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The Senators and Legislators of Virginia, in General Assembly, are ever fond of There is a strong tendency on the part of honorable gentlemen to define their positions, to set themselves right before the country, and to speak out in the face of the world. They do not realize the fact that oratory is a thing of the past, and that great orators, like epic poets, belong to a half-civilized age; that gentlemen meet here to do, and not to say; and that the best possible speaking is only an obstruction to business. But when the rhetoric is not fine, and the logic not convincing, then affairs become much worse; then does lukewarm eloquence rule the hour, and diluted oratory take every form from the pompous periods of the gentleman from Puff Ball to the solid statistics of the gentleman from Leadenhead. There are as many different sorts of bad oratory as there are different kinds of ugly men; and public speaking, like the human face, is deformed by narrowness of brow, dimness of eyesight, vacancy of expression, and superabundance of jaw. For instance, there is the honorable gentleman who does "not rise, Mr. President, for the purpose of protracting this debate," and who immediately, then and there, does protract it. Then there is the gentleman who rises "for the purpose of making only a single remark," and who proceeds at once to make a hundred remarks — or, rather, the same remark a hundred times over. Another gentleman says he is very loth to occupy "the time of the Legislature at this stage of the debate," and who straightway does violence to his feelings by consuming much of that time — time for which the State pays about one thousand dollars a day. There are others who rise without apology, and who, with baleful self-possession, clear their throats, call for a glass of water, gather books and papers around them for reference and quotation, and go with great deliberation into the business of saving their country. If honorable gentlemen, who are orators, were listened to only by other honorable gentlemen, who are also orators, it would all be well. The men who suffer would have their revenge. But there are many steady old Virginia gentlemen in the Legislature who never make speeches themselves, and who do not seem to be enchained by the eloquence of those who do. These gentlemen sometimes do rise and give a few sentences of plain talk, or give straightforward answers to straightforward questions; and this is doing better than they would if they were all Patrick Henrys. In the English Parliament, speech-making is obsolete. Questions of the greatest importance to England, and often to the world, are discussed in a colloquial way. Any gentleman attempting an oration would be coughed down at once, and deserve it, too. There are many men who talk well enough, who cannot speak. They make an elaborate exordium, prepared beforehand; and by the time they get to the end of that they find to their consternation that the portico is too big for the house; that after taking a high view of the subject in a high pitch of voice, that descent is impossible. Then odd ends and odd beginnings of sentences come tumbling, leapfrog, from his lips; illogical deductions are drawn from absurd premises, and the hand held aloft for impassioned gesticulation has nothing in particular to do. And then the honorable member sits him down amid an appalling silence without having said what he fain would have said: what perhaps might have been of value; and what he could have said well enough if he had only talked without attempting to make a speech. Or that our Senators and Legislators, in General Assembly, would only realize how disgusting a thing it is to make a speech!
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