Oration before Gentlemen's Academical Literary Society on the Merits of Premeditated Debate as Source of True Eloquence: N.D.
CWF Rockefeller Library Special Collections. SCMS1931.8.502


Gentlemen —

The subject which has occassioned
our meeting in this place at this
Time is a Subject aptly fitted for
our discussion, both on Account of its
favouring the motives for which our
Literary Society is established as the nature of the
Subject of it is Elocution & on account
of the plainness elegance & facility of the
Subject on for which Account reason I think
we cannot fail of saying something
in favour of it if not being Eloquent.
I shall say a few things words in favour of
premeditated debate & for the validity
of my Arguments, I must rely chiefly on the
goodness of this honourable Assembly who
are here convened as well for the purpose
of improving as [relaxing] their Minds.


First allow me Gentlemen to ask the
question whether it was by premedita
ted debate or extemperaneous Elocu
tion that the noble Orators of former
Days attained to that pitch of grandeur
& Eloquence to which we know they
arrived, was it was it by extemporaneous
Elocution or premeditated debate, that
the poet Orpheus tamed ferocious wild
Beasts, caused rocks to reverberate in,
intelligible Accents, the harmonious
Symphony of his transporting Verse,
by which of those was it that, he
caused the Woods & Groves, to remove
from their ancient Seats & follow
him with ravished ears? Let this
question be well answered & in my
opinion the thing Argument is plain.

Premeditated debate in my opinion
is the very fountain from which
all Eloquence derives its source,
& extemporaneous Elocution, only a
p3 Branch running from it, by it
we are enabled to collect our strag
gling, wavering thoughts, settle
them upon a firm basis & fortify them
by reflection, digest, them & draw
up in a systematical manner what
was in confusion, polish & give ani
mation to what was a Chaos
without form or shape. Upon
premeditated debate we may [build]
our hopes of future Eloquence, by
means of it we may behold the
approaching Sunshine of Honour
& Fame, about ready to light us to the
Meridian of Glory, the summit
of all our wishes hic [ama! hic]
est Patria! The situation of a person
of moderate Abilities, either in the
Parliament of England, or Congress of
America, or the National Assembly Convention
p4 of France must be truly disagreeable who when called upon by
his Country to deliver his sentiments
finds himself utterly at a loss what
to say on the subject of debate, he
would first unwillingly rise to deliver
his sentiments then stammer, & at
last confusion would take entire pos
session of his mind, loud Peals of
Laughter would then echo through
the stately dome, while he unable
to conceal his pain would retire
from the House, resign his post,
& for all the want of not having
studied premeditated Debate. The
Orations of Demosthenes the most concise
the most eloquent & energetic, are the
productions of Study, we are even
told that the better to assist his
Studies he caused a subterranean
Habitation to be made for him, in
p5 which with great Labour &assidui
ty he composed the sublime & ele
gant orations which we now possess
these orations have withstood the
test of Time Barbarism & criti
cism firm & unshaken, & like
radiant Stars in the gloom of Night
have conferred Honour on the [illegible]
nians & immortalized the illustrious
Name of (Demosthenes)
His Enemys by way of ridicules
said that his Orations smell of
the Lamp thereby intimating that
they were too Laborious & premedi
tated but what did that avail
for their ridicule turned to their
own disgrace as is evident by the
consequences attending his orations,
for reason will always stand firm
& secure in opposition to the darts & p6 & Arrows of malicious Envy. Exam
ple is bettern than precept, therefore
the examples which can be brought
to prove the superiority of premedita
ted Debate will be sufficient to
prove the validity of my Cause.

Our own society is a proof of what
I advance, & it is evident the produc
tions of premeditation have always
been superior to extemporaneous
Debate, were not the Case, would
our Society be established upon the
footing which it at present is;
Mankind in generall prefer what is
useful to what is not so, therefore
it would be madness in us not
to prefer premeditated debate to
extemporaneous Elocution where the
advantages resulting from it are so
p7 evident. On the contrary we seldom
see an Orator who has not at some
period of his Life practiced premedita
ted debate, the instances are so
few, that it would in my opinion
be proceeding contrary to a general
rule to expect to find an Orator
excel in extemporaneous Elocution
rather than in premeditated debate.

Gentlemen you will excuse me
if my discourse is not a good one
& if my arguments are not just,
because after so long an interval
which has happened between the
last meeting our Society,
my thoughts do not operate with
the energy as they formerly
p8 did when in continual exercise
& I am truly happy in the renw[al]
of our Society, so aptly suited to
the cultivation of our Minds, & for the
enlarging & expanding our Ideas,&
that it may continue to flourish
is my sincere wish.

Long live the Literary Society
Long live the [Academy]