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Speech In Politics

( Originally Published 1901 )

No form of speech is so easy as a political address in a hot campaign. The people know enough of the general argument in advance, to appreciate a strong statement of it, or the addition of new items. They already have much of that interest in the theme that other classes of speakers must first seek to arouse. The tyro makes his feeble beginnings in the sparsely settled portions of the country, but the polished orator is welcomed by large audiences at the centres of population, and wins money, fame, and possibly a high office. Americans have many opportunities of hearing good speeches of' this character, and not only become competent judges, but learn to emulate such examples.

1. A bright story, a personal incident, a local " hit," or, best of all, a quick, shrewd caricature of some feature of the opposing party, will gain attention and half win the battle. A speaker was once called upon to make an address after a political opponent had taken his seat. This man at one time strongly indorsed a measure to which his own party was bitterly opposed. The measure was defeated not-withstanding his opposition, and he was obliged to sanction his party's action. The audience being familiar with this, the speaker referred to it by saying:

" Oh ! he approves, does he! Imagine a mule, kicked, cuffed, pounded, and dragged across a road; bracing himself at every step, but forced over at last and tied to a post; then imagine that mule straightening himself up and saying, ' Thank Heaven,we crossed that road, didn't we ?' It was difficult to move the mule, he was obstinate, but it made no difference. My opponent was obstinate too, but what did it avail !"

2. The criticism of our opponents' platform or principles. Their fallacies, mistakes, and misrepresentations.

3. Their history. How they have carried out all their bad and dangerous doctrines, but have slurred over and allowed to drop out of sight their promises of good.

4. The contrast. Plain statement [and there is nothing more effective in a speech than a plain, clear, and condensed statement] of the opposing issues.

5. The man. [The personal element in a canvass nearly always overshadows political doctrine, except when a new party or new measure is rising into prominence.] Our men brilliant, able, safe. Our opponents the opposite. [Public character only should be criticized. Gossip, scandal, slander are abominable, and seldom well received by any audience. Poison, the assassin's dagger, and the spreading of infamous stories do not belong to honorable warfare.]


1. We are masters of the field. Completeness of victory [told in military language].

2. Sympathy for the defeated. We will treat their leaders with Good Samaritan generosity, but we invite the rank and file to enlist with us, unless they prefer to go home and pray for better luck next time.

3. Only by joining us can they get a nibble at the spoils. Probably they will, for many of them are men of seven principles—five loaves and two fishes. The " cohesive power of public plunder."

4. We must not be careless after victory, but reorganize, be vigilant, keep our powder dry. The " outs " are hungry, and an enemy will fight terribly for rations. " Brag is a good dog, but Holdfast is a better."

5. Now let us all rejoice over the defeat of a party many of whose members we respect personally, but which, as a whole, we regard as an immense nuisance.


My Political Brethren: You seem to be in the dumps ! Don't like the figures; wish they were a

cunningly devised fable. How did it happen? Big vote and intolerable cheating cooked our goose. But we are india-rubber and steel springs, and no amount of hard usage can take the fight out of us.

Let our opponents laugh ! We are not savage —would not hurt a hair of their heads personally, but politically will skin them alive next time. But we prefer to convert them, and hope they will hear our speakers as often as possible before the next election.

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