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July 8, 1904.
Gift of P
BY SILVER, BURDETT & COMPANY.
THE Speeches on American Taxation and on Conciliation with the Colonies "compose the most perfect manual in our literature, or in any literature, for one who approaches the study of public affairs." It is possible for the historical student to make the present text, Conciliation, the point of departure for wide reading, both in American and English history; indeed, if all the leads of the speech were followed by critical examination, an exhaustive knowledge of colonial America would result. But, presumably, this use of the text in high schools will be small. Explanatory notes will be found in this volume of sufficient fullness, while they will not prevent personal research, to allow the student to lay the emphasis of his work upon its study as an English classic rather than as a historical document.
This book has been recommended to secondary educators by the Commission of American Colleges, and widely adopted by high schools, from the grandeur and dignity of Burke's ideas, from the high ethical plane upon which political questions are discussed, from the excellence of the diction, running frequently into rhetorical splendor, and, overtopping all other reasons, from the magnificent opportunity it affords for the study of a clear, sustained, logical argument.
In the hands of a skillful English teacher, there is almost no limit to the development to which the text may minister. The richness of the vocabulary, variety of the sentence, abundance of rhetorical figures, and logical character of the paragraph, simplicity, clearness, force, and beauty of the style,-all afford superb opportunities for the elevation of students' thought and expression. Nor is it wanting in diversity of forms of discourse. Units of work in description, narration, and exposition may be readily selected. Yet, while there is this splendid choice of lines of work, the richest harvest will be reaped from specialization of effort upon it as an illustration of persuasion.
It is to this phase of study that the attention of teachers is directed in planning their class work. It needs no argument to convince instructors of the general incompetence of the young in argumentation. It can be overcome in some measure by study of the best models of argument, combined with continual drill in close reasoning, and with frequent oral and written presentation of controversial propositions.
Not less than forty or, better, fifty lessons should be devoted to the subject. The following plan is suggested. Read the entire speech rapidly, but carefully, for a general comprehension of its scope and object, following this with attentive analysis of the main divisions of the argument, point by point, - pupils making an outline of the larger divisions with subheadings under each. A full realization of the weight of the whole can only be gained by this work with details. As an example, the subject of Population should be treated topically by the student, who should be able from his notes to reproduce all that Burke says upon this head; also to answer such questions as: What was Burke's purpose in introducing these facts? What relation have they to the original proposition? Is the argument forcible? Can objections to it be adduced? When the entire field has been canvassed in this way, a reproduction of the main points of the speech should be required in writing. At this point a reasonable appreciation of the argument is to be expected. Let this be followed by a study of the kinds of proof to be discovered, testimony, authority, example, with an estimate of the value of each, both in the present argument and in persuasion in general.
It should be borne constantly in mind that the task of the teacher is, first, to develop appreciation of argument as a form of thought; subsequently, to give students practice in presenting the various kinds of proof.
An appeal to experience will warrant the assertion that even adults are too little able to judge critically the value of a chain of reasoning, and are prone in discussion to adduce facts that are irrelevant and conclusions that are inconsequent. This being admitted, there can be but one conclusion as to the inestimable value of taking as a model for school study a great example of argumentation.
EDMUND BURKE, the great Irish orator whom Macaulay impetuously describes as "the greatest man since Milton," was born in Dublin in 1729. The Bourkes were a family of some distinction in Limerick as early as the middle of the seventeenth century. Burke's father was an irritable, high-tempered, and dogmatic lawyer, with what religious faith he had of the Protestant persuasion; his mother, formerly Miss Nagle, was an ardent Catholic from the County Cork. From this union Burke inherited, with the literary gift so common among the Celts, a conservatism and a reverence for established customs most unusual for one of his race. From which of his parents he inherited his lack of intelligent self-direction, one would be loth to state; perhaps it was but his individual heritage of the common curse of Ireland, which seems to leave so many of her talented children with neither continuity of purpose nor forethought to govern action.
His childhood must have been the happy, careless period. of the ordinary youth, leaving no record of unusual episode or signal promise. At the age of twelve the boy was sent to the school of the Yorkshire Quaker, Shackleton, renowned for strength of character, noble life, and wonderful ability to mold the lads who came under his sway as much in disposition and aspiration as in knowledge of the
classics' and mathematics. In spite of the tender rearing of his mother, we may fancy the boy, by inheritance of his father's traits, as hot-tempered, ready during his school days for violent altercation with his mates, and prompt to resort to his fists to settle an argument. He was no milk and water youth, drifting along quietly with the routine of the school; it is sure that, even at the age of twelve, Burke possessed a strong individuality. There were those qualities in him which called for all the genius of the Quaker teacher. It is probable that every wild prank brought the two more closely at touch, giving the master opportunity to expand the boy's character. Burke's stay at Ballitore was but two years, yet Shackleton's influence ended only with the close of the orator's career; indeed, it must be reckoned as one of the great formative influences of his life. "If I am anything," he said, many years afterwards, "it is the education I had there that made me so."
These two years were sufficient preparation for entrance to Trinity College. His student days gave no promise of future eminence, though he was well grounded in the classics, particularly in Latin. As Burke was a Celt, it was but natural that he should be restless under routine, and indifferent to the requirements of his college. His serious work was intermittent and erratic; frequently he left the dusty city to wander, through "fragrant gardens," to river and wood; the public library held him for three hours a day in excursive reading, where he delved deep into literature, and stored his memory with the beauties of the English poets, reading every book with the earnest