The Grant Banquet
Mark Twain, was also a speaker at this great event. He said of Ingersoll’s speech: the supremest combination of words that was ever put together since the world began …Bob Ingersoll’s music will sing through my memory always as the divinest that ever enchanted my ears.
The Journal Indianapolis, Ind., November17, 1879: Colonel Ingersoll’s position was a difficult one. His reputation as the first orator in America caused the distinguished audience to expect a wonderful display of oratory from him. He proved fully equal to the occasion and delivered a speech of wonderful eloquence, brilliancy and power.
To say it was one of the best he ever delivered is equivalent to saying it was one of the best ever delivered by any man, for few greater orators have ever lived than Colonel Ingersoll.
The speech is both an oration and a poem. It bristles with ideas and sparkles with epigrammatic expressions. It is full of thoughts that breathe and words that burn. The closing sentences read like blank verse. It is wonderful oratory, marvelous eloquence. Colonel Ingersoll fully sustained his reputation as the finest orator In America.
The Inter-Ocean, Chicago, November 15, 1879: When Robert G. Ingersoll rose after the speech of General Pope, to respond to the toast, “The Volunteer Soldiers,” a large part of the audience rose with him, and the cheering was long and loud. Colonel Ingersoll may fairly be regarded as the foremost orator of America, and there was the keenest interest to hear him after all the brilliant speeches that had preceded; and this interest was not unmixed with a fear that he would not be able to successfully strive against both his own great reputation and the fresh competitors who had leaped suddenly into the oratorical arena like mighty gladiators and astonished the audience by their unexpected eloquence.
But Ingersoll had not proceeded far when the old fire broke out, and flashing metaphor, bold denunciation, and all the rich imagery and poetical beauty which mark his great efforts stood revealed before the delighted listeners: Long before the last word was uttered, all doubt as to the ability of the great orator to sustain himself had departed, and rising to their feet, the audience cheered till the hall rang with shouts. Like Henry, “The forest-born Demosthenes, whose thunder shook the Philip of the seas,” Ingersoll still held the crown within his grasp.