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popular assemblies, the bar, and the pulpit; each of which has a distinct character that particularly suits it. This division coincides in part with the ancient one. The eloquence of the bar is precisely the same with what the ancients called the judicial. The eloquence of popular assemblies, though mostly of what they term the deliberate species, yet admits also of the demonstrative. The eloquence of the pulpit is altogether of a distinct nature, and cannot be properly reduced under any of the heads of the ancient rhetoricians.
To all the three, pulpit, bar, and popular assemblies, belong in common, the rules concerning the conduct of a discourse in all its parts. Of these rules I purpose afterwards to treat at large. But before proceeding to them, I intend to shew, first, what is peculiar to each of these three kinds of oratory, in their spirit, character, or manner. For every species of public speaking has a manner or character peculiarly suited to it; of which it is highly material to have a just idea, in order to direct the application of general rules. The Eloquence of a lawyer is fundamentally different from that of a divine, or a speaker in parliament and to have a precise and proper idea of the distinguishing character which any kind of public speaking requires, is the foundation of what is called a just taste in that kind of speaking.
Laying aside any question concerning the pre-eminence in point of rank, which is due to any one of the three kinds before mentioned I shall begin with that which tends to throw most light upon the rest, viz. the Eloquence of popular assemblies. The most august theatre for this kind of Eloquence, to be found in any nation of Europe, is, beyond doubt, the parliament of Great Britain. In meetings too, of less dignity, it may display itself. Wherever there is a popular court, or wherever any number of men are assembled for debate or consultation, there, in different forms, this species of Eloquence may take place.
Its object is, or ought always to be, persuasion. There must be some end proposed; some point, most commonly of public utility or good, in favour of which we seek to determine the hearers. Now, in all attempts to persuade men, we must proceed upon this principle, that it is necessary to convince their
understanding. Nothing can be more erroneous, than to imagine, that, because speeches to popular assemblies admit more of a declamatory style than some other discourses, they therefore stand less in need of being supported by sound reasoning. When modelled upon this false idea, they may have the shew, but never can produce the effect, of real eloquence. Even the show of eloquence which they make, will please only the trifling and superficial. For, with all tolerable judges, indeed almost with all men, mere declamation soon becomes insipid. Of whatever rank the hearers be, a speaker is never to presume, that by a frothy and ostentatious harangue, without solid sense and argument, he can either make impression on them, or acquire fame to himself. It is, at least, a dangerous experiment; for, where such an artifice succeeds once, it will fail ten times. Even the common people are better judges of argument and good sense, than we sometimes think them; and upon any question of business, a plain man, who speaks to the point without art, will generally prevail over the most artful speaker, who deals in flowers and ornament, rather than in reasoning. Much more, when public speakers address themselves to any assembly where there are persons of education and improved understanding, they ought to be careful not to trifle with their hearers.
Let it be ever kept in view, that the foundation of all that can be called Eloquence, is good sense, and solid.thought. As popular as the orations of Demosthenes were, spoken to all the citizens of Athens, every one who looks into them, must see how fraught they are with argument; and how important it appeared to him, to convince the understanding, in order to persuade, or to work on the principles of action. Hence their influence in his own time; hence their fame
at this day.
Such a pattern as this, public speakers ought to set before them for imitation, rather than follow the track of those loose and frothy declaimers, who have brought discredit on Eloquence. Let it be their first study, in addressing any popular assembly, to be previously masters of the business on which they are to speak; to be well provided with matter and argument; and to rest upon these the chief stress. This will always give to their discourse an air of manliness and strength, which is a pow
erful instrument of persuasion. Ornament, if they have genius for it, will follow of course; at any rate, it demands only their secondary study: "Cura sit verborum; solicitudo rerum." "To your expression be attentive, but about your matter be solicitous," is an advice of Quintilian, which cannot be too often recollected by all who study oratory.
In the next place, in order to be persuasive speakers in a popular assembly, it is, in my opinion, a capital rule, that we be ourselves persuaded of whatever we recommend to others. Never, when it can be avoided, ought we to espouse any side of the argument, but what we believe to be the true and the right one. Seldom or never will a man be eloquent, but when he is in earnest, and uttering his own sentiments. They are only the "veræ voces ab imo pectore," the unassumed language of the heart or head, that carry the force of conviction. In a former Lecture, when entering on this subject, I observed, that all high Eloquence must be the offspring of passion, or warm emotion. It is this which makes every man persuasive; and gives a force to his genius, which it possesses at no other time. Under what disadvantage then is he placed, who, not feeling what he utters, must counterfeit a warmth to which he is a stranger?
I know, that young people, on purpose to train themselves to the art of speaking, imagine it useful to adopt that side of the question under debate, which, to themselves, appears the weakest, and to try what figure they can make upon it. But, I am afraid; this is not the most improving education for public speaking; and that it tends to form them to a habit of flimsy and trivial discourse. Such a liberty, they should, at no time, allow themselves, unless in meetings where no real business is carried on, but where declamation and improvement in speech is the sole aim. Not even in such meetings, would I recommend it as the most useful exercise. They will improve themselves to more advantage, and acquit themselves with more honour, by choosing always that side of the debate to which, in their own judgment, they are most inclined, and supporting it by what seems to themselves most solid and persuasive. They will acquire the habit of reasoning closely, and expressing them
selves with warmth and force, much more when they are adhering to their own sentiments, than when they are speaking in contradiction to them. In assemblies where any real business is carried on, whether that business be of much importance or not, it is always of dangerous consequence for young practitioners to make trial of this sort of play of speech. It may fix an imputation on their characters before they are aware; and what they intended merely as amusement, may be turned to the discredit, either of their principles or their understanding.
Debate, in popular courts, seldom allows the speaker that full and accurate preparation beforehand, which the pulpit always, and the bar sometimes, admits. The arguments must be suited to the course which the debate takes; and as no man can exactly foresee this, one who trusts to a set speech, composed in his closet, will, on many occasions, be thrown out of the ground which he had taken. He will find it pre-occupied by others, or his reasonings superseded by some new turn of the business; and, if he ventures to use his prepared speech, it will be frequently at the hazard of making an awkward figure. There is a general prejudice with us, and not wholly an unjust one, against set speeches in public meetings. The only occasion, when they have any propriety, is, at the opening of a debate, when the speaker has it in his power to choose his field. But as the debate advances, and parties warm, discourses of this kind become more unsuitable. They want the native air; the appearance of being suggested by the business that is going on; study and ostentation are apt to be visible; and, of course, though applauded as elegant, they are seldom so persuasive as more free and unconstrained discourses.
This, however, does not by any means conclude against premeditation of what we are to say; the neglect of which, and the trusting wholly to extemporaneous efforts, will unavoidably produce the habit of speaking in a loose and undigested manner. But the premeditation which is of most advantage, in the case which we now consider, is of the subject or argument in general, rather than of nice composition in any particular branch of it. With regard to the matter, we cannot be too accurate in our preparation, so as to be fully masters of the business under consideration; but with regard to words VOL. II.
and expression, it is very possible so far to overdo, as to render our speech stiff and precise. Indeed, till once persons acquire that firmness, that presence of mind, and command and expression, in a public meeting, which nothing but habit and practice can bestow, it may be proper for a young speaker to commit to memory the whole of what he is to say. But, after some performances of this kind have given him boldness, he will find it the better method not to confine himself so strictly; but only to write, beforehand, some sentences with which he intends to set out, in order to put himself fairly in the train; and, for the rest, to set down short notes of the topics, or principal thoughts upon which he is to insist, in their order, leaving the words to be suggested by the warmth of discourse. Such short notes of the substance of the discourse, will be found of considerable service, to those, especially, who are beginning to speak in public. They will accustom them to some degree of accuracy, which, if they speak frequently, they are in danger too soon of loosing. They will even accustom them to think more closely on the subject in question; and will assist them greatly in arranging their thoughts with method and order.
This leads me next to observe, that in all kinds of public speaking, nothing is of greater consequence than a proper clear method. I mean not that formal method of laying down heads and subdivisions, which is commonly practised in the pulpit; and which, in popular assemblies, unless the speaker be a man of great authority and character, and the subject of great importance, and the preparation too very accurate, is rather in hazard of disgusting the hearers; such an introduction is presenting always the melancholy prospect of a long disBut though the method be not laid down in form, no discourse, of any length, should be without method; that is, every thing should be found in its proper place. Every one who speaks, will find it of the greatest advantage to himself to have previously arranged his thoughts, and classed under proper heads, in his own mind, what he is to deliver. This will assist his memory, and carry him through his discourse, without that confusion to which one is every moment subject, who has fixed no distinct plan of what he is to say. And with re