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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 word'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 the 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
in pointing out the help that he gave in the world's struggle for democracy.
The teacher who uses this volume, therefore, should try to lay before his pupils whatever is necessary to a dramatic conception of the occasion. The famous words should again be illumined with life and reality. He should attempt to recreate the situation that called forth the speech and make his pupils clearly understand the problem that was before the orator when he rose to speak. The exact nature and force of the opposition, and whatever defines the audience and gives it its character and sympathies, should also be clear. With this data at his disposal, the stu⚫ dent will be in a position both to appreciate the orator's skill in adapting his appeal to the prejudices and motives of his hearers and to understand his place in history.
In order that the final appreciation of the student may approach as nearly as possible to that of an intelligent member of the audience that listened to the message of the orator when it was first spoken, the teacher should use each speech as a basis for exercises in oral English. Through oral reading or declamation the class should discover that an oration cannot make its complete appeal as written literature. No small part of the orator's message is transmitted through his voice and presence.
The supreme object of the study of these speeches, we must remember, is not mere increased facility in English, important as that is, but fuller appreciation of the worth of democracy and deeper devotion to the duties of citizenship. Students who learn the significance in history of each of the great men whose words appear in this book, ought not to be satisfied with an intellectual assimilation of our national ideals or with
a passive pride in our country's achievements. The persuasive utterances that in the past induced men to struggle for liberty and democracy, should in the hands of loyal and enthusiastic teachers be able to inspire students with patriotism of a dynamic type. Pupils should learn from these speeches that governments that are democratic require from their citizens more than passive loyalty. Since the modern state is the people, the effective force of the state can be no greater than the sum of the public activity of its citizens. The final result of the study of the dramatic struggles recorded in this book, therefore, should be the conclusion on the part of pupils, that active cooperation in public affairs, is the best evidence of appreciation of the inheritance that has come down to us from the conflicts and heroism of other days.