Call to mind the greatest in the world's history, from Demosthenes-Men of Athens, march against Philip, your country and your fellow-men will be in early bondage unless you give them your best service now-down to our own Phillips and Gough,-Wendell Phillips against the traffic in human blood, John B. Gough against a slavery among his fellow-men more hard and galling and abject than the one just spoken of; for by it the body merely is in bondage, the mind and soul are free, while in this, body, soul, and mind are enslaved. So you can easily discover the great purpose, the great cause for service, behind each and every one.
The man who can't get beyond himself, his own aggrandizement and interests, must of necessity be small, petty, personal, and at once marks his own limitations; while he whose life is a life of service and self-devotion has no limits, for he thus puts himself at once on the side of the Universal, and this more than all else combined gives a tremendous power in oratory. Such a one can mount as on the wings of an eagle, and Nature herself seems to come forth and give a great soul of this kind means and material whereby to accomplish his purposes, whereby the great universal truths go direct to the minds and hearts of his hearers to mould them, to move them; for the orator is he who moulds the minds and hearts of his hearers in the great moulds of universal and eternal truth, and then moves them along a definite line of action, not he who merely speaks pieces to them.
How thoroughly Webster recognized this great principle is admirably shown in that brief but powerful description of eloquence of his; let us pause to listen to a sentence or two: "True eloquence indeed does not consist in speech. . . . Words and phrases may be marshalled in every way, but they cannot compass it. . . . Affected passion, intense expression, the pomp of declamation, all may aspire to it; they cannot reach it. . . . The graces taught in the schools, the costly ornaments and studied contrivances of speech, shock and disgust men when their own lives and the fate of their wives and their children and their country hang on the decision of the hour. Then words have lost their power, rhetoric is vain, and all elaborate oratory contemptible. Even genius itself then feels rebuked and subdued, as in the presence of higher qualities. Then patriotism is eloquent, then self-devotion is eloquent. The clear conception, outrunning the deductions of logic, the high purpose, the firm resolve, the dauntless spirit speaking on the tongue, beaming from the eye, informing every feature and urging the whole man onward, right onward to his object,-this, this is eloquence." And note some of the chief words he has used,-self-devotion, patriotism, high purpose. The self-centred man can never know these, and much less can he make use of them.