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- Public Speaking - 40/65 -

the famous quotation made by Lincoln in his Springfield speech of 1858,--"A house divided against itself cannot stand." It is said that he had searched for some time for a phrase which would present in the strongest possible way the proposition he intended to advance--namely, that the nation could not endure half slave and half free.

It is a compliment to a public speaker that the audience should discuss what he says rather than his manner of saying it; more complimentary that they should remember his arguments, than that they should praise his rhetoric. The orator should seek to conceal himself behind his subject. If he presents himself in every speech he is sure to become monotonous, if not offensive. If, however, he focuses attention upon his subject, he can find an infinite number of themes and, therefore, give variety to his speech.


From "Essays in Application," with the permission of Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, publishers.


Every one knows what books are. But what is literature? It is the ark on the flood. It is the light on the candlestick. It is the flower among the leaves; the consummation of the plant's vitality, the crown of its beauty, and the treasure house of its seeds. It is hard to define, easy to describe.

Literature is made up of those writings which translate the inner meanings of nature and life, in language of distinction and charm, touched with the personality of the author, into artistic forms of permanent interest. The best literature, then, is that which has the deepest significance, the most lucid style, the most vivid individuality, and the most enduring form.

On the last point contemporary judgment is but guess-work, but on the three other points it should not be impossible to form, nor improper to express, a definite opinion.

Literature has its permanent marks. It is a connected growth, and its life history is unbroken. Masterpieces have never been produced by men who have had no masters. Reverence for good work is the foundation of literary character. The refusal to praise bad work, or to imitate it, is an author's personal chastity.

Good work is the most honorable and lasting thing in the world. Four elements enter into good work in literature:--An original impulse--not necessarily a new idea, but a new sense of the value of an idea. A first-hand study of the subject and the material. A patient, joyful, unsparing labor for the perfection of form. A human aim--to cheer, console, purify, or ennoble the life of the people. Without this aim literature has never sent an arrow close to the mark. It is only by good work that men of letters can justify their right to a place in the world. The father of Thomas Carlyle was a stonemason, whose walls stood true and needed no rebuilding. Carlyle's prayer was, "Let me write my books as he built his houses."


From an address before the New York Chamber of Commerce, 1890


Before we can talk together to advantage about the value of education in business, we ought to come to a common understanding about the sort of education we mean and the sort of business.

We must not think of the liberal education of to-day as dealing with a dead past--with dead languages, buried peoples, exploded philosophies; on the contrary, everything which universities now teach is quick with life and capable of application to modern uses. They teach indeed the languages and literature of Judea, Greece, and Rome; but it is because those literatures are instinct with eternal life. They teach mathematics, but it is mathematics mostly created within the lifetime of the older men here present. In teaching English, French, and German, they are teaching the modern vehicles of all learning--just what Latin was in medieval times. As to history, political science, and natural science, the subjects, and all the methods by which they are taught, may properly be said to be new within a century. Liberal education is not to be justly regarded as something dry, withered, and effete; it is as full of sap as the cedars of Lebanon.

And what sort of business do we mean? Surely the larger sorts of legitimate and honorable business; that business which is of advantage both to buyer and seller, and to producer, distributor, and consumer alike, whether individuals or nations, which makes common some useful thing which has been rare, or makes accessible to the masses good things which have been within reach only of the few--I wish I could say simply which make dear things cheap; but recent political connotations of the word cheap forbid. We mean that great art of production and exchange which through the centuries has increased human comfort, cherished peace, fostered the fine arts, developed the pregnant principle of associated action, and promoted both public security and public liberty.

With this understanding of what we mean by education on the one hand and business on the other, let us see if there can be any doubt as to the nature of the relations between them. The business man in large affairs requires keen observation, a quick mental grasp of new subjects, and a wide range of knowledge. Whence come these powers and attainments--either to the educated or to the uneducated--save through practice and study? But education is only early systematic practice and study under guidance. The object of all good education is to develop just these powers--accuracy in observation, quickness and certainty in seizing upon the main points of new subjects, and discrimination in separating the trivial from the important in great masses of facts. This is what liberal education does for the physician, the lawyer, the minister, and the scientist. This is what it can do also for the man of business; to give a mental power is one of the main ends of the higher education. Is not active business a field in which mental power finds full play? Again, education imparts knowledge, and who has greater need to know economics, history, and natural science than the man of large business?

Further, liberal education develops a sense of right, duty, and honor; and more and more, in the modern world, large business rests on rectitude and honor, as well as on good judgment. Education does this through the contemplation and study of the moral ideals of our race; not in drowsiness or dreaminess or in mere vague enjoyment of poetic and religious abstractions, but in the resolute purpose to apply spiritual ideals to actual life. The true university fosters ideals, but always to urge that they be put into practice in the real world. When the universities hold up before their youth the great Semitic ideals which were embodied in the Decalogue, they mean that those ideals should be applied in politics. When they teach their young men that Asiatic ideal of unknown antiquity, the Golden Rule, they mean that their disciples shall apply it to business; when they inculcate that comprehensive maxim of Christian ethics, "Ye are all members of one another," they mean that this moral principle is applicable to all human relations, whether between individuals, families, states, or nations.


From the author's lectures on oratory, with his permission


It is a singular fact that the three leaders of the revolution, in the Massachusetts colony, John Adams, Sam Adams, and Oxenbridge Thatcher, were all trained originally to be clergymen, and all afterwards determined to be lawyers, and get their legal training in addition. John Adams did it; Oxenbridge Thatcher did it. Sam Adams's parents held so hard to the doctrine that the law was a disreputable profession that they never allowed him to enter it. He went into business, but before he got through, mixed himself up with legal questions more than the two others put together. And what is more, and what has only lately been brought out distinctly, there existed in the southern colonies represented by Virginia very much the same feeling, only coming from a different source. It was not a question of church membership or of ecclesiastical training--the southern colonies never troubled themselves very much about those things--but turned upon a wholly different thing. The southern colonies were based on land ownership; the aim was to build up a type of society like the English type, an aristocratic system of landowners as in England. And these miscellaneous men who, without owning large estates or large numbers of slaves, came forward to try cases in court, were regarded with the same sort of suspicion which the same class had to meet in Massachusetts.

Patrick Henry, the greatest of Virginians for the purpose for which Providence had marked him out, was always regarded by Jefferson in very much the same light in which Sam Adams was by his uncles, who were afraid he wanted to be a lawyer. Henry was regarded as a man from the people, an irregularly trained man. Jefferson, you will find, criticizes his pronunciation severely. He talked about "yearth" instead of "earth." He said that a man's "nateral" parts needed to be improved by "eddication." Jefferson had traveled in Europe and talked with cultivated men in other countries. He did not do that sort of thing, and he, not being a man of the most generous or candid nature, always tries to make us think that Patrick Henry was a nobody who had very little practice. And it was not until the admirable life of him written for the "American Statesmen" series by my predecessor in this lectureship, Moses Coit Tyler, whose loss we so greatly mourn, that it was clearly made out that, on the contrary, he had an immense legal practice and was wonderfully successful in a great variety of cases.

So, both North and South, there was this antagonism to this new class coming forward; and yet that new class stepped forward and took the leadership of the American Revolution. Not that the clergy were false to their duty. They did their duty well. There is a book by J. Wingate Thornton, called "The Clergy of the American Revolution," which contains an admirable and powerful series of sermons by those very clergymen whom I have criticized for their limitations. They did their part admirably, and yet one sees as time goes on that the lawyers are taking matters into their own hands.

But the change was not always a benefit to the style of oratory. It was a period of somewhat formal style; it was not a period when the English language was reaching to its highest sources. You will be surprised to find, for instance, in the books and addresses of that period how little Shakespeare is quoted, how much oftener much inferior poets. In Edmund Burke's orations he quotes Shakespeare very little; and Edmund Burke's orations are interesting especially for this, that they are not probably the original addresses which he gave, are literature rather than oratory, and are now generally supposed to have been written out afterwards.

Public Speaking - 40/65

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