Abbildungen der Seite

the fashion of the day and make the gems portable and attractive, or juvenile impatience and fastidiousness will condemn to the casket what ought to be worn on the breast and finger. The good Book says of guiding thoughts-" Thou shalt teach them diligently to thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thy hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes."

So let it be with the grand inspiring sentiments of our own times. Let them be an ever-present shield against degeneracy.

[ocr errors]

This little book pretends to no completeness as a repository of American oratory. Its aim is simply patriotic. I wish to recall the noble spirit of our fathers as an example and inspiration to the young people who owe them so much. The prosperity and happiness they won for us seem but too likely to make us forget their services. The grand results of their protest against oppression are so satisfying, that we sometimes forget to recur to the principles on which they acted, and in defence of which they perilled all. Reverence for them and their doings needs to be kept alive in the minds of our children by every possible means. Particularly in the course of their education should we be careful to store their memories with the thoughts and expressions once so potent as watchwords of freedom, lest the excitements of a life hurried and enterprising as that which our unexampled condition opens for them, should make them sordid and unreflecting, intent on gain and pleasure, rather than on nobleness and devotion to duty.

As specimens of artistic eloquence, these extracts do not profess to claim the highest place. More sounding periods, more labored sentences, more showy and fascinating declamation might easily be found. But this early American eloquence came warm from the heart; its argumentative part was inspired by reason, experience, high principle and manly courage. Its charm is its truth and sincerity; its power lies in its confident appeal to conscience, honor and common


sense; the materials of its pathos were real sufferings and impending ruin. Its relations with our present daily life are close and important; its relations to our future well-being perhaps even more so. It has the double value of simplicity and a sublime earnestness-qualities which we may well desire to see perpetuated in our American public speaking. It offers a dignified manly protest against the flashy tone too popular in our day, by the contrast it exhibits between the pithy things men say when great interests and high principles are at stake, and the floods of talk they pour forth when inspired only by the desire to display their powers or gain 'some petty object.

In making my selections, I found I could not do justice to the spirit of the time, or give a faithful picture of the state of things, without adding a few specimens of the Parliamentary speeches of that excited period. There were noble souls on both sides of the water, and men who spoke for Liberty and in our favor at the foot of the throne whose occupant was determined on our humiliation. They deserve our gratitude and our remembrance; for their passionate appeals for justice to us at once advanced our cause there and inspired the hearts of our patriots at home. They are to be honored as disinterested friends who adopted our cause and became our advocates, from a sense of justice and right, and with no motive of personal interest or mere partiality.

The plain Saxon English of most of the speeches is also, in my view, no slight recommendation to them as exercises in speaking and reading. Fashion infringes too much upon this; and although the best writers of our language are now trying by precept and example to return to the simplicity and purity of elder times, the popular tendency is in an opposite direction. It has become really hard, in our country, to write and speak plain, pure English, such foothold has a mixed and ambitious diction obtained. I would gladly habituate the ears of our young people to the language of Dryden, Pope, Addison, Goldsmith, as used by Fisher Ames, Patrick Henry, Franklin, Hamilton, and Washington.

In order to give some slight historic value to the extracts, I have thought it well to arrange them in the order of time, and to add, occasionally, a few words explanatory of the circumstances and feeling of the hour. History is made more interesting, and learned more easily in proportion as we can make it personal instead of abstract. The men who act are more engaging than the deeds they accomplish; stirring speeches make more impression upon fresh young minds than the grand results which those speeches helped to bring forth. As a companion to the study of history, this slight aid may prove useful.

With a similar idea, I have interspersed the extracts with some of the more popular songs of our early and struggling days, and with other verses breathing a kindred spirit. The old songs have no great poetic value; some of them are even uncouth in their versification, and all have an old-fashioned jingle which does not accord very well with the music of Tennyson, or the stately elegance of Bryant. Yet there is a soul in them, and they have a right to live. Our children should not forget or despise them, but keep them sacredly, as we do the quaint old china of our grandmothers, or the centipedal tables which bear the aroma, if they never graced the narrow cabin, of the May Flower. I have never yet happened to find a school-boy or girl who knows anything about "Adams and Liberty," or "Liberty Tree," or who could repeat Hail Columbia from beginning to end.

Let us not so worship the dress of things, that we undervalue the Spirit, which is life. C. M. K.

NEW YORK, July, 1860.

NOTE. This work not having been brought by Mrs. Kirkland beyond the beginning of the Rebellion, it has been thought best to give additional value to the collection by introducing some specimens of the oratory and poetry which have been called forth by the events of the past four years. It is proper also to mention that the notes, which formed a part of the compiler's original plan, have been added by another hand.

NEW YORK, November, 1865.

[blocks in formation]
[subsumed][ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]


[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]
« ZurückWeiter »