Page:Modern Parliamentary Eloquence.djvu/18

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10
Modern Parliamentary Eloquence

This cynical reflection somewhat exaggerates the gap between the players and the pit, but it presents a not unfaithful picture of a number of highly-gifted actors performing serenely to a compact and deferential crowd. Add to the influence of these surroundings the fact that great events—wars on the Continent, the rebellion of the American Colonies, the Government of India, the revolution in France—occupied the attention and inspired the eloquence of the leading statesmen—creating an atmosphere favourable to great emotions and to rhetorical display. It is not surprising in these circumstances that Parliamentary eloquence should have blossomed into an exuberant growth, that the models of the ancient world should have been diligently emulated, and almost reproduced or that oratory for more than half a century reappeared in England in the garb of an exclusive and fashionable art.

Modern conditions.Contrast with this mise-en-scène the picture of Parliamentary life, as it has been gradually evolved in the interval between the passing of the Great Reform Bill and the present day, i.e. in the time during which the constitution in its practical working has been converted from an aristocratic oligarchy into a democracy ever gaining in strength until it is now supreme. We may trace the change as it has affected the speaker as an individual, Parliament as an institution, the audiences to whom speeches are delivered, and the temper of the time.

The modern M.P.The member of Parliament in the present day is no longer exclusively drawn from what used to be called the upper classes. The bulk of the House are The modern probably contributed by what would a century ago have been termed the upper middle classes. No obstacles exist to the entry of the labouring classes, who are certain, as time passes, to increase their representation. Thus it has come about that while the types and standards of education that are represented in the House are many and various, the one type which is in the minority is that which was once supreme, viz.,