In The Colonial Idiom, David Potter and Gordon L. Thomas have selected representative and important speeches and exhortations delivered by famous Americans from the beginning of the Massachusetts Bay Colony to the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
To a much greater extent than realized, public speaking and disputation were important features of daily life in Colonial America, because with the printing presses turning out only limited materials speeches were the major vehicles of expression. Thus the reader not only confronts the ideas and ideals that nurtured the founding of this nation but experiences the impact of freedom to express them, the sense of individual worth pointing the direction of a people “unfolding into sovereignty.”
The selections are arranged in five categoriesthose dealing with academic, legal, occasional, political, and religious matters. They are drawn from every stratum of colonial activityfrom the classrooms, clerical studies, town meetings, provincial assemblies, and the bar. Great names abound in these pages, but, frequently, expounders of great ideas found here are unremembered figures whose works cannot be found easily elsewhere. The editors have carried out careful research on each speech to assure the authenticity of the text. They have added, for each selection, a note on the speaker and on the place where he delivered his address.
This collection, made especially for students of rhetoric and public address, will engage the interest of all students of intellectual movements. The speeches here presented are indispensable sources of information to those readers wishing to follow the political and social ideas that made the history of this fateful century.
About the Author
David Potter is Professor of Speech at Southern Illinois University.
Gordon L. Thomas is Professor of Communication and Assistant Dean of the College of Communication Arts, Michigan State University.