Page:Modern Parliamentary Eloquence.djvu/47

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Modern Parliamentary Eloquence

Morning Post, which to the end remained faithful to his fortunes.

What would have become of Churchill's power of speech is as difficult to conjecture as what would have happened to his career. The fluidity of his principles and his love for bold experiments and dramatic conceptions might have landed him ultimately in any camp, or in none. But that his oratorical gifts though he was not in any sense an orator might have grown into a weapon of enormous efficacy and power in the State, is no extravagant hypothesis.

Joseph Chamberlain.Mr. Chamberlain is another illustration of great talents, equally effective in the Senate and on the platform. In the House of Commons he never aimed at oratory, he made no soaring flights of imagination or rhetoric; he neither received nor transmitted the divine spark. But for mastery of all the arts of debate, clearness, conciseness, humour, invective, ridicule, cogent and relentless reasoning, he was unsurpassed. And on the platform his strokes went straight to the mark, whether in the hearts of his audience or on the weak spot of the enemy. It is hard to say whether he was more effective as a demagogue, waging fierce war against privilege and monopoly, or as the patriot preaching with burning enthusiasm the gospel of Empire. The gift which impressed me most in his speaking was his imperturbable self-possession. An incident occurred in the introductory debate on the first Home Rule Bill in 1886, when Mr. Chamberlain, in the midst of a powerful declamation, was suddenly interrupted by Mr. Gladstone and forbidden to disclose a Cabinet secret. Where the composure and the argument of any ordinary man would have been fatally shattered by the suddenness of the blow, Mr. Chamberlain recovered himself in a moment, shifted the ground of his argument, and proceeded with the unerring precision of a machine. His best speeches gave evidence of careful preparation, and were assisted by neatly arranged notes. He only indulged sparingly in gesture, but his crisp and