TO ascertain the arguments peculiarly suitable to each of the three kinds of public speaking, where eloquence may be displayed, We must resort to that special principle, which constitutes the distinctive character of the kind. Thus we have seen, that, as show is the essential property of demonstrative orations, the arguments, best adapted to discourses of that class, are such as display sentiment or character. Proceeding in the same track to discover the arguments, which fall within the province of deliberative oratory, we are to recollect, that the characteristic common measure of this class is utility. Deliberation presupposes a freedom of election in the deliberating body. It presupposes alternatives, which may be adopted or rejected. The issue of deliberation is action, and the final determination, what that action shall be, results from a sense of utility or expediency, entertained by the speaker’s audience. The object of the orator then is to persuade his hearers, and to influence their conduct in relation to a future measure. His task is to inspire them with the belief, that the adoption of that, which he recommends, or the rejection of that, which. he dissuades, would be useful either to the hearers themselves, or to their constituents. whom they represent.
It is in deliberative oratory, and in that alone, that eloquence and the art of persuasion may be considered, as terms perfectly synonymous. Demonstrative orations terminate in themselves. They lead to no vote; they verge to no verdict. The drift of the discourse is to display the merits of the subject, and the talents of the speaker. He may indeed exercise powers of persuasion, but they are not essential to his task. He has no call to act upon the will of his hearers. Persuasion is not necessarily his aim.
Judicial discourses terminate in action; and in that respect resemble deliberative speeches. But the drift of the argument is to justice; not to utility. The aim of the speaker must be to produce conviction, rather than persuasion; to operate by proof, rather than by influence. The judge or jury, to whom the discourse is addressed, has no choice of alternatives, no freedom of option, like the deliberative body. That which is just, that which is prescribed by law, once discovered and made manifest, he is bound to follow. Persuasion therefore does not properly belong to that class of oratory. The judge is to act not under the impulse of his will, but of the law. He is the mere minister of justice. He must take the facts according to the proof. He is to presume nothing; to suppose nothing; to imagine nothing. The orator ought not to address himself to the inclinations of his auditor, because the auditor has no right to consult them himself. This distinction is much stronger in modern times and in our country, than among the ancients; because our judicial courts are more closely bound to the letter of the law. So then in demonstrative orations the application of the orator’s eloquence is only to the opinions of his audience; in judicial arguments to their judgment; but in deliberative discourses directly to their will.
From these observations you will perceive the solid grounds, upon which these divisions were originally made. So different is the nature of public speaking, on these different occasions, that the talents, required to shine in each of them, are different from those, which give excellence in the others. In our own experience we may observe, that the eloquence of the bar, of the legislature, and of public solemnities, are seldom or ever found united to high perfection in the same person. An admirable lawyer is not always a popular speaker in deliberative assemblies; and a speaker of brilliant orations often sinks into silence at the bar. In the relative estimate of the difficulties and importance of the several kinds of public oratory, Cicero has assigned to judicial eloquence the place of the highest difficulty, and to the eloquence of deliberation that of the highest importance. This arrangement is suited to all republican governments, and indeed to all governments, where the powers of legislation are exercised by a deliberative assembly. From the preponderancy of democracy in the political constitutions of our country, deliberative assemblies are more numerous,and the objects of their consideration are more diversified, than they ever have been in any other age or nation. From the formation of a national constitution to the management of a turnpike, every object of concern to more than one individual is transacted by deliberative bodies. National and state conventions for the purpose of forming constitutions, the congress of the United States, the legislatures of the several states, are all deliberative assemblies. Besides which, in our part of the country, every town, every parish or religious society, every association of individuals, incorporated for purposes of interest, of education, of charity, or of science, forms a deliberative assembly, and presents opportunities for the exhibition of deliberative eloquence. These are scenes, in which your duties, as men or as citizens, will frequently call upon you all to engage. There is only a certain proportion among you, who will ever have occasion to speak in the courts of justice, or in the sacred desk. Still fewer will ever have the call, or feel the inclination to deliver the formal oration of a public solemnity. But you are all citizens of a free republic; you are all favored with the most liberal and scientific education, which your country can afford. That country, in her turn, will have a peculiar claim upon you for the benefit of your counsels; and either in the selected bodies of her legislatures, or in the general assemblies of the people, will give you opportunities to employ, for her advantage and your own reputation, every faculty of speech, which you have received, or which you can acquire.
The principles of deliberative oratory are important also in another point of view; inasmuch as they are applicable to the ordinary concerns of life. Whoever in the course of human affairs is called to give advice, or to ask a favor of another, must apply to the same principles of action, as those, which the deliberative orator must address. The arguments, which persuade an assembly, are the same, which are calculated to persuade an individual; and in speaking to a deliberative body the orator can often employ no higher artifice, than to consider himself as discoursing to a single man.
The objects of deliberative eloquence then are almost co-extensive with human affairs. They embrace every thing, which can be a subject of advice, of exhortation, of consolation, or of petition. The most important scenes of deliberative oratory however in these states are the congress of the union, and the state legislature. The objects of their deliberation affect the interests of individuals and of the nation, in the highest degree. In seeking the sources of deliberative argument I shall therefore so modify the roles, generally to be observed, as to bear constant reference to them. They include all the subjects of legislation, of taxation, of public debt, public credit, and public revenue; of the management of public property; of commerce; treaties and alliances; peace and war.
Suppose yourself then, as a member of a deliberative assembly, deliberating upon some question, involving these great and important concerns; desirous of communicating your own sentiments, and of influencing the decision of the body you are to address. Your means of persuasion are to be derived from three distinct general sources; having reference respectively, first to the subject of deliberation; secondly to the body deliberating; and thirdly to yourself, the speaker.
1. In considering the subject of deliberation, your arguments may result from the circumstances of legality, of possibility, of probability, of facility, of necessity, or of contingency.
The argument of legality must always be modified by the extent of authority, with which the deliberating body is invested. In its nature it is an argument only applicable to the negative side of the question. It is an objection, raised against the measure under consideration, as being contrary to law. It can therefore have no weight in cases, where the deliberating body itself has the power of changing the law. Thus in a town meeting it would be a decisive objection against any measure proposed, that it would infringe a law of the state. But in the legislature of the commonwealth this would be no argument, because that body is empowered to change the law. Again, in the state legislature a measure may be assailed as contrary to a law of the Union; and the objection, if well founded, must be fatal to the measure proposed; though it could have no influence upon a debate in congress. There however the same argument may be adduced in a different form, if the proposition discussed interferes with any stipulation by treaty, or with the constitution of the United States. The argument of illegality therefore is equivalent to denial of the powers of the deliberating body. It is of great and frequent use in all deliberative discussions; but it is not always that, which is most readily listened to by the audience. Men are seldom inclined to abridge their own authority; and the orator, who questions the competency of his hearers to act upon the subject in discussion, must be supported by proof strong enough to control their inclinations, as well as to convince their reason.
The arguments of possibility and of necessity are those, which first command the consideration of the speaker, whose object is persuasion. Since, if impossibility on the one hand, or necessity on the other, be once ascertained, there is no room left for further deliberation. But, although nothing more can be required for dissuasion, than to show that the intended purpose is impracticable, barely to show its possibility can have very little influence in a debate; and it becomes the province of the speaker to consider its probability and facility; insisting upon every circumstance, which contributes to strengthen these.
It is to be remarked, that the task of dissuasion or opposition is much easier to the orator, than that of persuasion; because for the rejection of a measure it is sufficient to show, either that it is impracticable, or inexpedient. But for its adoption, both its possibility and its expediency must be made to appear. The proposer of the measure must support both the alternatives; the opponent needs only to substantiate one of them.
In discussing the probabilities and facilities of a measure, the speaker often indulges himself in the use of amplification, which here consists in the art of multiplying the incidents, favorable to his purpose, and presenting them in such aspects, as to give each other mutual aid and relief. As in the arguments of impossibility and necessity, he borrows from demonstrative oratory the art of approximation, and represents as impossible that, which is only very difficult, or as absolutely necessary that, which is of extreme importance.
The argument of contingency, or, as it is styled by the ancient rhetoricians, the argument from the event, derives a recommendation of the measure in debate from either alternative of a successful issue or of failure. An admirable instance of this kind of argument is contained in that advice of Cardinal Wolsey to Cromwell.
“Still in thy right hand carry gentle peace,
To silence envious tongues. Be just and fear not;
Let all the ends, thou aim’st at, be thy country’s,
Thy God’s, and truth’s; then if thou fall’st, O Cromwell,
Thou fall’st a blessed martyr!”
2. With regard to the deliberating body, there are two views, in which they must be presented to the speaker’s reflections, as accessible to persuasion; the motives, by which they are to be stimulated, and their own manners and character. As motives of persuasion, an orator may address himself to the sense of duty, of honor, of interest, or of passion; motives, which I have here arranged according to the comparative weight, which they ought respectively to carry, but which in the influence, which they really possess over most deliberative assemblies, should be ranked in precisely an inverted order.
Of the sense of duty may be observed, what I have already said of arguments, pointed against the power of the audience. They are indeed only different modifications of the same thing. To call upon the auditory to perform a duty is to speak the language of command; it virtually denies the power of deliberation; and although the force and efficacy of the appeal may be admitted, it is seldom listened to with pleasure, and always rather controls, than persuades the will.
The most proper and the most powerful arguments, which are usually employed for the purposes of persuasion, are those, addressed to the sense of honor and of interest. But in the choice and management of these you are to consult in a special manner the character of your audience; for one class of men will be most powerfully swayed by motives of honor, while another will most readily yield to the impulse of interest. “The discourse must be accommodated,” I am now speaking the words of Cicero, “not only to the truth, but to the taste of the hearers. Observe then first of all, that there are two different descriptions of men; the one rude and ignorant, who always set profit before honor; the other polished and civilized, who prefer honor to every thing. Urge then to the latter of these classes considerations of praise, of honor, of glory, of fidelity, of justice; in short of every virtue. To the former present images of gain, of emolument, of thrift; nay, in addressing this kind of men, you must even allure them with bait of pleasure. Pleasure, always hostile to virtue, always corrupting by fraudulent imitation the very nature of goodness herself, is yet most eagerly pursued by the worst of men; and by them often preferred not only to every instigation of honor, but even to the dictates of necessity. Remember too, that mankind are more anxious to escape evil, than to obtain good; less eager to acquire honor, than to avoid shame. Who ever sought honor, glory, praise, or fame of any kind, with the same ardor, that we fly from those most cruel of afflictions, ignominy, contumely, and scorn? Again, there is a class of men, naturally inclined to honorable sentiments, but corrupted by evil education and vitiated opinions. Is it your purpose then to exhort or persuade, remember that the task before you is that of teaching how to obtain good, and eschew evil. Are you speaking to men of liberal education, enlarge upon topics of praise and honor; insist with the keenest earnestness upon those virtues, which contribute to the common safety and advantage of mankind. But if you are discoursing to gross, ignorant, untutored minds, to them hold up profit, lucre, money-making, pleasure, and escape from pain. Deter them also by the prospect of shame and ignominy; for no man, however insensible to positive glory, is made of such impenetrable stuff, as not to be vehemently moved by the dread of infamy and disgrace.” This passage of Cicero, extracted from the dialogue between himself and his son, I recommend to your meditations, as the truly paternal advice of a father to his child. You will find it not only a most useful guide in the practice of deliberative oratory; but, if properly applied, it will furnish you a measure for many an audience, and many a speaker. It is however proper to remind you, that arguments of interest are in some degree purified of their dross by the constitution of our principal deliberative assemblies. They are representative bodies. Their measures operate upon their constituents more than upon themselves. The interests, to which you appeal in arguing to them, are not their individual interests, but those of the nation. They are therefore often. identified with the more elevated topics of honor; since to promote the interest of the people is the highest honor of the legislator. This however is sufficiently understood by most of our deliberative orators. As for you, my young friends, whenever you may be called to deliberate upon the concern of your country, I trust you will feel, that the honor, as well as the interest of the public, is the object of your pursuit; and without ever forgetting the sacred regard to the general interest, which becomes a virtuous citizen, you will still perceive the immeasurable distance between those regions of the soul, which are open only to the voice of honor, and those, which are trodden by the foot of avarice.
In all numerous assemblies the characters, opinions, and prejudices of the auditors will be various; a certain proportion of them will belong to each of the classes, enumerated by Cicero. In such cases the deliberative orator will find it adviseable [sic] to introduce a variety of arguments; some addressed to the generous, and some to the selfish feelings; some to the coarsest and some to the most refined principles of action. But I cannot with Quinctilian discuss the question, how far an orator may exert his talents of persuasion for base and dishonorable purposes; or urge his hearers to actions, which he himself would detest or despise. In judicial controversies, where the discussion relates to time and actions irretrievably past, it may often be the fortune of the orator to defend what he cannot justify; and in the most rigorous court of justice or of honor, he may say, like Shakspeare’s [sic] Isabella,
“I something do excuse the thing I hate,
For his advantage, whom I dearly love,”
But of deliberative eloquence the first principle is sincerity. No honest man would advise what he cannot approve; and a counsellor should disdain to recommend that, which he would not join in executing himself. And this leads me to the third general head, from which the means of persuasion are to be drawn in deliberative oratory, the speaker himself.
3. The eloquence of deliberation will necessarily take much of its color from the orator himself. He must be careful to suit his discourse to his own character and situation. In early life he may endeavour [sic] to make strong impression by the airy splendor of his style, contrasted with the unaffected modesty of his address. If advanced in years, and elevated in reputation and dignity, the gravity of his manner and the weight of sentiment should justly correspond with the reverence, due to his station. It is in deliberative assemblies, more than upon any other stage of public speaking, that the good opinion of his auditory is important to the speaker. The demonstrative orator, the lawyer at the bar, derive great advantage from a fair reputation and the good will of their hearers; but the peculiar province of the deliberative speaker is to advise; and what possible effect can be expected from advice, where there is no confidence in the adviser. This subject however is so important and so copious, that I shall reserve it for a separate lecture, in which I propose to consider those qualities of the heart and of the mind, which are or ought to be best adapted to acquire that benevolence of the auditory, which is so powerful an auxiliary to the power of speech.
In treating this part of the subject, Aristotle, according to his usual custom, has pursued his train of analysis to its deepest root, and to its minutest ramification. Assuming, as a fundamental position, that utility, that is the attainment of good or avoidance of evil, is the ultimate object of all deliberation, he proceeds to enumerate a catalogue of every thing, considered as a blessing by human beings. These blessings he divides into two classes; first of those, universally recognized, and positive; and second of those, which are only relative, and subject to controversy. Among the former he includes virtue, health, beauty, riches, eloquence, arts, and sciences. Among the latter are the least of two evils; the contrary to what your enemy desires; the esteem of the wise; what multitudes desire; and specific objects to individual men. The forms of government also modify the prevailing estimate of good and evil. The end of civil government, under a democracy, is liberty; under an oligarchy, property; under an aristocracy, law; and under a monarchy, security. These are all positive blessings for all mankind. But their relative importance is greatly enhanced, where they constitute the basis of the social compact. The deliberative orator, whose appeal must always be to the sentiments of good and evil, rooted in the minds of his auditory. must always adapt his discourse to that standard measure of the land.
The ancient practice of declamation was an ingenious and useful exercise for improving in the art of deliberative oratory. A character and a situation, generally known in history, were assumed; and the task of the declaimer was to compose and deliver a discourse suitable to them. The Greek and Roman historians introduce speeches of this kind in the midst of their narratives; and among them are so many examples of the most admirable eloquence, that we regret the cold accuracy of modern history, which has discarded this practice, without providing any adequate substitute in its stead.
As amplification bas been said to be the favorite resort of demonstrative oratory, the allegation or examples is the most effectual support of deliberative discourses. There is nothing new under the sun. The future is little more than a copy of the past. What hath been shall be again. And to exhibit an image of the past is often to present the clearest prospect of the future. The examples, which are adduced successfully by the deliberative speaker, are or two kinds; first fictitious inventions of his own, second real events, borrowed from historical fact. The first of these are called by Aristotle fables, and the second parables. The fable, which may be invented at the pleasure of the speaker, is more easily applied to his purpose; but the parable, always derived from matter of fact, makes a deeper impression upon the minds of the audience. In the rude ages of society, and among the uncultivated class of mankind, the power of fable, and still more of parable to influence the will, is scarcely conceivable upon mere speculative investigation. But it is demonstrated by the uniform tenor of all human experience. The fable of Menenius Agrippa stands conspicuous in the Roman annals. It pacified one of the most dangerous insurrections which ever agitated that turbulent but magnanimous people. The scriptures of the old testament bespeak the efficacy of these instruments in a manner no less energetic. But their unrivalled triumph is in the propagation of the christian gospel; whose exalted founder we are told “needed not that any should testify of man; for he knew what was in man;” and who delivered his incomparable system of morality altogether through the medium of fables and parables; both of which in the writings of the evangelists are included in the latter term. “And with many parables spake [sic] he the word unto them, as they were able to hear it; but without a parable spake [sic] he not unto them.”*
The principal feature in the style of deliberative oratory should be simplicity. Not that it disdains, but that it has seldom occasion for decoration. The speaker should be much more solicitous for the thought, than for the expression. This constitutes the great difference between the diction proper for this, and that, which best suits the two other kinds of oratory. Demonstrative eloquence, intended for show, delights in ostentatious ornament. The speaker is expected to have made previous preparation. His discourse is professedly studied, and all the artifices of speech are summoned to the gratification of the audience. The heart is cool for the reception, the mind is at leisure for the contemplation of polished periods, oratorical numbers, coruscations of metaphor, profound reflection, and subtle ingenuity. But deliberative discussions require little more than prudence and integrity. Even judicial oratory supposes a previous painful investigation of his subject by the speaker, and exacts an elaborate, methodical conduct of the discourse. But deliberative subjects often arise on a sudden, and allow of no premeditation. Hearers are disinclined to advice, which they perceive the speaker has been dressing up in his closet. Ambitious ornament should then be excluded, rather than sought. Plain sense, clear logic, and above all ardent sensibility, these are the qualities, needed by those who give, and those who take counsel. A profusion of brilliancy betrays a speaker more full of himself than of his cause; more anxious to be admired, than believed. The stars and ribbands [sic] of princely favor may glitter on the breast of the veteran hero at a birthday ball; but, exposed to the rage of battle, they only direct the bullet to his heart. A deliberative orator should bury himself in his subject. Like a superintending providence, he should be visible only in his mighty works. Hence that universal prejudice, both of ancient and modern times, against written, deliberative discourses; a prejudice, which bade defiance [sic] to all the thunders of Demosthenes. In the midst of their most enthusiastic admiration of his eloquence, his countrymen nevertheless remarked, that his orations “smelt too much of the lamp.”
Let it however be observed, that upon great and important occasions the deliberative orator may be allowed a more liberal indulgence of preparation. When the cause of ages and the fate of nations hangs upon the thread of a debate, the orator may fairly consider himself, as addressing not only his immediate hearers, but the world at large; and all future times. Then it is, that, looking beyond the moment, in which he speaks, and the immediate issue of the deliberation, he makes the question of an hour a question for every age and every region; takes the vote of unborn millions upon the debate of a little senate, and incorporates himself and his discourse with the general history of mankind. On such occasions and at such times, the oration naturally and properly assumes a solemnity of manner and a dignity of language, commensurate with the grandeur of the cause. Then it is, that deliberative eloquence lays aside the plain attire of her daily occupation, and assumes the port and purple of the queen of the world. Yet even thenĚ she remembers, that majestic grandeur best comports with simplicity. Her crown and sceptre [sic] may blaze with the brightness of the diamond, but she must not, like the kings of the gorgeous east, be buried under a shower of barbaric pearls and gold.
*Mark, iv. 33.