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sufficient to ensure conviction. When Robespierre, who was a monster of cruelty, who well deserved the death to which he had doomed hundreds of innocent victims, was first impeached by “Louvet," the speaker did not so much insist on his crimes against the people at large as on his offences against the members of the National Convention, before whom the accusation was made. He concluded thus :
“Robespierre, I accuse thee (for the Republican simplicity of language which the French call 'tutoyer' was then adopted,) I accuse thee of having for a long time slandered the purest of the patriots. I accuse thee of it; and I am convinced that thou hast no just claim to the honour of a citizen, and, above all, to that of a representative of the people. I accuse thee of having calumniated these same men in those terrible days of the first week of September ; that is to say, at a period when every imputation that was uttered by thee amounted to a death warrant. I accuse thee of having to the best of thy ability misrepresented, slandered, and persecuted the representatives of the nation; of having misrepresented their authority, and brought it into contempt. I accuse thee of having continually thrust thyself forward as an object of worship, of having permitted thyself to be pointed out as the only virtuous man in France, and to be designated as the only man who could save the people. I accuse thee of having oppressed, by every means that intrigue and cruelty could suggest, the electoral assembly of the department of Paris; and, in conclusion, I accuse thee of having plainly and distinctly aimed at supreme .power."
This discourse produced the greatest excitement amongst the deputies present; and it is to be regretted that it was not so far successful as to have stayed the career of that monster who was thus de
nounced, and have thus saved many lives of innocent victims.
The extract to which I have referred calls attention to the period of the first French Revolution. It is very remarkable that this age of liberty was not at all fruitful in celebrated orators. The French Revolution produced great generals, and many distinguished scientific men, but no great orator whose reputation has extended to other countries or outlived his own time; for the names of Vergniaud, Gaudet, Barbarouse, Salles, Kersaint, Henri Larivière, Languinais, Fermont, Rabaut Saint Etienne, though celebrities in their day, are now almost unknown. There is a favourite theory that eloquence flourishes with liberty, but experience shows that such a soil is by no means necessary to its growth, nor always congenial to it.
The reigns of Louis the XIV. and XV., though by no means favourable to the liberty of the subject, were remarkable in the history of French litererature for the accomplished orators that adorned these periods.
Pulpit eloquence, in particular, attained a preeminence that has never since been equalled in France. I am not about to impose upon you extracts from French sermons, but I may mention that Voltaire, whose prejudices were certainly not in favour of ecclesiastics, selected in his “Encyclopedia," as an illustration of the word “ Eloquence,” an extract from a sermon of Massilon, and on a subject, too, peculiarly antagonistic to the views which Voltaire himself advocated. In stating that the period
of the Revolution was deficient in orators, I must not be supposed to have forgotten “Mirabeau," who has been aptly styled “the Demosthenes of France ;" but Mirabeau was "before" and not “of” the French Revolution : he died in the year 1791, at the age of forty-two, and his death was a national calamity. He was preparing to control the popular movement, and he was the last barrier that restrained the torrent of democracy within proper limits. His remains were the first that were buried in the Pantheon—to be removed in a few years to make room for the body of Marat.
His most famous discourse was in support of the proposition of the celebrated financier, Necker, who proposed a contribution of one-fourth of the revenue, or, what is more intelligible, an income tax of five shillings in the pound.
The debate in the National Assembly had lasted a considerable time; Mirabeau had had spoken three times, but had failed to induce the Assembly to adopt his views. It was growing late, and no decision had been arrived at; (when I say late, it was near four o'clock in the afternoon ;) the patience of the deputies was nearly exhausted ; there was every probability of an adjournment without funds having been voted, and this would have resulted in national bankruptcy, when Mirabeau made one final effort of eloquence, and carried the Assembly triumphantly with him. And yet a similar speech would not have persuaded a British House of Commons to pass a similar measure.
The speech to which I have last referred was unprepared, and delivered on the impulse of the moment; but, as a rule, the best and most effective speeches have been carefully prepared. Ancient orators bestowed considerable care on the preparation of their speeches, and some of the best of the orations of Cicero were never delivered at all. Five of the seven orations against Verres were never spoken. The second philippic against Mark Anthony was never delivered ; and it is doubtful whether Cicero's best speech, that in defence of Milo, was ever delivered ; for Milo, when he read the speech at Marseilles, to which he was banished, consoled himself by saying, that if the speech had been delivered, he would not have enjoyed the luxury of eating the excellent oysters for which Marseilles was then celebrated. ·
One of the most remarkable speeches in modern times—published but not delivered—was the speech reported as delivered on Penenden Heath, by Shiel, on the 24th October, 1828. This very remarkable meeting was convened to discuss the Catholic question, which was the great political topic of the day, The meeting was held in the open air ; there were present about thirty or forty thousand persons of the yeomen of Kent, about ten thousand of the men of Kent being on horseback. The speakers addressed the meeting from waggons. I have heard the particulars from a near relative of mine who accompanied Shiel from London. As he was driving up he was met by one of the reporters of the Sun newspaper, who asked him for a copy of his speech, saying that he was aware that Mr. Shiel was in the habit of committing to writing the speeches that he proposed to deliver. Shiel hesitated, saying that possibly he might not have an opportunity of speaking, but he ultimately yielded, and the draft of the speech was immediately forwarded to London. 'As the meeting progressed it became more and more difficult to procure a hearing, and Mr. Shee, afterwards Judge Shee, and Sheil both came prepared to speak, and both stood up together. Lord Camden, the lord lieutenant of Kent, who stood near the high sheriff, and who was very anxious to hear Sheil, but did not know his appearance, seeing two persons presenting themselves, and hearing cries of "Sheil," and "Shee,” which could not be well distinguished, assumed that the stouter and more imposing looking of the candidates was the great Irish orator, and thus Mr. Shee was brought before the meeting and delivered his speech, whilst Shiel was silenced, for he only uttered a few sentences, late in the evening, when the meeting was breaking up. The printed speech was a noble effort of eloquence, intended for a hostile audience. It avoided every topic likely to give offence, whilst every argument calculated to persuade and conciliate, was skilfully interwoven with highlywrought appeals, which this skilful orator dwelt on with a felicity of expression that has scarcely ever been surpassed. It is exceedingly interesting to observe the opinions entertained by great men of their contemporaries, and possibly of their rivals.