IN my last lecture I was attempting to explain to you the manner, in which the art of logic and its forms of reasoning are applies with elegance and effect to the purposes of oratory. You have all lived long enough in the world to know, that usefulness and pleasure have some natural prepossessions against each other, which are not always easily removed; but which must be removed before they can form that intimate and inseperable alliance, on which the strength and permanency of their worth alone depend. The argumentative part of a discourse is its living soul. It is ti true eloquence what charity is to true christianity. Without it, though you should speak with the tongues of men and of angels, you would become as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal. Yet, although including in itself all the usefulness of oratory, it is very scantily gifted with its charms. The act of pure, abstract reasoning is the glory of man; but as it is that portion of the human character, in which we partake of a superior nature, it is too exalted and refined for the earthly part of our composition. The ornaments and graces, in which oratory studiously attires the muscular form of logic, are indulgences to human infirmity. They are the honey, in which the wholesome draught of instruction must be mingled to make it palatable.
Et quasi Musaeo dulci contingere melle.
In the first book of his treatise upon invention, Cicero has given a very clear and minute explanation of the epichirema and enthymem, included under the general term ratiocination; and has illustrated them by various examples, the most remarkable of which is an argument to prove, that the world is governed by a superintending providence. In his works of practical oratory however, he has furnished numberless instances of this decorated reasoning. In the following passage for instance, from the third oration of the second action against Verres, you will distinctly mark the three propositions of a syllogism to this effect.
Whoever prosecutes for high crimes another man, imposes upon himself an obligation of extraordinary virtue;
I am prosecuting another man for high crimes;
Therefore I impose upon myself the obligation of extraordinary virtue.
This is the logical argument. And now let us see how, under every disadvantage of translation, it is embellished by the genius of Cicero. “Whosoever, impelled y no private resentments, stimulated by no personal injury, instigated by no expectation of reward, undertakes to impeach another as a criminal of state, before the public tribunals, ought well to weigh beforehand not only the importance of the immediate task, which he assumes, but also the rule of morality, by which he voluntarily binds himself for the conduct of his own future life. He, who calls to account another man, especially under the profession of having no motive other than the general welfare, imposes upon himself the perpetual obligation of innocence, of purity, of every social virtue. For how can the smallest departure from the paths of rectitude be overlooked in him, who presumes to take upon himself the office of avenging the offences [sic]and reforming the conduct of others! Preeminent therefore is the title to the affections and applause of his fellow citizens of that man, who not only releives the commonwealth from the burden of a worthless character, but makes by the same act the spontaneous profession of superadding tot eh common principles of integrity a more refined and delicate measure of obligation upon himself. The merit indeed of these self-inflicted shackles is less clear, when the charge of public accusation is assumed in early youth, than when undertaken in the deliberative maturity of age. A young man may be spurred to the office of public accusation, by the desire of fame, or the love of ostenation, without being aware how much more indulgence of life may be claimed by those, who have never invoked the rigors of law against others. But we, whose capacities of judgement and whose powers of performance, such as they are, have long been exposed in the face of day; we surely should never voluntarily discard and debar ourselves from the common allowances and freedoms of a very liberal morality, had we not previously acquired the uncontrolled dominion of our own passions.
“Still more aggravated is the burden (if burden it may be called, which is my pleasure and my pride), which in this prosecution I am taking upon me. Thus far at least I have put more than a common stake in pledge; as the obligaion is of all others the most imperious of refraining from that identical crime, of which you appea to be the accuser. Is your specific charge theft or extortion? You must with extreme caution beware of every suspicion of avarice in yourself. Do you arraign at the bar of public justice oppression or cruelty? You must above all things avoid every semblance of harshness or inhumanity. Is seduction or adultery the crime you drag to punishment? How careful must you be to preserve your own purity unsullied! Whatsoever in short you denounce, as guilt in another, you must with the most sedulous diligence avoid yourself. For how can a man be tolerated, I will not say as the avenger, but even as the reprover of a vice, with which he himself is tainted? But I am pointing the bolt of justice against every vice, that can debase the human character, in the person of one man. Yes, I repeat it; there is not a stain of polution, of violence, or of impudence, but it blackens the tissue of this one man”s life. And thus, by undertaking his impeachment, have I prescribed mfor myself a rule of conduct as widely distant, as directly opposite as possible, not only to the deeds and words, but even to those proud looks and that insolent deportment, whicvh you have observed in him. Nor is it, judges, in the least irksome to me to assume as an absolute duty, as the necessary condition of my existence, that very principle of action, which I have always followed from choice.”
Had I adduced this passage to you as an admirable exordium, I should have requested you to remark how appropriate it is to the situation, in which it stands; and how peculiarly it was calculated to accomplish all the purposes of an introduction, by conciliating the attention, the good will, and the docility of his auditory. These reflections however, together with a multitude of others, which this neglected gem of eloquence flashes upon my mind, I suppress for the purpose of pointing your attention to the peculiar characteristice, which induced me now to present it to your meditations; as a specimen of oratorical ratiocination; as a sample of the manner, in which a simple sylogism expands under the plastic hand of a public speaker into a perfect epichirema. The major, minor, and middle terms, as well as the conclusion, are all distinctly perceptible under all the blaze of eloquence. The major proposition and conclusion are laid down in terms precise and formal enough for a logical treatise. The minor proposition (that he was prosecuting a great criminal) was one of those things so obvious to his hearers, that it might properly have been altogether omitted; but he has inserted it, and by the form he has given to it has wound up the climax of his argument to its highest and keenest point.
But this is not all. Here is not merely a sylogism; here is a profound and incontrovertible maxim of political morality. Here is a principle, which those of us, who by our vocations in life may ever be called to the painful task of impeaching the conduct or reproving the vices of others, should lay to our hearts, as perpetually binding upon ourselves. Here is an axiom of universalk application, drawn by Cicero as an inference from his meditations upon the duties, which his particular situation at that time exacted of him. I have heretofore intimated to you the necessity, that an accomplished orator should be thoroughly versed in the science of ethics, as well as in that of dialectics. Here you see the result of such a combination of talents. A mind unaccustomed to inquire into and meditate upon the nature of his duties, as a social being, could never have fallen into that train of thought, which produced these remarks; or if it had, could not have drawn its conclusions with so much correctness. It was the habitual practice of exercising his understanding upon the extent and proportions of his duties, combining with the constant custom of classing individualities and particularizing universals; it was the logician uniting with the moralist; it was intellect operating upon integrity, which brought forth this lesson of wisdom for the benefit of all succeeding ages.
I have dwelt with peculiar emphasisupon this topic, not surely from any distrust of your understandings, but from my sense of its extreme importance. It is this very faculty of pointing the general principles of moral and political science to the specific object in debate, and of extracting from the subject in discussion new scintillations of light to illumine the paths of civilized life, that constitutes the permanent powers and glory of the public speaker. As mere historic facts, of what consequence is it to you or me, whether Verres was or was not a robber? Whether Milo was or was or was not an assassin? Whether Archias was or was not a Roman citizen? These are points as immaterial to the peace and happiness of mankind, as the fortunes of Don Belianis of Greece, or the achievements of Arthur and his round table knights. But by this art of rhetorical ratiocination the orator acquires a new and a more venerable character. He is no longer pleading the cause of an individual, but that of human improvement. It is no longer Cicero, the advocate of his friends, or the prosecutor of a thief. It is Cicero, the instructer of ages, the legislator of human-kind.
This species of excellence is not confined to the orators. The philosophers, historians, and poets share it with them; but of all the public speakers ancient or modern, with whose compositions I have been conversant, the highest praise of this particular kind is unquestionably due to Cicero. The palm of superior eloquence has indeed by many able judges been awarded to Demosthenes, and a British critic of great sagacity and high reputation has pronounced, that of all human compositions his orations are the most perfect. But I apprehend this judgment has always been founded upon that idea, which considers eloquence as merely the art of persuasion. It considers the oration merely with reference to the occasion, upon which it was delivered; as the means to a certain end, and nothing more. In that point of view the decision was probably just. As a hearer I should perhaps have thought Demosthenes the better speaker. But as a reader I return with the most permanent and repepated delight to Cicero.
Of all the orators of modern times he, who most resembles Cicero in this, as in many other particulars, is Burke. The general course and character of his argumentation is indeed so closely modelled upon Cicero, that he must in some sort be considered as an imitator. But his imitation is like that of Raphael to Michael-Angelo [sic]; like that of Virgil to Homer. It is the imitation of one genius kindling into radiance by the beams emitted from another.
Yet there are passages in Burke, where the closer and more compact reasoning of Demosthenes seems to be adopted; of which you may judge from the two following passages, bearing no inconsiderable resemblance to each other, and with a few remarks upon which I shall close my observations for the present upon rhetorical ratiocination.
The passage from Demosthenes is in the oration for the state.
“When your treasury was lately robbed (I beg I may not be interrupted, hear me patiently), all your orators with one voice exclaimed, the constitution is gone! The laws are annihilated. Athenians, I appeal to your own reason; to rob the treasury is a crime, that deserves death; but it does not destroy the constitution. Again, your arsenal has been robbed of some naval stores. Stripes and tortures! The constitution is at an end! Such is the general cry. But what is my opinion? That the culprit deserves death; but not that the constitution is subverted. No, Athenians; when your constitution is really destroyed, there is not a man of them will tell you of it; but I will. When you, men of Athens, when you sink into an impotent rabble, without discretion, without property, without arms, disorderly and disunited; when neither your general, nor any one else pays the least respect to your decrees; when no mortal dares attempt to accomplish, or even to urge the necessary reformation; no, nor so much as to inform you of this your miserable condition; then is your constitution destroyed, And such is at this present moment the case.”
In this quotation you will be struck with the difference of manner from that full flowing and perhaps redundant expansion of ideas, which appeared in the extract from Cicero. There you heard the thinder roll and reverberate in long, majestic succession, as if resounding from the echoes of unnumbered hills. Here you see the flash, instantaneous, unavoidable; and the eye blenches at the sight. The syllogism, with which this argument closes, is hypothetical; and, if the last two sentences were transposed, would be simple logic. As it stands the minor proposition forms the clsoe, and the conclusion immediately precedes it.
The parallel passage, which I shall now give you from Burke, is taken from his letter to the sheriffs of Bristol; which, though never spoken as an oration, was in substance a poitical harangue to his constituents.
“For as the sabbath, though of divine institution, was made for man, not man for the sabbath, government, which can claim no higher origin or authority, in its exercise at least, ought to conform to the exigencies of the time. and the temper and character of the people, with whom it is concerned; and not always to attempt violently to bend the people to their theories of subjection. The bulk of mankind on their part are not excessively curious concerning any theories, whilst they are really happy; and one sure symptom of an ill conducted state is the propensity of the people to resort to them.
“But when subjects, by a long course of such ill conduct, are once thoroughly inflamed, and the state itself violently distempered, the people must have some satisfaction to their feelings more solid than a sophisticated speculation on law and government. Such was our situation; and such a satisfaction was necessary to prevent recourse to arms; it was necessary towards laying them down; it will be necessary to prevent tking them up again and again.”
I need not tell you, that passages of much more splendid eloquence might be selected from any one of Burke’s speeches. I have chosen this because it terminates, like that from the Grecian oratorm almost in a simple syllogism. Here too the major proposition is hypothetical; but the minor proposition and conclusion are in their regular order, and the latter is rendered emphatic by a diversity of modifications, and a threefold repitition.
Thus much of the various forms of ratiocination, which are applicable to the arguments of an orator. The other mode of reasoning, which he may employ with effect, is induction; which is either an inference of one general proposition from a multitude of particulars, or of one particular from another. It has sometimes been called a syllogism without a middle term. Its principle appeal is to experience; and it argues chiefly from admitted facts, or from positions, which the adversary cannot contest. In candid argument it may be of great use, but it is in itself an imperfect mode of reasoning, far less conclusive and far more suited to be abused for captious disputation, than the syllogism. As practised [sic] even by Socrates himself, it was rather the art of entrapping, than of convincing an opponent. It was a powerful weapon against the caviling subtleties of the sophists; but to meet the fair and formidable difficulties of an honest adversary it is a very defective instrument. The example of induction, given by Cicero as a specimen, is itself very indifferent reasoning, although the inference is excellent morality. It is taken from a dialogue of Eschines in the Socratic manner. The interlocutors are Xenephon and his wife and the celebrated Aspasia. Prithee tell me, wife of Xenophon, says Aspasia, if your next neighbour’s [sic] jewels were more precious than yours, which would you rahter have, hers or your own? The lady answers, hers. What if she had a handsomer gown and finer clothes than yours; which would you prefer? Hers to be sure. Well, suppose she had a better husband than yours; shich would you choose, hers or your own? Here the lady blushed; and well she might, for the question seems much more suitable to the character of Aspasia, than the answer would have been to that of Xenephon’s wife. Aspasia was not so easily disconcerted. She turns the same battery upon Xenephon himself. Pray, Xenephon, says she, if your neighbour [sic] had a better horse than yours, which would you choose to have, his or your own? His, says Xenophon. Suppose he had a finer farm; which would you wish? THe best, says he. And how, if he had a better wife? Xenophon did not blush it seems; but he did not answer. Whereupon Aspasia concludes; well, since neither of you will answer me the only question, to which an answer was necessary, I will answer for you both. You, madam, would choose the best husband; and you, sir, would prefer the best wife; and what conclusion are you to draw from this? Why, that if you cannot bring it to pass, to be the best man and woman in the world, you ought to live together, as if you were the best husband and wife.
Now, let us admit, that the turn given to the whole argument at the close is ingenious, and the advice good, we say the reasoning is captious and unsatisfactory. The first question is insidious. Separately considered, and independent of the question of property, we may prefer a richer jewel or a finer horse than our own; but we ought not to wish for that, which is our neighbour’s [sic], how much better soever than ours it may be. Though shalt not covet thy neighbour’s [sic] house was the command of heaven tot he children of Israel; and under that injunction a Hebrew woman would have snapped short the fine-spun induction of Aspasia at the distaff. She would have answered, I choose my own jewels, and not those of my neighbour [sic], although mine be of inferior price; because they are my own, and because it is not lawful for me to covet hers. Had the same question been repeated to the last, she might have given teh same answer; nor would she have needed to blush, unless at the shameless impudence of inquiry.
If you will narrowly examine many of the dialogues of Plato, you will find that Socrates himself is sometimes chargeable with having made his inductive process the art of ensnaring an adversary in the net of his own concessions. Yet let me not be understood as wishing to pass an unqualified censure upon induction. It is not only a good offensive arm against sophistical subtleties, it is also better adapted to the nature of colloquial reasoning, than the syllogism; and by judicious application it is of infinite use in the examination of witnesses, and in all comment upon testimony at the bar. Whenever employed, it should be under the discipline of the following rules. First that the position, upon which by the concession of your adversary, or interlocuter, you propose to build the proof of that which is in dispute, must not be itself questionable. It must be such, as that you may safely calculate upon the answer. Secondly the position, which you obtain as a datum, must be of striking similarity to that, which you are desirous of proving. The prior concession is of no use, if it be dissimilar to that, for which you would have it granted. Thirdly yet your adversary must not perceive where his first admissions are to land him. For if he should discern, that by granting your first preliminary he virtually surrenders the post itself of which he is tenacious, he will stop your inquiries by evading an answer, or by prevarication. You must lead him blindfold from his concessions to his strong hold, and eventually reduce him to silence, to full concession, to precise denial. In case of denial you must prove the controverted similitude, or commence a new train of induction. His concession is your victory, and puts an end to the argument. Should he remain silent, you must either elicit an answer, or take his silence for an acknowledgement of defeat, and drop the discussion. This form of argumentation therefore consiste of three parts. The first is formed of one or more similitudes; the second of that, for which they are adduced; and the third in the conclusion, drawn from the whole series of your questions.
My last lecture contained several examples of oratorical ratiocination, quoted from the scriptures. I might extract both from the old and new testament numberless examples of induction. All the literature of Greece and Rome could not produce a more striking instance of this method, than is recorded in the parable, by which the prophet Nathan humbled David into confession and repentance. I need not repeat the narrative. It is familiar to you all. It is rigorously conformable to all the rules, which govern this species of reasoning. The case supposed by the prophet, as a first appeal to the king’s sense of justice, was so clear and unequivocal, that it could not fail to draw from him some irrevocable admission of its iniquity. Its resemblance with the crime of the king was so great, that we almost wonder it was not instantaneously perceived, and, on the points wherein there was any difference, the offence [sic] of David was still more aggravated than tha, against which his anger was so justly kindled. And yet he was so far from perceiving the point of confession, into which he was drawn, that in the bitterness of his indignation he pronounced sentence of death upon the fancied culprit; nor knew that he stood self-condemned, until that blasting sentence of the prophet, “thou art the man.”
The examples of inductive reasoning in the new testament swarm upon every page. It was used alike by the Founder of christianity, to confound the insidious malice of his enemies, to sanction the accuracy of his doctrines, to illustrate the excellence of his precepts, and to confirm the authenticity of his divine mission. When the Pharisees take councel how they might entangle him in his talk, with fawning hypocrisy they inquire, “is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?” He perceives at a glance their wickedness. He spurns their adulation. “Shew me the tribute money. Whose is this image and superscription?” “Caesar’s.” “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.”
Would he manifest the tenderness and care of an overruling Providence, the perfect goodness and wisdom of the Creator, he appeals to the kindness and affection of an imperfect earthly parent; to the natural sympathies of his hearers towards their own offspring. “What man is there of you, whom, if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father, which is in heaven, give good things to them that ask him?”
Would he dissuade from an anxious, overweening solicitude for the necessaried of life, he points to the fowls of the air; to the lilies of the field; they neither sow nor reap; they neither toil nor spin; yet are they fed and arrayed in glory by the hand of their Creator. And how much more shall he clothe you, O ye of little faith!
In fine, would he display the divinity of his mission by the exercise of miraculous powers, he relies upon its efficacy of operation by the means of inductive reasoning. He says to the man sick of the palsy, “son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.” The scribes internally charge him with blasphemy. And what is his reply? As a proof of his power to forgive sins, he tells the palsied man to take up his bed and go to his house. But where is the connexion [sic] the power of healing a palsy and the power of pardoning sins? Logically there is none. The power of forgiving sins was susceptible of no proof, either by ocular demonstration or by abstract reasoning. The palsy of the soul, occasioned by the sins of the object, upon whom this miracle was wrought, presented no effects manifest to the senses of other men. The disease and its remedy, the sins and their forgiveness could neither be made perceptible to the eye, nor sensible to the touch. Of that specific power to forgive sins no proof could be given by any modification of material substance, or any variation from its customary laws. The proof then, which Christ condescended to give, was adapted with the most exquisite discernment to the case. The reasoning is from the greater to the less. The argument is inductive. The same power, which by a word can heal a confirmed palsy, a disease incurable by human art, must be alike efficacious to forgive sins. The same energy, which, by a suspension of all the laws which govern the material world, can give instantaneous vigor to impotence, can animate the torpid fibre and quicken the stagnant circulations of life, must also possess a like control over the moral world; must be able to renovate the decays of spiritual nature, to rekindle the extinguished spark of virtue, to purge the pollutions of a guilty life, and restore to vice itself the spotless purity of innocence.
To one of these two processes then, ratiocination and induction, all arguments may be reduced; and the same argument may be presented in either of the forms, or in both. And here I shall close my remarks on the subject of proof, as it is applied in confirmation. The part, which I am next to treat, is however so intimately connected with it, that my subsequent lecture will be little more than a further pursuit of the considerations, presented to you in this and the last.