It is now several years since I began to consider the propriety of making a collection of the famous orations of the world for the benefit of students, and with that purpose in view, wherever an opportunity offered, I have conferred with men who were able and willing to give advice as to the selections. At first my intention was to use only enough orations for a single volume, but I afterward became convinced that the plan suggested to me by the publishers of this collection would be a better one, namely: to select enough of the great orations to fill ten volumes, but so to group them as to permit of division into volumes arranged chronologically as to countries.
In selecting the more important of the great speeches there is little room for the exercise of independent judgment, for mankind has already pronounced verdicts which no editor can ignore. But outside of what may be called the accepted masterpieces, there has been some opportunity for choice, and accordingly for this series orations have been chosen which, considering the man, the subject, and the occasion, were thought likely to be the most useful to those who may desire to study history as portrayed in great forensic efforts.
Despairing of finding the time to make this collection unaided, I gladly availed myself of the opportunity offered by the present publishers to do the work in conjunction with Mr. Francis W. Halsey, whose wide experience has eminently fitted him for such an undertaking. He collected a large amount of material along the lines above indicated and then submitted it to me for my approval or rejection. After examining the collection he had made, covering the history of oratory from the earliest Greeks to the present day, changes in the arrangement were made by me, some of the orations were eliminated and others added. Mr. Halsey, I may add, is entitled to the sole credit for one interesting feature of the collection as it stands—namely, the speeches of North American Indians. As these men were the first American orators, specimens of their eloquence deserve a place in these volumes.
During my recent travels abroad I had many opportunities to consult public men in regard to speeches of the orators of England, Ireland, Scotland and Continental Europe. In the compilation of the work I have been placed under special obligations to the following public men of Europe, to whom I desire here to extend my thanks:
Rt. Hon. Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, M. P., the British Prime Minister.
Rt. Hon. Arthur J. Balfour, M. P., formerly Prime Minister.
The Earl of Rosebery, formerly Prime Minister.Lord Loreburn (Sir Robert Reid), Lord High Chancellor of England.
Rt. Hon. Joseph Chamberlain, M. P., formerly Colonial Secretary.
Lord Robert Cecil, son of the late Marquis of Salisbury.
Rt. Hon. Winston Churchill, M. P., son of the late Lord Randolph Churchill, and now Under-Secretary to the Colonies.
Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry Asquith, M. P., Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Rt. Hon. Herbert J. Gladstone, M. P., son of the late William E. Gladstone, and now Home Secretary.
Rt. Hon. James Bryce, M. P., Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.
John W. Redmond, Esq., M. P.
John Dillon, Esq., M. P.
John A. Bright, Esq., son of the late Rt. Hon. John Bright.
Viscount Peel, grandson of Sir Robert Peel, Bt. and Speaker of the House of Commons, 1884-95.C. F. Moberly Bell, Esq., Manager of the London Times.
M. Georges Clemenceau, French Minister of the Interior.
Baron D'Estournelles de Constant, Minister Plenipotentiary of France, member of the Court of The Hague.
Count Albert Apponyi, Leader of the National Party and formerly President of the Hungarian House of Representatives.
Franz Kossuth, son of the late Louis Kossuth, and now a deputy in the Hungarian House of Representatives.
William Jennings Bryan.
Paris, August 13, 1906.
- Since the above was written, M. Clemenceau (in October, 1906) has become Prime Minister of France.