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Edmund Burke

Photos mature from a fortruit by Sir Joshua Reynolds


HS famous Inglo-Irish crator was born in Dublin in 1730
If a family of ancient Norman descent. He was educated at

Trinity College, Dublin, and early in life made his mark in literature. Samuel Johnson termed him, at this period, “the first man in England." Later lie entered upon a political career which was stil mere brilliant. He alone of English statesmen had an intimate krowledge of imerica, to which country by word and deed he irured a true friend. His eloquence reached its height, how. ever, in his denunciatis a? of British rule in India unrer Warren Histings Vacaulay caüid him, “in aptitude to comprelrension and nich: us if imagination, suijerior to every orator, ancient modern."












1900 a



T is a truth of impressive significance that enthusiasm for

civil and religious liberty has been, in all ages of history,

the leading motive of oratory. Men to whom the gift of eloquence has been vouchsafed seem almost invariably to be inspired to put forth their greatest and most memorable efforts in the cause of God, or of freedom. Demosthenes, in the porticos and Senate chambers of ancient Greece, attained his sublimest height when urging his countrymen to resist the aggressions of Philip of Macedon, who meditated the overthrow of Grecian republicanism. At a later day, Marcus Tullius Cicero thundered forth his denunciations of the conspirator Catiline, because he knew that the success of that conspiracy meant the ruin of Roman institutions. No other cause could so have fired the spirit of these men; and many of the great national tragedies of history have been due to the fact that the people who heard them speak turned aside from their warnings and arguments, and followed the lower paths of material expediency and selfish


In early Christian and mediæval times the occasions of oratory were mainly religious; for the doctrines of Christianity were then more absorbing than political ones: mankind, indeed, having fallen under the dominion of temporal tyranny in all civil affairs, and therefore finding their best consolation in aspirations toward spiritual emancipation. Arguments on points of theological controversy also assume a prominent position in the recorded eloquence of those days; because the true interpretation of ambiguous questions of this kind seemed to the contestants to involve matters of pre-eminent import to the welfare of the life beyond the grave. But when, a thousand years ago, the beginnings of a nation

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first assembled in the little island of Britain, and the Saxons and Angles and Danes and Norsemen were becoming welded together into something like a homogeneous people, the instinct for freedom of speech and self-conduct once more took a foremost place in men's minds; and the prayers of John Knox, the dying address of Thomas Cranmer at the stake, the dauntless declaration of John Eliot and of many another, bore witness to the fact that the men of England were destined to be the political orators of the modern world. Here was a nation which must needs be free; and prophets arose among them, able and resolute to give noble and memorable utterance to the vague tendencies of the masses.

Their words became the framework on which the fabric of the future constitution of the empire was to be erected: and each period of their eloquence meant the enfranchisement and felicity of myriads still unborn.

It was not until after Magna Charta had been wrung from John's reluctant pen, however, and Parliament had taken its place as the true court of appeal and forum of the nation, that British eloquence attained any considerable and continuous volume.

The House of Commons became, inevitably and spontaneously, a permanent school of oratory: in which were educated, and where contended, not a few of the greatest masters of human speech that have ever lived. The addresses of Oliver Cromwell, unobservant though many of them seem of the classic canons of public utterance, have within them an iron force and intensity of purpose that give them a controlling influence upon the mind: while Lord Digby's speech against Strafford, and the latter's wonderful reply, show that the art of eloquence was having a new birth after the sleep of ages. The persuasiveness of Taylor and Leighton and the burning conviction of Bunyan and Barrow served to enlarge and deepen the sphere of oratorical activity; the homely ardor of John Wesley recalled the heavenly earnestness of the early Christian epochs; and at length the questions arising upon the disaffection and revolt of the American colonies had the effect of breeding a company of parliamentary giants, whose achievements, when at their best, have seldom been equalled, and perhaps never have been surpassed, in any epoch, ancient or modern. At no time, certainly, were so many

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