The Art of Public Speaking HTML version
give any reason at all for taking the cash of its subscribers--it merely announced that it was organized "for a
design which will hereafter be promulgated." Owners began to sell, the mob caught the suggestion, a panic
ensued, the South Sea Company stock fell 800 points in a few days, and more than a billion dollars evaporated
in this era of frenzied speculation.
The burning of the witches at Salem, the Klondike gold craze, and the forty-eight people who were killed by
mobs in the United States in 1913, are examples familiar to us in America.
The Crowd Must Have a Leader
The leader of the crowd or mob is its determining factor. He becomes self-hynoptized with the idea that
unifies its members, his enthusiasm is contagious--and so is theirs. The crowd acts as he suggests. The great
mass of people do not have any very sharply-drawn conclusions on any subject outside of their own little
spheres, but when they become a crowd they are perfectly willing to accept ready-made, hand-me-down
opinions. They will follow a leader at all costs--in labor troubles they often follow a leader in preference to
obeying their government, in war they will throw self-preservation to the bushes and follow a leader in the
face of guns that fire fourteen times a second. The mob becomes shorn of will-power and blindly obedient to
its dictator. The Russian Government, recognizing the menace of the crowd-mind to its autocracy, formerly
prohibited public gatherings. History is full of similar instances.
How the Crowd is Created
Today the crowd is as real a factor in our socialized life as are magnates and monopolies. It is too complex a
problem merely to damn or praise it--it must be reckoned with, and mastered. The present problem is how to
get the most and the best out of the crowd-spirit, and the public speaker finds this to be peculiarly his own
question. His influence is multiplied if he can only transmute his audience into a crowd. His affirmations must
be their conclusions.
This can be accomplished by unifying the minds and needs of the audience and arousing their emotions. Their
feelings, not their reason, must be played upon--it is "up to" him to do this nobly. Argument has its place on
the platform, but even its potencies must subserve the speaker's plan of attack to win possession of his
Reread the chapter on "Feeling and Enthusiasm." It is impossible to make an audience a crowd without
appealing to their emotions. Can you imagine the average group becoming a crowd while hearing a lecture on
Dry Fly Fishing, or on Egyptian Art? On the other hand, it would not have required world-famous eloquence
to have turned any audience in Ulster, in 1914, into a crowd by discussing the Home Rule Act. The
crowd-spirit depends largely on the subject used to fuse their individualities into one glowing whole.
Note how Antony played upon the feelings of his hearers in the famous funeral oration given by Shakespeare
in "Julius Cæsar." From murmuring units the men became a unit--a mob.
ANTONY'S ORATION OVER CÆSAR'S BODY Friends, Romans, countrymen! Lend me your ears; I come to
bury Cæsar, not to praise him. The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones:
So let it be with Cæsar! The Noble Brutus Hath told you Cæsar was ambitious. If it were so, it was a grievous
fault, And grievously hath Cæsar answered it. Here, under leave of Brutus, and the rest-- For Brutus is an
honorable man, So are they all, all honorable men-- Come I to speak in Cæsar's funeral. He was my friend,
faithful and just to me: But Brutus says he was ambitious; And Brutus is an honorable man. He hath brought
many captives home to Rome, Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill: Did this in Cæsar seem ambitious?
When that the poor have cried, Cæsar hath wept; Ambition should be made of sterner stuff: Yet Brutus says,
he was ambitious; And Brutus is an honorable man. You all did see, that, on the Lupercal, I thrice presented
him a kingly crown, Which he did thrice refuse. Was this ambition? Yet Brutus says he was ambitious; And