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Extract from an Oration, delivered at the City Hotel, in
the New-York Forum, April, 1821.
Pre-eminence in oratory was the most distinguishing mark of excellence among the enlightened of the nations of antiquity, and they brought it to a perfection which, although the lapse of ages has taken place and millions have toiled to emulate, few have been able to equal, none to surpass.
Who can read the fulminations of a Demosthenes to arouse the slumbering spirit of the Athenian against Macedonian Philip, with an eloquence whose influence, like that of the moon upon the waters, raised the tide of the multitude, till' o'erleaping all bounds, it burst an impetuous and overwhelming torrent against the encroaching object of its opposition ; who can read this and not feel a devotion to sacrifice all selfish and personal advantages for the prosperity, safety, and happiness of his native country ?
Who but must look back with an admiration approaching to Mythologic deification, at the splendor of a Cicero, encircled by the glory of his forensic eloquence, in the accusation of a Verres ?
What holy, what dignified uses—what noble results has not oratory led to, and may not oratory continue to achieve?
In a religious point of view, what good man who contemplates that system of infidelity and demoralization, resorted to by men of a very different denomination, but must rejoice that the redeeming voice of eloquence, in the more redeeming language of christianity, may rescue ignorance or impiety from such wicked, such ini. quitous procedure! A system which, if suffered without disapprobation to be disseminated, might ultimately destroy the humanity and harmony which constitute the present happiness of civilized society here, and even a hope of eternal happiness hereafter.
Oratory, in this country, may not only be looked upon as the finger mark on the road which points at, but the powerful impetus by which desert may be urged to aspire to, nay, even seat itself in, that highly pinnacled chair, which the suffrage of a free and independent people has so placed, to render the individual of their choice pre-eminently conspicuous.
Oratory may be hailed a nation's champion, rearing his majestic front for the preservation of liberty, property, and life; the firm and fearless defender of the houseless widow, the helpless orphan, the wretched and the oppressed; the strong and irresistible power which drags the guilty culprit from his dark and polluted den to the blaze of day, and the seat of justice; the Minervan shield which covers and protects the innocent and falsely accused, from shafts of slander shot to inflict wounds most deadly, most undeserved; the heaven-gifted power which reascends to the mansion of its creation, an all persuasive advocate in the righteous cause of suffering humanity : these are the uses, these the religion fulfilling effects, these the honor dispensing attributes, these the heart rendering rewards of oratory.
In our admiration of ancient, let not modern eloquence be forgotten. Partiality ought not to be attributed to me for the selection which I am about to make : all should receive my humble eulogy did but memory admit of the recurrence. The following are green in its storehouse. Where are those who late were wont to charm the Senate, the Pulpit, and the Bar ?—those to whose accents men have listened with reverential silence, and a delight increasing with the duration of their devotion ? Where Chatham, Burke, Pitt, Fox, Sheridan, Grattan, Kirwan, Ames, Hamilton, Henry, Pinkney, Erskine, Curran. Curran, whom alone to name is but to eulogize. Oh, how unreal, how evanescent, are all earthly acquirements! Alas! those bright luminaries, that so irradiated oratory, have passed away; but, fortunately for posterity, each has left a refulgent path which, like the skyey milky way, will baffle time by holding with him a duration equal, an existence death
LORD CHATHAM'S SPEECH AGAINST ARMING THE
SAVAGES, IN 1778. I am astonished, I am shocked to hear such principles confessed, to hear them avowed in this house, or in this country. My lords, I did not intend to encroach on your attention; but I cannot repress my indignation ; I feel myself impelled to speak. We are called upon as members of this house, as men, as christians, to protest against such horrible barbarity- that God and Nature have put into our hands! What ideas of God and Nature that noble lord may entertain, I know not; but I know that such destestable principles are equally abhorrent to religion and to humanity. What! to attribute the sacred sanction of God and Nature to the massacres of the Indian scalping-knife ! to the cannibal savage, torturing, murdering, devouring, drinking the blood of his mangled victims ! such notions shock every precept of morality, every feeling of humanity, every sentiment of honor. These abominable principles, and this most abominable avowal of them, demand the most decisive indignation. I call upon that right reverend, and this most learned bench, to vindicate the religion of their God, to support the justice of their country. I call upon the bishops to interpose the sanctity of their lawn, upon the judges to interpose the purity of their ermine, to save us from this pollution. I call upon the honor of your lordships to reverence the dignity of your ancestors, and to maintain your own. I call upon the spirit and humanity of my country to vindicate the national character. I invoke the Genius of the Constitution. From the tapestry that adorns these walls, the immortal ancestor of this noble lord, frowns with indignation at the disgrace of his country. In vain did he defend the liberty, and establish the religion of Britain, against the tyranny of Rome, if these worse than popish cruelties and inquisitorial practices are endured among us. To send forth the merciless cannibal thirsting for blood ! against whom? your Protestant brethren. To lay waste their country, to desolate their dwellings, and extirpate their race and name by the aid and instrumentality of these
horrid hell-hounds of war! Spain can no longer boast pre-eminence in barbarity. She armed herself with blood-hounds to extirpate the wretched natives of Mexico; we, more ruthless, loose the dogs of war against our countrymen in America, endeared to us by every tie that can sanctify humanity. I solemnly call upon your lordships, and upon every order of men in the state, to stamp upon the infamous procedure the indelible stigma of public abhorrence. More particularly I call upon the holy prelates of our religion, to do away this iniquity; let them perform a lustration to purify the country from this deep and deadly sin.
ON SLANDER. I am one of those who believe that the heart of the wilful and the deliberate libeller is blacker than that of the highway robber, or of one who commits the crime of midnight arson. The man who plunders on the highway, may have the semblance of an apology for what he does. An affectionate wife may demand subsistence; a circle of children raise to him the supplicating hand for food. He may be driven to the desperate act by the high mandate of imperative necessity. The mild features of the husband and the father may intermingle with those of the robber and soften the roughness of the shade. But the robber of character plunders that which “not enricheth him,” though it make his neighbor poor indeed.” The man who at the midnight hour consumes his neighbor's dwelling, does him an injury which perhaps is not irreparable. Industry may rear another habitation. The storm may indeed descend upon him until charity open a neighboring door: the rude winds of heaven may whistle around his uncovered family. But he looks forward to better days; he has yet a hook to hang a hope upon. No such consolation cheers the heart of him whose character has been torn from him. If innocent, he may look, like Anaxagoras, to the heavens; but he must be constrained
to feel that this world is to him a wilderness. For whither shall he go? Shall he dedicate himself to the service of his country? But will his country receive him ? Will she employ in her counsels, or in her armies, the man at whom the “slow unmoving finger of scorn" is pointed ? Shall he betake himself to the fireside? The story of his disgrace will enter his own doors before him. And can he bear, think you, can he bear the sympathizing agonies of a distressed wife? Can he endure the formidable presence of scrutinizing, . sneering domestics? Will his children receive instruction from the lips of a disgraced father? Gentlemen, I am not ranging on fairy ground. I am telling the plain story of my client's wrongs. By the ruthless hand of malice his character has been wantonly massacred ;-and he now appears before a jury of his country for redress. Will you deny him this redress ?-is character valuable ? On this point I will not insult you with argument. There are certain things, to argue which is treason against nature. The Author of our being did not intend to leave this point afloat at the mercy of opinion, but with his own hand has he kindly planted in the soul of man an instinctive love of character. This high sentiment has no affinity to pride. It is the ennobling quality of the soul: and if we have hitherto been elevated above the ranks of surrounding creation, human nature owes its elevation to the love of character. It is the love of character for which the poet has sung, the philosopher toiled, the hero bled. It is the love of character which wrought miracles at ancient Greece; the love of character is the eagle on which Rome rose to empire. And it is the love of character animating the bosom of her sons, on which America must depend in those approaching crises that may “try men's souls.” Will a jury weaken this our nation's hope? Will they by their verdict pronounce to the youth of our country, that character is scarce worth possessing ?
We read of that philosophy which can smile over the destruction of property—of that religion which enables its possessor to to extend the benign look of forgiveness