American Eloquence, Volume I. (of 4) by Various


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Page 2

With these ideas in mind, the editor has added rather extensive
historical notes, with the purpose of suggesting the use of the speeches
as the basis of historical study, and of indicating other similar
sources for investigation. These notes, together with explanations of
any obscurities in the text, and other suggestions for study, will serve
to indicate the educational value of the volumes; and it is hoped that
they may lead many teachers and students to see in these orations a text
suitable as a guide to valuable studies in American political history.

The omissions of parts of the speeches, made necessary by the exigencies
of space, consist chiefly of those portions which were but of temporary
interest and importance, and which would not be found essential to an
understanding of the subject in hand. The omissions, however, have
always been indicated so as not to mislead the reader, and in most
instances the substance of the omissions has been indicated in the

The general division of the work has been retained: 1. Colonialism, to
1789. Constitutional Government, to 1801. 3. The Rise of Democracy, to
1815. 4. The Rise of Nationality, to 1840. 5. The Slavery Struggle, to
1860. 6. Secession and Civil War, to 1865. The extension of the studies
covering these periods, by the addition of much new material has made
necessary the addition of a fourth volume, which embraces the general
subjects, (1) Reconstruction; (2) Free Trade and Protection; (3)
Finance; (4) Civil-Service Reform. Professor Johnston's valuable
introductions to the several sections have been substantially retained.

By the revision, the volumes will be confined entirely to political
oratory. Literature and religion have, each in its place, called forth
worthy utterances in American oratory. These, certainly, have an
important place in the study of our national life. But it has been
deemed advisable to limit the scope of these volumes to that field of
history which Mr. Freeman has called "past politics,"--to the process by
which Americans, past and present, have built and conducted their state.
The study of the state, its rise, its organization, and its development,
is, after all, the richest field for the student and reader of history.
"History." says Professor Seeley, "may be defined as the biography of
states. To study history thus is to study politics at the same time. If
history is not merely eloquent writing, but a serious scientific
investigation, and if we are to consider that it is not mere
anthropology or sociology, but a science of states, then the study of
history is absolutely the study of politics." It is into this great
field of history that these volumes would direct the reader.

No American scholar had done more, before his untimely death, than the
original editor of these orations, to cultivate among Americans an
intelligent study of our politics and political history. These volumes,
which he designed, are a worthy memorial of his appreciation of the
value to American students of the best specimens of our political

J. A. W.


All authorities are agreed that the political history of the United
States, beyond much that is feeble or poor in quality, has given to the
English language very many of its most finished and most persuasive
specimens of oratory. It is natural that oratory should be a power in a
republic; but, in the American republic, the force of institutions has
been reinforced by that of a language which is peculiarly adapted to the
display of eloquence. Collections of American orations have been
numerous and useful, but the copiousness of the material has always
proved a source of embarrassment. Where the supply is so abundant, it is
exceedingly difficult to make selections on any exact system, and yet
impossible to include all that has a fair claim to the distinctive stamp
of oratory. The results have been that our collections of public
speeches have proved either unsatisfactory or unreasonably voluminous.

The design which has controlled the present collection has been to make
such selections from the great orations of American history as shall
show most clearly the spirit and motives which have actuated its
leaders, and to connect them by a thread of commentary which shall
convey the practical results of the conflicts of opinion revealed in the
selections. In the execution of such a work much must be allowed for
personal limitations; that which would seem representative to one would
not seem at all representative to others. It will not be difficult to
mark omissions, some of which may seem to mar the completeness of the
work very materially; the only claim advanced is that the work has been
done with a consistent desire to show the best side of all lines of
thought which have seriously modified the course of American history.
Some great names will be missed from the list of orators, and some great
addresses from the list of orations; the apology for their omission is
that they have not seemed to be so closely related to the current of
American history or so operative upon its course as to demand their
insertion. Any errors under this head have occurred in spite of careful
consideration and anxious desire to be scrupulously impartial.

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