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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

Liberty and Eloquence

By John Quincy Adams (1767–1848)

[From Lectures on Rhetoric and Oratory. 1810.]

SO dear, and so justly dear, to us are the blessings of freedom, that if no other advantage could be ascribed to the powers of speech, than that they are her inseparable companions, that alone would be an unanswerable argument for us to cherish them with more than a mother’s affection. Let, then, the frosty rigor of the logician tell you that eloquence is an insidious appeal to the passions of men. Let the ghastly form of despotism groan from his hollow lungs and bloodless heart, that eloquence is the instrument of turbulence and the weapon of faction. Nay, let the severe and honest moralist himself pronounce in the dream of abstraction, that truth and virtue need not the aid of foreign ornament. Answer; silence them all. Answer; silence them forever, by recurring to this great and overpowering truth. Say, that by the eternal constitution of things it was ordained, that liberty should be the parent of eloquence; that eloquence should be the last stay and support of liberty; that with her she is ever destined to live, to flourish, and to die. Call up the shades of Demosthenes and Cicero to vouch your words; point to their immortal works, and say these are not only the sublimest strains of oratory that ever issued from the uninspired lips of mortal men; they are at the same time the expiring accents of liberty, in the nations, which have shed the brightest lustre on the name of man.