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

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

Read FREE!

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

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

Read FREE!

Excerpt

The story of American oratory covers a space of but a century; for orators since the epoch of the Civil War have been few, and their efforts, not being animated by any overpowering national exigency, but the outcome, rather, of occasional or even of personal suggestions, show more of the academic and premeditated quality than of that great and towering emotion for generous ends which cannot withhold itself from expression.

But brief though the period of our best eloquence may be, it is crowded with splendid and inspiring examples. It might not at first seem probable that the stern and reticent Puritan nature, or even those descendants of less severe ancestry whose scattered settlements covered the broad expanse of the Southern country, would furnish a suitable soil for the production of eloquence. But this is merely another illustration of the truth that eloquence is a veritable daughter of the skies, who comes to men not after the flesh, but after the spirit. the orator is not the creature of heredity; there is no gift vouchsafed to man which is so individual, and manifests itself so unexpectedly and sometimes unaccountably, as that of moving other men by spoken words. and if the sober men who first tenanted the new continent were trained to husband their speech, and to utter naught out of measure or with unseemliness, we may well imagine that when the long oppression and insolence of England at length passed the point where endurance was a virtue, there set in a reaction against fetters of speech as well as against those of civil liberty, which gave to the appeals and denunciations of our first great orators a power more irresistible than any that is born of rule and precept. the orators of the years immediately preceding the Revolution seem indeed to possess an almost miraculous inspiration. When Otis spoke, his audience became a company of heroes; and from the lips of Samuel Adams our inchoate colonial population learned to crystallize into a nation, and to . . .

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