Oratory, the art of public speaking. Aristotle distinguished three kinds of oratory: demonstrative, deliberative, and judicial. The first included panegyrics, invectives, and academic discourses; the second included legislative and other debates on public policy, moral lectures, and all instructive oratory; and the third included pleading, accusation, and defence, as before a court of justice. The same philosopher divides rhetoric into the departments of persuasion, language or expression, and arrangement. He makes the oration to consist of introduction, proposition, confirmation, and peroration; and most writers on oratory have adopted his division. Oratory comprises the departments of rhetoric or composition and elocution, the latter including the tones of the voice, utterance, enunciation, and gesture, to which belongs the expression of the countenance. - The history of oratory goes back to the earliest days. The Old Testament contains the valedictory of Joshua, and the able address of King Abijah to the armies of Judah and Israel on the eve of battle. Homer records speeches of the Greek heroes which may be called orations.
The golden age of Greece is the age of her greatest orators, Pericles ably heading the list, which culminates in Demosthenes. Roman oratory reached its height in Cicero, and declined with the decline of Roman liberty. Ancient orators were generally ignorant of law, the Greeks being assisted by practitioners called pragma-tiri, while the Romans generally intrusted the maintenance of the law to their professed jurists. Classic oratory adopted a minute system of rules reaching every tone and gesture. Greek eloquence was more simple and severe, the Latin more florid. In neither was there any pretence to humor or wit. In the 4th and 5th centuries the preachers of Christianity had a wide reputation for eloquence, Chrysos-tom being generally given the foremost place. The middle ages show only the eloquence of Peter the Hermit, Abelard, Bernard, Francis of Assisi, Thomas Aquinas, and some other ecclesiastics; but the reformation brought out the rough but powerful preaching of Luther contrasted with the gentle dignity of Melanch-thon. The highest eloquence of the next generation is found in the Catholic pulpit of France, where Bossuet, Fenelon, Massillon, and Bourdaloue raised pulpit oratory to the very highest place.
The 18th century witnessed the wonderful parliamentary oratory of Chatham and Pitt, Sheridan, Burke, and Fox. This century saw also the great religious awakening under Wesley, and both England and America were stirred by the preaching of Whitefield. The American revolution brought out the eloquence of James Otis and Patrick Henry, and the French revolution inspired and was stimulated by Mirabeau and Vergniaud. More recent times have been distinguished by the eloquent sermons of Robert Hall and Thomas Chalmers, and the political oratory of Lord Brougham and Canning, Mr. Gladstone and John Bright, Berryer and Guizot, O'Connell and Kossuth. In the United States the senatorial speeches of Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun, and Daniel Webster may be compared with the most perfect orations of any time.