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Library of America: The American Speeches Collection

Found in Domestic Politics
American Speeches Vol. 2 (LOA #167) by Ted Widmer
American Speeches Vol. 1 (LOA #166) by Ted Widmer

Library of America: The American Speeches Collection : Titles in Order

Book 2
The history of American oratory exhibits, in the words of William F. Buckley, “powerful ignition points for hot flashes of indignation, contempt, rage, veneration and yearning.” This volume (the second of an unprecedented two-volume collection) gathers the unabridged texts of 83 eloquent and dramatic speeches delivered by 45 American public figures between 1865 and 1997, beginning with Abraham Lincoln’s last speech on Reconstruction and ending with Bill Clinton’s heartfelt tribute to the Little Rock Nine. During this period American political oratory continued to evolve, as a more conversational style, influenced by the intimacy of radio and television, emerged alongside traditional forms of rhetoric.

Included are speeches on Reconstruction by Thaddeus Stevens and African-American congressman Robert Brown Elliott, Frederick Douglass’s brilliant oration on Abraham Lincoln, and Oliver Wendell Holmes’s “touched with fire” Memorial Day Address. Speeches by Robert Ingersoll and William Jennings Bryan capture the fervor of 19th-century political conventions, while Theodore Roosevelt and Carl Schurz offer opposing views on imperialism. Ida B. Wells and Mary Church Terrell denounce the cruelty of lynching and the injustice of Jim Crow; Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Carrie Chapman Catt advocate the enfranchisement of women; and Woodrow Wilson and Henry Cabot Lodge present conflicting visions of the League of Nations.

Also included are wartime speeches by George Patton and Dwight Eisenhower; an address on the atomic bomb by J. Robert Oppenheimer; Richard Nixon’s “Checkers Speech;” Malcolm X’s “The Ballot or the Bullet;” Barry Goldwater’s speech to the 1964 Republican convention; Mario Savio urging Berkeley students to stop “the machine;” Barbara Jordan defending the Constitution during Watergate; and an extensive selection of speeches by Franklin Roosevelt, Martin Luther King, John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan.

Each volume contains biographical and explanatory notes, and an index

LIBRARY OF AMERICA is an independent nonprofit cultural organization founded in 1979 to preserve our nation’s literary heritage by publishing, and keeping permanently in print, America’s best and most significant writing. The Library of America series includes more than 300 volumes to date, authoritative editions that average 1,000 pages in length, feature cloth covers, sewn bindings, and ribbon markers, and are printed on premium acid-free paper that will last for centuries.
Book 1
Public speeches have profoundly shaped American history and culture, transforming not only our politics but also our language and our sense of national identity. This volume (the first of an unprecedented two-volume collection) gathers the unabridged texts of 45 eloquent and dramatic American speeches delivered by 32 American public figures between 1761 and 1865, beginning with James Otis’s denunciation of unrestrained searches by British customs officials—hailed by John Adams as the beginning of the American Revolution—and ending with Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address. Rich in literary allusions, vivid imagery, and emotional appeals, political oratory flourished during this period in Congress and at campaign rallies, public meetings, and reform conventions, and reached a wider audience through newspapers and pamphlets.

Included are Patrick Henry’s “liberty or death” speech, George Washington’s appeal to mutinous army officers, and Henry Lee’s eulogy of Washington. Speeches by John Randolph and Henry Clay capture the political passions of the early republic, while three addresses by Daniel Webster—his first Bunker Hill oration, his second reply to Hayne, and his controversial endorsement of the Compromise of 1850—demonstrate the eloquence that made him the most renowned orator of his time.

American speeches by figures that did not hold office are included as well: union leader Ely Moore attacking economic aristocracy; woman’s rights speeches by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Sojourner Truth; Henry Highland Garnet’s incendiary call for slave rebellion; Frederick Douglass’s scathing “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” John C. Calhoun’s defense of slavery, Charles Sumner’s “The Crime Against Kansas,” Alexander Stephens’s “Corner-Stone” speech, and several speeches by Abraham Lincoln reflect the sectional conflicts that culminated in the Civil War.

Each volume contains biographical and explanatory notes, and an index.

LIBRARY OF AMERICA is an independent nonprofit cultural organization founded in 1979 to preserve our nation’s literary heritage by publishing, and keeping permanently in print, America’s best and most significant writing. The Library of America series includes more than 300 volumes to date, authoritative editions that average 1,000 pages in length, feature cloth covers, sewn bindings, and ribbon markers, and are printed on premium acid-free paper that will last for centuries.
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