For Tiberius, maintaining an honourable and just cause, and possessed of eloquence sufficient to have made a less creditable action appear plausible, was no safe or easy antagonist, when, with the people crowding around the hustings, he took his place, and spoke in behalf of the poor. “The savage beasts,” said he, “in Italy, have their particular dens, they have their places of repose and refuge; but the men who bear arms, and expose their lives for the safety of their country, enjoy in the meantime nothing more in it but the air and light and, having no houses or settlements of their own, are constrained to wander from place to place with their wives and children.” He told them that the commanders were guilty of a ridiculous error, when, at the head of their armies, they exhorted the common soldiers to fight for their sepulchres and altars; when not any amongst so many Romans is possessed of either altar or monument, neither have they any houses of their own, or hearths of their ancestors to defend. They fought indeed and were slain, but it was to maintain the luxury and the wealth of other men. They were styled the masters of the world, but in the meantime had not one foot of ground which they could call their own. A harangue of this nature, spoken to an enthusiastic and sympathizing audience, by a person of commanding spirit and genuine feelings, no adversaries at that time were competent to oppose.
– Tiberius Gracchus (b.168-163 BC d.133 BC, a Roman politician of the 2nd century BC.) on the effects of eloquence and passion on an audience. Plutarch, Aemilius Paullus, Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans (c. 75-100 AD) John Dryden translation.
Eloquence is a lost virtue, even among lawyers. The classical rhetorical skills of logos, ethos, and pathos have fallen on hard times (Note: I plan on spending a large amount of time on each type of appeal in future posts). However, as Tiberius Gracchus noted above, a well-spoken argument, presented by an impassioned orator, can elevate a weak position and turn the hearts and minds of an audience. This skill lies at the heart of practice for any lawyer who is to present a case in a courtroom. Being on the right side of the law and a technical knowledge of procedure are not enough; one must strive to communicate with conviction and substance – especially when you have neither.