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THE war with Germany has brought to the minds of the people a new interest in the problems of our national life and a deeper understanding of the meaning and aims of democracy. A widespread desire to stimulate intelligent patriotism through exposition of our national ideals and study of the world's progress toward popular government is everywhere manifesting itself. As the time is opportune for this movement all good citizens should do their utmost to encourage it. In the past soap-box orators, dreamy-eyed pacifists, and unpatriotic teachers of the type of the Russian internationalists, have insidiously attacked and undermined the patriotism of our citizens both young and old. The time has come to end such propaganda. Our new citizens must learn that it was not unoccupied land nor the Indians that made America a free country. How painfully the human race has won the liberty under which we live; what it cost in money, endeavor, and blood, it is the manifest duty of live men now to teach everywhere.
In schools and colleges instruction in patriotism can well be based on a study of the great speeches which step by step mark the world's progress toward democracy. Here we find literature and history combined. Here the many facts and truths of history are not only still lighted with the spirit of the past but they are also clothed with the language of art. Just as battles record for the student of military science the crises and conclusions of physical struggles for the world's freedom, so great speeches mark for the statesman and thinker the triumphs of mind and spirit in their struggles with the foes of progress.
For the use of young and imaginative students the best record of history is found in the speeches that helped make it. Unfortunately the record is incomplete. But where speeches exist marking the crises through which the world has passed in its progress towards popular government, they should be carefully preserved and studied because of their power to recreate the past. Speeches give more than conclusions. They state the problem and suggest a solution which for the time being is wavering in the balance. As the student reads the words of the orator, he is able to enter personally into the struggle. He weighs the interests that are at stake and trembles for the result. As he reads speech after speech he discovers that liberty is not a matter of course, but has been wrung from enemies bit by bit through blood and sweat. Through the words of the orator he learns to value the inheritance handed down to him from the past and gains a personal appreciation of the services of those master minds whose heroic struggles have helped to make the world safe for him.
Speeches are real and intense dramas of life and history. The orator often faces opposition as relentless as a play hero is supposed to meet in his makebelieve world. When a great orator prepares to speak, he takes into consideration all the elements of his audience and the occasion. He plans by making use of every resource in his power to meet the forces of evil as they assail him, step by step. He may fail; but if his cause is essential to the progress of liberty and democracy, the contest is not lost. Another hero takes up the struggle and sooner or later wins; for civilization is ever moving toward something better and will continue to do so irresistibly. The best record of many of the most important events in history is found in the world's great speeches and their dramatic environment.
The chief characteristic of speeches, as compared with other forms of literature or other documents that record history, is that the end and aim of speeches is action. Founded on the past, they look always into the future. The giving of information, the gratification of artistic desire, inspiration itself, are of minor importance in oratory unless they influence conduct. It is the duty of the orator, in the face of opposition, to induce men to adopt a new course of action. This is true even on those occasions when the rights and liberties of men are apparently not at stake. Conservatism, sloth, and greed are often as hard to combat as visible enemies. Webster found it quite as difficult to induce his fellow-citizens to emulate in their daily lives the deeds of the men who fought at Bunker Hill, as he did to vanquish Hayne and his associates in Congress when they threatened to overthrow the Union. Beecher's most difficult task at Liverpool was not to control his visible opponents who sought to break up thc meeting, but to induce his hearers to forego their own personal profit for the sake of moral ideals. The purpose of every orator is to induce men, in spite of opposition visible or invisible, to enter upon a new course of action. The essential characteristic of oratory is persuasion.
The speeches contained in this volume clearly illustrate the fact that persuasion is the end and aim of oratory. These speeches helped to make the world safe for democracy, not through arguments that convinced the intellect, but through persuasive appeals that led to action. The skill with which an orator adapts his methods of appeal to his audience determines the force of his oratory. As a means of persuasion, argument is to be reckoned with tone, with gesture, with allusion, and with all the various forms of connotation. It may be chief among these; but if it stands alone and is not emotionally persuasive; it is dead. A brilliant speaker may win our intellectual assent for each idea he advances, we may perceive the desirability of every reform he advocates, and yet we may not be moved to initiate one reform or to correct one existing abuse. Through argument an orator may win the consent of the intellect; he can never subdue the will or lead to action until he appeals to the emotions.
The significance of this fact is neglected in schools and colleges, although it is duly appreciated in business and in the world generally. The salesman and the advertiser attempt to subdue the will without being controversial. The business man is suspicious of argument, but he is the friend of persuasion. Teachers, on the other hand, have almost crowded persuasion from the rhetorics and the schools. As an aspect of discourse, it has received unmerited neglect, and argument has been unduly stressed.
In the study of Burke, for example, we have for years made exhaustive analyses of his argument. We have followed the course of his logic to the smallest capillary of evidence. At this moment the argumentive skeleton of his discourse is carefully housed in many a teacher's closet. Such a study may not have been unprofitable, but it is better and more interesting to place the emphasis of our work in stating the persuasive problem that Burke faced, in observing the degree of skill that he used in attempting a solution, in noting the changes in conduct that he brought about, and