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THE compiler of the subsequent pages claims but a very small share of merit in the work; but thinks it a duty to himself, to apprize the reader of some of the disadvantages under which it was executed. It was printed nearly thirty miles distant from his residence, and the press was started before one sheet was fully prepared. He was, therefore, obliged to keep pace with the printer, in seeking and transcribing the selections, and at the same time reviewing the proof sheets, which were sometimes miscarried, and, in one or two instances, not received at all; without suffering any part of the business to interfere with his daily avocations.
These circumstances are only mentioned as an apology for some of the errors which the reader may probably discover in the work; but, which, it is hoped, are neither numerous nor important. The printing was conducted with unusual correctness; but there are, nevertheless, some few typographical errors, perhaps more than are corrected in the Errata, which must be ascribed to the oversight of the compiler alone, under the circumstances already mentioned.
He has, however, the consolation to believe, that the "AMERICAN ORATOR" will be of considerable service to the cause of education, especially in that particular sphere for which it is intended.
It has been a leading object to render it as completely an American work as possible, and therefore many foreign speeches and essays are not inserted. No doubt is enter
tained that this one circumstance will more particularly recommend it to the patronage of independent and liberal
Those speeches which are of a political nature, it was intended to select promiscuously from statesmen of different parties; but it is sincerely regretted that the compiler had not so easy an access to the best speeches of the Democratic party as to those of the Federal, and, therefore, the greatest number is of the latter. True merit, and not party, was the object of pursuit. It was often found necessary to insert a few words which were not in the original, to render an introduction or a conclusion natural; but in no case do they militate against the scope of the author's sentiments. It is now committed to the scrutiny of the world with diffidence, only proportioned to its importance.
The reader will please to observe the following corrections:
Page 23, line 21 from the bottom, instead of "His imagination shrunk," read my imagination shrinks.
Page 30, line 12 from the bottom, instead of “mutatu mustandis,”
read mutatis mutandis."
Page 63, line 8 from the bottom, an error is committed in saying that Mr. Clay (Speaker) interrupted Mr. Quincy. On the contrary, he justified Mr. Quincy, as will appear from a remark near the bottom of page
THE design of this volume, is, to place in the hands of the American student, a collection of short and elegant extracts from the writings of some of the most distinguished statesmen, civilians, and divines, of his own country, that his taste may be improved, and that he may practically learn the art of speaking. The matter is here given; but his success must depend upon his own judgment, or that of his instuctor, in practice. A few introductory remarks, however, relating to the subject, and some of the most necessary rules, to aid him in acquiring a decent and correct elocution, will be concisely submitted.
In teaching the art of speaking, it is necessary to recollect, that we are only endeavouring to give correct ideas and habits of popular eloquence; which is nothing but the easy or the impassioned language of the heart. From some experience, I have found, that the greatest difficulty in teaching youth this art, consists in fully persuading them, that it requires no very violent exertion, either of body or mind, to render their efforts acceptable or pleasing. And the principal rules that are necessary in preparing a young speaker for public exercises, are, to explain to him the sense of his speech-to bring him to feel, in some degree, interested; and to labour to diminish his fears.
The first object of the pupil's care, therefore, must be, to read his speech frequently and deliberately; enquiring the sense of every doubtful word or phrase, of his Dictionary or his Teacher, until he understand it, and is capable of reading it with propriety and elegance. He will then commit it to memory with ease, and practise it with the most flattering success.
The real object of public speaking must be, to transfer the sentiments or passions of the speaker to his audience; and when this is done, no matter with what peculiarities of enunciation or action, the speaker is sufficiently eloquent. All subjects, however, do not admit of equal degrees of eloquence, nor are the different kinds of real eloquence, equally pleasing. It becomes the duty of the instructor to watch, and suppress, with the most scrupulous care, any
habits that may tend to embarrass or disfigure the eloquence of the young speaker; while, on the other hand, equal care is necessary to avoid hampering him with a multiplicity of rules for gesticulation and utterance.
Teachers ought to exercise much caution lest they entertain the mistaken opinion, that there is but one certain style of public speaking, that may be considered truly eloquent. Little attention, and but a small sphere of observation, are necessary to evince the contrary. There are orators of the most widely different characters, who, nevertheless, have equal claims to eloquence. The rudiments of this diversity of genius may be discovered, by an observing eye, in the youngest speakers; and ought to direct to the choice of their speeches, as well as the manner of their delivery.
Although a degree of liberty, in the manner of speaking, is recommended, yet the opposite extreme is to be carefully avoided. There are multitudes of public characters who, under the pretext of being swayed by their passions, sink into the most absurd and degrading habits. With these, an apish contortion of the face, a perpetual swinging of the arms, clenching the fist, squatting, blinking, and vociferation, are regarded as the very highest reach of eloquence. Ridiculous, however, as these habits are, in the view of refined taste, they have urged a strong, though a mistaken claim, to the sanction of antiquity. It is supposed by some. that Cicero and Demosthenes were addicted to excessive action in their public performances. It is doubtfully inferred of the former, from his travelling in quest of health, and resolving on a less violent mode of speaking after his return; and of the latter, on which the principal stress is laid, from a circumstance very beautifully related by Quintilian; but which, I am persuaded, is not always correctly understood. The circumstance was this:-A friend of Demosthenes once asked him what was the first requisite in forming the orator; he replied, action. He then inquired what was the second; and was answered, action :—and what was the third; and again answered, action. Hence it is inferred by many that there can scarcely be any extremes in gesticulation, which are not fully warranted by Demosthenes.
Admitting, for a moment, that he is correctly understood, it reflects but little honour upon the judgment of any man, to receive the dogmas of Demosthenes as oracular, while common and constant experience contradict him. But Demosthenes is not correctly understood. The term