Posts Tagged ‘oratory’

PATRICK HENRY  (1736-1799) US



Patriot, Orator




Patrick Henry was not a learned man but had a powerful and persuasive mind  and eloquence to match. The concluding parts of the speech he made on the floor of the Burgesses, Virginia on May 1765 in the wake of the Stamp Act he said,   “Caesar had his Brutus, Charles the First his Cromwell, and George the Third..” There were cries of ‘Treason’ from the assembly. He proceeded in a solemn tone,”…may profit from their example. If this be treason make the most of it.”

The only flaw was the manner of his speaking bedazzled his audience too well to take to heart the substance of what he said, and as Thomas Jefferson once put it succinctly,  “ when he ceased to speak I asked myself what the devil has he said?”

“I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or death.” Immortal sentences ever to come out of a man.  His oratory prevented others from seeing in him a role that made George Washington a statesman or Jefferson, a political thinker.

An indifferent scholar, a failure  who went bankrupt twice in seven years, he married at 18 and had 17 children. With no prospects he lived aimlessly in the backwoods and at the age of 24 he took stock of himself. Since he had a gift of the gab he went to study law. At the time momentous events were shaping the destiny of the colonists. From Virginia he ‘started the ball of the Revolution rolling.’ The crown offered him many posts outside Virginia which he refused. When revolution did come he saw himself an American and not a Virginian. But he never fully made that transition. 

Who doesn’t recall Dr King’s Speech, ‘Í have a dream…’speech or Churchill’s war time speeches? Sincerity of the speaker made it resonate even this day. Now can anyone recall a single speech of Adolf Hitler? Hitler was a demogogue whose appeal didn’t go beyond the primitive baseline of his public. Rapterously the nation stood to attention with the Nazi salute but not a single line that carried truth of the man nor from any genuine conviction. No wonder, we ask ourselves what had he beyond his toothbrush moustache?









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Make Love and Not War

The Hare was beginning to be a celebrity. He spoke on all subjects and soon word went out that he would be addressing a mass rally. The date and the venue were given out beforehand.
The venue was a dustbowl that could hold some thousands. On the day he had chosen the subject : Constancy in Love.
All the tumbling weeds of the land had gravitated to the spot to hear the mighty words of Mr. Hare.He was pleased at this.

He began warming up on the theme of love. The tumbling weeds in the front were rapt in attention.He spoke of being steadfast. His audience nodded vigorously. He could not believe they were soon rolling excitedly and pushing against the crowd at the back. Halfway through he lost his audience who were all airborne. The sponsors were sure his speech was perfect. Pulling out a wad of notes they said, ‘Take the balance due to you. Wonderful delivery and love must be wonderful. Ahem.’ With that they left. Only Mr. Hare and his manager were left. Mr. Hare asked somewhat uneasy if he spoke well above the heads of the audience. His manager, a weasel was sure,’ Hurricane Sue ,when she passes needs no words. She sure carries her audience with her. All the way.’
Later when Mr. Hare announced the topic he insisted it was ‘Peaceful Co-existence. As usual Mr. Weasel made the hall ready.
On seeing porcupines, hairy beasts, creepies and crawlies filing in he sighed. He advised in a whisper not to show their appreciation by crowding around the speaker.
Later during a harangue to the Heavyweights he chose the topic. ‘A World without War.’
Lions who were among the audience stopped Mr. Hare in the middle of the speech to say, ‘Had you spoken from experience you would have convinced us.’ Mr. Musk Ox stood up to add, ‘What do you know of head butting?

That was a cue for the assembled animals to leave the hall.
Moral: virtual knowledge that one acquires from Internet will not cut an onion. But tears that one feels at the cutting-board are real.

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Georges-Jacques Danton (1759-1794)
According to a biographer, “Danton’s height was colossal, his make athletic, his features strongly marked, coarse, and displeasing; his voice shook the domes of the halls” The pen portrait is drawn after a painting by Mlle. Charpentier. Danton studied law and became a lawyer in Paris. Danton’s first appearance in the Revolution was as president of the Cordeliers club, whose name derived from the former convent of the Order of Cordeliers, where it met. One of many clubs important in the early phases of the Revolution, his gift of oratory coupled with commanding presence brought him attention. The Cordeliers was a centre for the “popular principle”, that France was to be a country of its people under popular sovereignty. It was here he came into contact with Marat, Camille Desmoulins. This group believed in popular sovereignty and the need for a radical action to dramatically change the face of the French society. Danton was a very good orator and this ability allowed him to become more and more famous within the people of Paris.
In June 1791, the King and Queen made a disastrous attempt in what is now known as the Varennes escape. They fled from the capital. They were forced to return to the Tuileries Palace and were held as prisoners. This precipitated the popular reaction to think on abolishing the monarchy altogether or for a constitutional monarchy. Lafayette of the American war of Independence fame belonged to the latter group but the massacre of the Champ de Mars (July 1791) resulting in an effort to put down the insurrection killed whatever chance this party had. Danton fearing counter-revolutionary backlash, fled to England for the rest of the summer. Back in Paris in November, he was elected “Procureur de la communes de Paris“.
The National Constituent Assembly completed its work in September 1791.On July 31st, 1791 he was elected administrator of the “departement” of Paris.
In April 1792, the Girondist government—still functioning as a constitutional monarchy—declared war against Austria. A country in turmoil from the immense civil and political changes of the past two years now faced war with an enemy on its eastern frontier. Parisian distrust for the court turned to open insurrection. On 10 August 1792, the popular forces marched on the Tuileries; the king and queen took refuge with the Legislative Assembly. Danton became minister of justice, which was a reflection of his growing status within the insurrectionary party. On September 2nd, 1792 France was close to an Austrian invasion and Danton asked for “De l’audace, encore de l’audace, toujours de l’audace” (“We need audacity, and yet more audacity, and always audacity!”).

By 1792 he was at the height of his powers. He was elected Deputy of Paris on September 5th, 1792. He resigned from his deputy role and joined the Convention, side by side with Marat, Robespierre and Camille Desmoulins. He was quickly opposed to Robespierre who he saw as a competitor within the group.
Danton voted for the execution of Louis XVI and participated in the creation of a revolutionary’s court in March 1793. He became president of this court. He entered the “Comite de Salut public” in April 1793. He voted for the exclusion of the Girondist group, which he considered a obstacle to the development of the Convention.
His downfall came in the ensuing conflict of ideology in the direction of the revolution should take. He was accused of being too soft by counter revolutionaries. The austere and inflexible Robespierre feared his rabble rousing skills. He was fired from the “Comite de Salut public” and Robespierre took his position. In August 1793, he supported the “sans culottes” and the Terror. In November, he lost power within the “Cordeliers” group. Danton did not seem to take heed and secure his safety while Robespierre and his cohorts were maneuvering his downfall. On March 30th, 1794 Danton was arrested with Desmoulins. He was accused by the revolutionaries court of being an enemy of the Republique. He was condemned and killed on April 5th, 1794. His last words were: “Do not forget to show my head to the people, it is well worth seeing”.

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Disraeli’s complete control of the entire House while in opposition and in power, no one else in his day or before equalled- possibly with the exception of Chatham, was due to his ability to take its pulse and respond to it. Towards this he was always present on the House and was prepared. He knew the subject of debate and had an astonishing memory for facts that he did not have to rely on notes.

  He always entered the chamber some five or ten minutes before the proceedings began and he had a solemn air combined with easy confidence. He walked up slowly on the whole length of the floor and when he reached the corner of the table he made a low bow to the Chair. Many M.P’s have found this ceremony painful and feeling self-conscious often have tried to duck it as far as possible. But Disraeli thought it was a necessary duty, a courtly recognition of the supremacy of the Chair. 


Dizzy’s physical appearance and immobility added much to his authority. He sat with rigid head and body gazing vacantly into space, his arms folded across his breast, his hat slightly tilted over his brows, one knee crossing the other. No one in the House heard him laugh or smile; his usual expression when speaking was one of patient stoicism tinged with melancholy. His impassivity bordering on a catatonic state often infuriated his opponents whose diatribes seemed to go past him. But no one could have administered a snub with more telling effect than he but even that was done in a manner that delighted everyone except the one at the receiving end. 


His preeminence in parliament was mainly due to his genius as a speaker, not an orator in the manner of Gladstone or Edmund Burke. He had none of the tricks of their trade. He was fully calm and in control of his emotions and spoke without slurring his words clear and low, more as a man of the world. Standing with his hands on his hips or his thumbs in the armholes of his waistcoat he spoke in a consistent manner using no emphasis. This supercilious and even tenor in his voice was the result of careful training and it contrasted immeasurably when he wished to make a point. Suddenly he became animated, the tone in his voice changed, an ironic note crept in, the words were enunciated with more care and distinctness; A slight shrug, a quick glance, a fleeting expression of that sallow face drew bated breath from his hearers. They knew what was to follow. It came with an unerring aim and made some gasp and break up the stillness of the House with resounding cheers. He took no notice of the cheers as if he was above such display and continued with his speech as before.

  He indulged little in gestures depending entirely on his voice to achieve its effect.


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Cicero was the best orator of his time. He made his name in one of the darkest periods of Rome. Sylla the dictator had decreed the sale of goods that belonged to one who was murdered with his consent. While the crier had the goods sold off at rock-bottom price to a favorite of the dictator a freed bondman, the slain man’s son protested. Sylla fearing that it will bring charge against himself for fraud had the son arrested: on trumped up charge  of parricide. No one but Cicero dared to take up the case for the innocent man. His pleading was brilliant and effective too. He won the case.

While pleading on behalf of the Sicilians against Verres( which means a boar) who sent to the orator one who was suspected of being a Jew. Cicero refused his representations thus:’What has a Jew to do with a swine?”
When asked which of the Demosthenes orations he liked best Cicero replied thus: the longest.

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