A great lecture must have a great theme. One of the supreme tests of a

lecturer's judgment presents itself when he is called upon to choose his

subject. Look over the list of subjects on the syllabus of any speaker

and the man stands revealed. His previous intellectual training, or lack

of it, what he considers important, his general mental attitude, the

extent of his information and many other things can be predicated from

his selection of topics.

Early in his career the lecturer is obliged to face this question, and

his future success hinges very largely on his decision. Not only is the

selection determined by his past reading, but it in turn largely

determines his future study.

Not long ago a promising young speaker loomed up, but he made a fatal

mistake at the very outset. He selected as his special subject a

question in which few are interested, except corporation lawyers--the

American constitution.

The greatest intellectual achievements of the last fifty years center

around the progress of the natural sciences. Those greatest of all

problems for the human race, "whence, whither, wherefore," have found

all that we really know of their solution in the discoveries of physics

and biology during recent times. What Charles Darwin said about "The

Origin of Species" is ten thousand times more important than what some

pettifogging lawyer said about "States' Rights." The revelations of the

cellular composition of animals by Schwan and plants by Schleiden mark

greater steps in human progress than any or all of the decisions of the

supreme court. Lavoisier, the discoverer of the permanence of matter and

the founder of modern chemistry, will be remembered when everybody has

forgotten that Judge Marshall and Daniel Webster ever lived. From these

and other epoch-making discoveries in the domain of science, modern

Socialism gets its point of departure from Utopianism, and without those

advances would have been impossible.

Here is a new and glorious world from which the working class has been

carefully shut out. Here we find armor that cannot be dented and weapons

whose points cannot be turned aside in the struggle of the Proletariat

for its own emancipation.

Any lecturer who will acquaint himself with the names of Lamarck,

Darwin, Lyell, Lavoisier, Huxley, Haeckel, Virchow, Tyndall, Fiske,

Wallace, Romanes, Helmholtz, Leibnitz, Humboldt, Weismann, etc., in

science, and Marx, Engels, Lafargue, Labriola, Ferri, Vandervelde,

Kautsky, Morgan, Ward, Dietzgen, etc., in sociology, and learn what

those names stand for, such a lecturer, other things being equal, has a

great and useful field before him.

It was well enough in the middle ages for great conclaves of clericals

to discuss sagely what language will be spoken in heaven, and how many

angels could dance a saraband on the point of a needle, but the

twentieth century is face to face with tremendous problems and the

public mind clamors for a solution. It will listen eagerly to the man

who knows and has something to say. But it insists that the man who

knows no more than it knows itself, shall hold his peace.

This is why the Socialist and the Scientist are the only men who command

real audiences--they are the only men with great and vital truths to


Street Speaking The Audience facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail