« PředchozíPokračovat »
THE BOOK OF ELOQUENCE.
SELECTIONS FROM AMERICAN ELOQUENCE,
I.-ANCIENT AND MODERN ELOQUENCE.
J. Q. ADAMS.
With the dissolution of Roman liberty, and the decline of Roman taste, the reputation and excellency of the oratorical art fell alike into decay. Under the despotism of the Cæsars, the end of eloquence was perverted from persuasion to panegyric, and all her faculties were soon palsied by the touch of corruption, or enervated by the impotence of servitude. There succeeded the midnight of the monkish ages, when with the other liberal arts, she slumbered in the profound darkness of the cloister.
At the revival of letters in modern Europe, Eloquence together with her sister muses, awoke, and shook the poppies from her brow. But their torpors still tingled in her veins. In the interval her voice was gone ; her favorite languages were extinct; her organs were no longer attuned to harmony, and her hearers could no longer understand her speech. The discordant jargon of feudal anarchy had banished the musical dialects, in which she had always delighted. The theatres of her former triumph were either deserted, or they were filled with the dabblers of sophistry and chicane. She shrunk intuitively from the former, for the last object she remembered to have seen there was the head of her darling Cicero, planted upon the rostrum. She ascended the tribunals of justice; there she found her child, Persuasion, manacled and pinioned by the letter of the law; there she beheld an image of herself, stammering in barbarous Latin, and staggering under the lumber of thousand volumes. Her heart fainted within her. She lost all confidence in herself. Together with all her irresistible powers, she lost proportionably the consideration of the world, until, instead of comprising the whole system of public education, she found herself excluded from the circle of science, and declared an outlaw from the realms of learning.
She was not however doomed to eternal silence. With the progress of freedom and of liberal science, in various parts of modern Europe, she obtained access to mingle in the deliberations of her parliaments. With labor and difficulty she learned their languages, and lent her aid in giving them form and polish. But she has never recovered the graces her former beauty, nor the energies of her ancient vigor.
II.-DUTY OF AMERICA.
NEITHER individuals nor nations can perform their part well, until they understand and feel its importance, and comprehend and justly appreciate all the duties belonging to it. It is not to inflate national vanity, nor to swell a light and empty feeling of self-importance, but it is that we may judge justly of our situation, and of our duties, that I earnestly urge this consideration of our position, and our character, among the nations of the earth. It cannot be denied, but by those who would dispute against the sun, that with America, and in America, a new era commences in human affairs. This era is distinguished by free representative governments, by entire religious liberty, by improved systems of national intercourse, by a newly awakened, and unconquerable spirit of free inquiry, and by a diffusion of knowledge through the community, such as has been before altogether unknown and unheard of. America, America, our country, our own dear and native land, is inseparably connected, fast bound up, in fortune and by fate, with these great interests. If they fall, we fall with them; if they stand, it will be because we have upholden them. Let us contemplate, then, this connection, which binds the prosperity of others to our own; and let us manfully discharge all the duties which it imposes. If we cherish the virtues and the principles of our fathers, Heaven will assist us to carry on the work of human liberty and human