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Evan Roberts Quote : Christian Books : DIVISION AND ARGUMENT

The Training Of A Public Speaker by Grenville Kleiser


Some are of the opinion that division should always be used, as by it the cause will be more clear and the judge more attentive and more easily taught when he knows of what we speak to him and of what we intend afterward to speak. Others think this is attended with danger to the orator, either by his sometimes forgetting what he has promised, or by something else occurring to the judge or auditor, which he did not think of in the division. I can not well imagine how this may happen, unless with one who is either destitute of sense or rash enough to plead without preparation. In any other respect, nothing else can set a subject in so clear a light as just division. It is a means to which we are directed by the guidance of nature, because keeping in sight the heads on which we propose to speak, is the greatest help the memory can have.


But if division should seem requisite, I am not inclined to assent to the notion of those who would have it extend to more than three parts. Indeed, when the parts are too many, they escape the judge's memory and distract his attention; but a cause is not scrupulously to be tied down to this number, as it may require more.


There are reasons for not always using division, the principal reason being that most things are better received when seemingly of extempore invention and not suggestive of study, but arising in the pleading from the nature of the thing itself. Whence such figures are not unpleasing as, |I had almost forgotten to say|; |It escaped my memory to acquaint you|; and |You have given me a good hint.| For if the proofs should be proposed without something of a reputation of this kind, they would lose, in the sequel, all the graces of novelty.

The distinguishing of questions, and the discussing of them, should be equally avoided. But the listeners' passions ought to be excited, and their attention diverted from its former bias, for it is the orator's business not so much to instruct as to enforce his eloquence by emotion, to which nothing can be more contrary than minute and scrupulously exact division of a discourse into parts.


If many things are to be avoided or refuted, the division will be both useful and pleasing, causing everything to appear in the order in which it is to be said. But if we defend a single crime by various ways, division will be superfluous, as, |I shall make it clear that the person I defend is not such as to make it seem probable that he could be guilty of murder; it shall also be shown that he had no motives to induce him to do it; and lastly, that he was across the sea when this murder took place.| Whatever is cited and argued before the third point must seem quite unnecessary, for the judge is in haste to have you come to that which is of most consequence, and the patient, will tacitly call upon you to acquit yourself of your promise, or, if he has much business to dispatch, or his dignity puts him above your trifling, or he is of a peevish humor, he will oblige you to speak to the purpose, and perhaps do so in disrespectful terms.


Many doubt the desirability of this kind of defense: |If I had killed him, I should have done well; but I did not kill him.| Where is the occasion, say they, for the first proposition if the second be true? They run counter to each other, and whoever advances both, will be credited in neither. This is partly true, for if the last proposition be unquestionable, it is the only one that should be used. But if we are apprehensive of anything in the stronger, we may use both. On these occasions persons seem to be differently affected; one will believe the fact, and exculpate the right; another will condemn the right, and perhaps not credit the fact. So, one dart may be enough for an unerring hand to hit the mark, but chance and many darts must effect the same result for an uncertain aim. Cicero clears up this matter in his defense of Milo. He first shows Clodius to be the aggressor, and then, by a superabundance of right, adds that tho he might not be the aggressor, it was brave and glorious in Milo to have delivered Rome of so bad a citizen.

Tho division may not always be necessary, yet when properly used it gives great light and beauty to a discourse. This it effects not only by adding more perspicuity to what is said, but also by refreshing the minds of the hearers by a view of each part circumscribed within its bounds; just so milestones ease in some measure the fatigue of travelers, it being a pleasure to know the extent of the labor they have undergone, and to know what remains encourages them to persevere, as a thing does not necessarily seem long when there is a certainty of coming to the end.


Every division, therefore, when it may be employed to advantage, ought to be first clear and intelligible, for what is worse than being obscure in a thing, the use of which is to guard against obscurity in other things? Second, it ought to be short, and not encumbered with any superfluous word, because we do not enter upon the subject matter, but only point it out.

If proofs be strong and cogent, they should be proposed and insisted on separately; if weak, it will be best to collect them into a body. In the first case, being persuasive by themselves, it would be improper to obscure them by the confusion of others: they should appear in their due light. In the second case, being naturally weak, they should be made to support each other. If, therefore, they are not greatly effective in point of quality, they may be in that of number, all of them having a tendency to prove the same thing; as, if one were accused of killing another for the sake of inheriting his fortune: |You did expect an inheritance, and it was something very considerable; you were poor, and your creditors troubled you more than ever; you also offended him who had appointed you his heir, and you know that he intended to alter his will.| These proofs taken separately are of little moment, and common; but collectively their shock is felt, not as a peal of thunder, but as a shower of hail.

The judge's memory, however, is not always to be loaded with the arguments we may invent. They will create disgust, and beget distrust in him, as he can not think such arguments to be powerful enough which we ourselves do not think sufficient. But to go on arguing and proving, in the case of self-evident things, would be a piece of folly not unlike that of bringing a candle to light us when the sun is in its greatest splendor.

To these some add proofs which they call moral, drawn from the milder passions; and the most powerful, in the opinion of Aristotle, are such as arise from the person of him who speaks, if he be a man of real integrity. This is a primary consideration; and a secondary one, remote, indeed, yet following, will be the probable notion entertained of his irreproachable life.


It has been a matter of debate, also, whether the strongest proofs should have place in the beginning, to make an immediate impression on the hearers, or at the end, to make the impression lasting with them, or to distribute them, partly in the beginning and partly at the end, placing the weaker in the middle, or to begin with the weakest and proceed to the strongest. For my part I think this should depend on the nature and exigencies of the cause, yet with this reservation, that the discourse might not dwindle from the powerful into what is nugatory and frivolous.

Let the young orator, for whose instruction I make these remarks, accustom himself as much as possible to copy nature and truth. As in schools he often engages in sham battles, in imitation of the contests of the bar, let him even then have an eye to victory, and learn to strike home, dealing moral blows and putting himself on his defense as if really in earnest. It is the master's business to require this duty, and to commend it according as it is well executed. For if they love praise to the degree of seeking it in their faults, which does them much harm, they will desire it more passionately when they know it to be the reward of real merit. The misfortune now is that they commonly pass over necessary things in silence, considering what is for the good of the cause as of little or no account if it be not conducive to the embellishment of the discourse.

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