‘The Scaffolding of Rhetoric’

Introduced by Richard M. Langworth

‘The orator is the embodiment of the passions of the multitude. Before he can inspire them with any emotion he must be swayed by it himself. Before he can move their tears his own must flow. To convince them he must himself believe.’ Young Winston wrote this unpublished article in 1897 when he was only twenty three. Yet in sixty years of oratory, he never deviated from its principles.

Churchill established four principles that a speaker must follow: Correctness of Diction (‘knowledge of a language is measured by the nice and exact appreciation of words’); Rhythm (‘the sentences of the orator when he appeals to his art become long, rolling and sonorous’); Accumulation of Argument (‘the climax of oratory is reached by a rapid succession of waves of sound and vivid pictures’); and Analogy (‘an apt analogy favours the belief that the unknown is only an extension of the known’). His formulae for a good speech remain as sound now as ever.

Winston Churchill is viewed as a paradigm of public speaking – the epitome of the great orator. New leaders try to emulate him, copying his phrasing, rhythm and language; his voice is still recognizable by many from frequently-heard recordings of his speeches. When people talk about the great power of a speech, many will mention Churchill and his famous broadcasts during World War 2 in the summer and autumn of 1940 when he consolidated his reputation as a war leader, with memorable and iconic phrases: ‘Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few’ are words that are part of history and which have passed into everyday usage.

Read the full article, here: ‘The Scaffolding of Rhetoric’ by Winston Churchill, Finest Hour 94, Spring 1997.