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ELIAS J. MacEWAN, M. A.
DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
No apology is offered for the appearance of this book. It is an outgrowth of a dozen years' experience with classes in one of the leading Agricultural Colleges of the country. In a school having but a single course of study for the first two years, and differing the last two years in only a few technical subjects, a school essentially scientific, the time for literary work was necessarily limited. That kind of literary training, therefore, had to be provided, which was most helpful to those who, in spite of limited preparation, must go out to become leaders of their class. They had not time to study all the niceties of literary expression. They could, at best, master only the elementary principles of rhetoric and make themselves familiar, in a general way, with the ordinary forms of prose composition. Their work as scientists required proficiency in description. Their work among men would require clear and sound reasoning, and the cogent presentation of what they would want others to accept as true. This was the writer's conviction very soon after beginning his work in this department. Acting on this conviction he made the last two years' work in English composition, - speeches, essays, discussions, - largely argumentative. The effect was a more rapid development
of the students' power of reflection, as well as greater facility and accuracy of expression; and this was taken as a sufficient indication of the value of the work done. Few complaints were heard that the work was dry or unprofitable, or that such rhetorical exercises” bore.
The writer believes that the students with whom this plan was tried, differ little in essential respects from the average college student. In this belief he offers the book to those instructors who wish to do more extended and thorough work in argumentation than is contemplated in the common manuals of rhetoric. He does not claim to present anything new. “The fundamental principles of the art of conviction and persuasion are the same to-day as in the time of Quintilian, but the materials with which the art deals and the weapons in its armory are by no means precisely the same. Pulpit eloquence, for instance, could not be practised until there were pulpits and congregations and a Christian faith. Had Massillon preached in the Coliseum to the Roman Senate, he would probably not have moved his audience either to repentance or to tears. If Antony were to endeavor to-day to rouse his auditors to avenge the assassination of Cæsar, he would need to remember that they had all read “extras' giving full details of the event. For these reasons formal and systematic works on rhetoric need to be supplemented from time to time by manuals designed to bring forcibly before the mind the practical questions which confront the speaker or debater of to-day.” 1
Nothing more than this is attempted here. The old
1 The Nation.
principles are given according to the writer's own method, and in the order of their application in an elaborate discourse. Examples are taken from any source, whether new or old, affording illustrations which illustrate. It must be remembered that what is trite with the present generation of instructors is new to each generation of students. Passages from Webster and Burke, studied merely for elocutionary exercises and worn threadbare as declamations, may surprise the student when he studies them as illustrations of types of argument, or methods of conviction and persuasion. The same principle has governed the choice of propositions suggested for practice in argumentation or debate. The old and well known are preferred. They are themes for practice in the application of principles, not subjects for public entertainment. Material for their treatment is more easily accessible than material on the transient topics of the day. Every intelligent member of a class can better judge whether the material presented on such topics is fact or fabrication, whether the reasoning is logical or fallacious, and whether or not care has been taken in the choice and arrangement of arguments. The reason for drawing so largely upon scientific works for illustrations is obvious. A large part of modern argumentation is in the field of general science.
The book is not intended especially for forensic orators. The different fields of argumentation are recognized throughout the discussion. Purpose and occasion are constantly kept in view; and it is not forgotten that gaining a victory in debate, compelling acceptance of a truth, arousing to vigorous action, each demands its own method.