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in favor, ROGER SHERMAN (Ct.), OLIVER ELLSWORTH (Ct.),
XIV. NATION OR CONFEDERATIONS (Debates in the States on
Ratification of the Constitution)
EDMUND PENDLETON, EDMUND RANDOLPH, JAMES MADISON,
GEORGE MASON, WILLIAM GRAYSON.
XV. DEFENSE OF THE CONSTITUTION (Letters in the
JAMES MADISON (Va.), and JOHN JAY (N. Y.).
XVI. THE CONSTITUTION AND ITS AMENDMENTS
Text, with annotations.
ILLUSTRATIONS IN VOLUME ONE
“Treason!" (Patrick Henry addressing the Virginia As
sembly in opposition to the Stamp Act] · Frontispiece
of Great Americanites .
British Caricature of Lord Bute
Cartoon in the London Magazine
Cartoon in the London Magazine
John Wilkes, Esq.
Caricature by Filliam Hogarth
Caricature of Thomas Paine
GREAT AMERICAN DEBATES
PREFACE OF THE SERIES
[INCLUDING BIBLIOGRAPHY] NE of the most notable scenes in ancient history
was the joint debate between Demosthenes and
Æschines, “On the Crown.” The point at issue was whether a civic crown should be granted to Demosthenes, the Athenian premier, for his policy toward Philip of Macedon, who was attempting to subvert the liberties of the peninsular Greeks. Æschines, the leader of the anti-administration party, opposed the grant, having deposited a large sum that he would prove his charge of corruption against Demosthenes. The result of the debate would be either that the whole national policy would be reversed, and the man responsible for it be deposed and disgraced, or that it would be vindicated and its impugner driven from the city a penniless exile. It was the latter event which occurred.
So great and so widespread was the interest in the debate that the open-air theater in which it was held was packed with thousands of people, including visitors from the farthest borders of the Greek world who had been drawn to the capital by the importance of the issue and the fame of the debaters. Under all these circumstances the two great statesmen, each a finished rhetorician and a master of all the arts of public controversy, as well as profoundly versed in constitutional law, made the supreme efforts of their long and brilliant careers. Each point in the speeches was thoroughly comprehended by the audience, and every oratorical period appreciated at its true æsthetic value, for the ancient Greeks had developed to the highest two kindred passions, that for controversy and that for rhetoric, both particularly in the lomain of politics. Every man being
an intense partisan, stormy gusts of cheers and derisive shouts swept again and again in conflicting waves over the vast assembly, while the unperturbed speakers paused for their subsidence. In its physical aspect this was the greatest debate in all history.
But only in this aspect, for, despite a prevalent impression (based on the impossibility of paralleling such a spectacle in the modern world) that debate is in decay, never was forensic contest more keen than now, and never did it have more interested or appreciative auditors, nor—and this is the point of superiority over the ancients-has it ever had by millions so many.
When a statesman rises to-day in the American Congress, or the British Parliament, or any national assembly in the world, to speak upon a great issue, if this is vital to his country the mind of every patriot within the land attends, and if the question is one of world politics the furthest corner of the earth is agog to catch his utterance.
The telegraph, and its record, the newspaper, are the instruments which give such a speaker an audience larger and more representative of every shade of belief and form of interest than all the hearers combined who hung on the words of the entire roll of ancient orators.
Occasionally outside of the national capital there will be a debate between statesmen on a vital question, and, for the time, the place where it occurs, however insignificant otherwise, will be the Mecca of the nation, toward which the eyes of the faithful are turned. Such a place was Freeport, Illinois, where Abraham Lincoln by clever finesse forced from Stephen A. Douglas the proposal of “unfriendly legislation” toward slavery in the Territories, and thereby caused the ultimate schism in the Democratic party, and the triumph of the Republican party under his own leadership. The “Freeport doctrine” this proposal was called, and the name will be forever recorded in American political history.
However, it is Washington at which, with few exceptions, the great debates in American history have occurred. To our mind the academic discussion of some general principle which may take place in any non-legis