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appeal had all the impressive character of a prayer, and almost the sacred solemnity of an oath.
The real question at issue was the plain infraction of the law, which forbade that any public honours should be conferred on a citizen who had not passed his accounts, and unfortunately Demosthenes was in that position when Ctesiphon voted him a crown. But the skilful orator avoided any reference to this point. He assumed that the question to be discussed was his whole public conduct; to this he applied the power of his eloquence. He urged his devotion to the state, and his honesty of purpose, notwithstanding some unfortunate events that had resulted from his advice, and he thus carried with him the votes of the great majority of the assembly. His adversary retired to Rhodes, and established there a school of eloquence. Reading one day for his pupils both orations, his was much praised, but that of Demosthenes was received with thunders of applause. “What would your feelings have been,” said Aeschines to his pupils, “had you heard him deliver it?” As a display of oratory this speech is undoubtedly very striking, but the successful result must be attributed to the conviction of the speaker's honesty, and the identity of feeling with his audience, which he carefully impressed on them, and on which he took care to keep their attention steadily fixed.
Some remarkable instances of the orator identifying himself with his audience are presented in the discourses of St. Paul, who was unquestionably an
erudite scholar and an accomplished speaker. He moulded his topics and modified his language to suit the particular locality in which he delivered his discourses, and the feelings of the audience to which they were addressed. Thus, when speaking at Jerusalem, he tells his hearers that he is a Jew; and though born at Tarsus in Cilicia, that he was brought up in the city where he was then addressing them, at the feet of Gamaliel ; that he was taught according to the law of the fathers, zealous “as you all are this day."
Such an address was highly calculated to make a favourable impression on a Jewish audience. And, again, Paul knowing that one portion of his hearers were Sadducees and others Pharisees, he cried out in the council, "Men, brethren, I am a Pharisee;" and he intimates that he derived those tenets from his father. The result was a dissension between the Pharisees and Sadducees, and the multitude was divided;" and though a scene of violence resulted from it, the speaker undoubtedly secured some adherents from the announcement which he made of his religious opinions.
But the same apostle, when addressing the Athenians, does not announce himself as a Jew; he endeavours to enlist the attention and favour of his audience by introducing a quotation from one of their own poets, as he says, for he cites Aratus, a native of Cilicia, his own countryman. And though the Greeks had established themselves at Cilicia, and had founded important institutions for instruction at Tarsus, the inhabitants were, strictly speaking, not Greeks, though in addressing an audience at Athens, the speaker was not likely to refer to this distinction. To come down to instances in modern times. The late Lord Palmerston, who had a thorough knowledge of human nature, passed as an Irishman in his visits to his property in this country, or when receiving deputations from Ireland; but when presiding at an agricultural dinner in Hampshire he used to tell the farmers assembled on the occasion that he was one of themselves, and that he was born within a few miles from Romsey, where they were then assembled.
Lord Wenslydale used invariably to mention at city banquets, when he had occasion to make a speech there, that he had got the first brief he ever held from the Corporation of the City of London ; and I presume the citizens who heard him felt honoured by an eminent judge and distinguished man associating his success with his connection with them.
There is one topic by which accomplished speakers seek to engage the favourable attention of their hearers, and it is so generally resorted to that it must have been found highly conducive to success, and that is flattery. You will find it used in every variety of public speaking, addressed to every class of audience, from those whose rank, education, and experience might be supposed to render them impassive, to the congregated thousands of impulsive Irishmen who were never tired of hearing from the most popular orator of modern times that they were “the finest peasantry on the face of the earth,” and, of course, they believed it.
One of the most remarkable instances of the skilful application of highly-seasoned flattery is to be found in the celebrated speech of our countryman, the Right Hon. Edmund Burke, before the House of Lords, assembled at Westminster Hall, on the occasion of the impeachment of Warren Hastings.
This celebrated trial, that lasted altogether about seven years, did not in itself possess much that was likely to excite public interest. The transactions that led to the impeachment took place in India, a country by no means so well known at that time as it is now, and amongst a people whose interests did not engross much public attention in England.
The charges against Warren Hastings consisted of twenty-three distinct articles of impeachment, comprised in 460 closely printed pages; and although the ex-governor was accused of various acts of cruelty and oppression, the British public generally knew very little of the populations or individuals who were alleged to have suffered from his injustice; and we must attribute the intense and prolonged excitement which continued during the whole of these proceedings to the interest produced by the unrivalled eloquence of the men then engaged in that contest, amongst whom stood pre-eminently conspicuous two of our countrymen and both natives of this city - Richard Brindsley Sheridan and Edmund Burke.
I had proposed to illustrate some of my observations by copious extracts from the former celebrated orator, but I find that “Sheridan” has been specially selected as the subject of his lecture by a gentleman far more competent to do justice to his name and reputation than I am, and I think it unfair to intrude on what, for this occasion, he has made his own property.
I may, however, be permitted to excite your curiosity to hear some specimens of the eloquence of Richard Brindsley Sheridan, by stating that he delivered a speech in the House of Commons, on the impeachment of Warren Hastings, that appears to have elicited more admiration, and been the subject of more enthusiastic praise, than any other effort of eloquence that I am aware of. Pitt said of it “That it surpassed all the eloquence of ancient and modern times; that it possessed everything that genius or art could furnish to agitate or control the human mind.” Fox declared that “all he had ever heard, all he had ever read, when compared to it dwindled into nothing, and vanished like vapour before the sun.” Burke pronounced it to be “the most astonishing effort of eloquence, argument, and art of which there was any record or tradition.”
Byron described it thus :
“ When the loud cry of trampled Hindostan
Arose to heaven in her appeal to man,