The Columbian Orator

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First appearing in 1797, The Columbian Orator, a collection of political essays, poems, and dialogues, was widely used in American schoolrooms in the first quarter of the 19th century to teach reading and speaking. Many of the speeches included in the anthology celebrated "republican" virtues and promoted patriotism, and this was typical of many readers of that period. The Columbian Orator is an example of progymnasmata, containing examples for students to copy and imitate. In the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, the former slave and abolitionist writer Douglass describes how he "got hold" of a copy of the Columbian Orator at age 12, an event with far-reaching consequences for his life.

The Columbian Orator, became a symbol not only of human rights, but also of the power of eloquence and articulation.


  • Full title: The Columbian Orator: Containing a Variety of Original and Selected Pieces Together With Rules, Which Are Calculated to Improve Youth and Others, in the Ornamental and Using Art of Eloquence.
  • Caleb Bingham (Editor), 1797.
  • David W. Blight (Editor), Bicentenni edition 1998, (ISBN 0-8147-1323-8).


"I well remember, when I was a boy, how ardently I longed for the opportunity of reading, but had no access to a library", Caleb Bingham, 1803.

"Every opportunity I got, I used to read this book", Frederick Douglass, 1845.

External links[edit]

  • The Columbian Orator: Containing a Variety of Original and Selected Pieces, Together with Rules, Calculated to Improve Youth and Others in the Ornamental and Useful Art of Eloquence. 19th Century Schoolbooks Collection, Digital Research Library, University of Pittsburgh.
  • The Influence of The Columbian Orator – "E Pluribus Unum Project," Assumption College.