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CHATHAM, BURKE, AND ERSKINE.
TO WHICH IS ADDED,
THE ARGUMENT OF MR. MACKINTOSH
IN THE CASE OF PELTIER.
SELECTED BY A
MEMBER OF THE PHILADELPHIA BAR.
tulit eloquium insolitum facundia præceps;
E. C. & J. BIDDLE, No. 6 SOUTH FIFTH STREET.
Entered according to the act of congress, in the year 1831, by Key & BIDDLE, in the clerk's office of the district court, for the eastern district of Pennsylvania.
t'rinted by T. K di P. G. Collins.
In selecting the Speeches contained in the following pages, the compiler has been influenced by two considerations, the one having reference solely to their literary merit, the other to the dignity and importance of the topics of which they treat.
In a country where almost every citizen has occasion, at some period, to express his sentiments in a public assembly, the diffusion of correct models for popular and deliberative oratory is eminently desirable. Native force, unassisted by judgment and taste, like a projectile ill-directed, not only falls short of its aim, but becomes a useless and dangerous missile. No man is born an orator--no man is even fashioned into a judicious and impressive speaker without a certain amount of study and training. The efforts of an unschooled and fervid imagination, spurning and overleaping the boundaries of good sense and propriety, may arouse the passions and obtain the applause of the unreflecting ; but it is to "the words of truth and soberness," sustained and elevated by a cultivated mind and chastened fancy, that men give the name and the praise of eloquence. It should ever be recollected that oratory is peculiarly an art, perfected only, according to the ancients, by the knowledge and practice of almost every other, and the mere physics of which,“the eloquence of the body," as Quintilian phrases it,-were with them a subject of intense application. If the improved state of popular education renders that branch of study less important to a modern speaker, it, at the same time, enhances the necessity of increased attention to that which is purely intellectual. While the "fierce democracy” of Athens
were sterner critics in accent and gesture, the Ameri can people more rigidly insist that their understandings shall be convinced, their taste consulted, and their minds enlightened.
There is doubtless some reason in the strictures which have been advanced upon the character of our legislative debates. They are, for the most part, prolix and tedious on the one hand, or tumid and extravagant on the other—in either case, they are superficial and discursive. These defects may in part be attributed to the republican principles and forms which predominate in our Constitution and laws. We have no professional legislators, and, with the exception of a single class, few practised speakers ;
-Veniet de plebe togata Qui juris nodos, et legum ænigmata solvat.” Habits of condensed thought and expression are not acquired in a day, nor are the pursuits of active life always consistent with that intellectual training which best makes men apt speakers by first making them close thinkers. So far as this and similar evils are incident to our political system, we submit to them as more than counterbalanced by the practical equality and freedom of our institutions. But a vicious style and defective method can be inherent in no form of gov. ernment, since they result less from a deficiency of power than from a depressed literary standard. It is to elevate this standard, to bring the American reader into familiar and accurate acquaintance with the best examples of English eloquence, to show him with what skill and effect his language has been wielded for the various purposes of attack and defence, of argument and invective, of satire and eulogium, and thereby to raise, refine, and purify the national taste, already highly improved, that the present collection has been undertaken and will be prosecuted.
This and a succeeding volume, (to be compiled principally from the works of Fox, Pitt, and Sheridan,) will contain, though not precisely in a chronological series, as many of the more distinguished efforts of the leaders of the British Parliament, from the commencement of the American war to the treaty of Amiens, as their limits will admit. The collection will also include some of the popular and forensic addresses of the same period, and will be followed by a selection from the speeches of Mr. Canning, Lord Brougham, and others, by which the work will be completed to the present time. In regard to the period first alluded to, we know of none in English history more capable of affording instruction to an American citizen, whether we consider the magnitude of the topics discussed or the energy of intellect and extent of erudition applied to their consideration. The assertion of those free principles, the denial of which dismembered one ancient government and dissolved another, was nowhere louder than in the British Parliament; and the defence of personal rights, political, civil, and religious, was nowhere manlier, though elsewhere perhaps more successful, than in the British courts. It is not our business here to arraign motives ; perhaps in the acrimonious contests of that day, the difference was, often, less about principles than about their application. Certain it is that we may reap benefit from a collision, in which institutions were assailed, on the one side, by genius prompted by lofty purpose and upheld by high ambition, and defended on the other by all the resources which power could enlist from learning, zeal, and patriotism. The basis of civil government, the rights of the subject, and the prerogative of the ruler, hung upon men's tongues, not as matters of fanciful and idle theory, but in direct reference to the fate of the empire and the preservation of its laws and Constitution.