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small portion, and that the least valuable part, of the same territory, which, after the aggravations and irritations of forty years of controversy, was in 1842 adjusted by Mr. Webster and Lord Ashburton, at a moment when war seemed all but inevitable. In any other country or age of the world, Maine could have been severed from Massachusetts only by a bloody revolution. Their amicable separation by mutual consent, although neither the first nor the second similar event in the United States, was still an occurrence which carried back the reflections of thoughtful men to the cradle of New England.
These reflections gathered interest from the convention then in session. It was impossible not to feel with unusual force the contrast between the circumstances under which the first simple compact of government, the germ of the American constitutions, was drawn up on board the Mayflower, and those under which the assembled experience, wisdom, and patriotism of the State were now engaged in reorganizing the government. Several of the topics which presented themselves to Mr. Webster's mind, and were discussed by him at Plymouth, had entered into the debates of the convention a few days before. Still more, the close of the second century from the landing of the Fathers, with all its mighty series of events in the social, political, and moral world, gave the highest interest to the occasion. Six New England generations were to pass in review. It was an anniversary which could be celebrated nowhere else as it could be at Plymouth. It was such an anniversary, with its store of traditions, comparisons, and anticipations, as none then living could witness again. The Pilgrim Society gave utterance to the unanimous feeling of the community, in calling upon Mr. Webster to speak for the whole people of New England, at home and abroad, on this great occasion.
The discourse delivered by him in pursuance of their invitation, in some respects the most remarkable of his performances, begins the series of his works contained in the present collection. The felicity and spirit with which its descriptive portions are executed; the affecting tribute which it pays to the memory of the Pilgrims; the moving picture of their sufferings on both sides of the water; the masterly exposition and analysis of those institutions to which the prosperity of New England under Providence is owing; the eloquent inculcation of those great principles of republicanism on which our American commonwealths are founded; the instructive survey of the past, the sublime anticipations of the future of America, - have long since given this discourse a classical celebrity. Several of its soul-stirring passages have become as household words throughout the country. They are among the most favorite of the extracts contained in the school-books. An entire generation of young men have derived from this noble performance some of their first lessons in the true principles of American republicanism. It obtained at once a wide circulation throughout the country, and gave to Mr. Webster a position among the popular writers and speakers of the United States scarcely below that which he had already attained as a lawyer and a statesman. It is doubtful whether any extra-professional literary effort by a public man has attained equal celebrity.
In the course of a few years, when the corner-stone of the Bunker Hill Monument was to be laid, on the fiftieth anniversary of the battle, the general expectation again pointed to Mr. Webster as the orator of the day. This, too, was a great national and patriotic anniversary. For the first time, and after the lapse of a half-century, the commencement of the war of the American Revolution was to be publicly celebrated under novel, significant, and highly affecting circumstances. Fifty years had extinguished all the unkindly associations of the day, and raised it from the narrow sphere of local history to a high place in the annals of the world. A great confederacy had
sprung from the blood of Bunker Hill. This was too important an event in the history of the world to be surrendered to hostile and party feeling. No friend of representative government in England had reason to deplore the foundation of the American republics. No one can doubt that the development of the representative principle in this country has contributed greatly to promote the cause of Parliamentary reform in Great Britain. Other considerations gave great interest to the festival of the 17th of June, 1825. Fifty years of national life, fortune, and experience, not exhibiting in their detail an unvarying series of prosperity, (for it was fifty years in the history, not of angels, but of men,) but assuredly not surpassed in the grand aggregate by any half-century in the annals of the world,
were now brought to a close. Vast as the contrast was in the condition of the country at the beginning and close of the period, there were still living venerable men who had acted prominent and efficient parts in the opening scenes of the drama. Men who had shared the perils of 1775 shared the triumph of the jubilee. More than a hundred of the heroes of the battle were among the joyous participators in this great festival. Not the least affecting incident of the celebration was the presence of Lafayette, who had hastened from his more than royal progress through the Union to take a part in the ceremonial.
It is unnecessary to say, that on such an occasion, with all these circumstances addressed to the imaginations and the thoughts of men, in the presence of a vast multitude of the intelligent population of Massachusetts and the other New England States, with no inconsiderable attendance of kindred and descendants from every part of the Union, an address from such an orator as Mr. Webster, on such a platform, on such a theme, in the flower of his age and the maturity of his faculties, discoursing upon an occasion of transcendent interest, and kindling with the enthusiasm of the day and the spot, may well be regarded as an intellectual treat of the highest order. Happy the eyes that saw that most glorious gathering! Happy the ears that heard the heart-stirring strain!
Scarcely inferior in interest was the anniversary celebration, when the Bunker Hill Monument was finally completed, in 1843, and Mr. Webster again consented to address the immense multitude which the ceremonial could not fail to bring together. In addition to all the other sources of public interest belonging to the occasion, the completion itself of the structure was one to which the community attached great importance. It had been an object steadily pursued, under circumstances of considerable discouragement, by a large number of liberal and patriotic individuals, for nearly a quarter of a century. The great work was now finished; and the most important event in the history of New England was henceforward commemorated by a monument destined, in all human probability, to last as long as any work erected by the hands of man.
The thrill of admiration which ran through the assembled thousands, when, at the commencement of his discourse on that occasion, Mr. Webster apostrophized the mon
ument itself as the mute orator of the day, has been spoken of by those who had the good fortune to be present as an emotion beyond the power of language to describe. The gesture, the look, the tone of the speaker, as he turned to the majestic shaft, seemed to invest it with a mysterious life; and men held their breath as if a solemn voice was about to come down from its towering summit. This address does not appear to have had the advantage possessed by those of Plymouth in 1820, and of Bunker Hill in 1825, in having been written out for the press by Mr. Webster. It seems to have been prepared for publication from the reporter's notes, with some hasty revision, perhaps, by the author.
On the 4th of July, 1826, occurred the extraordinary coincidence of the deaths of Adams and Jefferson, within a few hours of each other, on the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence; an event with which they were both so closely connected, as members of the committee by which the ever-memorable state paper was prepared and brought into the Continental Congress. The public mind was already predisposed for patriotic emotions and sentiments of every kind by many conspiring causes. The recency of the Revolutionary contest, sufficiently illustrated by the fact that many of those engaged in it were still alive and had been the subjects of liberal provision by Congress; the complete, though temporary, fusion of parties, producing for a few years a political lull, never witnessed to the same extent before or since; the close of the halfcentury from the commencement of the Revolutionary War, and the commemoration of its early conflicts on many of the spots where they occurred; the foundation of the Bunker Hill Monument, and of a similar work on a smaller scale at Concord; the visit of Lafayette; abroad, the varying scenes of the Greek revolution and the popular movement in many other parts of Europe, - united in exciting the public mind in this country. They kindled to new fervor the susceptible and impulsive American temperament. The simultaneous decease of the illustrious patriarchs of the Revolution, under these circumstances of coincidence, fell upon a community already prepared to be deeply affected. It touched a tender chord, which vibrated from one end of the Union to the other. The affecting event was noticed throughout the country. Cities and States
vied with each other in demonstrations of respect for the memory of the departed. The heart of the country poured itself forth in one general utterance of reverential feeling. Nowhere was the wonderful event noticed with greater earnestness and solemnity of public sentiment than in Boston. Faneuil Hall was shrouded in black. Perhaps for the first time since its erection an organ was placed in the gallery, and a sublime funeral service was performed. It is unnecessary to dwell upon the effect of preparations like these upon an intelligent audience, assembled under highly wrought feeling. They produced a tone of mind in unison with the magnificent effort of thought which was to follow.
It has, perhaps, never been the fortune of an orator to treat a subject in all respects so extraordinary as that which called forth the eulogy on Adams and Jefferson; a subject in which the characters commemorated, the field of action, the magnitude of the events, and the peculiar personal relations, were so important and unusual. Certainly it is not extravagant to add, that no similar effort of oratory was ever more completely successful. The speech ascribed to John Adams in the Continental Congress, on the subject of declaring the independence of the Colonies, - a speech of which the topics of course present themselves on the most superficial consideration of the subject, but of which a few hints only of what was actually said are supplied by the letters and diaries of Mr. Adams,- is not excelled by any thing of the kind in our language. Few things have taken so strong a hold of the public mind. It thrills and delights alike the student of history, who recognizes it at once as the creation of the orator, and the common reader, who takes it to be the composition, not of Mr. Webster, but of Mr. Adams. From the time the eulogy was delivered to the present day, the inquiry has been often made and repeated, sometimes even in letters addressed to Mr. Webster himself, whether this exquisite appeal is his or Mr. Adams's. An answer to a letter of this kind will be found appended to the eulogy in the present edition.
These discourses, with the exception of the second Bunker Hill Address, were delivered within about five years of each other; the first on the 22d of December, 1820, the last on the 2d of August, 1826. With the exception named, Mr. Webster