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ELOQUENCE OF POPULAR ASSEMBLIES. The foundation of every species of eloquence, is good sense and solid thought. It should be the first study of him, who means to adress a popular assembly, to be previously master of the business on which he is to speak; to be well provided with matter and argument; and to rest upon these the chief stress. This will give to his discourse an air of mapliness and strength, which is a powerful instrument of persuasion. Ornainent, if he have genius for it, will succeed of course; at any rate, it deserves only secondary regard.
To become a persuasive speaker in a popular assembly, it is a capital rule, that a man should always be persuaded of whatever he recommends to others. Never, if it can be avoided, should he espouse that side of an argument, which he does not believe to be the right. All high eloquence must be the offspring of passion. This makes every man persuasive, and gives a force to his genius, which it cannot otherwise possess.
Debate in popular assemblies seldom allows a speaker that previous preparation, which the pulpit always, and the bar sometimes, admits. A general prejudice prevails, and not an unjust one, against set speeches in public meetings. At the opening of a debate they may sometimes be introduced with propriety; but, as the debate advances, they become improper; they lose the appearance of being suggested by tbe business that is going on. Study and ostentation are apt to be visible ; and, consequently, though admired as elegant, they are seldom so persuasive as more free and unconstrained discourses.
This, however, does not forbid premeditation, on what we intend to speak. With respect to the matter we cannot be too accurate in our preparation; but with regard to words and expressions, it is very possible so far to overdo, as to render our speech stiff and precise. Short notes of the substance of the discourse are not only allowable, but of considerable service, to those especially who are beginning to speak in public. They will teach them a degree of accuracy, which, if they speak frequently, they are in danger of losing. They will accustom them to distinct arrangement, without which, eloquence, however great, cannot produce entire conviction.
Popular assemblies give scope for the most animated manner of public speaking. Passion is easily excited in a great assembly, where the movements are communicated by mutual sympathy between the orator and the audience. That ardour of speech, that vehemence and glow of sentiment, which proceed from a mind animated and inspired by some great and public object, form the peculiar character of popular eloquence in its highest degree of perfection.
The warmth, however, which we express, must be always suited to the subject; since it would be ridiculous to introduce great vehemence into a subject of small importance, or which by its nature requires to be treated with calmness. We must also be careful not to counterfeit warmth without feeling it. The best rule is, to follow nature; and never to attempt a strain of eloquence, which is not prompted by our own genius. A speaker may acquire reputation and influence by a calm, argumentative manner. To reach the
pathetic and sublime of oratory requires those strong sensibilities of mind, and that high power of expression, which are given to few.
Even when vehemence is justified by the subject, and prompted by genius; when warmth is felt, not feigned; we must be cautious, lest impetuosity transport us too far. If the speaker lose command of himself, he will soon lose command of his audience. He must begin with moderation, and study to warm his hearers gradually and equally with himself. For, if their passions be not in unison with his, the discord will soon be felt. Respect for his audience should always lay a decent restraint upon his warmth, and prevent it from carrying him beyond proper limits. When a speaker is so far master of himself, as to preserve close attention to argument, and even to some degree of accurate expression ; this self command, this effort of reason, in the midst of passion, contributes in the highest degree both to please and to persuade. The advantages of passion are afforded for the purposes of persuasion, without that confusion and disorder which are its usual attendants.
In the most animated strain of popular speak. ing we must always regard what the public ear will receive without disgust. Without attention to this, imitation of ancient orators might betray a speaker into a boldness of manner, with whicla the coolness of modern taste would be displeased. It is also necessary to attend with care to the decorums of time, place, and character. No ardour of eloquence can atone for neglect of these. No one should attempt to speak in public withoat forming to himself a just and strict idea of
what is suitable to his age and character; what is suitable to the subject, the hearers, the place, and the occasion. On this idea he should adjust the whole train and manner of his speaking.
What degree of conciseness or diffuseness is suited to popular eloquence, it is not easy to determine with precision. A diffuse manner is generally considered as most proper. There is danger, however, of erring in this respect; by too diffuse a style public speakers often lose more in point of strength, than they gain by fulness of illustration. Excessive conciseness indeed must be avoided. We must explain and inculcate; but confine ourselves within certain limits. We should never forget that, however we may be pleased with hearing ourselves speak, every audience may be tired; and the moment they grow weary, our eloquence becomes useless. It is better in general, to say too little, than too much; to place our thought in one strong point
view, and rest it there, than by showing it in every light, and pouring forth a profusion of words upon it, to exhaust the attention of our hearers, and leave them languid and fatigued,
ELOQUENCE OF THE BAR. The ends of speaking at the bar and in popu. lar assemblies are commonly different. In the latter the orator aims principally to persuade; to determine his hearers to some choice or conduct, as good, fit, or useful. He, therefore, applies himself to every principle of action in our nature; to the passions and to the heart, as well
as to the understanding. But at the bar conviction is the principal object. There the speaker's duty is not to persuade the judges to what is good or useful, but to exhibit what is just and true; and consequently his eloquence is chiefly addressed to the understanding.
At the bar, speakers address themselves to. one, or to a few judges, who are generally persons of age, gravity, and dignity of character. There those advantages, which a mixed and numerous assembly affords for employing all the arts of speech, are not enjoyed. Passion does not rise so easily. The speaker is heard with more coolness; he is watched with more severity and would expose himself to ridicule by attempting that high and vehement tone, which is suited only to a multitude. Beside, at the bar, the field of speaking is confined within law and statute. Imagination is fettered. The advocate has always before him the line, the square, and the compass. These it is his chief business to be constantly applying to the subjects under debate.
Hence the eloquence of the bar is of a mrch more limited, more sober, and chastised kind, than that of popularassemblies; and, consequently, the judicial orations of the ancients must not be considered as exact models of that kind of speaking which is adapted to the present state of the bar. With them strict law was much less an object of attention, than it is with us. In the days of Demosthenes and Cicero the municipal statutes were few, simple, and general; and the decision of causes was left in a great measure to the equity and common sense of the judges,