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- Practical Argumentation - 5/43 -
cause in which one is not interested heart and soul. Of course in class room work the student cannot always avoid taking a false position, and the training he receives thereby is excellent, but he cannot make his persuasion of the highest type of effectiveness unless he honestly and sincerely believes what he says, and feels the emotions he would arouse.
AN APPEAL TO SOME EMOTION. One of the strongest forms of conciliation is the direct appeal to a dominant emotion. If an arguer can find some common ground on which to meet his audience, some emotion by which they may be moved, he can usually obtain a personal hold that will overcome hostility and lack of interest. In deciding what emotion to arouse, he must make as careful and thorough a study of his audience as he can. In general, the use of conviction need vary but little to produce the same results on different men; processes of pure reasoning are essentially the same the world around. But with persuasion the case is different; emotions are varied, and in each separate instance the arguer must carefully consider the ruling passions and ideals of his audience. The hopes and aspirations of a gang of ignorant miners would differ widely from the desires of an assembly of college students, or of a coterie of metropolitan capitalists. Education, wealth, social standing, politics, religion, race, nationality, every motive that is likely to have weight with the audience should be taken into consideration. Remembering that he has to choose between such diverse emotions as ambition, fear, hatred, love, patriotism, sense of duty, honor, justice, self-interest, pleasure, and revenge, the arguer must make his selection with the greatest care, and then drive home the appeal with all the force and eloquence at his command. The higher and nobler the emotion he can arouse, the greater and more permanent will be the result. If the audience is such that he can successfully arouse no higher feeling than that of self-interest or revenge, he will, of necessity, have to appeal to these motives; but whenever he can, he should appeal to the noblest sentiments of mankind.
A famous illustration of the effectiveness of this sort of conciliation is found in Wendell Phillips' oration entitled _The Murder of Lovejoy_. By appealing to their reverence for the past, he silenced the mob that had come to break up the meeting, and in the end he won over the house that had been packed against him.
We have met for the freest discussion of these resolutions, and the events which gave rise to them. I hope I shall be permitted to express my surprise at the sentiments of the last speaker, surprise not only at such sentiments from such a man, but at the applause they have received within these walls. A comparison has been drawn between the events of the Revolution and the tragedy at Alton. We have heard it asserted here, in Faneuil Hall, that Great Britain had a right to tax the colonies, and we have heard the mob at Alton, the drunken murderers of Lovejoy, compared to those patriot fathers who threw the tea overboard! Fellow citizens, is this Faneuil Hall doctrine?.... Sir, when I heard the gentleman lay down principles which place the murderers of Alton side by side with Otis and Hancock, with Quincy and Adams, I thought those pictured lips (pointing to the portraits in the Hall) would have broken into voice to rebuke the recreant American-- the slanderer of the dead. The gentleman said that he should sink into insignificance if he dared to gainsay the principles of these resolutions. Sir, for the sentiments he has uttered, on soil consecrated by the prayers of Puritans and the blood of patriots, the earth should have yawned and swallowed him up. [Footnote: American Orations, Vol. II, page 102. G. P. Putnam's Sons.]
Specific directions for arousing the emotions are hard to give. The appeal must suit both the audience and the occasion, and until these are known, suggestions are not particularly helpful. When no better plan for conciliating an audience seems practicable, speakers and writers try to arouse _interest_ in the discussion. There are several convenient methods for accomplishing this result.
1. IMPORTANCE OF THE SUBJECT. One of the commonest methods of arousing interest in an audience apathetic and indifferent is to impress upon them the importance and gravity of the question at issue. Matters thought to be trivial are apt to receive scant attention. This fact is so universally recognized that many writers and speakers attempt at the very outset to show that upon the correct solution of the problem at hand depend serious and far-reaching results. It is seldom enough merely to state that a subject is important; its seriousness should be made apparent. This method is very popular. Whenever one feels it necessary to open an argument with persuasion, but is at loss to know how to do so, he may well resort to this device. While it does not, perhaps, constitute the strongest possible appeal, yet it is eminently serviceable, since, if handled properly, it does arouse interest, and, moreover, it applies to many cases.
Several examples will show how this method is commonly used:--
Mr. President, the question now about to be discussed by this body is in my judgment the most important that has attracted the attention of Congress or the country since the formation of the Constitution. It affects every interest, great and small, from the slightest concern of the individual to the largest and most comprehensive interest of the nation. [Footnote: J. P. Jones, United States Senate, May 12, 1890.]
No city ever had such a problem in passenger transportation to solve, and no city of any pretensions has solved it much worse. London is not in the strict sense a town, but rather a "province of houses." The county of London, as everybody knows, is only a part of the Metropolis. The four millions and a half of residents enclosed by the legal ring-fence of the County are supplemented by two millions more who live in groups of suburbs included within the wide limits of "Greater London"; while even beyond that large tract of southeastern England, with its six millions and a half of inhabitants, are many towns and villages, populous and increasing, which are concerned with the question of Metropolitan locomotion. [Footnote: The Fortnightly Review, Jan. 1, 1902.]
2. TIMELINESS OF THE SUBJECT. To show that a subject is timely is another effective device for arousing interest. As most people wish to keep pace with the times and face the issues of the day, it is natural and forceful to introduce an argument by showing that the subject is being discussed elsewhere, or by showing how an event or sequence of events places the problem before the public. The arguer calls attention to the fact that the question does not belong to the past or to the distant future, but is of immediate interest and must be settled at once.
As the day of the Cuban Convention for the framing and adoption of a constitution approaches, the question of Cuban independence assumes greater, and still greater, proportions, and the eyes of the American people are beginning to turn anxiously toward the Pearl of the Antilles. By the time this article appears in print, delegates to the convention will have been elected, and interest in the convention itself will have become widespread. The task I have set before me is briefly to review the situation, and to discuss the probable results to be expected from a number of causes, remote as well as proximate.[Footnote: Charles Warren Currier. The Forum, October, 1900.]
The recent objection made in Germany that American prestige might suffer should there be diminution in our Berlin Embassy's social brilliancy has stirred Congress from apathy regarding American representatives abroad. Congressmen are coming to realize that brains, not money, ought to form the first passport to a candidate's favor, agreeable adjunct as the money may be. [Footnote: The Outlook, April 18, 1908, p. 844.]
3. APPEAL FOR ONE'S SELF. The safest method of stirring the emotions is to make an appeal in behalf of the subject, but occasionally a writer or speaker who is truly sincere, who is contending against unfortunate circumstances, and is not seeking personal aggrandizement, may arouse interest by making an appeal on his own behalf. He may present some personal reason why the audience should be interested and give him a respectful hearing; he calls attention not primarily to his subject, but to his connection with it, or to some circumstance in his own life. This method is hedged about with several pitfalls: it may expose one to the charge of egotism, of insincerity, or of false modesty; and it may draw the attention of the audience away from the matter in hand. To use this method successfully one should possess consummate tact and thorough knowledge of human nature.
The following opening of a speech by Abraham Lincoln at Columbus, Ohio, shows how he used this device to gain the sympathy of the audience:--
Fellow-citizens of the State of Ohio: I cannot fail to remember that I appear for the first time before an audience in this now great State,-- an audience that is accustomed to hear such speakers as Corwin, and Chase, and Wade, and many other renowned men; and remembering this, I feel that it will be well for you, as for me, that you should not raise your expectations to that standard to which you would have been justified in raising them had one of these distinguished men appeared before you. You would perhaps be only preparing a disappointment for yourselves, and, as a consequence of your disappointment, mortification for me. I hope, therefore, that you will commence with very moderate expectations; and perhaps, if you will give me your attention, I shall be able to interest you in a moderate degree. [Footnote: Complete Works of Abraham Lincoln, Vol. I, p. 538. Nicolay & Hay. Century Company.]
These, then, are the suggestions offered for conciliating an audience: Be modest; be fair; be sincere; and appeal to some strong emotion. To make this appeal successfully, study your audience. In case of inability to arouse any stronger feeling, appeal to the interest of the people by showing that the subject is important, or timely, or both; or show that you have some personal claim upon the audience.
These directions are far from complete. Anything like an exhaustive treatment of this subject would in itself constitute a book. The advice offered here, however, should be of considerable value to one who has difficulty in getting a written argument or a debate successfully launched. The student should supplement this chapter with careful study of the work of proficient writers. If he will notice how they have gained success in this particular, and if he will imitate them, he is bound to improve his own compositions. The principal dangers to be avoided consist of going to extremes. The conciliatory part of the introduction should not be so meager that it will fail to accomplish its purpose, nor should it be so elaborate and artificial as to hamper the onward movement of the argument. The important thing is to gain the good will and the attention of the audience, and, other things being equal, the shorter the introduction the better. Further directions for the spoken argument may be found in the chapter entitled _Debate_.
A. Criticise the following introductory passages for persuasiveness, pointing out specifically the methods of conciliation used, and any defects that may be found:--
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