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have the remedy in your own hands, by refusal to depart from your own standard of good sense or good taste ; but, having resolved to stand upon the platform, play your part properly, according to the work to be done and the materials on which you work, and submit, if not cheerfully yet thoroughly, to the conditions by which alone success is practicable. Nor will the exercise be without benefit to
To unbend, to come down from the high regions of pure reason and place yourself on
a level with common minds—to be unwise now and then-even to put on the cap and bells for the amusement of women and smallminded men-is not altogether time wasted. Something is to be learned from contact with
fellow-creatures, that will often serve to filter philosophy, and make wisdom practical. You will return to the lofty region of your meditations, refreshed by the relaxation, and with a new page added to your knowledge of human nature. It is not a very noble one that is revealed in such gatherings as those for commanding whose applause I have here endeavoured to give you some hints ; but it is perhaps the most extensive of any, for it is the exhibition of the commonplace mind, in the condition in which it is most open to observation.
THE ORATORY OF THE PLATFORM (CONTINUED).
I WILL now ask you to accompany me to the Public Meeting, properly so called, to which not only are all classes invited, but to which they come.
Let us see how these should be treated from the platform.
Occasionally, some topic of local interest will gather together an assemblage representing the whole population; but the true public meeting is seldom evoked for any but political purposes. At all events, a political meeting, and especially an election, is the typical assembly that will most conveniently illustrate the hints I am about to offer to you for the cultivation of that most important branch of platform oratory. If I treat of it with more minuteness of detail than I have devoted to some other parts of the subject, it is because experience has proved to me the great importance of proficiency in this art, especially to the members of our Profession, who, more than any others, are called upon to exercise it. At political meetings, the Lawyers are always expected to be the speakers, and are so. Their fellow-citizens assume it to be their business to talk,
and therefore look to them as the proper mouthpieces of a meeting. A Solicitor in the provinces can scarcely avoid the leadership of a party and an agency at the elections. He cannot properly discharge the duties of these posts of honour and influence, unless he can make a tolerable speech at a public meeting; and the more his skill in the management of it, the greater his power, the higher his position, and the more valuable his services.
The art of Platform Oratory is not less useful to the Barrister. If you should not be called upon to act on behalf of others, I hope you may at some time hereafter be required to exercise the art in the character of a candidate, when you will find it to be of equal service to you. It is because I have had extensive experience of it in both characters, and have gained such knowledge of it as I possess in the rough school of personal encounter with these assemblies, that I venture to impart to you the result of those rude teachings.
To speak plainly, then, this class of public meeting is a mob, and no other word so properly describes it, and the speaking that alone will succeed with it is moboratory.
You must not shrink from this title because it is often used reproachfully by those who are unable to accom
The name of “Mob Orator” is freely applied to every speaker who can really influence a miscellaneous meeting. If you cannot bear it, you should make up your mind at once to retreat from the pursuit of ambition in political life. To succeed, you must submit to the conditions of success. Your object is to sway the minds of those to whom you speak; to do this you must speak in such manner as most moves them, and whatever
name is given to that manner, you must accept it without shame, or resign the objects you are seeking. But though the name of “Mob Orator" is of ill repute, the evil is in name only ; there is nothing in the character necessarily dishonourable, or degrading. The art is an honest art, provided only that it be not applied to dishonest ends. No man has cause to be ashamed of swaying the minds of his fellow-men, even though called a “mob.” Persuasion is as permissible an instrument as argument, and an appeal to the feelings as an address to the reason. If the utterance of sentiment and emotion is not so lofty an exercise of the intellect as the putting forth of logic, there is in it nothing degrading, either to the mind that speaks or to the ear that listens. It is simply an adaptation of means to the end.
Understand me, that I use the word “mob” only for brevity's sake, and because I can find no other word that so nearly expresses my meaning. But you must not read it in quite the popular sense of it. As commonly used, it implies a disorderly assembly: I use it as describing a miscellaneous gathering of all classes, but in which the lower classes predominate. The tone of such a meeting is therefore necessarily given by the most numerous section of it; and although the most cultivated minds leaven it more or less, according to the proportion they bear to the whole crowd, the general character of the mass will always be caught from the character of the predominant class.
Here it is that you may witness the most striking proofs of the power of sympathy. No observant and reflecting man can doubt the presence and potency of this influence of mind upon mind, operating through some unknown medium within certain undefined limits. The
proofs are rife in the records of the past, and may
be seen around us continually. It is an influence to which, as it appears to me, sufficient importance has not been given by historians or philosophers, and its presence would probably be found to solve many problems otherwise inexplicable. That influence seems to be exercised by mere contact, without communication through the five senses, and to be multiplied by numbers, so that the emotions of all are imparted to each. This would explain the entire series of those perplexing phenomena which are seen in popular phrenzies, delusions and manias, and of which a panic will offer the most intelligible explanation. It is a fact that fear is thus communicated by some imperceptible influence. An incident that would not cause a nerve of one man to quiver, will make ten men turn pale, annihilate the courage
of twenty men, cause a hundred men to run away, and deprive a thousand men of reason. What is this, but fear operating by multiplication of fear? The small fright felt by each influences all the rest by sympathy and the result is the accumulated fear of the entire mass imparting itself to each one and causing the terror that is not the less real because it is unfounded. Precisely the same operation that causes panic is ever at work in all mixed assemblies, influencing them by other emotions, and so great is it, that even the most powerful intellects, habitually under the sway of reason, find it difficult to be resisted.
I have enlarged upon this subject because the knowledge of it will conduce greatly to success upon the platform. This fact is the foundation of mob-oratory; you will not sway a mixed assembly, unless you take into account that power of sympathy. You will, I hope,