The Popularization of
Elocution and the Private Learner
The nineteenth-century academic tradition in rhetoric fostered the view that eloquence in speaking and writing was the mark of the well- educated and thoughtful citizen. Prominent nineteenth-century rhetoricians such as Samuel P. Newman, G. P. Quackenbos, and John Franklin Genung, whose treatises were widely circulated in nineteenth-century colleges and universities, defined rhetoric as the art that contributed the most toward the proper workings of the political process, the disposition of justice, and the maintenance of the public welfare and social conscience. Nineteenth-century rhetoricians equated the moral obligations of the rhetorician with the preservation of democratic culture and promoted the assumption that training in oratory and composition increased a citizen's ability to participate in civil life and thus contribute to the intellectual and spiritual health of a progressive nation. Although the nineteenth-century rhetorical tradition placed the most ideological stress on rhetoric as a form of training for civil life and as a central means of cultivating intellectual and moral taste, academic rhetoricians also promoted the practical uses of rhetoric and increasingly acknowledged the relationship between the study of rhetoric and professionalism as the century advanced.
In the first half of the century, academic training in rhetoric focused on instruction that would benefit young men training in law, the ministry, or politics, all professions in which public speaking was a central and necessary skill. By mid-century, college doors were