AMERICAN FORUM: Speeches on Historic Issues: 1788-1900 by

AMERICAN FORUM: Speeches on Historic Issues: 1788-1900

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KIRKUS REVIEW

If proof were needed that the Bill of Rights' dictum on free speech is an accepted part of our democracy, some of that proof could be drawn from these pages. Here- in one volume- the editors have brought together speeches that are half-familiar to almost all informed citizens, but that most of us would find difficult to locate. It is an excellent collection- well balanced as to names and topics -- and with each section prefaced by an editorial note that places the period, the issues, the climate of opinion. We forget how sharp the issues were- as the ratification of the Constitution went before successive state legislatures. Particularly poignant are the famous speeches made in Virginia-by Patrick Henry against ratification, by Madison in favor of it. Even in operation, the issues were still alive as to how far popular government should go, and David Daggett, Thomas Jefferson, Daniel Webster and George Bancroft present successive facets of the problems. Religious liberty comes up again and again, with Channing and Lyman Beecher at one time, Robert Ingersoll at another as spokesmen. With the drive for nullification as precursor of the War between the States- and later the slavery issue, we can read what various eminent orators felt:- Calhoun, Webster, Toombs, Garrison, Lincoln, Stephen Douglas, Thaddeus Stevens. The last sections present aspects of social protest, from Summer's famous The Forgotten Man and Russell Conwell's Acres of Diamonds, to Susan B. Anthony and William Jennings Bryan. There's good reading here- singularly timely now and again. But the chief value will be as a reference tool.

Publisher: Harper