With the conciliation make clear your sincerity. A chief difficulty with making arguments written in school and college persuasive is that they so often deal with subjects in which it is obvious that the writer’s own feelings are not greatly concerned. This difficulty will disappear when you get out into the world, and make arguments in earnest. A great part of Lincoln’s success as an advocate is said to have been due to the fact that he always tried to compose his cases and to make peace between the litigants, and that he never took a case in which he did not believe. If you leave on your audience the impression that you are sincere and in earnest, you have taken a long step towards winning over their feelings.
On the whole, then, when one is considering the question of persuasion, the figure of speech of a battle is not very apt. It is all very well when you are laying out your brief to speak, of deploying your various points, of directing an attack on your opponent’s weakest point, of bringing up reserve material in rebuttal; but if the figure gets you into the way of thinking that you must always demolish your opponent, and treat him as an enemy, it is doing harm. If you will take the trouble to follow the controversies which are going on in your own city and state over public affairs, you will soon see that in most of them the two sides break even, so far as intelligence and public-spiritedness go. In every transaction there are two sides; and the president of a street railroad may be as honest and as disinterested in seeking to get the best of the bargain for his road as the representatives of the city are in trying to get the best of it for the public. There is no use going into a question of this sort with the assumption that you are on a higher moral plane than the other side. In some cases where a moral issue is involved there is only one view of what is right; if honesty is in the balance, there can be no other side. But, as we have seen, there are moral questions in which one must use his utmost strength for the right as he sees the right, and yet know all the time that equally honest men are fighting just as hard on the other side. No American who remembers the case of General Robert E. Lee can forget this puzzling truth. Therefore, unless there can be no doubt of the dishonesty of your opponent, turn your energies against his cause and not against him; and hold that the proper end of argument is not so much to win victories as to bring as many people as possible to agreement.
1. Compare the length of the introductory part of the argument of the specimens at the end of this book; point out reasons for the difference in length, if you find any.
2. Find two arguments, not in this book, in which the main points at issue are numbered.
3. Find an argument, not in this book, in which a history of the case is part of the introduction.