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The three small volumes here offered to the public have been prepared in the hope that they would be of some service in showing the great currents of political thought that have shaped the history of Great Britain during the past two hundred and fifty years. The effort has been not so much to make a collection of the most remarkable specimens of English eloquence, as to bring together the most famous of those oratorical utterances that have changed, or here tended to change, the course of English history.
Eliot and Pym formulated the grievances against absolutism, a contemplation of which led to the revolution that established Anglican liberty on its present basis. Chatham, Mansfield, and Burke elaborated the principles which, on the one hand, drove the American colonies into independence, and, on the other, enabled their independence to be won and secured. Mackintosh and Erskine enunciated in classical form the fundamental rights which permanently secured the freedom of juries and the freedom of the press. Pitt, in the most elaborate as well as the most important of all his remarkable speeches, expounded the English policy of continuous opposition to Napoleon; and Fox, in one of the most masterly of his unrivalled replies, gave voice to that sentiment which was in favor of negotiations for peace. Canning not only shaped the foreign policy of the nation during the important years immediately succeeding the Napoleonic wars, but put that policy into something like permanent form in what has generally been considered the masterpiece of his eloquence. Macaulay's first speech on the Reform Bill of 1832 was the most cogent advocacy of what proved to be nothing less than a political revolution; and Cobden, the inspirer and apostle of Free Trade, enjoys the
unique distinction of having reversed the opinions of a prime-minister by means of his persuasive reasonings. Bright embodied in a single eloquent address the reasons why so many have thought the foreign policy of England to be only worthy of condemnation. Beaconsfield concentrated into one public utterance an expression of the principles which it has long been the object of the Conservative party to promulgate and defend; and Gladstone, in one of his Mid-Lothian speeches, put into convenient form the political doctrines of the Liberals in regard to affairs both at home and abroad. It is these speeches, which at one time or another have seemed to go forth as in some sense the authoritative messages of English history to mankind, that are here brought together.
The speeches are in almost all cases given entire. A really great oration is a worthy presentation of a great subject, and such an utterance does not lend itself readily to abridg. ment, for the reason that its
consists of a presentation in just proportion of all its parts. An orator who has a great mes. sage to deliver, and who fulfils his task in a manner worthy of his subject, excludes every thing that does not form an essential part of his argument; and therefore in editing these orations it has seldom been thought wise to make either reductions or omissions. In a few instances, notably in the speeches of Fox and Cobden, a few elaborations of purely local and temporary significance have been excluded; but the omissions in all cases are indicated by asterisks.
In the introductions to the several speeches an effort has been made to show not only the political situation involved in the discussion, but also the right of the orator to be heard. These two objects have made it necessary to place before the reader with some fulness the political careers of the speakers and the political questions at issue when the speeches were made. The illustrative notes at the end of the volumes are designed simply to assist the