Public Speaking & Debate (I)
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MANY years ago I printed an outline book on this subject (Public Speaking and Debate) for the use of persons who found learned treatises on oratory uninteresting or too profound to be intelligible.  Though dealing alone with the Rudiments of the art, it was reprinted in America, and in 1853 the New York Tribune described it as being 'unpretentious and practical.'  After the experience of forty years, I write a new book, and trust the reader will find the same qualities in it.

    In 1862, the Rev. Mr Vickers of Boston, America, then visiting England, informed me that he took up, in a New York book-shop, a copy of a work entitled, Public Speaking and Debate, by John Bower.  Upon opening it he found that it was an American edition of Public Speaking and Debate, by G. J. Holyoake, with the name of the author borne by another.  This, I hope, may be taken as proof that the book was thought useful by the new author.

    But a testimony of which I have always been proud was that of Wendell Phillips — whom Mr Bright said had the most eloquent voice which ever spoke the English tongue.  Mr Phillips sent me word that he had lent 'his well-thumbed copy of Public Speaking and Debate until he had lost it, upon the theory [he benevolently held] that he who most needed a book had the greatest right to it.'  Upon that principle, Mr Phillips certainly did not require it.  Still, I sent him another copy.  It was probably the ethical theory of debate contained in it, upon which we had had personal controversy, [1] which interested him.

    The earliest and most generous of English critics was the Rev. Dr Joseph Parker, who, when he edited the Pulpit Analist, said to young preachers: 'There is Mr Holyoake's Rudiments of Public Speaking and Debate.  Get this book if you can.  I am afraid it is out of print.  It is full of wise and practical counsel, and rich with allusion and quotation of the best kind,' in illustration of which a passage of two pages was cited.  Considering that Dr Parker's belief differed widely from mine, of which he was well aware, seeing that we had held a public debate thereupon for several nights, I cite his words (though it will seem egotistical to do it), since they exceed anything I could think of saying myself, to the end of engaging the attention of the reader to these pages, which I suppose to be the object of all introductions.

    Another motive, higher than egotism, induces me to inscribe this book as the reader sees I do.  When Mr Allsop proposed to supplement an annuity given me, Dr Parker sent a subscription and wrote a letter to the Daily News, intended to be of service to the fund.  I cannot agree where I would — were coincidence of belief a matter of will—but an act of kindness I never forget, and I am glad when I can acknowledge it.

    As respects the texture of the following pages, the reader will discern that it has no merit save incitement, if indeed it has that.

    What is called a 'systematic treatise' is what is usually looked for on the subject of public speaking.  But I have found those who have followed such have rarely become speakers of mark, until they have freed themselves from the 'system' and trusted to themselves.  A system is a sort of machine, and one reared in it is apt to be entangled in wheels within wheels, when the time comes for action; or he finds that the machine, though of most excellent construction, will not work just when it is most wanted to do it.  Now, a series of chapters on the essential parts of public speaking — not chained together, but capable of independent use on emergency, with a springing board in each of them from which a speaker of moderate activity can throw himself at will, as it were, into the heart of an argument — will best serve the practical student.  The execution may not equal the design, but this is the rule on which these pages are written.

    Whatever may conduce to improvement in the art and character of agitation, as it is the hope of the Author this book will do, may be of public service, seeing what an increase of voices will be heard in the land, as sure-footed democracy advances.

    The Archbishop of Canterbury, being apparently only acquainted with the bad meaning of the term, lately spoke contemptuously of 'agitators,' whereupon the Rev. Stewart Headlam justly asked, 'Were not Paul, and even our Lord Himself, agitators?  Surely it depends upon what you agitate for, and how you agitate, as to whether an "agitator" is to be condemned or praised.'  Mr Headlam might have asked, where would the Archbishop be but for that superb agitator Luther?  Not thought much of by the archbishops of his day.

    Just-minded agitation prevents the putrefaction of opinion, which is as fatal to States as to Truth.  Cowper wrote:—

Winds from all quarters agitate the air,
And fit the limpid element for use.




IN this country, where the political genius of the people lies in self-government, where liberty depends upon the capacity of stating its claims, the art of public speaking has public importance.

    To be able to take a subject well in hand, like a stagecoach driver does his horses, to hold the reins of argument firmly, to direct and drive well home the burden of meaning, is a power useful to every man who rises to address a congregation or a council, or stands up in Parliament to persuade, or on a platform to convince, a meeting.

    Perfect expression is ever an indispensable household acquisition — a social charm, an economy in explanation, and hourly ministers to good understandings.  In public, a good speech, well-spoken, is part of the necessary defence of truth and right.  In one of his famous letters to Mr Delane (1864), Mr Cobden remarks:—

    'It is known that I am not in the habit of writing a word beforehand of what I speak in public.  Like other speakers, practice has given me as perfect self-possession in the presence of an audience, as if I were writing in my closet.  Now, my ever-constant and over-ruling thought while addressing a public meeting — the one necessity which long experience of the arts of controversialists has impressed on my mind, is to avoid the possibility of being misrepresented, and prevent my opponents from raising a false issue — a trick of logic as old as the time of Aristotle.  If I have, as some favourable critics are pleased to think, sometimes spoken with clearness, it is more owing to this ever-present fear of misrepresentation than any other cause.'

    This remarkable autobiographical passage shows how the practice of rhetoric had trained great natural powers to explicitness and mastery in their use.

    Progression is a series of stages — individuals first, then groups, then classes, then nations are raised.  You can no more introduce the people at once to the highest results of philosophy than you can take them to the summit of a monument without ascending the steps, or reach a distant land without travelling the journey.  But it is possible to impart method in classification, coherence in inferences, and inculcate justice in invective.  The people are not waiting for new discoveries in thought; there is more wisdom extant than they master, more precepts than they apply.  The scaling-ladders of the wise, which they, having mounted the citadel of wisdom, have kicked down, are yet of service to those who are below.  The author has picked one of these ladders up, and reared it in these pages for the use of those who have yet to rise.

    In the ancient state of society, war was the only trade, force the only teacher, and the battle-axe the only argument.  A transition has, indeed, taken place; the times, and means, and ends are changed.  The struggle now is for income and intelligence, and men are engaged in a double battle against want and error.  Provided the literary sword will cut, few will quarrel about its polish.  If the blade has good temper, he who needs it will put up with a plain hilt.

    A poor man cannot rival the rich in luxury of life, but he can in luxury of knowledge.  He cannot furnish his house as the wealthy can, but he can furnish his head.  He cannot found a house of note, but he may found a mind of mark.  Though some kingdoms may be adorned or afflicted with kings, learning has always been a republic, where all are equal who know.




PLATO'S definition of rhetoric is still bright and suggestive; namely: 'Rhetoric is the art of persuading the minds of men.'  Rhetoric is commonly regarded as a pretentious, superfine, or ornate way of presenting an argument; whereas rhetoric merely means the art of speaking to a purpose.  A rhetorician originally meant a public speaker, whose object was orally to influence opinion in courts, in council, or in public meeting.  The highest effort of public speaking is seen when the object of the speaker is to persuade the minds of men to accept some great principle, or adopt some just policy in public affairs.

    There were two Herberts of mark in literature — George (1581) and Edward (1593).  Edward is commonly spoken of as Lord Herbert of Cherbury.  It is he who likens rhetoric to 'a diamond which is of small use until it is cut and polished, when its angles send forth flashes of light which arrest and delight every eye.'

    By reasoning we satisfy ourselves, by rhetoric we satisfy others.  The rhetorician is commonly, but unwisely, considered most perfect who carries his point by whatever means.  'Men like to see the man who is a match for events, and equal to any exigency.'  But it is plain we must make some distinction as to the manner in which a point is to be carried.  We may as well say that a man may carry the point of life by any means, that is, fill his pockets by any means, as influence men by any means.  A low appeal to the passions we call claptrap.  Dr Johnson, who put morality into his definitions, said, 'Oratory is the power of beating down your adversaries' arguments, and putting better in their places.'

    It implies force and individuality of mind when a man desires to reason out things for himself.  Most men prefer to be told what to think; they are perplexed, and find themselves lost in a maze of feeling, prejudice and interests; they cannot see far, nor appreciate what is near.  They might have a commanding view of the field of difficulty from an eminence, but eminences are not to be attained without exertion, and most men are disinclined to exertion.  They are therefore grateful to anyone who will climb the mount and tell them what he sees.  But if he can do more — can tell them not only what they should do and why they should do it — he opens their minds, satisfies their judgment, and inspires them with a new and, let us hope with Dr Johnson, a right purpose.  He who satisfies by right reason the conscience of others, commands them without fraud or force.  He teaches no unmanly subjection of the understanding; he neither invokes nor needs submission to authority; he represents the only leadership consistent with progress — the leadership of ideas commended by reason.  Such are the just aims of honest rhetoric.




THE literal meaning of elocution is 'to speak out.'  Dictionaries and writers on rhetoric define elocution as that pronunciation which is given to words when they are arranged into sentences and form discourse.  This conception of it confines it to articulation, whereas elocution includes accurateness, distinctness and natural modulation of words, in private as well as public life.  Modulation comes by nature and emotion, but accuracy and distinctness come by art.

    The object of public speech is persuasion.  It ought to be the object of private speech also.  To persuade by public speech requires a voice articulate and audible.  That is the beginning of effectiveness and influence in elocution.  A man will speak all his life and never think that words are merely sounds.  Accustomed to see words in books, he forgets, or does not realise, that words are merely sounds to the hearer.  The difference between the foreign language and the English consists only in a different set of sounds.  A man wonders, when he stands by a telegraph clerk, how he turns ticks into words, and does not know that the ticks are sounds of words made by a machine.  Chicago is a fine Indian word, sounding as though written She-car-go.  If anyone should pronounce it Chick-a-go, nobody would understand what place he meant; or should he at dinner, wanting tomΰtoes, pronounce the word tom-a-toes, the waiter would not know what to give him.

    A speaker must use his ears to learn what sounds he should make, and be alert with his ears to note what sounds others make.  People will listen to one who can be easily heard.  The dear, strong speaking man can command a hearing.  He who fills the ear carries weight.  Few have minds to fill — all have ears.

    A letter addressed as follows was a puzzle to the best readers in the Post Office for some time:— 'Serum Fridavi, Londres;' when, by reading the address aloud, with the French as well as the English sound of the vowels, it was found to be — 'Sir Humphry Davy, London.'

    At one Anti-Corn Law meeting held in Glasgow, in 1845, I sat at half-distance from the platform.  As my name had been given to the Lord Provost, I was uncertain whether I should not be called upon to take part in the proceedings, and therefore anxious to hear all that was said.  It was at this time that I first felt perfectly the annoyance of indistinct speaking.  At the Newhall Hill meetings in Birmingham I had been accustomed to hear Warwickshire orators vocal, but in Glasgow I found they only spoke, and spoke as though they were paid for the sound they made, and did not get a good price for it.  At length the Rev. Dr King arose, who spoke with strong deliberateness — words well conceived and well delivered.  The syllables fell on the ear like the steady tolling of a bell.  His voice was the relief of the night.  Whenever I go to a public meeting, I pray that one of the speakers may have Dr King's quality.

    There are two ways of speaking — one from the throat, the other from the chest.  The chest voice is louder, and lasts longer.  The stage voice is a chest voice, whose uniformity and peculiarity everyone knows.  Both actors and singers inflate the chest to deepen, strengthen, and prolong the tones.

    Most grammars give a list of about twenty-two words beginning with h in which the h is not sounded.  These have to be spoken as though they began with a vowel.  All other words beginning with h must have that letter distinctly heard.  In illustration of this neglect of aspiration [2] where proper, teachers of elocution say that if the Indian swallows the sword we (h)eat the poker.  Care in speaking the aspirate words, and in not aspirating words where the h is silent, nor in words beginning with a vowel, will disappoint novelists who, unable to delineate character in which the person is identified by his mind, invent peculiarities of manners or of speech.  Writers of small knowledge delight to sneer at those who have less, and write the names of Harriet and Harry without the H.  Rapid utterance and a slovenliness of speaking, habitual with those who have not thought upon the intention of speech, make it difficult to them to aspirate when they should and avoid doing it when they should not.  To speak the aspirate at will, or to omit it at will, comes easy to those who speak deliberately.  Vowels should have a bold open tone — a slight, short, mincing pronunciation of the unaccented vowels is a fault to be well avoided.

    Audibility depends chiefly on articulation, and articulation depends much on the distinctness with which we hear the final consonants.  They need attention as well as vowels.

    W. J. Fox, the great preacher of South Place Chapel, whose voice was neither loud nor strong, was heard in every part, and all over Covent Garden Theatre, when he made Anti-Corn Law orations there, by the clearness with which he pronounced the final consonants of the words he spoke.

    I must myself have failed in this respect when speaking at the Walsall Literary Institute, and comparing the speaking of Pitt and Mr Chamberlain as having the same quality of 'overcomingness.'  The report in the papers represented me as charging Mr Chamberlain with 'over-cunningness,' which was a sinister imputation neither in my mind nor on my tongue — but the error was owing to defect of the reporter's ear, or more probably to indistinctness in my pronunciation.




TO speak or debate to any advantage, a person must possess some knowledge of the laws of speech.  This means a practical idea of grammar — practical in the sense of being on a level with the average capacity of mankind.  As I have said elsewhere, no department of knowledge is like grammar.  A person may conceal his ignorance of any other art— but every time he speaks he publishes his ignorance of this.  Other arts may be practised occasionally, but the art of speaking must be practised continually.  Is it not strange that what all must do hourly, few care to do correctly?  There can be no greater imputation on the intelligence of any man, than that he should talk from the cradle to the tomb, and never talk well.

    It is as necessary to get knowledge as to eat and drink.  You would not ask another to eat and drink for you.  All are as well able to learn as to eat, and it is quite as needful.  Lord Herbert, heretofore quoted, tells us that 'between grammar, logic and rhetoric there exists a close and happy connection, which reigns through all science and extends to all the powers of eloquence.'

    Everybody knows what representation means in politics.  A little thought will save a man from ordinary error.  To make things plain in speech it only needs that a man makes up his mind as to what he is talking about.  If he reasons, let it be not upon hearsay, or rumour, or imagination, but upon ascertained facts, and he will seldom go wrong.  What is called grammar is the same thing as the Franchise Bill.  It is simply the full representation of the facts of speech.  Daily talk is of a man, or of a woman, or of a thing and of something they do.  If when we speak of the man we allude to the man as he, if we refer to a woman we take care to say she, or if we speak of a thing we allude to the thing as it, we accord each fair representation.  What a man or woman, or a thing does is expressed by a verb.  If one person does a thing we say he does it.  If two persons do a thing we say they do it.  If it be a thing which acts, as the sun, we say it shines.  Just as every voter at the poll says, 'That is my house on the register, and I pay the rent there,' so in grammar all men and women and things have pronouns and verbs and delegate words which belong to them, and by which alone they can be identified and represented, and whoever gives them their proper representation makes his meaning plain to all men.  Grammar is but the universal suffrage of common sense.

    Inattention to conditions and care is expressed in an epigram of sensible if not elegant lines:—

He started with lect'ring and ended with verse,
And from first to last got gradually worse;
He wrote without spelling, and spoke without rule,
Long declaimed without knowledge, and ended a fool.

How different another, who thinks night and day,
Deciding what will best become him to say,
And how best to say it when he has made up his mind!
A contrast more useful is not easy to find.

    The way in which nouns (which signify names) are represented by pronouns (or fornouns) is shown in an admirable sentence of Dr Johnson's:—

'Pope was not content to satisfy; he desired to excel, and therefore always endeavoured to do his best; he did not court the candour, but dared the judgment of his reason, and expecting no indulgence from others, he showed none to himself.'

    Without the employment of pronouns the sentence would read, with many unpleasant repetitions, thus:— Pope was not content to satisfy; Pope desired to excel, and therefore always endeavoured to do Pope's best; Pope did not court the candour, but dared the judgment of Pope's reader, and expecting no indulgence from others, Pope showed none to Pope's self.

    There is the same kind of representation in verbs.  Every verb is connected with or actuated by some noun or pronoun, expressed or understood.

    Example:— 'Hazlitt looked with despairing wonder on Burke's style.  Year after year he tried to write a single essay that should please himself.'

    If we inquire here who looked? the answer is Hazlitt.  Who tried? Hazlitt.  Whenever a verb is found, the actor must be found and both examined, to see if the two agree, for every verb must be of the same number, and of the same person, as the noun or pronoun with which it is connected, whether it be expressed or merely understood.

    When this representation is observed, a person is said to speak grammatically.  Representation is grammar.

    There may be good speaking and writing with a moderate knowledge of grammar.  One who has authority in these matters asks, — 'How would some of our fashionable writers stare if they could read Thucydides or Plato!  The best authors had no authority before them.  Pascal and Madame de Sιvignι wrote before there was any French grammar, I believe; Demosthenes and Cicero before there was a Greek or a Latin one.'

    When I conducted classes at Crutched Friars, about 1845, I wrote and printed an Act of Parliament for enforcing the Queen's English.  Its clauses prescribed the rules of representation I have explained.

    Nor did I find any difficulty in teaching little children to write little letters to their parents in a week.  As soon as a child can make a round O and a straight line it can make all the letters of the alphabet.  A is composed of three straight lines, B of a line and two halves of O.  A line and half O makes DG is O left open with a short line.  EFHIKLMNTVWXYZ are all made of straight lines.  J is a line and half an OP is made the same way.  R is two lines and half an OQ is an O and short line.  S is two halves of O up end on end.  U is made by half an O and two upright lines.  There you have the whole alphabet, with which a child will cpell its mother's name in an hour.  A Child's First Writing Book I published, made this plain and easy to hundreds of children fifty years ago.  A child will go forward himself as soon as his teacher finds for him a beginning, which the little learner can see, understand, and feel to be within his power.  It is the same with older students on the threshold of a new subject.



THE public speaker requires to know something of the rudiments of reasoning, which we may call the logic of everyday life.  Logic is the basis of oratory, for no sensible man is moved to action unless he sees a reason for it.  Genius in argument consists in seeing relevancies and in enabling others to see them.

    Natural pride in the distinction of learning and the passion for superiority, from which the learnθd are not exempt, lead them to decry all capacity outside their own, so that common sense is belittled and discouraged, and many never use or cultivate the natural power they have, and cease to have confidence in themselves.  All the while, common sense is the natural sense of mankind.  It is the product of common observation and experience.  It is modest, plain and unsophisticated.  It sees with everybody's eyes and hears with everybody's ears.  It has no capricious distinction, no perplexities, and no mysteries.  It never equivocates and never trifles.  Its language is always intelligible.  It is known by its clearness of speech and singleness of purpose.  The most prudent of all the children of fact, it never forsakes nature or reason.  Some outline laws for its employment in reasoning — if they can be indicated — must be better than its distrustful, aimless and desultory use.

    Why, in speaking, should not anyone express himself with grammatical coherence and a certain bold perspicuity, if not able to reach refinement and elegance?  Why, in pronunciation, should persons not speak with a certain manly openness of vowel sound and a distinct articulation, if not with all elocutionary modulation?  Why should not their discourse be expressed in brief, clear sentences?  If their punctuation went no further than placing capital letters at the commencement of sentences and of proper names, and periods at the conclusion of sentences, it would render their writing more intelligible than are half the communications they now send to the press.  If they mastered only brevity and abrupt directness, and learned to omit tedious prolixity, they would command a hearing in many cases where now they are denied one.  If in logic they made a shrewd mastery of plain facts — being as sure as they could, when once set on surety, eschewing conjecture and supposition — if they followed the methods of nature and good sense, where the elaborate methods of art are hidden from them, who will not admit that they would be more intelligible than now, exercise power, and extort attention and esteem where now they excite compassion, or outrage plain taste?  The people would be enabled to do these things, but that so many who prepare treatises for their guidance alarm them by the display of abstruse dissertation above their powers, their means, their time, and their wants.

    There is less occasion to speak of the utility of logic than to show it to be easy of acquisition.  John Stuart Mill observes:—

'We need not seek far for a solution of the question so often agitated respecting the utility of logic.  If a science of logic exists, or is capable of existing, it must be useful.  If there be rules to which every mind conforms in every instance in which it judges rightly, there seems little necessity for discussing whether a person is more likely to observe those rules when he knows the rules, than when he is unacquainted with them.' [3]

Certainly people are not so much prejudiced against logic on account of its supposed uselessness as on account of its supposed difficulties.  Logic has always had a good reputation.  The popular impression has uniformly been in its favour.  It has been valued like the diamond — but considered, like that precious stone, to be of very uncertain access and difficult to polish, save by experts.

    Common sense — the exercise of the judgment unaided by scholastic rule — being the best sense the untutored have, they wisely use it, and no wonder if they laud what they are constrained to employ.  Doubtless they perceive that common sense would be the better for being made orderly, as a spirited horse is the fitter for use after it has been 'broken.'  If common sense can be rendered disciplined sense, it will have all the advantage of the trained soldier over the raw recruit.

    A few years ago, England was interested in an American teacher of equine rhetoric, Mr Rarey, who won both money and renown by giving lessons in the art of persuading the minds of horses.  Dean Swift, in his Gulliver's Travels, shows that the kingdom of horses is in many respects a more rational kingdom than the kingdom of man.  The horse is simple in its taste, temperate in its habits, graceful in its movements, proud in spirit, and wary in conduct — which is much more than can be said of many men.  Mr. Rarey showed that he believed in the reasoning power of horses, and that it is possible to persuade their minds to good conduct.  If horses can learn to reason, why not men?

    Reasoning is a simple business.  To reason is to state relevant facts in support of a proposition.  Reason is the faculty of perceiving coherences.  Effective reasoning is stating them so that others cannot but see them too.  Reasoning on the abstrusest questions consists in arriving at a remote truth by discovering its coherence with the preceding facts in the same chain.

    A syllogism is a peculiar form of expression, in which every argument may be stated.  It consists of three propositions.

    1. Whoever have their heads cut off ought to be allowed to ask the reason why.

    2. Women have their heads cut off.

    3. Therefore women ought to be allowed to ask (politically) the reason why.

    This is an argument of Madame de Stael in the days of the first Napoleon, in allusion to the beheading of women in France, without allowing them any voice in making the laws which determine the offences for which they suffered.

    A syllogism is constructed upon the principle (known as the Dictum of Aristotle) that whatever is affirmed or denied universally of a whole class of things, may be affirmed or denied of anything comprehended in that class.  Thus, the first proposition introduces the class of persons who have their heads cut off.  Of this class it is affirmed that they ought to be allowed to ask the reason why.  But women are included in the class of persons who have their heads cut off, and consequently that may be affirmed of them which is affirmed of the whole class — that they should be allowed to ask the reason why.

    Logic may be defined as the art of recognising, stating and testing truth.  To make a truth plain it is put in the form of a syllogism.  All men have common sense.  Peter Luton is a man.  Therefore, Peter Luton has common sense.  Now Peter may be a known idiot, but the syllogism is true.  The logic of the schools has nothing to do with the truth of the facts, opinions, or presumptions, from which an inference is derived; but simply takes care that the inference shall certainly be true if the premises be true.  But the chief premise in the syllogism given is not true — that all men have common sense, and therefore the inference is not true that Peter Luton has common sense.

    This is the point that the reader should consider.  It was Sir James Mackintosh, I think, who said that 'men fall into a thousand errors by reasoning from false premises to fifty they make by wrong inferences from premises they employ.'  The late Professor Jowett is reported to have said that 'logic is neither an art nor a science, but a dodge'  It is little better than a 'dodge' when it is confined to making inferences from premises not known to be true.  An assertion that represents things as they really are, is a truth — an assertion that represents things as in reality they are not, is a falsehood.  Truth, in sculpture, means an exact similitude of some living form, chiselled in stone or marble.  Truth, in painting, is a natural representation on canvas, or otherwise, of some person or object.  In the same manner, moral truth is an exact image of things set forth in speech or writing.  The logical definition of truth is given in these words:— 'Truth is that which admits of proof,' that is, an assertion or denial which can be substantiated by facts.

    Tyranny, says Cobbett, has no enemy so formidable as the pen.  Why?  'Because the pen pursues tyranny both in life and beyond the grave.'  How is it proved to be the most formidable enemy of tyranny?  From the fact that tyranny has no enemy so formidable as that which assails not only its existence, but its reputation, which pursues it in life and beyond the grave.  Such interrogatories and replies generate the expository syllogism.

    1. Tyranny has no enemy so formidable as that which assails not only its existence, but its reputation, which pursues it in life and beyond the grave.

    2. The pen pursues tyranny in life and beyond the grave.

    3. Therefore, tyranny has no enemy so formidable as the pen.

    Syllogism need not begin with a universal proposition.  But care must be taken not to draw an infinite conclusion from finite premises.

    In the following syllogism the chief proposition is limited:

Aristides was virtuous,
Aristides was a pagan,
Some pagan was virtuous.

The inference is limited.  The proof is that some one pagan was virtuous.

    Induction — a mode of logic which Bacon established — means reasoning from facts.  A proposition is concluded to be true when the number of facts relevant to it and in favour of it greatly exceed all the known facts against it.  But the quality of the facts as well as the number must be carefully weighed.  When a lady once consulted Dr Johnson on the degree of turpitude to be attached to her son's robbing an orchard — 'Madam,' said Johnson, 'it all depends upon the weight of the boy.  I remember my school-fellow, Davy Garrick, who was always a little fellow, robbing a dozen orchards with impunity, but the very first time I climbed up an apple tree, for I was always a heavy boy, the bough broke with me, and it was called a judgment.  I suppose that is why Justice is represented with a pair of scales.'  This may not be the precise reason why Justice has a pair of scales, but the point goes to the root of the matter.  Without weighing there can be neither justice nor fair induction.  When Ali Pacha was at Janina, the case of a poor woman, who accused a man of the theft of all her property, was brought before him; but the plaintiff having no witnesses, the case was discharged, as the man asserted his innocence, and insisted, as a proof, that he had not a farthing in the world.  On their leaving his presence, Ali ordered both to be weighed, and then released them without further notice.  A fortnight afterwards he commanded both into his presence, and again weighed them; the woman had lost as much as the man had gained in weight, and Ali decided that the accusation was just.  Ali Pacha was the Burlamiqui of justice; Burlamiqui was a writer on logic, who insisted on attention being given to the preponderance of relevant facts.

    In the case of the Leigh Peerage a number of witnesses were examined in the House of Lords as to the existence of a certain monument in Stonely Church— 'The first witness described the monument as being black; the second spoke of it as a kind of dove-colour; the third said it was black and white; the fourth said it was originally white, but dirty, when he saw it; the fifth, differing from the others, said it was blue; the next witness described it as a light marble, but said it had a dark appearance as if it had been bronzed; and the last witness spoke of it as being of a light grey colour.  Then, as to the form of the monument, the first witness said it was oblong; the next said it was square at the top, and came down narrower to the bottom, and there rested on a single truss; the third witness described it as being square at the bottom, resting upon two trusses, and went up narrower and narrower to a point at the top; the fourth witness said it was angular at the top; the next said it was square at the bottom, was brought to a point in the middle, and was then curved into a sort of festoon; the sixth witness stated that it was square at the top and bottom, and had a curve; and the last said it was square at the top and bottom.  As to the language of the inscriptions, the first witness stated that the names of Thomas and Christopher Leigh were in English; the next said the inscription was not in English; the third said there was a great deal in English; the fourth witness said the whole (with the exception of the name Christopher Leigh) was in a language which be did not understand; the next witness stated that the inscription was all in English, except the words Anno Domini; and the last witness said it was not in English.'

    All these witnesses agree as to the fact in dispute, but their variances in testimony illustrate the common inattention of observation and indistinctness of memory; and this case further admonishes us that if such differences may exist as to a question of fact, little wonder that differences exist as to matters of opinion, where intellectual capacity and information are so various.

    If a man looks well to the truth of the premises from which he reasons he will never go far wrong.  When Pope, in a moment of aberration, wrote,—

Be not the first by whom the new is tried,
Nor yet the last to lay the old aside,

it only wants common sense — and not much of that — to see that if all men act on this advice, no one will ever try a new thing or leave off an old one, and the world would stand still.

    A few years ago, a distinguished clergyman of the Universalist denomination was accused, while in Lowell, of 'violently dragging his wife from a revival meeting, and compelling her to go home with him.'  He replied: 'Firstly, I have never attempted to influence my wife in her views, nor her choice of a meeting; secondly, my wife has not attended any of the revival meetings for any purpose whatever; thirdly, I never on any occasion forbade my wife to attend a revival meeting; fourthly, neither my wife nor myself have any inclination to attend those meetings; and fifthly, I never had a wife.'

    This is a fair example of confutation without creating satisfaction.  The clergyman gave a technical answer.  The, questioner assumed that the lady they had in their minds was his wife.  She may have been his sister, or niece, or housekeeper, or relative in his house, over whom he had control — and used it.  He would have been more instructive and given more satisfaction had he denied having interfered or sought to control anyone attending the meeting in question.  Though he had 'no desire to attend' such place, he may have been there all the same.  He merely fenced with his reply, which is clever but not creditable.

    Imagine a tramcar director, waited upon by persons who wanted to know whether the new car would leave at the usual time, and take up passengers at the usual places, who should answer: — Firstly, we have no 'new car,' and never had; secondly, we do not leave at the 'usual time'; thirdly, we do not 'take up passengers,' that is the business of the police; fourthly, we have no 'usual places.'  This would be a good technical reply of the official type.  But having regard to the interests of the company, he would explain that they had taken over the rolling stock of another company, and had built no 'new car' themselves; the 'usual time' was now a quarter of an hour earlier; that passengers 'step up' into the car, are not 'taken up'; and that they now stop for passengers wherever hailed.  The representative of an interest is communicative, why not the representative of truth?

    The schoolmen, by teaching that logic has only to do with inferences, and that if the inference is true, the thing reasoned upon has to be accepted, have caused great superstitions to have long life in the world.  He who begins to reason without knowing what from, is trying to get a living inference out of dead premises.  Be sure your premises are alive, or your inferences will smell like stale fish when brought into the market of debate.

    Man should begin with himself.  He loves truth — it is the first impulse of his nature.  He loves justice — the bandit on the throne, as well as the bandit in the forest, respects justice in some form or other.  Man loves cheerfulness — it is the attribute of innocence and courage.  He loves fraternity — it knits society together in brotherhood.  These are standards.  His codes of life and judgment arise from these aspirations.  That which accords with these principles is reasonable.  Whatever develops these principles in conduct is moral.  These sentiments are to be confirmed by his own observations.  His experience in connection with these rules is the light with which he may examine religions, creeds, books, systems, opinions.

    Pope, one of the few poets who had logic in his bones, writes:—

Say first of God above or man below,
What can we reason but from what we know?

    Definition is the soul of argument, and therefore attention must be paid to it.  Definition originates in accurate and comprehensive observation.  'There cannot be,' says Mill, 'agreement about the definition of a thing, until there is agreement about the thing itself.  To define a thing is to select from among the whole of its properties those which shall be understood to be designated and declared by its name; and the properties must be very well known to us before we can be competent to determine which of them are fittest to be chosen for this purpose.'

    To define a thing, says Dr Watts, we must 'ascertain with what it agrees, then note the most remarkable attribute of difference, and join the two together.'  In fact, a true definition selects that particular in which the thing in question differs from every other.  So that it cannot be confounded with any other.

    Every man of common sense can tell upon reflection what course of conduct would be useful if all men followed it.  At least, in affairs of daily life men can tell this, and in affairs of public life considering the effect of a thing upon society is a good guide.  Dumont puts this very clearly in the following questions:—

'What is it to give a good reason for a law?  It is to show the good and the evil which that law tends to produce; so much good, so much argument in its favour; so much evil, so much argument against it.'

'What is it to give a bad reason?  It is to allege for or against a law, any other thing than its effects, whether good or evil.'

'Nothing more simple; yet nothing more new.  It is not the principle of utility which is new; on the contrary, it is of necessity as ancient as the race of man.  Whatever there is of truth in morals, whatever there is of good in law, proceeds from this principle.'

    There are five things which young logicians mistake for reasons:— (1) Antiquity of a thing is not reason, because mankind were never infallible.  (2) Religious authority is not reason, for in every nation it has often been in the wrong.  (3) Disowning innovation is not reason, for to reject all innovation is to reject all improvement.  (4) Arbitrary definition is not reason, for using a word in a sense it has not been used in before, bewilders the reader or hearer by an appearance of depth and subtlety which is unreal.  (5) Metaphor or analogy is not reason, they illustrate an argument but do not make one.

    There are three maxims in law which may be usefully remembered in reasoning: — (1) Words spoken of one thing ought not to be perverted to another.  (2) He who does not truly speak the truth is a betrayer of truth.  (3) Contradictions cannot be brought into being.




DELIVERY relates primarily to ease, audibility, and expressiveness of speaking.  Expressiveness includes fervour and gesture.  But fervour and gesture belong to natural passion rather than to care and skill.

    Delivery is a carrier's term, and sounds too mechanical for elocution; nevertheless, a speech is a delivery of information or incentive, and the manner of it is important.  Delivery is, in fact, elocution in practice.  Vigorous, sonorous delivery is called declamation.  The speech of Brutus, defending the assassination of Cζsar, or that of Anthony denouncing it, are declaimed on the stage.  Declamation is also applied to speech pompously spoken without adequate force of sense — to propositions daring in sound but meek in proof.  Oriental speech is generally graceful and fascinating declamation — ornament without profit.  Paul's famous declamation on charity includes no reason why anyone should have charity.  Many contrive to do very well without it.  Its beauty, its eminence as a virtue, the apostle excels in setting forth.  It remained for Richard Hooker sixteen centuries later to show how much more any man needs the charity of all men than that all men need the charity of any one man, and that it is therefore prudent to establish a claim to the good-will of the world by showing good-will towards it.  This is the reason which commends charity as a civil policy, were it not a principle of justice.

    So much describes declamation intrinsically as regards matter.  As respects manner, declamation means the loud, vigorous, impetuous utterance of resounding sentences.  But force in delivery may be obtained in other ways — where there is mind behind the words.

    The Rev. Robert Hall, whose talent for speaking was such that, when eleven years old, he was set up to preach extempore to a select auditory of full-grown men, says of himself: 'To me to speak slow was ruin.  You know, sir, that force or momentum is conjointly as the body and the velocity; therefore, as my voice is feeble, what is wanted in body must be made up in velocity.'  This is a mathematical figure of speech, and is more true of dynamics than rhetoric.  Hall's remark has misled many young speakers.  Unless there is strength of voice to sustain the momentum imparted, indistinctness and alternations of screechings and whispers will be the results.

    Some years ago, we had in Parliament a momentum speaker of no mean repute.  It is said of Mr Macaulay (I think by Francis, in his Orators of the Age), that when an opening is made in a discussion in the House of Commons, he rises, or rather darts up from his seat, and plunges at once into the very heart of his subject without exordium or apologetic preface.  In fact, you have for a few seconds a high-pitched voice, monotonous and rather shrill, pouring forth words with inconceivable velocity ere you have become aware that a new speaker, and one of no common order, has broken in upon the debate.  A few seconds more and cheers, perhaps from all parts of the house, rouse you completely from your apathy, compelling you to follow that extremely voluble and not very enticing voice in its rapid course through the subject on which the speaker is entering, with a resolute determination, as it seems, never to pause.  You think of an express train which does not stop even at the chief stations.  On, on he speeds, in full reliance on his own momentum, never stopping for words, never stopping for thoughts, never halting for an instant even to take breath, his intellect gathering new vigour as it proceeds, hauling the subject after him and all its possible attributes and illustrations, with the strength of a giant, leaving a line of light on the pathway his mind has trod, till, unexhausted and apparently inexhaustible, he brings this remarkable effort to a close by a peroration so highly sustained in its declamatory power, so abounding in illustration, so admirably framed to crown and clench the whole oration, that surprise, if it has even begun to wear off, kindles anew, and the hearer is left prostrate by the whirlwind of ideas and emotions which has swept over him.  A man may take this liberty with elocution if he has genius to compensate for it.  That member must beware who attempts to charm the House of Commons by a monotonous tone without Macaulay's wit, his power of enlightenment and amazing fecundity of illustration.

    In some persons real power of speaking is marred by a physical peculiarity, as in the case of the late Lord Derby, which cannot be overcome by any device.  A weak voice may be made stronger by exercise; stammering may be mitigated as it is said Demosthenes did it, by declaiming with stones in his mouth; but a husky voice is incorrigible.

    Lord Rosebery remarks of Pitt that 'unfriendly critics said that his voice sounded as if he had worsted in his mouth; but the general testimony is that it was rich and sonorous.'  Pitt's voice when animated rose to sonorousness, but he must have had worsted moments.  Not even 'unfriendly critics' would invent a peculiarity which would be confuted five nights a week.  Such a voice is not a defect of oratory; where it exists, it is a defect of nature — still a disadvantage.  Mr Goschen speaks as though he had once been a pedlar of worsted, and had accidentally swallowed a ball; or had suffered from a cold in the throat when young, and the flannel intended to encase it had been inadvertently put inside instead of out.  This filamentariness of speech imparts a woollen effect to many wise things he says.  There are times when Mr Goschen's impassioned tones expand into the volume of the fog-horn, when their impressiveness effaces all sense of defect.

    Others have natural advantages.  Lord Coleridge had deliberateness of speech, and, like Lord Westbury, was unresting and unerring in his choice of terms.  When Lord Coleridge, then Sir John Duke Coleridge, first spoke in the Commons, his tones filled the House with the silvery accents of a lute.  Sir John Bowring says, 'The Chinese shoot arrows to which a musical pipe is attached, and when launched, sing in the air.'  That describes Lord Coleridge's sentences.

    Some orators of mark on the political platform suffer their voice to fall at the closing words of a sentence — though in the last words lie the whole point they intend.  Great is the disappointment of hearers who lose interest in an argument incompletely made known to them.  The cleverer a speaker is the more surely the sting of his meaning will be in the tail of sentences of importance.  What does he speak for save to make that word clear?  Yet he will drop his voice just there.  Just as a man seldom writes his own name plainly because, knowing it himself, he concludes all other persons know it.  Yet a proper name obscurely written, like an argument whose culmination is undisclosed, no one can certainly make out.  This negligence in speaking is counted defective elocution.  There is a vanishing point in art, but none in sentences.

    Droll misapprehensions through indistinctness of utterance or neglect of emphasis, are familiar to every reader.  There is the case of the archdeacon, whose housemaid gave notice to leave because she was held up to detestation every day in the morning prayers.  The archdeacon read with the slovenly indistinctness common with some Churchmen, the words, 'O Lord, who hatest nothing that Thou hast made,' sounded thus; 'O Lord, who hatest nothing but the shousmaid;' and Mary, with her honest red elbows, said she would stand it no longer.

    A clergyman, who denied that emphasis was proper in the pulpit, one day found his mistake by the smiles of his congregation, on his reading the text: 'And he spake to his sons, saying, "Saddle me, the ass, and they saddled him."'  He would have made the meaning clear had he, instead of 'saddled him,' said 'saddled the ass.'  A man whom he reprimanded for swearing, replied that he did not see any harm in it.  'No harm in it?' said the minister.  'Why, do you not know the commandment "Swear not at all?'"  'I do not swear at all,' said the man, 'I only swear at those who annoy me.'

    The emphasis which is suggested by the sense is the best guide.  Let a person make sure of the sense and his emphasis will be natural and varied.  By natural is meant giving the chief force to those words upon which the meaning turns.  For instance, in so simple a phrase as 'Come here.'  If you wanted the person to come, and he would not, the speaker would throw a tone of entreaty into the word come; but if the person spoken to did not understand where he was to come to, and the speaker wanted him where he stood, he would put distinctness and force into the word here.  But more of this in another chapter.  'Sufficient unto the place — is the evil thereof.'

    Attracted by the pretensions of a placard, adorned by a testimonial from the Times, I went, in Glasgow, to hear some professional recitations.  One of them was the 'Story of a Broken Heart.'  The unfortunate girl, of whom it was told, did not die immediately, but it struck me she would have done so had she heard Mr Wilson recite her story.  The subject was that piece of graceful effeminacy, in which Washington Irving has told the story of the proud love of the daughter of Curran for the unhappy and heroic Emmet.

    No one can recite with propriety what he does not feel, and the key to gesture as well as to modulation is earnestness.  No actor can portray character with truth unless he can realise it, and he can only realise it by making it for a time his own.  It is said of one of the Kembles that his daughter had been forbidden to marry an actor, and her father was inexorable at her disobedience; but after he had seen her husband upon the stage, he relented, and forgave her with this observation, 'Well, well!  I see you have not disobeyed me after all; for the man is not, and never will be, an actor.'

    The prompting of Lucio to Isabel, when pleading before Angelo for the life of her brother, as rendered by Shakespeare in 'Measure for Measure,' is one of the happiest practical lessons in the art of persuasion on record.  As a piece of preceptive teaching, neither the rhetoric of modern or of ancient times has produced anything so wise, so concise, and yet so comprehensive, as Hamlet's directions to his players.  It is a manual of delivery in miniature.

    Do manners matter? is a question a public speaker should put to himself.  In social life, those who affect to despise manners as too superfine for persons of their manly taste, forget that every man has manners — good or bad.  A good manner is but art in doing what you have to do with consideration for others.  A tone means much.  Even laughter is an art.  Some women laugh like joy.  Some laugh like a peal of bells.  Others laugh and you feel worse for having heard them.  Is there such a thing as tone in the world?  One would think not when we hear men cry 'Matter not manner.'  A man shall hate his friend, not for what he says but for the imperious tone in which he says it.  How many malevolent purposes have been changed by a kindly spoken word; how many hearts have been broken by unkind tones.

    There are tones, whatever their purport may be, so enchanting that no ear would willingly forget them.  Yet tone is a matter of manner.  All manner is but policy in the sense of being a chosen line of action.  Manner is the half of life.  Without some refinement of manner life would not be worth having.  Dress to the gentleman, skill to the workman, discipline to the soldier, knowledge to all — is manner.  Grammar is manner of speech; poetry is manner of expression; rhetoric the manner of the passions; art the manner of genius.

    Daily watchfulness in speech is of the greatest importance.  Ordinary conversation should be well and clearly spoken — whether a question, an answer, or an anecdote; every word should be carefully said.  Lord Wolseley wisely counselled English officers in command of Zulu or Indian troops, not to conclude that they were stupid or wilful because they disobeyed orders, unless they were quite sure the soldiers understood what was said to them.  The stupidity might be on the part of the officer who was incapable of making himself understood.

    Habitually audible and accurate speech will make it easy to speak in public.  What anyone does well in daily life, he will do well in public, and have confidence that he can do it well.  Well or ill, everybody is making short speeches in business or conversation, and a public speech is but the expansion or multiplication of short speeches.

    No one has a right to speak unless he has something to say, and he has no right to say it publicly unless it is publicly important, and what it is publicly important to say should be said so distinctly and audibly that the public present can hear it.

    Deliberation in delivery is more difficult to acquire or maintain than in former times.  The world has been hurried by railways.  They have originated a murderous punctuality in order to accelerate business.  More deaths occur at railway stations through hurry to arrive there than on all the coaches by the old and tardy traffic.

    Public meetings, as a rule, have neither order nor limit.  Everybody is held to have a right to speak now a meeting may number 30,000, as everyone had when a public meeting seldom numbered 300.  Now, too many resolutions are proposed, and speaking is hurried.

    Lord Palmerston was a speaker who knew the value of taking time.  Once, at Tiverton, a vehement electoral opponent inquired whether he would give a plain answer to a plain question.  To this Lord Palmerston assented.  The question was — Would he vote for a Radical measure of reform?  Palmerston at once answered: 'I will' — pausing, while the Liberals cheered — then adding, 'not,' whereupon the Conservatives applauded; waiting until they had done, Palmerston continued, 'tell you; ' when the wily and evasive candidate retired amid laughter and distrust all round.

    Without deliberateness, self-possession is unattainable, and self-possession sometimes makes the fortune of a speech; and if it does not, it conduces to the development of the speaker.

    I have seen Mr John Stuart Mill in the House of Commons pause in an argument until the sequence occurred to him.  The House would wait, as Mill's words were chosen.  I have noticed Lord John Russell pause when the word he wanted did not occur to him.  One night his son, Lord Amberley, paused twice in a short, wise speech, for the same reason.  Being acquainted with him, I congratulated him upon the promise he gave of being a Parliamentary speaker, through self-possession, and the courage which waited for accuracy.  A speaker should provide less to say than you might say at your ordinary rate of speaking, so that you must fill the time allotted to you by more deliberation and emphasis.  Between deliberate, full-toned, and energetic speaking, and feeble, indistinct and spiritless utterances, there is the difference of live and dead oratory.  A certain energy in delivery — which prevents drawling, and a slowness that avoids whirling accents, or clipping half the sounds away, as hasty speaking does — are conditions of elocution.  Take time to utter well, speak trippingly without tripping.  If you must be extreme, better be heavy than hasty.  A slowness carried too far would produce tedium, but without a certain slowness there can be no distinctness, nor will there be time for the speaker to think and for the auditors to apprehend the speaker's meaning.

    It could never be meant that people should rush through this world, seeing how many advantages wait on those who take time to consider before they precipitate themselves into action.  Difficulties, which seem insuperable to the beginner, vanish before those who have the wisdom to observe Pope's rule: —

Learn to speak slow — all other graces
Will follow in their proper places.

The graces may not follow then, but it gives them a chance of doing it if they have a mind to.  Nevertheless, deliberation is the beginning of power in speech.  The limit of slowness is drawling.  Without a certain energetic slowness there can be no certain effect, and seldom any effect at all.

    One who knew the House of Commons well has said: —

'Fellows who have been the oracles of coteries from their birth — who have gone through the regular process of gold medals, senior wranglerships, and double firsts — who have nightly sat down amid tumultuous cheering in debating societies, and can harangue with an unruffled forehead and an unfaltering voice, from one end of a dinner-table to the other — who on all occasions have something to say, and can speak with fluency on what they know nothing about — no sooner rise in the House than their spells desert them.  All their effrontery vanishes.  Common-place ideas are rendered even more uninteresting by a monotonous delivery; and keenly alive, as even boobies are in those sacred walls, to the ridiculous — no one appears more thoroughly aware of his unexpected and astounding deficiencies than the orator himself.  He regains his seat, hot and hard, sultry and stiff, with a burning cheek and an icy hand — repressing his breath lest it should give evidence of an existence of which he is ashamed; and clenching his fist that the pressure may secretly convince him he has not as completely annihilated his stupid body as his false reputation.' [4]

    This passage has discouraged more persons than it ought. If a man goes into Parliament to make a demonstration at sight he will commonly fail. But if he modestly gives it information, and speaks when a sense of duty comes over him, upon what he understands, he will succeed according to what is in him.

    One who acquired great reputation for capacity, Thomas Paine, confesses that the world (when he first came to America) could not have persuaded him that he should be either a soldier or an author.  'If I had any talents for either,' said he, 'they were buried in me, and might have ever continued so had not the necessity of the times dragged and driven them into action.'  He was unconscious of his powers, as most persons are; hence, trusting yourself to events is good.  It is prudent in men not to guess their abilities, but determine them by enterprise and achievement.  The first step to success is to try.  There is no learning to swim without going into the water.  Had Hamlet contemplated being an orator, his soliloquies would have run thus:—

To spout, or not to spout, that is the question:
Whether 'tis better for a shamefaced fellow
(With voice unmusical and gesture awkward)
To stand a mere spectator in this business,
Or have a touch of Rhetoric?   To speak — to spout
No more; and by this effort, to say we end
That bashfulness, that nervous trepidation
Displayed in maiden speeches — 'twere a consummation
Devoutly to be wished.   To read — to speechify
Before folks — perhaps to fail: ay, there's the rub;
For from that ill success what sneers may rise,
Ere we have scrambled through the sad oration,
Must give us pause.   'Tis the same reason
That makes a novice stand in hesitation,
And gladly hide his own diminished head
Beneath some half-fledged orator's importance,
When he himself might his quietus make
By a mere recitation.   Who could speeches hear,
Responded to with hearty acclamation,
And yet restrain himself from holding forth —
But for the dread of some unlucky failure,
Some unforeseen mistake — some frightful blunder —
Some vile pronunciation or inflection,
Improper emphasis or wry-necked period,
Which carping critics note, and raise the laugh,
Not to our credit — nor so soon forgot?
We muse on this!   Then starts the pithy question:
Had we not best be mute, and hide our faults.
Than spout to publish them

Spout and publish them without hesitation if you wish to cure them.  Had Raphael feared to daub, he had never been Raphael.  Had Canova feared to torture marble, he had never been a sculptor.  Had Charles Kean feared to spout, he had never been an actor.  If you stammer like Demosthenes, or stutter like Curran, speak on.  He who hesitates to hesitate will always hesitate.




AS genius in ideas will compensate for the neglect of elocutionary art in utterance, so earnestness and commanding thought will produce eloquence of effect without gesture in delivery.  At the same time, fitting gesture which grows out of personal animation, is an advantage.  To underdo it, rather than overdo it, is a safe rule.  If the arm moves from the shoulder, rather than from the elbow, angularity of action, which is never well received, will be avoided.  It is better to commence a speech with moderate action and leave it to the natural fervour of conviction to do the rest.

    As a rule, a chaste, concise and energetic style is more effective than a florid, turgid and prolix one; so the judicious employment of moderate gesture is more effective upon the genius of the English people, who love moderation, than any possible amplification of spasmodic attitudes or redundancy of facial changes.  He who commences with moderate gesture may increase it without danger of falling into exaggeration, while he who begins with affluence of action exhausts his resources of motion before the moment for supreme effect arrives.

    Robert Hall had no oratorical action, scarcely any kind of motion, excepting an occasional lifting or waving of the right hand; and in his most impassioned moments an alternate retreat and advance in the pulpit by a short step.  Nor had W. J. Fox much gesture.  His hands were crossed before him.  One or other arm was raised (I do not remember to have seen both raised at once) and pointed towards, rather than at, the audience.  The action seemed more effective from its moderation.  Mr Bright had impressive gestures, which were moderately used.  Mr Gladstone's animated gestures are one of the charms of his oratory.  Gambetta was a master of gesture: but it was slow, imposing, sustained by his mighty voice and well-chosen words.  He excelled in vigorous sentences, which none other could express with like luminousness.  His gestures illustrated his sense; they were not, as with many animated speakers, a substitute for sense.

    Sincerity is not always elegance, nor is earnestness always grace; nevertheless, earnestness is the best schoolmaster of gesture.  Awkwardness and angularity of movement is forgiven to the sincere.  In some, grace of gesture comes by nature, some acquire it by dancing.  Grace mostly comes by training, but those who have it not should confine themselves to few motions.  Awkwardness will not be so apparent then.  Besides, there is another compensation — a little gesture goes a long way when there is manifest conviction behind it.  However, gesture is but the outward and visible ornament of inward sources of effectiveness.  To venture upon imitating Italian or French gesture, the speaker needs Italian grace and French animation.




BESIDES the effectiveness which relates to manner of delivery, there is the effectiveness which depends upon the mind.  Effectiveness is the chief aim in oratory.  So far as it can be compassed — it can be compassed more or less by calculation in statement.  There may be effectiveness without calculation, and effects unpremeditated are sometimes marvellous.  But a wise speaker does not depend on chance — his aim is to foreknow.  Manifest sincerity in speech may be depended upon to create a good impression on an audience.  Earnestness is a quality which on the platform might degenerate into emotionalism, which, lacking self-possession, would be fatal to public effect.  Sincerity is a manly, self-contained sentiment, less pretentious than earnestness.  Nevertheless, earnestness, when good sense controls it, is a noble quality.  Yet not even sincerity is everything.  It does not imply the truth of what is said.  That still requires to be proved.  Some think sincerity is errorless.  Once everybody, save a few philosophers, believed it to be a sign of truth.  Robespierre was sincere: he was a man who made sincerity terrible.  Some of his speeches, not all, read like a murder.  There was a guillotine in them.  His sentences dripped with blood.  No genius, no talent, no sincerity is to be trusted or praised — unless it conduces, and is intended to conduce, to the welfare of others.

    Nevertheless, with all its limitations, sincerity and capacity annihilate personal disadvantages.  I knew a rotund orator, who appeared on the platform as Charles James Fox must have appeared in Pitt's days — like a sugar hogshead on two props, yet upon whom the audience looked with admiration while he spoke.  Louis Blanc was diminutive in stature, but he was so entirely a man, and his speaking was so sonorous, pregnant and animated, that his small stature seemed an advantage to him.  Robert Hall was a preacher who had ideas, as well as precision and energy of style, yet the spiritual and intrinsic charm of his speech was its earnestness.  Foster said of Hall, 'Truth (to him) was a universal element, and to enforce its claims was his constant aim.  Whether he attempted to engage the reason, the affections, or the fancy, all was subsidiary to this end.  He was always in earnest,' as to the necessity of discerning truth, explaining it, and vindicating it.

    Effectiveness lies also in proportion.  Not in the beauty of a pillar, or the finish of a frieze, but in the command which the whole building has over the spectator — not in the brilliance of a passage, but in the coherence of the whole lies the effectiveness of a speech or a book.

    One conspicuous element of effectiveness is a defined purpose.  Better say nothing than not to the purpose.  No part should attract the main attention entirely to itself.  The chief merit of any part is its subserviency to the whole design.  When parts are praised, a speaker is said to have brilliance; when the whole impresses, he is said to have power.  In a speech, as in a drawing on a reduced scale, all the proportions have to be there.  If a subject is too extensive for an ordinary speech, present a distinct portion which shows the quality of the whole.  Hierocles carried a brick in his pocket as a specimen of the house he wanted to sell.  It gave no idea of its situation, or convenience, but it proved his confidence in the quality of its material.

    Lucidity of arrangement is intent made evident to an assembly, and is no mean element of effectiveness.  As reasoning proceeds from axioms which cannot be lost sight of without confusion — so an argumentative speech has a foregone object which must be disclosed to the hearers, or they will be unable to follow the speaker intelligently.  The Encyclopζdia Metropolitana has explained clearly the advantages of this course in the following terms: —

'In purely argumentative statement, or in the argumentative division of mixed statements, and especially in argumentative speeches, it is essential that the issue to be proved should be distinctly announced in the beginning, in order that the tenour and drift that way of everything that is said may be the better apprehended; and it is also useful, when the chain of argument is long, to give a forecast of the principal bearings and junctures, whereby the attention will be more easily secured and pertinently directed throughout the more closely consecutive detail, and each proposition of the series will be clenched in the memory by its foreknown relevancy to what is to follow.'

    These are well-known rules, which it were superfluous to cite, except for the instruction of the young.  But examples may be occasionally observed of juvenile orators who will conceal the end they aim at until they have led their hearers through the long chain of antecedents, in order that they may produce surprise by forcing a sudden acknowledgment of what had not been foreseen.  The disadvantage of this method is that the hearer is apt to resent being trapped into assent.  It puzzles and provokes the hearer during its sequence, confounds him in the conclusion, and gives an overcharged impression of the orator's ingenuity on the part of those who may have attended to him sufficiently to have been convinced.  It is a method by which the business of the argument is sacrificed to ostentation in the conduct of it, and the ease and satisfaction of the auditors sacrificed to the vanity of the arguer.  The novelist or dramatist will often conceal the secret of his plot to allure the reader to the end, and take him by surprise then, if he can.  In that case the story has to be entertaining up to that point, or the reader will not hold on till he reaches it.  Unless a speaker is sure of enchanting his audience as he goes along, hearers will not wait for the point of his argument, which has been concealed from them.  Besides, there is this difference between a novel and an argument.  The novel is intended to amuse, the argument to convince, and when a link is lost, by ignorance of its relevance, the chain of proof is disconnected.

    Yet though the aim of an argument must be divulged, the drift of an illustration, if brief, may be kept back.  In one of the Anti-Corn-Law orations of W. J. Fox in Covent Garden Theatre, there occurred a striking example of this.  He commenced by stating the case of certain poachers, related in the newspapers of that day, who had been sentenced at Ashby-de-la-Zouch to considerable terms of imprisonment.  When to this punishment was added the loss and privation to which the families of the prisoners were subjected, the penalty was serious.  No one foresaw the relevance of the story, but which the orator did not long withhold.  He demanded to know 'if this shall be done to the poor man who steals the rich man's bird, what shall be done to the rich man who steals the poor man's bread?'  I know of no first words of any speech which produced so great an effect.  The argument was as a match applied to a funeral pyre where the fallacies of protection were burned before the meeting.

    An appeal to experience is a force in due place.  'The argument,' says Emerson, 'which has not the power to reach my own practice, I may well doubt will fail to reach yours.  I have heard an experienced counsellor say, that he never feared the effect upon a jury of a lawyer who does not believe in his heart that his client ought to have a verdict.'  Samuel Bailey, in his Review of Berkeley's 'Theory of Vision,' says: —

'Many years ago, I held what may be styled a derivative opinion in favour of Berkeley's Theory of Vision, but having in the course of a philosophical discussion had occasion to explain it, I found, on attempting to state in my own language the grounds on which it rested, that they no longer appeared to me to be so clear and conclusive as I had fancied them to be.  I determined to make it the subject of a patient and dispassionate examination.  The result has been a clear conviction in my own mind of its erroneousness, and a desire to state to the philosophical world the grounds on which that conviction has been formed.'

    This is an interesting instance of the truth of the observation that that statement only is fit to be made public which you have come at in attempting to satisfy your own curiosity.

    An editor of Shelley's posthumous poems apologises for the publication of some fragments in a very incomplete state, by remarking, 'how much more than every other poet of the present day, every line and word he wrote is instinct with beauty.'  Let no man sit down to write with the purpose of making every line and word beautiful and peculiar.  Sir Henry Taylor thought 'the only effect of such an endeavour will be to corrupt the judgment and confound the understanding.'

    Augustine Birrell, in a criticism wise in a new way, like many other criticisms of his, remarks that 'Emerson writes like an electrical cat, emitting sparks and shocks in every sentence.  The lights irradiate the forest, but disclose no path.'  The same critic explains what many have felt.

'You never know what Emerson will be at.  His sentences fall over you in glittering cascades, beautiful and bright, and for the moment refreshing.  But after a very brief while the mind, having nothing to do on its own account but to remain wide open and see what Emerson will send it, grows first restive and then torpid.  Admiration gives way to astonishment, astonishment to bewilderment, and bewilderment to stupefaction.'

    As a rule, men are not much in danger of being too brilliant.  Happily for orators, occasional phrases of power are sufficient for effect and reputation.  Brightness and force are attainable by him who, knowing what he wishes to say, knows why it should be said.  Telling the audience the reason which has convinced the speaker is that explanation which produces impression.  It fulfils Mr J. R. Green's rule — it takes the public into the speaker's confidence, who are addressed as though they knew as much as the speaker himself.  An orator will be all the more explanatory, interesting and engaging, if he assumes in his own mind that his hearers know nothing upon the subject.  A painting all white or all black allures no eye.  It is light and shade that make the picture.  A fixed beacon light is not seen at sea as far, nor as well, as a revolving light.

    To be effective, study simplicity; abjure affectation and be natural.  The natural voice is heard the farthest, and the natural effects the soonest.  'The costly charm of the ancient tragedy is that the persons speak simply, speak as persons who have great good sense without knowing it.'  Nothing astonishes men so much as common sense and plain dealing.  Sincerity and simplicity carry all before them.  On Thiers's first appearance in the French Chamber he experienced an almost universally unfavourable reception.  He was diminutive with an expression of countenance — though intellectual, reflective, and sarcastic — far from possessing beauty.  The face itself, small in form, was encumbered with a pair of spectacles so large that, when peering over the marble edge of the long narrow tribune whence all speakers address the Chamber, he was described as appearing suspended to the two orbs of crystal.  With such ah exterior M. Thiers, full of the impassioned eloquence of his favourite revolutionary orators, sought to impart those thrilling emotions recorded of Mirabeau.  The attempt provoked derision, but only for a time.  In his new sphere, as in the others he had passed through, he soon outshone competition.  Subsiding into the oratory natural to him — simple, vigorous and rapid, he proved himself one of the most formidable of Parliamentary champions.

    Have a clear meaning and never obscure it.  A wit may leave his words open to two interpretations if he intends to amuse and not to deceive.  Dryden, a great poet, and Otway a poet also, but of lesser magnitude, lived in the same street in houses facing each other.  One morning Otway wrote in chalk on Dryden's door the line: —

Here lives Dryden, a poet and wit.

Dryden, on coming out, saw it, and wrote underneath it: —

Written by Otway opposite.

It has never been settled to this day whether Dryden meant merely to say that the line of praise his neighbours would see written on his own door about him, was not written by himself — but written by a person living opposite; or that Otway was the opposite of 'a poet and wit.'

    But in matters of moment, which will affect themselves and others, men like to know, and have a right to demand, with General Ludlow, that a speaker's words shall not only be such as can be understood, but such as cannot possibly be misunderstood.

    For effectiveness in speech or writing, keep clear of philosophical fogginess and common-place sentiment.  Avoid as far as possible abstract terms, abstract questions, and abstract ideas.  Keep to palpable things, and such as pass before the auditors in daily life.  It is very well to entertain Utopian ideas — it implies an outside mind; but it is not necessary to act on Utopian principles till you are in Utopia.

    Beware of the transition epoch in argument, so common and so false, by which so many alarm the public at what they call the decay of faith, which is being superseded by the evolution of higher truth.  Transition is no new thing; it has been going on ever since time began.  Transition is the step of eternal progress.  Its determined and ceaseless tread is heard in every epoch.  Transition is the change-bringer of time.  The hills, the ocean, the climate, society, men and creeds are changing hourly and always.  It is an open question whether a particular change is good or bad.  It is reasonable to reason about it.  But to talk of the present time as one of transition, which the speaker has found out, is no novelty of discovery.  It is older than the hills.  Transition is eternal.

    Men so well-informed, and so self-conscious of infallibility as Carlyle was, could say in the days passing over him, 'Few men have seen more impressive days of endless calamity, disruption, dislocation, confusion worse confounded.  If they are not days of endless hope too, then they are days of utter despair.'  Public men, priests and politicians before the days of Noah, and ever since, have said the same thing.  It is the common jargon of Parliament.  I have seen the sun of England set for ever annually for sixty years, according to the predictions of our public Cassandras.  It weakens public respect for a man's judgment to hear him talk thus.  Foolishness destroys effectiveness.

    No more should be said at any time than can be said well.  Brevity is the instinct of art.  If anything is prolonged it must be varied and perfect in every part.  It is a mistake to try to say everything which can be said upon a subject.  Confine yourself to so much as will make a distinct impression.  Enough is as good as a feast and better, and too much is worse than a fast.

    Against multitudes of words the poets have given many warnings.  One who knew exclaims: —

Words are like leaves; and where they most abound,
Much fruit of sense beneath is rarely found.

There are those who, like Talleyrand, regard words as given to us to conceal our meaning.  But where the intention is to make it clear, we must give heed to Moore's suggestion —

The wise men of Egypt were secret as dummies,
    And e'en when they most condescended to teach,
They packed up their meaning, as they did their mummies,
    In so many wrappers, 'twas out of one's reach.

    Co-operators ought to be good speakers; their study being economy, and economy in words is the source of effectiveness in speech.  Economy is honourable in war.  Wellington was a greater general than Napoleon, inasmuch as he compassed greater effects with a smaller expenditure of men; as he is the greatest speaker who accomplishes conviction with the smallest number of words.

    We can do without any article of luxury we never had, but when once obtained, it is not in human nature to surrender it voluntarily.  Of twelve thousand clocks left on trial by Sam Slick, only ten were returned.  'We trust to soft sawder,' said Sam, 'to get them into the house, and to human nature that they never come out of it.'  Yet how many persons expect to produce effects upon assemblies of men who never bestow half the time upon the study of their natures as was given by our American clock-seller.

    The young speaker will do well to notice that morality is better understood, at least in theory, than in former days, and that the public like sincerity on the part of a speaker.  A life which shall illustrate what the orator seeks to enforce will add materially to his influence.  Some will ask — May not a recommendation be a good one though the giver of it be bad?  Yes; but is it not an advantage when both are worthy?  The public may accept good advice from men who will not take it themselves.  But is it not the object of a wise rhetoric to increase the number of men who act on sound advice?  If the public should be composed of men who hear only and never practise, who does not see that we may give over all exhortations of amendment?  Mankind reason that that which is good for the public is good for individuals, since individuals make up the public.  And when it is seen that a man does not follow his own advice, it is concluded that either he is a simpleton, and consequently is not to be heeded, or that he is secretly conscious of some inapplicability in his own recommendations, and therefore to be suspected.

    The moral existence of men is made up of a few trains of thought, which, from the cradle to the grave, are excited and re-excited again and again.  These leading ideas rule despotically over conduct, and, whoever awakens these, influence those whom he addresses.  It is in these leading ideas that we see the source of character.  These features the rhetorician studies.  When Napoleon in Egypt was threatened by his disaffected generals, he vanquished them by an appeal to the three traits in their character — their pride, their honour and their bravery.  Walking among them, he exclaimed: 'You are too many to assassinate me, and too few to intimidate me.'  The fury of the men was subdued to admiration, and they turned away, exclaiming 'Damn him, how brave he is.'  It is said the heart has no avenue so open as that of flattery, which, like some enchantment, lays its guards asleep.  But flattery which succeeds with the intelligent requires art.  If honest, it is excellent.  A famous politician, at a Royal Academy dinner, listening to insincere praise which others called 'clever,' he answered, 'I call it hellish.'

    Youth should lay the foundation of eloquence on character and honesty.  Let him speak for the right; let him not borrow the language of idle gentlemen or scholars, much less that of sensualists, absorbed in greed of purse and palate; let him speak for the absent, defend the friendless, the poor, the slave, the prisoner and the lost.  Let him look upon opposition as opportunity; he is one who cannot be defeated or put down.  Let him feel that it is not the people who are in fault for not being convinced, but the speaker who cannot convince them.




DEBATE is a larger question than is generally understood.  Every man is debating daily, either with himself or someone else.  A man debates questions with his household or with friends.  Whenever a difference of opinion arises between two persons, they instinctively debate it together.  This term has, also, a public signification, and is applied to discussions in Parliament and formal debates on public platforms.  Correspondence in newspapers, reviews and periodicals often takes the form of controversy.  All forms of controversy, where one person seeks to justify his opinion against the differing opinion of another, is debate; for intellectual life is a perpetual discussion.  Conversation is a friendly debate.  Error of idea is everywhere an antagonist.

    Some people are so disquieted by contrariety of opinion that they fear the fate of the Catholic and Jew, who debated together the grounds of their faiths, and ended by the Jew becoming a Catholic and the Catholic a Jew.  Some fear discussion because they are like the judge who said he understood a case when he had heard only one side — it was the other side which perplexed him.  The risk of this perplexity he must undergo who would be wise.

    Before taking part in debate, a man has to vindicate to himself the uses of debate.

1.    It creates two-sided people.

2.    It instils toleration.

3.    It proves truth which may be trusted.

4.    It puts into the mind the sense of reasoned truth.

5.    It sows the seeds of new truth.

    Those who object to these things may as well keep clear of debate, for they will misuse it and distrust it.

    The first rule to be observed in taking part in debate is: —

1.    To state your case.

2.    To clear your case.

3.    To prove your case.

4.    And then sit down.

    There was once an old doctor, the lecturer on logic and rhetoric at a Scotch university, who received the fees from the pupils on entering, who used to say to them, when they had finished their term, that there were only two rules to follow — 'One was, when you have anything to say, say it in as few words as you can; the other is, when you've said it, hold your tongue.'

    General Ludlow held that a man should say what he means and mean what he says.  This is as true in debate as in morals.  In debate, you must not only say what you mean — but know what you mean.  The audience will soon find out if you do not know it.

1.    The speaker must state his case that the hearers may understand to what he asks their attention; without this information they cannot judge what his object is, nor tell when he is relevant or when he digresses.  In stating your case give the other side of the case — if you know it.  The contrast will make your meaning clear, and show that you know what your case is.  There is a fine instance in the writings of Toulmin Smith [5] — 'Decentralisation or administration by localities, is that system of government under which the greatest number of minds, knowing most about the special matter in hand, having the greatest opportunities of knowing about it, and having the greatest interests in its well-working, have the management of it or control over it.  Centralisation or administration by departments is that system of government under which the smallest number of minds, knowing the least about the special matter in hand, having the fewest opportunities of knowing about it, and having the smallest interest in its well-working, have the management of it or control over it.'

2.    Then the speaker must clear his case — show plainly what he is aiming at, making his question quite distinct, that it may not be mixed up with something likely to be advanced by another disputant.  He must free his main terms from ambiguity, so that ignorance cannot mistake what he intends, nor an adversary pervert his meaning.  On a certain occasion a witness said he knew the accused 'the moment he obtained a full-faced view of his back.'  A back may have its peculiarities, but a 'full-faced' view of it is difficult to obtain.  General Grant said of his rival for the presidency (General Hancock) that, sitting behind him, 'you knew when he was pleased, for you could see him laugh behind his ears.'  I have seen other Hancocks do this.

3.    A speaker must next prove his case, so that the reasons of his argument may be evident.  Here he should adduce facts which cannot well be disputed in support of his contention, and employ, if he can, such illustrations as make his meaning clearer.

4.    Having done all he can to put the hearer in possession of his case — he gives place to his adversary within the allotted time — if the time be prescribed.

    A barrister will occasionally state a complex case to the jury before him, beginning with the simplest circumstances, continuing with the more difficult, arranging the facts in such order that the series throw light on the most obscure points — that the whole case may be fully understood.  When he feels this to be accomplished he returns, recapitulates, selects those points he wishes to have most weight, puts them before the jury prominently and as forcibly as he can.  If his brief affords it, and he has no scruples, he can, like Charles Phillips, in his defence of Courvoisier for the murder of Lord William Russell, seek to fix the guilt on an innocent man; or, like Sir Fitzroy Kelly, shed tears to attest his belief that Tawell was innocent, whom he knew to be guilty.  But he who does this loses evermore the confidence of those who know him.

    In debate, it is a great point to have the main point in mind, and never to lose sight of it.  An argument is like a picture which has a point to which all lines converge.  It was O'Connell who said an orator should always know what he is aiming at, for when a man aims at nothing he is almost sure to hit it.

    Young debating societies have a tendency not to know what the point is, and to wander from it when they do know it.  Upon the chairman is cast the trouble of discerning what the main points are in the mind of the person who opens the debate, and if this has not been made clear to the chairman, he should ascertain what the main points meant to be debated are, and state them himself to the meeting before the discussion commences.  Having once made the question unquestionably plain, he should remind every speaker of it who forgets it, and point out to him when he is wandering therefrom.  But a chairman should not use much strictness in doing this, because some speakers cannot see a point, and cannot keep to it if they do.  Therefore, if they were strictly called to order they would be incapable of speaking at all.  But though it might be desirable, for the sake of affording young speakers practice, and of training a society in the habits of debate, to allow disputants to speak in the best way they can, the meeting should be incidentally kept informed when the question is getting mixed up with something else.  In a debate, if speakers introduce irrelevant subjects, the good or evil of these different subjects will be entered upon.  Other speakers arise and combat what other speakers have said upon these subjects, and in less than half an hour hardly anybody remembers what the actual subject before the meeting was.  Now, the business of disputants is to discuss the speech of the opener of the debate, rather than the speeches of each other.  What other speakers say should only be referred to incidentally, and so far as it relates to the topic before the meeting.  Discussion is excellent discipline in the art of discovering what a point is and what relates to it.  Discussion is always valuable, inasmuch as it elicits contrariety of opinion that nobody could suspect, and misconceptions which nobody could imagine.  No person can be said to entirely understand any subject until he has debated it with sharp-witted people.  In the art of seeing all round a question, a night in a discussion room will do more for a man than a month in a library, that is, supposing the president has sufficient knowledge of the speakers before him to bring their various powers into play, and at the same time supposing that the speakers have powers which the president can elicit and bring into action.

    No opponent should be accepted whose sincerity cannot be assumed, since it ought not to be questioned in debate.  To give an adversary credit for good faith is economy in reasoning, since you have only to refute his principles — not himself — which leaves you all your time and force for the greater and more useful task.  Find no fault with his grammar, manner, intentions, tone.  Attend only to the matter.  Hear all things without impatience and without manifest emotion.  Let your opponent fully exhaust his matter.  Encourage him to say whatever he thinks relevant.  Many persons believe in the validity and magnitude of their positions, because they have never been permitted to state them to others — and when they have once delivered themselves of their opinions, they often find for the first time how insignificant they are.  There are some persons whom nobody can confute but themselves.  When you distinguish such, your proper business is to let them do it.  Learn to satisfy yourself and to present a conclusive statement of your opinions, and when you have done so, have the courage to abide by it.  If you cannot trust your statement to be canvassed by others — if you feel anxious to add some additional remark at every step — suspect your knowledge of your own case and amend it on further reflection.  Master as completely as you can your opponent's theories, and state his case with manifest fairness, and, if possible, state it with more force against yourself than your opponent did.  The observance of this rule will teach you two things — your opponent's strength or weakness, and your own also.  If you cannot state your opponent's case you do not know it, and if you do not know it you are not in a fit position to argue against it.  If you dare not state your opponent's case in its greatest force, you feel it to be stronger than your own, and in that case you ought not to argue against it.

    The course here suggested will be as useful to truth as to the disputant.  Great prejudice may often be disarmed by daring it.  In this manner, Gibbon delivered his argument in favour of an hereditary monarchy.  'Of the various forms of government which have prevailed in this world, an hereditary monarchy seems to present the fairest scope for ridicule.  Is it possible to relate, without an indignant smile, that, on the father's decease, the property of a nation, like that of a drove of oxen, descends to his infant son, as yet unknown to mankind and to himself; and that the bravest warriors and the wisest statesmen, relinquishing their natural right to empire, approach the royal cradle with bended knees and protestations of inviolable fidelity?  Satire and declamation may paint these obvious topics in the most dazzling colours, but our serious thoughts will respect a useful prejudice that establishes a rule of succession independent of the passions of mankind; and we shall cheerfully acquiesce in any expedient which deprives the multitude of the dangerous, and indeed the ideal power of giving themselves a master.'

    In Gibbon's days the discovery of a removable master had not been made.

    Debate should have for its object the vindication of some truth seriously disputed.  The Dutchman regarded debate as a duty, who, being pressed as to the value of a dog for whose loss he had brought an action, said, 'Nothing; but let him pay for it.'  When his adversary was asked whether it was true that he killed the dog, he said, 'To be sure I did, but let him prove it,' which was foolish, but not more silly than many disputants of pretension, who will dispute for disputation sake, where there is nothing real or useful to contend for.

    For the adjustment of a difference a man should understate his case — should make no material assertion unaccompanied by the proof — make the fairest allowance for his rival's excitement (if he be excited), put a fair interpretation on his words and acts.  All whose suffrages are worth having will make just judgment.  The reason of so many departures from this rule is the want of courage, or the want of sense.  It is the opinion of the ignorant that if a man does not bluster and retort, he is deficient in spirit.  This apprehension often betrays weak men into violence, and to prove themselves independent they become rude and insolent — whereas courage pursues its own way without ostentation, preserves its independence, corrects misrepresentation, repairs any injury it may have unwittingly done, and answers slander (if there be slander) with the truth.  No wise man answers a fool according to his folly.  He shows that it is folly, and abandons it to die by its own hands.

    Hamilton's Parliamentary Logic gives maxims, which that experienced tactician had treasured up, observed, or invented, many unworthy, some shrewd: —

'State what you censure by the soft names of those who would apologise for it.

'In putting a question to your adversary, let it be the last thing you say.

'Distinguish real from avowed reasons of a thing.  This makes a fine and brilliant fund of argument.

'Upon every argument consider the misrepresentations which your opponent will probably make of it.

'If your case is too bad, call in aid the party: if the party is bad, call in aid the cause. [6]

'Nothing disgusts a popular assembly more than being apprised of your intention to speak long.'

    Having had experience in the ways of adversaries — the unscrupulous and the fair — I noticed the rules they ordinarily followed, and found, as Wordsworth's little girl said of her brothers and sisters, 'We are seven,' which were these: —

1.    To show that the objection made against what you have said is wrong, and that you were in the right.  For this course to succeed one must be very clear upon the subject, and make it very clear to others that it is the objector alone who is in error.  If this cannot be done, the matter requires some consideration.

2.     Not to take any notice of the objection raised; but if he who advances it is a person whose opinion has weight, his objection will have force, and tell against you, whether you take notice or not.

3.    To notice the objection made, and affect to see nothing in it.  But it is necessary to bear in mind that, if other people happen to see something in it, your want of penetration will not serve you.

4.    To admit there is 'something in it,' but maintain that it is a mere misapprehension of your meaning.  In that case, you must explain what your meaning was, or that expedient will not answer.

5.    To allege that your own statement is open to two distinct interpretations, and argue that your critic has adopted the wrong one.  This course, however, is attended with some risk; since it is the duty of a speaker to be aware of double meanings, to choose one, and leave the hearer in no manner of doubt which sense was intended, and to fix that sense so that the meaning could not be intelligently misunderstood.

6.    Admit that your statement was open to some objection, making light of it, giving the hearer the impression it was very unimportant, and that your critic could not have anything very serious on his mind to make so 'much ado about nothing' — by which means the unobservant hearer will be hardly sensible that you have fallen into any error at all, and even be disposed to regard the objector to what you have said, as a trivial and captious commentator'.  But the intelligent observer will distrust you.

7.    The remaining course open is to admit frankly you were in the wrong.  Careless phraseology, an inaccurate argument, or a conflicting statement (whether fallen into unawares or not), is an imposition upon the mind of the hearer, and a waste of language, since it weakens and obscures the proper argument.  Therefore, the right thing is to express yourself under obligations to an auditor who pays you the great compliment of considering what you have said, and takes the trouble to amend what has been unwittingly left defective.

   Persons, really honest-minded, do often find a difficulty in frankly admitting that they have made a mistake; but it is far better to cultivate the habit of admitting an error, which you see to be such, than to foolishly persist that you are right, and to persist in the foolishness of the mis-statement which everybody sees to be so, and which you ought to see yourself.  To try to create the impression that you are never in error, is to pretend to infallibility — it is to pretend that you know everything, that you know it always, and that you are so perfect that you never forget it or overlook it.  Everybody knows that there never was any person of this description; and to pretend to be, or to imagine that you are, such a person is to betray to every reflecting reader that you are ignorant as well as conceited.  A real lover of truth is glad to have any error into which he may have fallen pointed out, that he may avoid it in the future.




CONTROVERSY, though the pathway to, and final test of truth, is an unwelcome word in many ears.  This is because it is so often protracted and unsatisfactory.  It is protracted through digression, and unsatisfactory, being so often disfigured by personalities, which mainly cause digression and ill-feeling.  Things evil, as well as things good, do not come by chance.  Disease as well as health has its conditions; and personalities, however capricious and irregular they may seem, have their laws.  These are briefly to be explained.  St Jerome said: 'If an offence come out of the truth, better the offence come than that the truth be concealed.'  There is no natural offence in truth.  The offence is generally put into it by personalities, which cause digressions from the truth into the hateful and dishonouring imputations.

    The Edinburgh News lately turned to the file of London papers as they existed in the pure and happy days of a fourpenny tax, and found a licence of speech quite edifying.  Thus the Times calls its neighbour, the Morning Chronicle, 'that squirt of filthy water,' and the Chronicle, not to be behind, calls the Post 'that slop-pail of corruption.'  The Standard describes the Globe as 'our blubber-head contemporary.'  The Morning Herald accosts its neighbour, the Courier, as 'that spavined old hack,' while the Morning Advertiser hurls its wrath against the Times as 'that bully of Berkshire and braggadocio of Printing House Square.'  The Times, not to be outdone, commenced one of its leaders on the 13th of June 1835, with 'The Liberal liars,' and then turning on the Chronicle, continues, 'A disgraceful morning print, which actually feeds on falsehood and lies'; then going into the subject, it adds, 'The smaller rascal, Mr Gingall, copies the paragraph from the larger blackguard.'  The Times of the same date, elsewhere referring to its opponent, says, 'The community must be shocked to know that there are such beings as these scribblers out of the treadmill, and because every exposure of the ragamuffins gives to foreigners an additional proof that there have crept into the press of this country a number of scoundrels, who not only are unfit for the society of gentlemen, but who would be a disgrace to the vilest coteries of Europe.'  To this the Standard retorts, 'It can scarcely be doubted that the habits of writing down to the ignorance and below the brutality of the rabble, which the Times has acquired by long experience, acting, of course, upon original ignorance and intuitive brutality, has rendered this journal a more powerful organ of excitement than a whole workshop of railers.'

    This was the way in which 'gentlemen wrote for gentlemen' in those days; and all agreed in one thing, that the abolition of the fourpenny stamp would lower the press, as though it could fall into a lower depth than that in which the fourpenny tax writers burrowed.  The press has been freed from all taxation, and the standard of the cheap press is far higher than in its dearest days.  The working-class have found a better way of expression.  Nevertheless, the political and ecclesiastical controversy of our 'betters' still presents samples of the old manner.

    Literature has not always had a civil tongue in its head, and was ready to assist political animosity.  Bute pensioned Dr Johnson and Dr Shebbeare, which caused the wits to say he had pensioned a He-bear and a She-bear.  Dr Shebbeare had been in the pillory and lost his ears, which was the point of the lines —

Witness, ye Hills, ye Johnsons, Scots, Shebbeares,
List to my call, for some of you have ears.

    Byron and Shelley disagreed widely on several questions, but that made no difference in their regard for each other.  Byron had hatreds — Shelley had fanaticisms.  Vegetarianism was one.  Byron did not hesitate to deny outright Shelley's cereal ideal.  Byron sang —

Man's a carnivorous production.
    And must have meals; at least one meal a day.
He cannot live, like woodcocks, upon suction,
    But, like the shark and tiger, must have prey;
Although his anatomical construction
    Bears vegetables in a grumbling way,
Your labouring people think, beyond all question,
    Beef, veal and mutton better for digestion.

    Shelley, walking down Bond Street, composing a poem and munching a new roll for his dinner, would be likely to produce dyspeptic verse that day.  Shelley wrote no line of malice in reply to Byron.  But then these poets were gentlemen.

    One way to disarm personalities when they come is to brave them.  To court them is fatal to yourself; to retaliate fatal to union.  The partisan of a cause ought to be able to dare all opinions.  And all opinions might be dared by those in the right.  There can be no quarrel unless two parties engage in it.  And it is always in the power of one party to prevent a quarrel by refusing to be a party to it.  No man can quarrel with another without the other's consent.  Hence the veto of peace, if not of amity, is always in the hands of one of the disputants.  It is often a duty; it is often indispensable to notice individual error.  But the discharge of such a duty would not be so distasteful to the public as it now is, were it not for the personally disparaging manner in which it is generally done.  If, when objections to a public man must be made, the points were well selected and singly urged, without ill-will, the criticism would be felt to be useful and tolerable.  Instead of this course a miscellaneous fire is often extended to every imaginable fault, and conjectures called in when facts are exhausted, until what was, or should be, public instruction becomes a gratification of private resentment.

    Malevolence is not necessary on the platform, nor in the press.  Canadian journalists told me that Mr Goldwin Smith, by showing in his own writing how a man of genius could be effective without employing dishonouring epithets, had raised the character of the whole Canadian press.

    It is not just to refer to a man's lameness of body; but lameness of mind may be complained of, because that is remediable.  A lame, man would not enter himself in a public race with agile men, and if he enters into public controversy he must be assumed to have mental nimbleness.  But, if he is always behind in his argument, his deficiency in pace may be ascribed to natural causes — to lameness of understanding.  Misfortunes of nature are unlawful allusions.  Canning has not been forgiven for alluding to a Parliamentary opponent as the 'revered and ruptured Ogden.'  The permanent reason for avoiding outrage is that the mugwumps who can imitate nothing else, can imitate unpleasantnesses.

    The debater should keep a sharp eye on an opponent who introduces personalities.  It is the device by which an astute adversary allures his assailant from his gun — so that he is not at hand to discharge it — when the enemy is in front of it.

    Civilisation has imposed laws on contests.  An invading army must not poison the wells of the enemy; a duellist must stand at the assigned distance before he fires; a prize-fighter, is forbidden to hit below the belt; neither man, nor horse, nor boat is allowed to foul a competitor in a race.  But in controversy there is no law, save that of honour, to prevent an adversary assailing an opponent by dishonouring imputations.

    Once, in the United States Assembly, a member in audience, being weary of listening to the member in possession of the House, rose and said, 'Mr Speaker, I should like to know how long that blackguard is to go on tiring me to death in this manner.'  In the Irish House of Commons, Mr Grattan said of Mr Corrie, 'I will not call him villain, because he is a Chancellor of the Exchequer; I will not call him liar, because he is a Privy Councillor; but I will say of him, that he is one who has taken advantage of the privileges of this House to utter language to which, in any other place, my answer would have been a blow.'  A duel was the immediate result.  And if a duel was intended the language was well chosen for the purpose.

    De Morgan relates that the late Professor Vince was once arguing at Cambridge against duelling, and some one said, 'Well, but, Professor, what could you do if anyone called you a liar?'  'Sir,' said the fine old fellow, 'I should tell him to prove it, and if he did prove it, I should be ashamed of myself, and if he didn't he ought to be ashamed of himself.'

    The obvious laws to be observed in controversy seem to be these: —

1.    To consult the improvement of those opposed to you and to this end argue not for resentment, or gratification, or pride, or vanity, but for their enlightenment.

2.    When surmising motives do not surmise the worst, but adopt the best construction the case admits.

3.    To distinguish between the personalities which impugn the judgment and those that criminate character, and not to advance accusations affecting the judgment without distinct and indisputable proof; and never to assail character (where it must be done) on suspicion, probability, belief or likelihood.

4.    Never make an imputation unless some public good is to come out of it.  It is not enough that a charge is true, it must be useful to prefer it before a wise publicist will meddle with it.

5.    Be so sure of your case as to be able to defy the judgment of mankind, and when assailed, maintain self-defence, self-respect, not forgetting justice to those to whom you are opposed.

    Leigh Hunt prophesied long ago that the old philosophic conviction would revive among us, that 'the errors of mankind arise rather from the want of knowledge than the defect of goodness.'  Stupidity can be informed, ignorance can be enlightened, but the collision of interest and passion, self-will and self-opinion, can destroy association, until men acquire justice in speech, and equity towards others.

    The necessity of enforcing this most practical part of rhetoric (the Rhetoric of Dispute), which is taught in no Mechanics' or Literary Institution, is evidenced in the fact that an impartial, impersonal and dispassionate tone is in many eyes almost fatal to prosperity in newspaper and periodical literature.  To the uneducated populace nothing that is just seems spirited.  He who is not offensively personal is pronounced tame.  The rancorous are most relished.  The reason is that most men, when stung by a sense of injury, are naturally precipitated from extreme to extreme.  Their opinions, when sincere, are not produced by the ordinary law of intellectual births, by induction or inference, but are equivocally generated by the heat of fervid emotion, wrought upon by some sense of unbearable oppression.  But all this changes with the growth of knowledge.  Art discards the gaudy colours of the savage; so rhetoric discards savage invective.  Civilisation is a sense of proportion.

    Personalities, even those which relate to defects of understanding, are allowable within the limits of not impugning sanity; but not personal allusions which relate to defect of honour, or veracity.  If you call a man an idiot, you pass the limit of allowable personalities of the mind.  He who thinks another an idiot, should be silent with regard to him.  If a person be an idiot it is of no use arguing with him.  He is incapable of reasoning.  To use such a term towards an adversary is to stop debate — if you believe what you say.  The moment this word is said the friends of the alleged imbecile are up in arms to resent the insult to his understanding, and probably the 'idiot' himself leaps up to retort upon his accuser.  Then there is an end of the subject in debate.  Everybody digresses from it to join in the vindication of the assailed, or of the assailant.

    The moment one person accuses another of want of honour or veracity, the reply is a blow, or a duel, which are held to be justifiable.  If the term is believed it destroys the accused, and he feels justified in destroying his accuser.  He who intends to make dishonouring charges should go before a magistrate.  A term of personal dishonour is a breach of the peace, and the law court, and not the platform, is the proper place to make the charge.  To introduce offensive accusation is to terminate debate by a pernicious digression, and arouses recrimination and passion, through which the rays of truth penetrate not.  This consequence is so well understood that he who causes such digression may be suspected of intending it.

    The mischief of personalities which offend is that persons who cannot argue can recriminate.  A hundred persons can make imputations for ten who can reason.  The discovery of truth in the maze of words and diversity of view requires concentration of attention.  But irrelevancies require no thought and are popular with the majority of hearers who have not thought on these things, or to whom irrelevancies are a relief.




THERE are three points of policy in debate.

1.    The first is the search for the truth — its recognition when found, whether in the mouth of your adversary, or your own.  As Dr Johnson says in his 'Irene': —

Be virtuous ends pursued by virtuous means,
Nor think the intention sanctifies the deed.

No talent, no genius is entitled to esteem, except as the use to which it is put is conducive to the welfare of others.

2.    Since the adversary is the friend of truth, he should never be outraged or humiliated, or he will withdraw himself from the arena, or his friends will if he does not.  Then debate is ended and discredited in public estimation.

3.    Because discussion is the agency of establishing truth, the credit of debate should always be in the minds of both disputants.  Do not be contemptuous or impatient of those whose faculties are not 'on sight,' or perhaps non-existent.  I would listen a reasonable time to a madman.  'Light is still light, whether it pass through coloured glass or even a cracked window.'

    Whether ridicule and satire may be employed in debate, are questions of judgment as well as rule.  'Cicero condescended to employ ridicule against certain chimeras.'  'Condescended' is Gibbon's word, admitting or implying that ridicule is at best but one of the lower forms of argument.  Satire, in the hands of Lucian was, Gibbon thinks, a much more adequate as well as a more efficacious weapon.   Shaftesbury regarded ridicule as 'one of those principal lights' under which things are to be viewed in order to their full recognition.  Truth, it is supposed, may bear all lights.  So it will, but the holders of the ridiculed truth will not.  Most things, owing to time or circumstance — some intrinsically — have an absurd side.  But it requires great dexterity to show it without giving offence.  In politics it requires consummate art to employ ridicule without outraging those held up to laughter.  In religion it is never successful, if the object is conversion.  Instructive ridicule is so difficult; and foolish ridicule is so easy, and commonly coarse and buffoonish, that, without the instinct and cultivation of art, ridicule should not be attempted.  One rule is clear — a cause in a minority should never ridicule the cause of the majority.  The wise profit by Coleridge's warning: 'Truth is a good dog, but beware of barking too closely at the heels of error, lest you get your brains kicked out.'  Those in the majority, political and ecclesiastical, employ ridicule against the minority, without scruple or mercy, but are furious when it is employed against themselves, and resent it dangerously.  It is said by omniscient and self-complacent writers, that 'to argue with folly is to make it feel important.'  But what one may deem folly may be matter of honest and serious conviction on the part of others.  The subject of our ridicule, or satire, may be sacred to them: and there is neither sense nor self-respect in inflicting pain, outrage or humiliation upon sincere persons, however foolish we may deem them.  A master in advocacy, John Stuart Mill, held that, 'in general, opinion contrary to those received, can only obtain a hearing by studied moderation of language and the most cautious avoidance of unnecessary offence, from which they hardly ever deviate, even in the slightest degree without losing ground.'  Sarcasm is mocking, and when without bitterness is enlivening.  Ridicule holds persons or things up to laughter or contempt.  Satire is less offensive, since it reflects on the intellectual oversight of adversaries.  Ridicule is more common, because malice may inspire it.  Satire is more difficult, since it is futile without wit.  Satire, like a polished razor keen, wounds with a touch which is scarcely felt or seen.  Sarcasm, ridicule and satire have always been regarded as bright weapons of controversy, but they require to be used with judgment and, above all, with good temper.

    It is well to avoid words which may mean more than you can prove.  Be chary of saying a thing is 'very' good or 'very' exact, when it may be merely good, and perhaps not that: its exactness may hardly come up to the average, when looked into.  'Most ' is as dangerous as 'very.'  It requires wide knowledge to say a thing is 'most' excellent.  The words 'none' and 'all,' 'every' and 'always,' should be used very warily.  It may require you to go over all mankind, over all time, and every event to justify such wide-reaching terms.

    If you invite opposition, do it with circumspection.  The value of free speech is too great to be trifled with.  Seek conflict only with sincere men.  Concede to your opponent the first word and the last.  Let him appoint the chairman.  Let him speak double time if he desires it.  Debate is objected to as an exhibition in which disputants try to surprise, outwit, take advantage of, and discomfit each other.  To obviate this objection, explain to your opponent the outline of the course you intend to pursue, acquaint him with the books you shall quote, the authorities you shall cite, the propositions you shall endeavour to prove, and the concessions you shall ask.  And do this without expecting the same at his hands.  He will not now be taken unawares.  He will be pre-warned and pre-armed.  He will have time to prepare, and if the truth is in him it ought to come out.

    If you feel that you cannot give all these advantages to your opponent, suspect yourself and your side of the question.  Every conscientious and decided man believes his views to be true, and if consistent he believes them to be impregnable.  Neither in minutes, months nor years are they to be refuted.  Then a man so persuaded may concede advantages to his adversary, and enable him to arm himself beforehand.

    In another particular discussions were esteemed unsatisfactory.  When statement and reply have been made, then came the reply to the reply, and then the reply to that, till the cavil seemed perplexing, tiresome and endless.

    Now, the object of discussion is not the vexatious chase of an opponent, but the contrastive statement of opinion.  Therefore endeavour to select main points, to state them strongly and clearly, and when your opponent replies be content to leave his arguments side by side with your own, for the judgment of the auditors.  Do not disparage an opponent, mis-state his views, or strain his words, and thus, for the sake of a verbal triumph, produce ill-feeling.  Your sole business is with what he says, not how he says it, nor why he says it.  Your aim should be that the audience should lose sight of the speakers, and be possessed with the subject; and that those who come the partisans of persons shall depart the partisans of principles.  The victory in a debate lies not in lowering an opponent, but in raising the subject in public estimation.  Controversial wisdom lies not in destroying the adversary, but in destroying his error — not in making him ridiculous, but in making the audience wise.

    A principle is a path.  Deviation is error and waste of time.  Intellectual courtesy to persons is consideration for others; it is conceding to others the right of acting on their convictions.  But courtesy does not apply to giving up your own conviction nor in concealing it.  He who is without principle is without any guide, not knowing what to do himself.  Relinquishing or concealing personal principle is being useless to others, who are instructed by knowing their neighbours' path as well as knowing their own.

    Never invent opponents — never invent the opinions of opponents.  Take real ones.  The dangerous preference of imagination to reality is perhaps nowhere so apparent as in the construction of controversial books.  Authors satisfy themselves with inventing the arguments of their opponents, when the easiest and most satisfactory course is to extract the most powerful reasoning the other side has produced.  By this course real objectors can be answered instead of fictitious ones.

    A perpetual device, or error of controversialists, is to state as a fact against an adversary their inference from his doctrines, and declare that he means what they say.  After a while, if the assailants have a powerful party on their side, they will assert that the very terms used, in such inference, were the original language of their adversary.  This used to be constantly done with applause in political, ecclesiastical and sectarian controversy.  The practice has not wholly died out yet.  The late Mr Delane inferred from Mr Cobden's expressed opinion in favour of land reform, that he would parcel out the land of the country among the people, and said in the Times that Mr Cobden advised this course — which was never in Mr Cobden's mind nor in his words.  Mr Delane put forth his own inference as Mr Cobden's actual avowal, which he indignantly and successfully repudiated in letters which became famous.

Controversialists make much ado about the onus probandi, meaning the burden of proof, which rests with him who makes an assertion.  He who denies what is asserted is often, without reason, called upon to prove his negative.  Beyond remarking that it is the province of the assertor to prove, accept the logically unfair demand and give the reasons why you hold the negative opinion.  This meets the case as far as a negationist can meet it.  It continues the discussion, and compels it to proceed, and gives the negationist the opportunity of becoming the assailant by request of his adversary.

    Debate requires self-possession — a power to think on your legs.  But even in debate the victory is oftener with the foregone than with the impromptu thinker.  A man who knows his subject well will be forearmed.  He alone can distinctly see the points in dispute, and the nature of the proof or disproof necessary to settle the question.

    Two persons of opposite opinions often mistake the way of coming to a common understanding; as, for instance, when one speaks at the other instead of explaining his own views to him.   Each expects the other to come over to him, which neither is inclined to do, nor intends to do.  A, in expecting B to come to him, assumes that on the part of his opponent there exists a predisposition for his views.  This should never be assumed.  It is the first endeavour of a wise propagandist to create it if it does not exist, and strengthen it if it does — and whether it exists or not, he should always reason as though it did not.  The business of A, the converter, is to meet B on the platform B stands upon, to examine his principles, study his views and turn of thought until he finds some common ground of faith, morals, opinion, or practice, with which he can identify himself.

    There is no easier method of commencing a conversation than by asking a question.  There is no safer introduction to an argument than by asking an opponent what he means, where his meaning is doubtful.  Time and circumstance have given new usage, new senses, and new associations of idea, to words that once had but one meaning.  Most words have now many meanings.  Where the sense in which a word is used is open to doubt — do not assume a meaning, but inquire the sense in which an opponent employs it.

    The Socratic method of disputation or artful questioning (of which Zeno the Eleatic was the author), by which an opponent is entrapped into concessions, and thus confuted, is rather fit for wranglers and sophists than reasoners.  There is too much reason to believe that Socrates condescended to this course often at the expense of ingenuousness.  It is said in his defence that he did it not as the sophists, for the sake of confounding virtue, but for the purer purpose of confounding dexterous vice.  It is, however, beneath the dignity of a reasoner to betray his opponent into the truth.

    Questioning, however, is an essential instrument.  A high authority, Dr Arnold, has put this in a useful light: —

'An inquiring spirit is not a presumptuous one, but the very contrary.  He whose whole recorded life was intended to be our perfect example, is described as gaining instruction in the temple by hearing and asking questions — the one is almost useless without the other.  We should ask questions of our books and of ourselves; what is its purpose — by what means it proceeds to effect that purpose — whether we fully understand the one — whether we go along with the other — do the arguments satisfy us — do the descriptions convey lively and distinct images to us — do we understand all the allusions to persons or things?  In short, does our mind act over again from the writer's guidance what his acted before? do we reason as he reasoned, conceive as he conceived, think and feel as he thought and felt? or if not, can we discern where and how far we do not, and can we tell why we do not?'

    Questioning has also a place in rhetoric as well as in research.  Frankly conducted, it is a mode of conviction without offence.  To whatever an opponent urges, with which we do not agree, of course we have some objection.  Put this objection incidentally, or ask as a question, what answer can be given to it?  This is a good conversational mode of debate, where the improvement of an opponent, rather than a triumph over him, is the object.  It is not showy, but it is searching.

    In a similar way confidence may be acquired by diffident speakers.  A novitiate conversationalist is shy of taking part in debating a topic, lest he should not be able to sustain himself.  To such I have said — put your argument in the form of an objection which some would urge, and beg some one of the company to tell you what he would say in reply.  If to this answer you have an objection further, put that also in the questioning form; for a man would be able to ask a question who would never be able to make a speech.  Wise members of Parliament know this.  Once in conversation, the diffident will speak freely enough — perhaps too freely.  A coward will fight when he grows warm in strife.  By questioning a novice may learn the best answers others can give to his own argument, and without exposure learn his own weakness or strength, or that of others.

    In interpreting the words of an adversary, he who replies has to put some construction upon it.  It is safest to put the best.  He is nearly always wrong who puts the worst, whether in debate or in daily life.  To put the best construction possible on a proposition in dispute is to raise debate to a higher level and maintain it there.




SPEAKING a few years ago at a Liverpool college, Mr Gladstone, who is always for fairness to adversaries, said: 'The day had gone by when reticence or railing at opponents was regarded as a sufficient defence of opinion.'  Assailants of religious tenets must be met by reason and not by railing.  In words to this effect he counselled that adversaries should be met by argument.  Mr Gladstone is as much an ecclesiastical as a political authority, and no one of his eminence as a Christian has, in my time, justified reasoning controversy.  It is only those who, consciously or unconsciously, lack confidence in the truth of their opinions who decry honest discussion.  To him who believes he has the truth, opposition is his opportunity.  He who understands that the sincere adversary is the friend of truth will find debate a great advantage.  Your opponent may be the enemy of your opinions, but he is the friend of your improvement.  The more ably be confronts you the more he serves you.  The gods, it is said, have not given to mortals the privilege of seeing themselves as others see them; but, by a happy compensation in human affairs, it is given to adversaries to supply what the gods deny.  They afford that indispensable light of contrast which enables you to discover the truth if hidden from you, or the opportunity to display the truth if you possess it.  'A good writer,' says Godwin, 'must have ductility of thought that shall enable him to put himself in the place of his reader, and not suffer him to take it for granted, because he understands himself, that every one who comes to him for information will understand him.  He must view his phrases on all sides, and be aware of all the senses of which, they are susceptible.'  But this facility can nowhere be so certainly acquired as in debate.

    A master of debate amid orators of renown — Edmund Burke, said: 'He that wrestles with us strengthens our nerves and sharpens our skill.  Our antagonist is our helper.  This amiable conflict with difficulty obliges us to an intimate acquaintance with our object, and compels us to consider it in all its relations.  It will not suffer us to be superficial.'

    Discussion commences without prepossession, and ends without dogmatism when each disputant is more anxious to explain than defend his opinions.  As an established truth is that which is generally received after it has been generally examined, it is evident that, though truth may be discovered by research, it can only be established by debate.

    The only verification of truth possible, is when propositions supposed to be true are subjected to criticism.  The most competent writers (as Samuel Bailey, to wit) on the means of ascertaining Truth, agree that, while true things are true in themselves, and may come to be accepted without controversy, no one can be sure of the truth of very important propositions until they have been openly, freely, and universally discussed in, a fair field of inquiry.  All Milton asked was 'a free and open encounter' for truth, and no one could doubt its victoriousness.  Like all intrepid advocates of a cause in a minority, Milton was too sanguine.  A 'free and open' encounter is not enough — it should be a fair encounter also.  If disputants are unequally matched as to powers of expression, extent of knowledge or means of obtaining it, or leisure for preparation for the encounter — truth for that time may not obtain the advantage.  People seem not to think that debaters should be as equally matched as may be.  A savage undrilled against a soldier trained — a racer lame against one swift of foot — a village spouter against a London actor — a pedagogue against a professor — would be no fair encounter however 'free and, open' it might be.

That is no fight — as everybody knows —
Where only one side deals the blows,
    And the other merely bears them.

    It is because common-sense conditions of fairness are overlooked in discussion that many decry debate as uninstructive or disappointing.  The sureness of a truth is known only when it obtains acceptance after every competent person has been heard, who has anything to say against it.  Freedom of thought, and the free and equal criticism of it, is a condition of truth and progress.  It is the well-understood interest of every community to permit, to encourage, and to give every man who can think a chance of adding to the sum of Truth.  At the same time, no person can hope to obtain from men of thought that indispensable criticism which they can give unless the advocate of truth is himself studiously fair and friendly in speech.

    Every man, said Walpole, and later, Pitt, has his price.  Whether either had sounded the venality of patriotism and fixed the market price of his own virtue I know not.  If Pitt was incorruptible, as is believed, he should not have said what he did.  But with more truth and less offensiveness it may be said that every man has his reason, which, when once presented to him, will sway him; and to find this out is the problem rhetoric has to solve.  I am not more favourable than Hood to the plan of 'dropping truth gently as if it were china, and likely to break.'  But if a fair case be so stated as not to mortify others by arrogance, no annoy by ceaseless importunity, nor disgust by seeming vanity, but accompanied by evident indications of disinterested sincerity, it will generally prove acceptable.  It is not the truth men hate, but the disagreeable auxiliaries which so often attend its enunciation.  Bacon, I think it is, who says in his regal manner: —

'Whosoever has his mind fraught with many thoughts, his wits and understanding do clarify and break up, in the communicating and discoursing with another; he tosseth his thoughts more easily; he marshalleth them more orderly; he seeth how they look when they are turned into words; finally, he waxeth wiser than himself; and that more by an hour's discourse than by a day's meditation.'

    Very few people are capable of charity without compromise, or can distinguish between them.  Charity recognises how a man may come by his error without being conscious of it.  Compromise is suffering some error to remain, out of courtesy or expediency, in order to obtain co-operation in carrying into practice a portion of truth which would otherwise be rejected.

    It is of no use saying you cannot find a common ground for debate.  He who cannot find it, cannot convert.  How can persons, any more than bodies, cohere, who never touch?  So long as each denies to the other a share of reason on his side — so long as each maintains an infallibility of pretension to complete truth — they both assume what is contrary to the nature of things, and exclude the common ground which must be established between them, where truth and error can join issue.  There is no impassable gulf between contending men or contending opinions but that dug by pride and passion.  We all have a common starting point.  We have a common consciousness of impression — a common nature to investigate — a common sincerity to actuate us — truth is our common object, and we have a common interest in discovering it.  Nature made us friends: it is mostly false pride or false impressions that make us enemies.  A common ground exists between all disputants.  This is a relevant fact too little attended to, or, indeed, too little understood.  The common ground which exists is not one which policy makes, but one that nature provides.

    These remarks regard conviction as depending upon truth, not upon forms of procedure.  Nothing is recommended here which is inconsistent with truth — no cunning questioning, no sophistical entrapment.  The sole precepts are those of condescension and contrast.  Find a common ground of agreement, and you find a common point of sight, from which all objects are seen in the same light; and a clear plane is obtained on which principles can be drawn, and a perfect outline of truth and error displayed.  He who has the truth will make it plainer by relevant elucidation.  Differences are often made wider by irrelevant, repulsive debate.  Differences which did not exist are often created in this way.  All honest men desire the truth, and there is a way in which all can find it.  The understandings of men commonly run in a given channel — each thinker looks as it were through a telescope of his own.  It is only in debate that he sees it through the telescope of his opponent, which clarifies his own views.  Let no man conclude because no immediate change of opinion is manifest in debate, that none has taken place.  The life of thought may be begun.  Seed brought from Egypt was found to grow more than eighteen centuries after it was garnered.

    The supreme advantage of debate is that it compels a man to think.  A man is not a man unless he is a thinker — he is a fool having no ideas of his own.  If he happens to live among men who do think, he browses, like an animal, on their ideas.  He is a sort of kept-man, being supported by the thoughts of others.  He is what in England we call a pauper, who subsists upon out-door relief allowed him by men of intellect.  Nevertheless, there are persons in every assembly who, like Curran, have powers and know it not; or, like Macklin, who was more than forty years old before he knew that he

Was the Jew
Whom Shakespeare drew.

Thousands have powers unsuspected by themselves or others.  They may be compared to that daughter of the first Duke of Marlborough —

All nature's charms in Sunderland appear,
Bright as her eyes, and as her reason clear;
Yet still their force, to men not safely known,
Seems undiscovered to herself alone.

    The defence of debate — like that of national education — is that it discovers and trains latent talent for the service and exaltation of the nation.

    Oral examination surpasses all other forms.  Discussion after many addresses would be of great public value.  The argument against it, that it would lead to strife and discord, is one reason why it should be practised.  Men are childish intellectually, while in that state in which debate must be prohibited.  If they be children, train them in the art of debate until they are translated into men.  To admit debate after an address, it is said, enables factious individuals to destroy the effect of what has been said.  It is often the fault of the speaker if anyone is able to efface the effect of his speech.

    As a general rule, discussions, set and accidental, are good.  A twofold reality by their means is brought to bear on the public understanding, more exciting than that of any other intellectual agency.  An opinion that is worth holding is worth diffusing, and to be diffused it must be thought about; and when men think on true principles they become adherents — but only those adherents are worth having who have thought on both sides, and discussion alone makes them do that.  True, men may read on both sides; but it seldom happens that men who are impressed by one side care to read the other.  In discussions they are obliged to hear the other side.  If men do read both sides, unless they read a 'discussion,' they do not find all the facts on one side specially considered on the other.  In a discussion read, unless read at one sitting, the strength of any impression and the clearness of the argument on one side is partly lost before the opponent's side is perused.  But in an oral debate, the adaptation of fact to fact is more complete — the pro and con are heard successively, the light of contrast is full and clear, and both sides are weighed at the same time, when the eye of the mind is sharply fixed on the balance.  If the disputants are intellectual gladiators so much the better, provided they are in earnest.  The stronger they are, the mightier and the more instructive the conflict.  It is said that people come out of such discussions as they go into them, that the same partisans shout or hiss on the same side all through.  This is not always true, and no matter if it is.  The work of conviction is often done though the audience may not show it.  They may break your head, and afterwards own you were right.  Human pride forbids the confession, but change is effected in spite of pride.  But if an audience remain the same at night, they will not be the same the next morning.  Conviction is begun in discussion which is not ended there.  He who hastily changes his views is to be suspected of weakness or carelessness; or caprice.  The steady, inquiring and deliberate thinker is the safest convert.

    It is a maxim of the schoolmen that we never really know what a thing is, unless we are also able to give a sufficient account of its opposite.  This is the maxim of contrast that enters into all effective persuasion.  Professor Bain, in his 'Essay on Early Philosophy,' remarks: —

The essence of the Dialectic Method is to place side by side with every doctrine and its reasons, all opposing doctrines and their reasons, allowing these to be stated in full by the persons holding them.  No doctrine is to be held as expounded, far less proved, unless it stands in parallel array to every other counter-theory, with all that can be said for each.  For a short time this system was actually maintained and practised; but the execution of Socrates gave it its first check, and the natural intolerance of mankind rendered its continuance impossible.  Since the Reformation, struggles have been made to regain for the discussion of questions generally — philosophical, political, moral and religious, the two-sided procedure of the law-courts, and 'perhaps never more strenuously than now.'  Remember that —

Through mutual intercourse and mutual aid,
Great deeds are done, and great discoveries made;
The wise new wisdom on the wise bestow,
Whilst the lone thinker's thoughts come slight and slow.

    Persons whom you take to be wise and are bound to think honest, will arrest discussion and conceal their own ignorance by insisting that the point in dispute is a mere affair of terms.  'What's in a name?' they say.  Everything.  Truth is in the right name.  The wrong name misleads.  Difference in terms means difference of ideas.  To one who says he means the same as you, only under a different name, ask him to take your name and thus indicate the unity of his idea.  He will do nothing of the kind, and you will soon see there is a difference in his mind.  But for debate he would go on believing there was none.

    It is no mean excellence in debate that it alone relieves a man of honourable conscience of responsibility.  How can anyone bear the idea of putting forth opinions for which others, who adopt them, must in this life or the next be answerable — and he accords them no opportunity of the self-defence of debate?  He who is not infallible must often be in error, even where he is most earnest, and he is answerable for whatever he says or does which influences the life of others.  Discussion alone can save him from the consequences of his advocacy, so far as it may be erroneous.


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