, new to you, or which every one has not heard ? For those are not the only virtues of a general which are commonly thought 50. It is not courage alone which forms a great leader, but industry in business, intrepidity in dangers, vigour in acting, prudence in concerting, promptness in executing. All which characters appear with greater lustre in him than in all the other generals we ever saw or heard of.” Pro Leg. Man.
Mr. Addison has a beautiful Accumulation of circumstances rising one above another, when he is describing the treatment of Negroes in the West Indies, who sometimes upon the death of their Masters, or upon changing their service, hang themselves upon the next tree.
“ Who can forbear,” says Mr. Addison, “ admiring their fidelity, though it expresses itself in so dreadful a manner? What might not that savage greatness of soul, which appears in these poor wretches on many occasions, be raised to, were it rightly cultivated ? And what colour of excuse can there be for the contempt with which we treat this part of our species? That we should not put them on the common foot of humanity ; that we should only set an insignificant fine upon the man who murders them ; nay, that we should, as much as in us lies, cut them off from the prospects of happiness in another world as well as in this, and deny them that which we look upon as the proper means of attaining it.”
The Motive or Cause and its Effects, the circumstances that precede or follow any event with which they are connected, and are called in terms of art the Antecedents and the Consequents, are other common places occasionally useful to the orator.
Thus Cicero, ab Antecedentibus, namely the designs of Clodius, his manner of departure from home, and the
rencounter, shews that Milo did not lie in wait for Clo. DIUS, but Clodius for him.
“What method,” says the Orator, “can we take to prove that Clodius lay in wait for Milo? It is sufficient, considering what an audacious abandoned wretch he was, to shew that he lay under a strong temptation to it, that he formed great hopes, and proposed to himself great advantages from Milo's death. Let that question of CASSius therefore, Whose interest was it? be applied to the present case, For though no consideration can prevail upon a good man to be guilty of a base action, yet to a bad man the least prospect of advantage will often be sufficient. By Milo's death, Clodius not only gained his point of being Prætor, without that restraint which his adversary's power as consul would have laid upon his wicked designs, but likewise that of being Prætor under those consuls, by whose connivances at least, if not assistance, he hoped he should be able to betray the state into the mad schemes he had been forming."
And again, a concomitantibus, or from the very circumstances of the facts, Cicero proceeds thus, "My Lords, every circumstance concurs to prove that it was for Milo's interest that CLODIUS should live ; that, on the contrary, Milo's death was a most desirable event for answering the purposes of CLODIUS; that on the one side, there was a most implacable hatred, on the other, not the least ; that the one had been continually employing himself in acts of violence, the other only in opposing them; that the life of Milo was threatened, and his death publicly foretold by CLODIUS, whereas nothing of that kind was ever heard from Milo; that the day fixed for Milo's journey was necessary, but that of CLODIUS rather the contrary ; that Milo made no alteration in his measures, but that Clodius feigned an excuse for altering his; that if Milo had designed to way-lay Clodius he would have waited for him near the city till it was dark,
but that CLODIUS, even if he had been under no apprehensions from Milo, ought to have been afraid of coming to town so late at night.”
All the foregoing Common Places are called internal, because they arise, as the ancients used to say, out of the very bowels of the cause, “ ex visceribus rei ;" but there are some common places, suggested by external considerations, particularly in judicial proceedings, such as the Law re, specting the point in question; the nature of the Evi. dence; Presumptions for or against the fact ; Common Re. port; and a few other matters of the like kind, which more properly belong to jurisprudence than to eloquence.
OF DISPOSITION, THE SECOND ESSENTIAL FUNCTION OF
FROM what has been said of Invention, it is evident that it must chiefly depend on fertility of genius, though a little aided by an easy reference to those Common Places, above explained. But the arrangement of the materials, furnished by invention, is the work of judgment alone, and must therefore derive great assistance from art. It is of little avail to think of a good thing, unless it be introduced in the place where it may have most effect. The orator, in drawing up his arguments and the various resources of his genius, must imitate the conduct of a skilful general in the field, who posts his cavalry, infantry, and light troops, where each of them can act to the greatest advantage. CICERO makes use of this simile to give a clear idea of the elder ANTHONY's consummate skill in the due ordering of whatever could be most serviceable to his cause *.
* De claris Oratoribus.