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disasters, which had befallen Athens during the administration of Demosthenes, this orator accused him with the greatest vehemence, as the author of all her calamities. sents him as the evil genius of his country, the accursed thing which had drawn down upon her the vengeance of heaven; the illstarred wretch, whose disastrous destiny had outweighed and controlled her better fortunes. These charges, which we believe would not be without their effect on the feelings even of a modern audience, under similar circumstances, must have seemned far more credible to a Pagan assembly, who were prone to consider misfortune, not only as a presuinptive proof of misconduct, but as a sure indication of the wrath of the gods. Demosthenes, in reply, after urging that neither he nor any other statesman could be required to possess the gift of prophecy; after showing that the measures, which he pursued, were ihose of a wise and patriotic minister, and were admitted so to be, by the silent acquiescence of Æschines himself, at the time of their adoption, proceeds as follows.
“But, since he hath insisted so much upon the event, I shall hazard a bold assertion. But, in the name of heaven, let it not be deemed extravagant; let it be weighed with candor. I say then, that had we all known what fortune was to attend our efforts ; had we all foreseen the final issue; had you foretold it, Æschines, (you whose voice was never heard,) yet, even in such a case, must this city have pursued the very same conduct, if she had retained a thought of glory, of her ancestors, or of future times. For, thus, she could only have been deemed unfortunate in her attempts; and misfortunes are the lot of all men, whenever it may please heaven to inflict them. But if that state, which once claimed the first rank in Greece, had resigned this rank, in time of danger, she had incurred the censure of betraying the whole nation to the enemy. If we had indeed given up those points without one blow, for which our fathers encountered every peril, who would not have spurned you with scorn ? You, the author of such conduct, not the state, or me? In the name of heaven, say with what face could we have met those foreigners, who sometimes visit us, if such scandalous supineness on our part had brought affairs to their present situation? If Philip had been chosen general of the Grecian army, and some other state had drawn the sword against this insidious nomination, and fought the battle, unassisted by the Athenians, that people who, in ancient times, never preferred inglorious security to honorable danger? What part of Greece, what part of the barbarian world, has not heard, that the Thebans, in their period of success, that the Lacedemonians, whose power was older and more extensive, that the king of Persia would have cheerfully and joyfully consented, that this state should enjoy her own dominions, together with an accession of territory ample as her wishes, upon this condition, that she should receive law, and suffer another state to preside in Greece? But, to Athenians, this was a condition unbecoming their descent, intolerable to their spirit, repugnant to their nature. Athens never was once known to live in a slavish, though a secure obedience to unjust and arbitrary power. No; our whole history is one series of noble contests for preeminence, the whole period of our existence hath been spent in braving dangers, for the sake of glory and renown. And so highly do you esteem such conduct, so consonant to the Athenian character, that those of your ancestors, who were most distinguished in the pursuit of it, are ever the most favorite objects of your praise. And with reason. For who can reflect without astonishment upon the magnanimity of those men, who resigned their lands, gave up their city, and embarked in their ships, to avoid the odious state of subjection? Who chose Themistocles, the adviser of this conduct, to command their forces; and, when Crysilus proposed that they should yield to the terms prescribed, stoned him to death? Nay, the public indignation was not yet allayed. Your very wives inflicted the same vengeance on his wife. For the Athenians of that day looked out for no speaker, no general to procure them a state of prosperous slavery. They had the spirit to reject even life, unless they were allowed to enjoy that life in freedom. For it was a principle fixed deeply in every breast, that man was not born to his parents only, but to his country. Ard mark the distinction. He who regards himself as born only to his parents, waits in passive submission for the hour of his natural dissolution. He who considers, that he is the child of his country also, is prepared to meet his fate freely, rather than behold that country reduced to vassalage ; and thinks those insults and disgraces, which he must meet, in a state enslaved, much more terrible than death. Should I then attempt to assert, that it was I who inspired you with sentiments worthy of your ancestors, I should meet the just resentment of every bearer, No; it is my point to shew, that such sentiments are properly your own; that they were the sentiments of my country, long before my days. I claim but my share of merit in having acted on such principles, in every part of my administration. He, then, who condemns every part of my administration, he who directs you to treat me with severity, as one who hath involved the state in terrors and dangers, while he labors to deprive me of present honor, robs you of the applause of all posterity. For if you now pronounce, that, as my public conduct hath not been right, Ctesiphon must stand condemned, it must be thought that you yourselves have acted wrong, not that you owe your present state to the caprice of fortune. But it cannot be! No, my countrymen ! it cannot be that you have acted wrong, in encountering danger bravely, for the liberty and safety of all Greece. No! by those generous souls of ancient times, who were exposed at Marathon! By those who stood arrayed at Platæa! By those who encountered the Persian fleet at Salamis, who fought at Artemisium! By all those illustrious sons of Athens, whose remains lie deposited in the public monuments ! all of whom received the same honorable interment from their country; not those only who prevailed, not those only who were victorious. And with reason. What was the part of gallant men they all performed! Their success was such as the Supreme Director of the world dispensed to each.'
No writings could, we think, be read to more advantage by the rising orators of our own country, than those of Demosthenes. A thorough study of his concise, manly, and practical eloquence, would do much to correct the two most prominent faults of American oratory. The first of these, is the excessive prolixity, by which we are most unfortunately contradistinguished from our transatlantic brethren. In our national House of Representatives, for instance, which, composed as it is of our most distinguished politicians, is certainly no unfair specimen of our deliberative assemblies, five or six weeks are spent in debating upon questions, which would be discussed in the Parliament of Great Britain, and well discussed too, in half as many evenings. The best speakers in that country generally find two or three hours at most, amply sufficient for a complete exposition of their arguments, and those eloquent orations of five or six hours, which are so much in fashion at Washington, are almost unknown. There is some appearance, indeed, that this prolixity of our congressional speakers is working its own cure, and it already begins to be suspected that, in order to convince, it is not indispensably necessary to fatigue. The next fault, to which we allude, is the fondness for unnatural and meretricious ornament, which is occasionally displayed, even by some of our ablest speakers, and which is exhibited, in irrelevant and ostentatious digressions, in cold and trite similes, and a gay confusion of metaphors, in finical circumlocutions, and a studied avoidance of direct and definite language, and, to speak more generally, in offences of every description against classical simplicity. This fault is by no means confined to our oratory, it infects in some degree every branch of our literature, and must be ascribed in part to circumstances in our condition which can be removed only gradually. A chaste elegance in the art of composition, as in all other arts, is generally the result, in part, of assiduous culture, and consequently the evidence of a high degree of advancement. But we think, that the deficiency of several of our orators in this quality, has been owing materially to the admiration entertained, by so many of our fellow citizens, for a few faulty models, and more especially for the works of Curran and Phillips. We object to this admiration, not so much because it is extravagant, as because it is undiscriminating. We know that perfect simplicity is compatible with a high degree of ornament, provided it be apt and unforced ornament, and there are certainly passages alike faultless and striking in both these orators, and more especially in the first. But these great beauties are balanced, not to say outweighed, by faults of equal magnitude, and the contrast, striking as it is, seems to have been strangely overlooked by many of our countrymen.
Misled by some of the most glaring absurdities of these brilliant, but irregular productions, they seem to have essentially mistaken the nature of real eloquence, to have supposed not only that it was something more than plain good sense, but something at war with it. We know nothing that could be better adapted to correct impressions like these, than the frequent contemplation of the severe beauty of Attic eloquence. But above all, would we recommend the speeches of Demosthenes, as models of practical business like oratory. The present age is a period, when men are in earnest, when they seek, even in works of amusement, for something which shall excite intense thought, and call forth their inmost feelings; when they will not endure to hear important subjects treated carelessly or superficially. * We may add, that if this be the character at the present day, of all enlightened nations, still, more especially, is it that of our own. All our public institutions, all our private and domestic habits, are calculated to render us emphatically a practical people. Every individual is in some degree a man of business. With us a recluse is almost an unknown being, and the most retired students are drawn from their closets to bear some part in the machinery of active socie
* See Dr Chanoing's Sermon at the Ordination of Mr Gannett. VOL. XXII.-NO. 50.
Our whole frame of government presupposes, what our admirable systems of early education have enabled us to verify in a great degree, that our community is made up of thinking, reflecting individuals. No feature in the character of the people, at least of the older parts of our country, is more striking than their singular sedateness and gravity. Their very amusements are strongly marked by these characteristics. Their only festival days are those, which are devoted to the celebration of important agricultural, political, religious, or literary ceremonies. Nothing seems to be intended as the mere sport of the passing hour; all is serious and practical. This peculiar gravity of character is daily becoming more prominent, and diffusing itself more widely. It is surely not improbable, that it will eventually give a coloring to all our intellectual productions, but more especially to our oratory, and that in this country the most popular and successful eloquence will be the grave, manly, argumentative eloquence of which Demosthenes is so splendid an example; which disdains to trifle, which seeks to convince and persuade, not to entertain ; which speaks to the reason and the heart, rather than to the fancy; the eloquence of sound thought and deep feeling. The works of Demosthenes, to say nothing of the other illustrious orators of Greece, are alone sufficient to render the language in which he wrote, worthy of the assiduous study of every well educated American.
But the study of good models is, after all, only one means of improving the oratory of our country. Among many others, which might be mentioned, we shall suggest one, both because we consider it of high importance, and because it has not, so far as we are aware, been generally adopted, either in this or any other community; and that is, to oblige the students of our principal literary seminaries to debate, extempore, from time to time, in the presence and under the direction of a teacher. No one will dispute the expediency of such a practice, who considers, either the mapisest value, in a country like ours, of the faculty of speaking in public, or the great disproportion which exists among us, between the number of able and accomplished orators, and that of intelligent and well educated individuals. The debates in our legislatures, for instance, more especially in New England, are principally carried on by members of one profession,