Speakers and Speeches

in Early American Communities

I have attempted to construct a short list of speeches and speakers that a well-educated student of American Public Discourse before 1900 should own. There are, of course, some exclusions that would not have been made if I were not trying to limit the number on the list. Such is the exercise. I also must tell you that I am doing a little role-playing here. This is the list which has the authority of tradition in the discipline. That means that it has all the faults which such a list has including being overly male, overly white, overly conservative. A thorough knowledge of American public discourse ought include other elements -- particularly counter-elements -- that are excluded from the canon because it is a canon.

This list serves two purposes. For graduate students it defines people and speeches they should learn. For undergraduates it defines some of the "acceptable" list for the focus of their projects.



The New England Theocracy
  • John Winthrop, "Speech on Board the Arbella"
  • Jonathan Edwards, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" and one additional sermon.
  • John Winthrop
  • Cotton Mather
  • Anne Hutchinson
  • Jonathan Edwards
  • George Whitefield
  • Roger Williams

Republican Virginia

  • Patrick Henry, "On the Parson's Cause"
  • Patrick Henry

The Revolution: Creating the National Community

  • Patrick Henry, "Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death"
  • John Hancock, "The Boston Massacre Oration"
  • Thomas Paine, Common Sense
  • Declaration of Independence
  • Samuel Adams
  • Patrick Henry
  • John Hancock
  • James Otis
  • John Dickinson

Constitutional Debate: The Terms of the American Public Sphere

  • James Madison and Patrick Henry, Debates at the Virginia Convention
  • George Washington, "Farewell Address"
  • Thomas Jefferson, "First Inaugural Address"
  • James Madison
  • John Jay
  • Alexander Hamilton
  • Patrick Henry

The Silver Orators

  • Daniel Webster, "The Bunker Hill Oration"
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson, "The American Scholar"
  • Daniel Webster
  • Edward Everett

Rhetoric of the American Frontier

  • Tecumseh, "To William Henry Harrison" or Debate with Pushmataha
  • Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas, One of the Lincoln-Douglas Debates
  • Alexander Campbell
  • Charles Grandison Finney
  • Andrew Jackson
  • Abraham Lincoln

The Rhetoric of Radical Reform

  • Wendell Phillips, "The Murder of Lovejoy"
  • John Brown, "Last Speech to the Court"
  • Frederick Douglass, "Fourth of July Speech"
  • Lucretia Mott, "Discourse on Women"
  • Sojourner Truth, "Ain't I a Woman"
  • William Lloyd Garrison
  • Theodore Weld
  • Wendell Phillips
  • Angelina Grimke
  • Sarah Grimke
  • Victoria Woodhull
  • John Brown
  • Frederick Douglass
  • Henry Ward Beecher

The Slavery Debate

  • Daniel Webster and Robert Y. Hayne, The Webster-Hayne Debate
  • Daniel Webster, John C. Calhoun, and Henry Clay, Debate on the Compromise of 1850
  • William Lowndes Yancey, "For Southern Rights"
  • Charles Sumner, "The Crime Against Kansas"
  • Abraham Lincoln, "House Divided Speech" and "Cooper Union Address"
  • Jefferson Davis, "Upon Leaving the Senate"
  • Robert Y. Hayne
  • John C. Calhoun
  • Henry Clay
  • Daniel Webster
  • William Lowndes Yancey
  • Jefferson Davis
  • Charles Sumner

The Civil War

  • Abraham Lincoln, "First Inaugural Address," "Gettysburg Address," "Second Inaugural Address"
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Jefferson Davis

Reconstructing the South

  • Henry W. Grady, "The New South"
  • Booker T. Washington, "Atlanta Exposition Speech"
  • W. E. B. DuBois, "Of Mr. Booker T. Washington and Others"
  • W. E. B. DuBois
  • Henry W. Grady
  • Booker T. Washington

Woman's Movement

  • Seneca Falls Declaration
  • Elizabeth Cady Stanton, "Solitude of Self"
  • Sojourner Truth, "Speech to the Anniversary Convention of the American Equal Rights Association"
  • Susan B. Anthony, "Is It a Crime for a U. S. Citizen to Vote?"
  • Elizabeth Cady Stanton
  • Lucretia Mott
  • Susan B. Anthony
  • Sojourner Truth
  • Anna Howard Shaw
  • Francis Willard
  • Maria Stewart

Industrialization and Economic Disparity

  • Russell Conwell, "Acres of Diamonds"
  • Robert Ingersoll, a speech
  • Andrew Carnegie, "Wealth"
  • William Graham Sumner
  • Andrew Carnegie
  • Robert Ingersoll
  • Russell Conwell
  • Henry George

The Labor Movement

  • Samuel Gompers, "Shall a Labor Party Be Formed?"
  • Mother Jones, a speech
  • Terrence Powderly
  • Samuel Gompers
  • Eugene V. Debs


  • William Jennings Bryan, "Cross of Gold"
  • Jerry Simpson
  • Mary Ellen Lease
  • William Jennings Bryan
  • Ignatius Donnelley
  • Ben Tillman

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