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CHAPTER VI.

ORATORY IN AMERICA.

IT

T is unquestionably true that forensic eloquence should be more diligently cultivated by the American bar than it is. Framed by the wisest men, cemented by the concurrence of succeeding generations, and strengthened by the lapse of time, our laws have at length been erected into a beautiful system, that embraces almost every imaginable point of the personal security of the citizen, but, extended as they are, and calculated for this beneficial purpose, such is the variety of circumstances that daily demand its attention, and such consequently are its numerous and intricate ramifications, that it requires a peculiar learning, and a distinct mode of eloquence, to pursue and apply them to the wrongs they are intended to redress.

It is true that the advocate should not indulge too often in flights of the imagination. He is addressing the court to protect the injured, and to punish the oppressor, by the due administration of known and settled laws; and therefore those meretricious arts, whereby the unsteady vulgar alone are moved, will be of little avail. But when he considers that his auditory are freemen, fulfilling the most awful office of free laws; that their decision may affect the future prosperity of thousands; that they whose life, liberty, or prosperity is at stake are citizens, by their birthright entitled to a clear and impartial distribution of justice; that the eyes of many, interested in these rights, are upon the court and himself, should not his mind be animated to the dignified fervour of a plain and manly eloquence, that seems

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to feel the importance of its own exertions, and that seeks not its own elevation in forms and phrases of speech?

Immense fortunes are at stake in the cases tried every day in our courts; in other cases the more sacred and valuable rights of life, liberty, and reputation must be adjudicated. What a fine field is here for the unselfish, the conscientious, and enlightened advocate, to stand between oppressor and oppressed!

The earliest specimens of American oratory are chiefly characterised by sublimity and patriotism.

The erection of the magnificent fabric of liberty in this country called forth the best efforts of the greatest orators.

An ample theme was afforded by the Revolutionary contest, for the exhibition of all that is indignant, touching, daring, grand, and overwhelming in eloquence, consequently some of the most vehement passages that ever stirred the human soul are to be found in the speeches of the Revolutionary orators. Then it was that the orators of freedom fearlessly raised their thunder tones against oppression. It was the brightest period in the history of British and American oratory.

The period of our Colonial and Revolutionary history was, in fact, an era of great superiority in eloquence, at home and abroad. England then presented an array of orators such as she had known at no other time. In Westminster Hall the accomplished Mansfield was constantly heard in support of kingly power, while the philosophic and argumentative Camden exercised his mighty intellect in defence of popular rights. Burke had awoke with all his wealth of fancy, daring imagination, and comprehensive learning. Fox had entered the arena of forensic and senatorial gladiatorship, with his great, glowing heart, and titanic passions, all kindled into volcanic heat. Junius, by his sarcasm and audacity, stung the loftiest circles into desperation. Erskine embellished the dark heavens by the rainbow tints of his genius; and Chatham, worthily succeeded by his "cloud-compelling" son, ruled the billowy sea of excited mind with the majesty of a god.

James Otis, Patrick Henry, Samuel Adams, Josiah Quincy, Joseph Warren, John Hancock, John Adams, and Richard Henry Lee, were among the most renowned American patriots and orators who flourished during the period of which we are speaking.

In order to exhibit the style of oratory prevalent in those days, a few short extracts from the speeches of our Revolutionary patriots and orators will be given.

While the glorious banner of Liberty shall continue to spread its folds over our Republic, the patriotic sentiments of our forefathers cannot be repeated without thrilling emotions.

No true American can read the eloquent speech of General Warren on the Boston massacre without being deeply moved:

"The voice of your father's blood cries to you from the ground, My sons, scorn to be slaves!' In vain we met the frowns of tyrants; in vain we crossed the boisterous ocean, found a New World, and prepared it for the happy residence of liberty; in vain we toiled, in vain we fought, we bled in vain, if you our offspring want valor to repel the assaults of her invaders!--stain not the glory of your worthy ancestors; but, like them, resolve never to part with your birthright. Be wise in your deliberations, and determined in your exertions for the preservation of your liberties. Follow not the dictates of passion, but enlist yourselves under the sacred banner of reason. Use every method in your power to secure your rights. At least, prevent the curses of posterity from being heaped upon your memories.

"If you, with united zeal and fortitude, oppose the torrent of oppression; if you feel the true fire of patriotism burning in your breasts; if you from your souls despise the most gaudy dress that slavery can wear; if you really prefer the lowly cottage (whilst blessed with liberty) to gilded palaces, surrounded with the ensigns of slavery,-you may have the fullest assurance that tyranny, with her whole accursed train, will hide their hideous heads in confusion, shame, and despair. If you perform your part, you must have the

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strongest confidence that the same Almighty Being, who protected your pious and venerable forefathers, who enabled them to turn a barren wildernesss into a fruitful field, who so often made bare his arm for their salvation, will still be mindful of you, their offspring.

May this Almighty Being graciously preside in all our councils. May He direct us to such measures as He Himself shall approve, and be pleased to bless. May we ever be a people favored of God. May our land be a land of liberty, the seat of virtue, the asylum of the oppressed, a name and a praise in the whole earth, until the last shock of time shall bury the empires of the world in one common, undistinguished ruin."

The language of Quincy is similar to this. Just before the Revolutionary war he addressed his townsmen in an eloquent speech, from which the following is an extract: "Oh, my countrymen! what will our children say when they read the history of these times, should they find we tamely gave way, without one noble struggle, the most invaluable of earthly blessings? As they drag the galling chain, will they not execrate us? If we have any respect for things sacred; any regard to the dearest treasure on earth; if we have one tender sentiment for posterity; if we would not be despised by the world, let us, in the most open, solemn manner, and with determined fortitude swear, -we will die,-if we cannot live freemen!"

John Hancock, on the 5th of March, 1774, made a stirring speech to the citizens of Boston, which was concluded with the following elevated sentiments: "I have the most ani

' mating confidence, that the present noble struggle for liberty will terminate gloriously for America. And let us play the man for our God, and for the cities of our God; while we are using the means in our power, let us humbly commit our righteous cause to the great Lord of the Universe, who loveth righteousness and hateth iniquity. And having secured the approbation of our hearts, by a faithful and unwearied discharge of our duty to our country, let us joyfully leave our concerns in the hands of Him who raiseth up and pulleth down the empires and kingdoms of the world."

The denunciations which he poured forth in his oration on the Boston Massacre are a striking example of Hancock's style: "Let this sad tale of death never be told without a tear; let not the heaving bosom cease to burn with a manly indignation at the relation of it through the long tracts of future time; let every parent tell the shameful story to his listening children till tears of pity glisten in their eyes, or boiling passion shakes their tender frames.

"Dark and designing knaves, murderers, parricides! how dare you tread upon the earth which has drunk the blood of slaughtered innocence, shed by your hands? How dare you breathe that air which wafted to the ear of heaven the groans of those who fell a sacrifice to your accursed ambition. But if the laboring earth does not expand her jawsif the air you breathe is not commissioned to be the minister of death-yet, hear it, and tremble. The eye of heaven penetrates the secret chambers of the soul; and you, though screened from human observation, must be arraigned-must lift your hands, red with the blood of those whose death you have procured, at the tremendous bar of God."

Such was the impassioned oratory which fell from the lips of the first orators of freedom in this country.

Hamilton. Alexander Hamilton was born January the 11th, 1757, in the island of Nevis, the most beautiful of the British West Indies.

He was early left to buffet the storms of adversity, his parents having died when he was very young. In 1769 he was placed as a clerk in the counting-house of Mr. Nicholas Cruger, a wealthy and highly respected merchant of Santa Cruz.

Hamilton had an aspiring mind, and when only thirteen years old, he wrote to a young friend at school as follows: "I contemn the grovelling condition of a clerk, to which my fortune condemns me, and would willingly risk my life, though not my character, to exalt my station; I mean to prepare the way for futurity."

The sentiments which Hamilton expressed in his letter were those of a noble youth, eagerly desirous of achieving

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