Orations of British Orators: Including Biographical and Critical Sketches - Vol. 1

Orations of British Orators: Including Biographical and Critical Sketches - Vol. 1

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Orations of British Orators: Including Biographical and Critical Sketches - Vol. 1

Orations of British Orators: Including Biographical and Critical Sketches - Vol. 1

Read FREE!

Excerpt

It is a truth of impressive significance that enthusiasm for civil and religious liberty has been, in all ages of history, the leading motive of oratory. Men to whom the gift of eloquence has been vouchsafed seem almost invariably to be inspired to put forth their greatest and most memorable efforts in the cause of God, or of freedom. Demosthenes, in the porticos and Senate chambers of ancient Greece, attained his sublimest height when urging his countrymen to resist the aggressions of Philip of Macedon, who meditated the overthrow of Grecian republicanism. At a later day, Marcus Tullius Cicero thundered forth his denunciations of the conspirator Catiline, because he knew that the success of that conspiracy meant the ruin of Roman institutions. No other cause could so have fired the spirit of these men; and many of the great national tragedies of history have been due to the fact that the people who heard them speak turned aside from their warnings and arguments, and followed the lower paths of material expediency and selfishness.

In early Christian and mediaeval times the occasions of oratory were mainly religious; for the doctrines of Christianity were then more absorbing than political ones: mankind, indeed, having fallen under the dominion of temporal tyranny in all civil affairs, and therefore finding their best consolation in aspirations toward spiritual emancipation. Arguments on points of theological controversy also assume a prominent position in the recorded eloquence of those days; because the true interpretation of ambiguous questions of this kind seemed to the contestants to involve matters of pre-eminent import to the welfare of the life beyond the grave.

But when, a thousand years ago, the beginnings of a nation . . .

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