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Chief Justice Melville W. Fuller administering the oath of office to Benjamin Harrison on the east portico of the U.S. Capitol, March 4, 1889

[Detail] Administering the oath of office to Benjamin Harrison, 1889.

Diaries and Memoirs | Creative Writing | Inaugural Speeches and Speech Writing | Poetry | Scriptural Passages

Inaugural Speeches and Speech Writing

This collection affords an excellent opportunity to examine the art of speech writing. A search on draft results in a number of drafts of inaugural addresses either written in the hand of the president, such as a draft of Jefferson's address from 1801, or containing their personal corrections, such as a draft of Taft's speech from 1909. These pieces illustrate how speeches are edited during the writing process until they are polished into the final versions presented to an audience.

How does being able to see corrections and changes add to an understanding of a speech? For example, when Taft discusses revising the Dingley Act, an 1897 tariff on imports, he adds the phrase “to labor and” on page five of his speech, when describing the benefits of an amendment:

This should secure an adequate revenue and adjust the duties in such a manner as to afford to labor and to all industries in this country, whether of the farm, mine or factory, protection by tariff equal to the difference between the cost of production abroad and the cost of production here. . . .

  • Why does Taft make a point of adding "to labor and" and distinguishing between “labor” and “industries”?
  • What does this addition indicate about Taft's concerns and his sense of audience?
  • Why does he include workers on farms and in mines and factories?

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