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ments in all times, the convenience or gratification of the monarch, the government, or the public has been allowed too often to put aside considerations of personal and individual happiness. With us, different ideas happily prevail. With us, it is not the public, or the government, in its corporate character, that is the only object of regard. The public happiness is to be the aggregate of the happiness of individuals. Our system begins with the individual man. It begins with him when he leaves the cradle; and it proposes to instruct him in knowledge and in morals, to prepare him for his state of manhood; on his arrival at that state, to invest him with political rights, to protect him in his property and pursuits, and in his family and social connections; and thus to enable him to enjoy, as an individual moral and rational being, what belongs to a moral and rational being. For the same reason, the arts are to be promoted for their general utility, as they affect the personal happiness and wellbeing of the individuals who compose the community. It would be adverse to the whole spirit of our system, that we should have gorgeous and expensive public buildings, if individuals were at the same time to live in houses of mud. Our public edifices are to be reared by the surplus of wealth and the savings of labor, after the necessities and comforts of individuals are provided for; and not, like the Pyramids, by the unremitted toil of thousands of half-starved slaves. Domestic architecture, therefore, as connected with individual comfort and happiness, is to hold a first place in the esteem of our artists. Let our citizens have houses cheap, but comfortable; not gaudy, but in good taste; not judged by the portion of earth they cover, but by their symmetry, their fitness for use, and their durability.
Without further reference to particular arts with which the objects of this society have a close connection, it may yet be added, generally, that this is a period of great activity, of indus, try, of enterprise in the various walks of life. It is a period, too, of growing wealth and increasing prosperity. It is a time when men are fast multiplying, but when means are increasing still faster than men. An auspicious moment, then, it is, full of motive and encouragement, for the vigorous prosecution of those inquiries which have for their object the discovery of farther and farther means of uniting the results of scientific research to the arts and business of life.
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In February, 1831, several distinguished gentlemen of the city of New York, in behalf of themselves and a large number of other citizens, invited Mr. Webster to a public dinner, as a mark of their respect for the value and success of his efforts, in the preceding session of Congress, in defence of the Constitution of the United States. His speech in reply to Mr. Hayne (contained in a subsequent volume of this collection), which, by that time, had been circulated and read through the country to a greater extent than any speech ever before delivered in Congress, was the particular effort which led to this invitation.
The dinner took place at the City Hotel, on the 10th of March, and was attended by a very large assembly.
Chancellor Kent presided, and, in proposing to the company the health of their guest, made the following remarks :
“ New England has been long fruitful in great men, the necessary consequence of the admirable discipline of her institutions; and we are this day honored with the presence of one of those cherished objects of her attachment and pride, who has an undoubted and peculiar title to our regard. It is a plain truth, that he who defends the constitution of his country by his wisdom in council is entitled to share her gratitude with those who protect it by valor in the field. Peace has its victories as well as war.
We all recollect a late memorable occasion, when the exalted talents and enlightened patriotism of the gentleman to whom I have alluded were exerted in the support of our national Union and the sound interpretation of its charter.
“ If there be any one political precept preëminent above all others and acknowledged by all, it is that which dictates the absolute necessity of a union of the States under one government, and that government clothed with those attributes and powers with which the existing Constitution has invested it. We are indebted, under Providence, to the operation and influence of the powers of that Constitution for our national honor abroad and for unexampled prosperity at home. Its future stability de. pends upon the firm support and due exercise of its legitimate powers in all their branches. A tendency to disunion, to anarchy among the members rather than to tyranny in the head, has been heretofore the melanVOL. I.
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choly fate of all the federal governments of ancient and modern Europe. Our Union and national Constitution were formed, as we have hitherto been led to believe, under better auspices and with improved wisdom. But there was a deadly principle of disease inherent in the system. The assumption by any member of the Union of the right to question and resist, or annul, as its own judgment should dictate, either the laws of Con. gress, or the treaties, or the decisions of the federal courts, or the mandates of the executive power, duly made and promulgated as the Consti. tution prescribes, was a most dangerous assumption of power, leading to collision and the destruction of the system. And if, contrary to all our expectations, we should hereafter fail in the grand experiment of a con. federate government extending over some of the fairest portions of this continent, and destined to act, at the same time, with efficiency and har. mony, we should most grievously disappoint the hopes of mankind, and blast for ever the fruits of the volution.
“But, happily for us, the refutation of such dangerous pretensions, on the occasion referred to, was signal and complete. The false images and delusive theories which had perplexed the thoughts and disturbed the judgments of men, were then dissipated in like manner as spectres disappear at the rising of the sun. The inestimable value of the Union, and the true principles of the Constitution, were explained by clear and accurate reasonings, and enforced by pathetic and eloquent illustrations. The result was the more auspicious, as the heretical doctrines which were then fairly reasoned down had been advanced by a very respectable portion of the Union, and urged on the floor of the Senate by the polished mind, manly zeal, and honored name of a distinguished member from the South.
“ The consequences of that discussion have been extremely beneficial. It turned the attention of the public to the great doctrines of national rights and national union. Constitutional law ceased to remain wrapped up in the breasts, and taught only by the responses, of the living oracles of the law. Socrates was said to have drawn down philosophy from the skies, and scattered it among the schools. It may with equal truth be said that constitutional law, by means of those senatorial discussions and the master genius that guided them, was rescued from the archives of our tribunals and the libraries of lawyers, and placed under the eye, and sub. mitted to the judgment, of the American people. Their verdict is with us, and from it their lies no appeal."
As soon as the immense cheering and acclamations with which this address and toast were received had subsided, Mr. Webster rose and addressed the company as follows.