THE speaker’s exordium has prepared the minds of his audience for the reception of his discourse. He has disarmed their prejudices against himself and his cause, and conciliated their affections in his favor. He had related to them in clear, concise, and probable terms, the facts, which are material to the understanding of his speech. He has laid down his proposition, and unfolded its divisions, few, short, and complete. He has made the discussion easy to himself, and familiar to his hearers; and yet nothing is done. All, that we have hitherto considered, in mere preparation. As yet the orator has only told us what he proposes to do. The all-important task of proving what he has affirmed still remains. And this in pursuance of the method which continues to regulate our inquiries, is to be performed by the proof of confirmation, establishing the truth and correctness of the cause, considered by itself, or by the proof of confutation, the object of which is to remove and repel the objections, raised against it by the adverse speaker.
In discoursing to you upon the other parts of a formal oration, or upon the other great and primary divisions of the rhetorical science, it has been my endeavour [sic] to furnish you with the most useful materials, which contribute to the purposes of eloquence. But we have now arrived at that, to which all the rest is subservient; to the great end, of which every thing that has yet been taught, and every thing which remains to be explored, is but the means. The vital principle of every cause, I have heretofore told you, consists in the state, or proposition; and I may now add, that the whole duty of the speaker is comprised in the proof.
This proof, whether of confirmation or of confutation, is adduced in the shape and under the name of arguments. Of the various sources, from which arguments may be drawn, I have largely treated under the article invention. My present purpose is to indicate not where these materials of persuasion are to be collected, but the various forms, in which they may be produced, and the order in which they may to the greatest advantage be marshalled [sic].
The distinction between confirmation and confutation is not recognized by Aristotle; and, though insisted upon somewhat earnestly by Quinctilian, is not of much importance. They are obviously only modifications of proof, upon which conviction is dependent. But there is another distinction, to which I have alluded in a former lecture, and of which it may be necessary to remind you here, as it was not then exhibited in so clear a light, as it deserves. Under the general denomination of proof are included demonstrations of two different kinds; external or internal, artificial or inartificial [sic]. External proof consists of every thing, which the orator can alledge [sic], not resulting from his own talent. Internal proof is that, which he draws from his personal resources of ingenuity. External proof is evidence; internal proof is argument. When a legislator in the senate reads a section of statute in support of the proposition he is maintaining, when a lawyer at the bar calls a witness upon the stand to substantiate a fact material to his cause, when a divine in the pulpit quotes a passage of sacred inspiration to confirm the doctrine he has advanced, each of them adduces a proof in confirmation of his position; and this proof is external; it exists independent of the speaker and of his art. But when the legislator infers from the statutes, which he has read, the expediency of the measure, which he proposes, when the lawyer draws his conclusions from the testimony of the witness, and when the divine applies the quotation from scripture to the improvement of the discourse, then the proofs they adduce are internal, or artificial; resulting from the operations of their own minds, and which independent of them would have no existence.
In all the other classes of oratory, excepting that of the bar, this distinction between external and internal proofs is not very important. In the pulpit or at the halls of deliberation the argument of the speaker and the authority, which he vouches, go hand in hand; nor is any very critical investigation necessary to separate them from one another. But it is not so before courts and juries. The only proofs, allowed to be conclusive with them, are law and evidence. However clear and irresistible the logic of the party or of his council may be, it is regarded not as proof, but as mere assertion; and whether it shall have any weight at all upon their decision depends always upon the discretion, and in point of fact often upon the inclination of those, to whom it is addressed. Hence the term proof, in its common acceptance, as used at our judicial tribunals, is confined to the more narrow sense of external testimony; to the sense it bears in that hackneyed passage of Shakspeare [sic].
“Trifles, light as air,
Are, to the jealous, confirmation strong,
As proof of holy writ.”
Yet undoubtedly a proposition may be proved by argument, as well as by testimony; and even at the bar the power of reason, properly applied, ought always to be and often is of equal efficacy to produce conviction, as the oath of a witness.
External proofs are considered by Aristotle as applicable only to judicial causes, and they are according to him five in number; laws, witnesses, contracts, torture, and oaths of the parties. Under the general denomination of witnesses he includes authorities, the interpretation of oracles, and proverbial maxims. The these Quinctilian adds previous adjudications and common fame. Of all these I have treated largely under the head of invention, where I told you that they were all included in the general name of evidence in our judicial courts.
Under the same head of evidence must also be ranged two other kinds of proof, which are classed by the ancient rhetoricians among their internal or artificial proofs, which are called by them signs, and examples.
A sign is a token, by which any thing is shown; an example is a thing, which by its resemblance may indicate another.
Signs are of two kinds, certain or uncertain. A certain or infallible sign is that, which so universally accompanies the thing it proves, that nothing can be opposed against it. An uncertain sign is only an indication of probability. When you behold a cultivated field, covered with a burden of corn ripening for the sickle, it is a certain sign of a seed time past, and an uncertain sign of a future harvest. Certain signs by the discriminating Greeks were distinguished by a peculiar name, denoting termination, τεκμκριον; importing, says Aristotle, that they put an end to all controversy.
Uncertain signs furnish all those varieties of possibility and probability, which in the language of the common law occupy the broad range of presumptive evidence. All these, as well as examples, were included among the artificial or internal proofs; because their application to the support of any cause depended upon the ingenuity of the speaker.
They were however well aware of the difference between the sign or example itself, which perhaps they ought to have classed among their external proofs, and that operation of the orator, by which he makes them applicable to his own cause. Thus Quinctilian remarks, that, although signs had often been confounded with arguments, there were two reasons for distinguishing between them. First because they might almost be reckoned among the inartificial [sic] proofs. A shriek, a wound, a garment stained with blood, are all signs; but they are as independent of the orator, as a witness or a contract. And secondly because, if the sign be a certain one, it leaves no question, to which an argument can attach; if an uncertain one, it is of itself nothing without the aid of an argument. And thus Aristotle long before had said, that signs, if certain, formed the basis of a syllogism; if uncertain, of an enthymem; and that examples laid the foundation of induction.
The application of all external proof belongs indeed to the task of the orator, This constitutes his argument, and his argument must assume one or both of the two processes, by which alone human reason can act upon human opinions, ratiocination and induction.
Here you will observe, that rhetoric resolves herself into logic. Here it behooves the orator to be a perfect master of the art of reasoning; and here it might be sufficient for me to refer you to your own studies and acquirements in that department. Your proficiency there will at least justify me in touching this part of my subject with a lighter and a more cursory hand. It may be proper however to explain in a few words the difference between ratiocination and induction.
Ratiocination is that exertion of the mind, by which a proposition is inferred by way of conclusion from certain other propositions, which are laid down as premises. Induction is the inference of a conclusion from admitted facts or examples. Ratiocination is exclusively the act of the person, who reasons. Induction is an appeal to the consciousness, or a result from the concession of the person, with whom the argument is held. Ratiocination derives all its resources from itself. Induction carries on the war upon the enemy’s territories. Ratiocination achieves all its victories by its own overpowering energy. Induction obtains many triumphs from the weakness or treachery of the enemy’s troops. Ratiocination proceeds in a lineal descent from truth to truth. Induction proves one truth by collateral kindred with others.
The subject is in its nature abstruse, and I could wish by every sort of illustration to make it clear. The following passages from Dr. Johnson’s preface to Shakspeare [sic] may at once give you examples of both the modes of reasoning, and point you to the sources in the human character, whence they flow. “Demonstration immediately displays its power, and has nothing to hope or fear from the flux of years; but works tentative and experimental must be estimated by their proportion to the general and collective ability of man, as it is discovered in a long succession of endeavours [sic].” Thus far we have pure ratiocination; the next paragraphs are inductive. “Of the first building that was raised it might be with certainty determined, that it was round or square; but whether it was spacious or lofty must have been referred to time.” This is induction drawn from a fictitious example, an imaginary first building. He now proceeds to historical example. “The Pythagorean scale of numbers was at once discovered to be perfect; but the poems of Homer we yet know not to transcend the common limits of human intelligence, but by remarking, that nation after nation and century after century have been able to do little more than transpose his incidents, new name his characters, and paraphrase his sentiments.” Here you see the reasoning from speculation contrasted with the reasoning from experience, and they are both united to prove, that the first is applicable to mathematical science, and the last to polite literature and the works of taste.
This is precisely the difference between ratiocination and induction; and the orator must occasionally use them both in the argumentative part of his discourse.
These two modes of reasoning were perfectly understood in the Grecian schools of philosophy. That of ratiocination was principally practiced by Aristotle and the Peripatetics; that of induction by Socrates and his followers.
The forms of ratiocination are three; the simple syllogism,the enthymem or imperfect syllogism, and the epichirema or rhetorical syllogism. The simple syllogism is of little or no use for the purpose of the orator, because the application of the syllogism is confined to objects of positive demonstration; while all the performances of oratory are conversant only with probabilities. The conclusion of a syllogism imports absolute certainty; and can never exist with another alternative. The conclusions of rhetoric do not pretend ever to arrive at this state of irrefragable truth. This is exclusively the pretention [sic] of logic; and her instrument for attaining it is syllogism. I shall not here enter into that controversy, which for so many centuries has been maintained with such vehemence of zeal, and such acrimony of opposition, concerning the merits of syllogism. It is sufficient for me to believe it the most compendious and the most irresistible process of reason,that the human mind has ever discovered; and, having the express authority of Aristotle himself, its inventor, for excluding it from the ways and means of oratory, I need not enter into the scrutiny how far it may be of use elsewhere.
The epichirema however is the form, in which the essential parts of the syllogism may be applied with efficacy to public discourse. A syllogism, as you well know, consists of three propositions, denominated the major and minor propositions, and the conclusion. From the two former, which are the premises, the latter is a necessary inference; because in them the subject and predicate of the conclusion, called by logicians the major and minor terms, or the extremes, are distinctly compared with a middle term, or particular common to them both. These propositions in the simple syllogism are all categorical or positive affirmations. And these propositions all belong alike to the epichirema. The difference is that, as the domain of rhetorical argument is not certainty but probability, the propositions are not absolute, but always in some degree problematical. The logician lays down his propositions, as incontestable truths; and uses no words other than those, which clothe the propositions themselves, to obtain the assent of his auditor to them. And as they must either be true or false, they can be opposed only in the same categorical manner. in which they are asserted. The opposition admits of no degrees or modifications; it must either be received with implicit acquiescence, or express denial.
But the propositions of the orator are only given as probabilities. They do not exact unhesitating belief. The major or the minor proposition, from which he purposes to draw his conclusion, or both of them may require reasons for their own support. The proof, thus adduced in aid of either proposition, is considered as a distinct part of the argument. Hence, if both require such proof, the epichirema consists of five parts. If, while one of the premises is so clear, that it may stand upon its own feet, the other requires the aid of a staff, the whole consists of four. And when the two premises are deemed so obvious, as to require no illustration, the conclusion is left to be supplied by the Imagination of the hearer, and the epichirema consists but of two parts.
The enthymem also consists only of two parts ; that is, of either of the premises and the conclusion. It is called an imperfect syllogism, because if the proposition, which is suppressed, were inserted, the syllogism would be complete. In the common intercourse of society, and in every species of literary composition, nothing can be more common, than this mode of reasoning. Thus in the sermon from the mount, recorded in the gospel, as the first proclamation to mankind of the principles of the christian dispensation, the foundation is laid in a series of regular enthymems, each of which may be turned into a perfect syllogism. Take for example the first benediction.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Now supply the major proposition, which must be understood,
Blessed are all they, who shall enjoy the kingdom of heaven;
and reverse the order of the propositions, as they stand;
The poor in spirit shall enjoy the kingdom of heaven;
the first position stands as the inference;
Therefore blessed are the poor in spirit.
Blessed are all they, who shall obtain mercy;
The merciful shall obtain mercy;
Therefore blessed are the merciful.
And so it is of all the rest.
In all these instances the reasoning begins with the conclusion, and assigns the minor proposition alone for its reason. The major proposition is omitted, because it is so obvious to every mind, that there could be no necessity for its formal enunciation. But it must be tacitly admitted, or the reasoning remains imperfect. Suppose it said that a man might obtain mercy and yet not be blessed; then, even admitting the minor proposition, that the merciful shall obtain mercy, the conclusion would not necessarily follow, that the merciful are blessed for that reason.
Examine now the following passage from Addison’s Cato.
If there’s a power above us,
And that there is all nature cries aloud
In all her works, he must delight in virtue;
And that, which he delights in, must be happy.
Here is a process of reasoning, which, reduced into the logical form, contains two conclusions; first, there is a power above us; and secondly, virtue is happy. The first part stands as an enthymem, containing the minor proposition and the conclusion, suppressing the major proposition; and the second is an epichirema in two parts, expressing the major and minor propositions, and suppressing the conclusion. In the syllogistic form they would stand thus.
Whatever nature cries aloud in all her works, is;
Nature cries aloud in all her works, that there is a power above us;
Therefore there is a power above us.
Whatever he delights in must be happy;
He delights in virtue;
Therefore virtue must be happy.
These examples may serve to show us not only that the enthymem and epichirema are of frequent use in all the forms of human intercourse, but also why they naturally take the place of formal syllogism. The major proposition, which I have here supplied for one of the arguments, and the conclusion itself, which I have given for the other, will appear by their bare statement to be so perfectly obvious, that there could be no necessity of expressing them to complete the reasoning.
It is to be remembered, that uniformity is the favorite character of logic, and variety is equally essential to rhetoric. The syllogism is confined to a very few modifications, and rejects every irregularity of arrangement. It has but one process, from which it inflexibly refuses to depart. Whether proceeding in affirmation or in negation, whether evolving particular or general conclusions, the order of march is eternally the same. The propositions are always categorical. The major advances in the van; the minor settles in the center; the middle term is common to them both; and the conclusion closes in the rear. In rhetorical syllogism, by sliding into the enthymem or spreading into the epichirema, seems to change its nature. It retains all its powers, but is emancipated from all its restrictions. It reverses at pleasure the order of its propositions. It gives alternate precedency [sic] to either of the premises, or posts the conclusion in front of both. It is not always arrayed in the dogmatism of unqualified assertion. Is it uncertain, it states its proposition in the diffidence of the potential mood. Is it emphatically certain, it bids defiance to the opponent by challenging denial in the shape of interrogation. Is it humble, it may convey its idea in the form of conjecture. Is it conscious of authority, it may assume the language of command. It adapts itself to every gradation of intellect. It suits itself to every variety of disposition. But under all it metamorphoses the primary matter of the syllogism, the major, minor, and middle terms must substantially remain, or the reasoning will be imperfect.
Do you remember the address of Sarpedon to Glaucus in the twelfth book of the Iliad? I am persuaded it is familiar to the recollection of many among you; that the thought is clear upon your minds, and the sentiment deep in your hearts. For although, as the exhortation of one warrior to another, it is limited to the recommendation of military virtue, yet its principle is applicable to every condition in life, where is any distinction of rank between man and man. Yeas, on reading it you have often glowed with congenial feelings, and after reading it your cool judgment has responded to the truth of the precept. But did it ever occur to you, that it contains in substance a perfect syllogism, which in its simplicity would import neither more nor less than this?
Whoever is first in place, ought to be first in valor;
We are the first in place;
Therefore we ought to be first in valor.
You see that by stripping it of all its splendid apparel the thought loses nothing of its dignity, the reasoning nothing of its vigor. But now behold it in its royal attire.
Why boast we, Glaucus, our extended reign,
Where Xanthus’ streams enrich the Lycian plain,
Our numerous herds, that range the fruitful field,
And hills, where vines their purple harvest yield,
Our foaming bowls with purer nectar crown’d,
Our feasts enhanc’d with music’s sprightly sound;
Why on those shores are we with joy survey’d,
Admir’d as heroes, and as gods obey’d,
Unless great acts superior merit prove,
And vindicate the bounteous powers above?
‘Tis ours the dignity they give to grace;
The first in valor, as the first in place.
The diction is on a level with the doctrine. It was thus that the son of Jupiter ought to think, to speak, and to act.
It would have been easy to select from oratorical compositions a multitude of examples of these rhetorical modes of ratiocination; for when reasoning is employed in poetry it adopts all the forms, and is allowed all the privileges of rhetoric. In the performances of orators one of the most ordinary modes of ratiocination is to state by itself the major proposition of the syllogism, as an argument to support at once the minor proposition and the conclusion. This is the source of all those general observations on life and manners, which in the works of the most excellent orators become maxims of morality and wisdom. Observe the argument of Julius Caesar, in Sallust, on the question concerning the punishment to be inflicted upon the accomplices of Catiline. His object is to recommend moderation. And he urges it by insisting upon the necessity in all important deliberations. “It is,” says he, “the duty of all men, who are in consultation upon critical questions, to be alike free from friendship and hatred, from anger and compassion.” Then from this general duty upon all men he deduces the particular duty, which he is desirous of enforcing specially upon his hearers; and from that rule of moderation he derives his vote, that the lives of the conspirators should be spared.
In my next lecture I shall call to your notice examples of this kind of reasoning, from orators greater than Sallust or Caesar. We are now engaged upon that very part of our subject, in which Quinctilian tells us that the deepest and most hidden mysteries of the art lie concealed. To reveal them all at once would be putting to a trial too severe, not your capacities, but your patience. We are traveling in paths, where the rugged and the barren region must occasionally succeed to that of pleasantness, and where the prospect of the fruit must sometimes reconcile us to the absence of the flower. Though entangled in the labyrinths of logic, we have not lost our clue. Let us here indulge ourselves with a pause of rest, with the hope that our next effort will open for us the issue to a fairer, or at least a less perplexing field.