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has excused himself from the delivery of public addresses of this class, though continually invited from almost every part of the country and upon occasions of every kind. Within the last twelvemonth, however, he has yielded himself to the peculiar and urgent condition of public affairs, and has addressed his fellowcitizens on several occasions not immediately connected with senatorial or professional duty, and with the power and felicity which mark his earlier efforts. The most remarkable of these recent addresses is his speech delivered at Washington on the 4th of July, 1851, at the ceremonial of the laying of the cornerstone of the addition to the Capitol. This ceremonial, itself of no ordinary interest, and the aspect of public affairs under which it was performed, gave a peculiar fervor and solemnity to Mr. Webster's treatment of the subject. Never, perhaps, were the principles to which the great day is consecrated unfolded in a few paragraphs with greater precision and comprehensivenese; or the auspicious influence of these principles on the progress of the country more happily set forth. The contrast between the United States of 1793, when the corner-stone of the original Capitol was laid by President Washington, and the United States of 1851, when this enlargement became necessary, is brought out with great skill and discrimination. The appeal to the Southern States, whether the government under which the Union has grown and prospered is a blessing or a curse to the country, is a burst of the highest eloquence. The allusion and apostrophe to Washington will be rehearsed by the generous youth of America as long as the English language is spoken on this side of the Atlantic Ocean.
This great oration, perhaps not premeditated so carefully, as far as the mere language is concerned, as those of an earlier date with which we have classed it, is not inferior to either of them in the essentials of patriotic eloquence. It belongs, in common with them, to a species of oratory neither forensic, nor parliamentary, nor academical; and which might perhaps conveniently enough be described by the epithet which we have just applied to it, - the patriotic. These addresses are strongly dis
criminated from the forensic and the parliamentary class of speeches, in being from the nature of the case more elaborately prepared. The public taste in a highly cultivated community would not admit, in a performance of this kind, those marks of extemporaneous execution, which it not only tolerates, but admires, in the unpremeditated efforts of the senate and the bar. The latter shines to greatest advantage in happy impromptu strokes, whether of illustration or argument; the former admits, and therefore demands, the graceful finish of a mature preparation.*
It is not, indeed, to be supposed, that an orator like Mr. Webster is slavishly tied down, on any occasion, to his manuscript notes, or to a memoriter repetition of their contents.
It may be presumed that in many cases the noblest and the boldest flights, the last and warmest tints thrown upon the canvas, in discourses of this kind, were the unpremeditated inspiration of the moment of delivery. The opposite view would be absurd, because it would imply that the mind, under the high excitement of delivery, was less fertile and creative than in the repose of the closet. A speaker could not, if he attempted it, anticipate in his study the earnestness and fervor of spirit induced by actual contact with the audience; he could not by any possibility forestall the sympathetic influence upon his imagination and intellect of the listening and applauding throng. However severe the method required by the nature of the occasion, or dictated by his own taste, a speaker like Mr. Webster will not often confine himself" to pouring out fervors a week old."
The orator who would do justice to a great theme or a great occasion must thoroughly study and understand the subject; he must accurately, and if possible minutely, digest in writing beforehand the substance, and even the form, of his address; otherwise, though he may speak ably, he will be apt not to make in all respects an able speech. He must entirely possess him beforehand of the main things which he wishes to say, and then throw himself upon the excitement of the moment and the sympathy of the audience. In those portions of his discourse which are didactic or narrative, he will not be likely to wander, in any direction, far from his notes; although even in those portions new facts, illustrations, and suggestions will be apt to spring up before him as he proceeds. But when the topic rises, when the mind kindles from within, and the strain becomes loftier, or
The leading ideas in this and the following paragraph may be found in a review of Mr. Webster's Speeches, in the North American Review, Vol. XLI. p. 241, written by the author of this Memoir.
bolder, or more pathetic, when the sacred fountain of tears is ready to overflow, and audience and speaker are moved by one kindred sympathetic passion, then the thick-coming fancies cannot be kept down, the storehouse of the memory is unlocked, images start up from the slumber of years, and all that the orator has seen, read, heard, or felt returns in distinct shape and vivid colors. The cold and premeditated text will no longer suffice for the glowing thought. The stately, balanced phrase gives place to some abrupt, graphic expression, that rushes unbidden to his lips. The unforeseen incident or locality furnishes an apt and speaking image; and the discourse instinctively transposes itself into a higher key.
Many illustrations of these remarks may be found in the following volumes. We may refer particularly to the address to the survivors of the Revolution and the apostrophe to Warren in the first discourse on Bunker Hill. These were topics too obvious and essential, in an address on laying the corner-stone of the monument, to have been omitted in the orator's notes prepared beforehand. But no one will think that the entire apostrophe to Warren, as it stands in the reported speech, was elaborated in the closet and committed to memory. In fact there is a slight grammatical inaccuracy, caused by passing from the third person to the second in the same sentence, which is at once the natural consequence and the proof of an unpremeditated expansion or elevation of the preconceived idea. We see the process. When the sentence commenced, “ But, ah! him!” it was evidently in the mind of the orator to close it by saying, “ How shall I speak of him?” But in the progress of the sentence, forgetful, unconscious, of the grammatical form, but melting with the thought, beholding, as he stood upon the spot where the hero fell, his beloved and beautiful image rising from the ground, he can no longer speak of him. Willing subject of his own witchery, he clothes his conception with sensible forms, and speaks to the glorious being whom he has called back to life. He no longer attempts to discourse of Warren to the audience, but passing, after a few intervening clauses, from the third per. son to the second, he exclaims, “How shall I struggle with the emotions that stifle the utterance of thy name! Our poor work may perish, but thine shall endure! This monument may moulder away; the solid ground it rests upon may sink down to a level with the sea; but thy memory shall not fail!”
Election to Congress from Boston. - State of Parties. — Meeting of the Eighteenth
Congress. – Mr. Webster's Resolution and Speech in favor of the Greeks. — Argument in the Supreme Court in the Case of Gibbons and Ogden. — Circumstances under which it was made. — Speech on the Tariff Law of 1824. – A complete Revision of the Law for the Punishment of Crimes against the United States reported by Mr. Webster, and enacted. — The Election of Mr. Adams as President of the United States. — Meeting of the Nineteenth Congress, and State of Parties. — Congress of Panama, and Mr. Webster's Speech on that Subject. — Election as a Senator of the United States. – Revision of the Tariff Law by the Twentieth Congress.- Embarrassments of the Question. — Mr. Webster's Course and Speech on this Subject.
In the autumn of 1822, Mr. Webster consented to be a candidate for Congress for the city (then town) of Boston, and was chosen by a very large majority over his opponent, Mr. Jesse Putnam. The former party distinctions, as has been already observed, had nearly lost their significance in Massachusetts, as in some other parts of the country. As a necessary, or at least a natural consequence of this state of things, four candidates had already been brought forward for the Presidential election of November, 1824; namely, Mr. John Quincy Adams of Massachusetts, Mr. Clay of Kentucky, General Jackson of Tennessee, and Mr. Crawford of Georgia. Mr. Calhoun of South Carolina and Mr. Lowndes of the same State had also both been nominated by their friends at an early period of the canvass; but the latter was soon removed by death, and Mr. Calhoun withdrew his pretensions in favor of General Jackson. All the candidates named had either originally belonged to the old Democratic party (or Republican party as it was then more usually called), or had for many years attached themselves to it; but no one of them was supported on that ground. Mr. Crawford alone had attempted to avail himself of the ancient party machinery, so far as to accept a nomination by a Congressional caucus of his friends. They formed, however, but a minority of the Republican members of Congress, and the signal failure of the nomination contributed to the final abandonment of that mode of procedure. No Presidential candidate has since been nominated by a Congressional caucus. In the canvass of 1824, it was the main effort of the friends of all the candidates, by holding out the prospect of a liberal basis of administration, to draw to themselves as many as possible of the old Federal party. In Massachusetts, and generally in New England, the fusion of parties was complete, and Mr. Adams received their united support. In the Middle States the union was less perfect, and the votes of a large proportion of the old Federal party were given to General Jackson and Mr. Crawford.
The Congressional elections in Massachusetts are held a year in advance. It was not till December, 1823, that Mr. Webster took his seat as a member of the Eighteenth Congress. It has rarely happened to an individual, by engaging in public life, to make an equal sacrifice of personal interest. Born to an inheritance of poverty, struggling through youth and early manhood against all the difficulties of straitened means and a narrow sphere, he had risen above them all, and was now in an advantageous position, at the height of his reputation, receiving as great a professional income as any lawyer in the United States, and rapidly laying the foundation of an ample independence. All this was to be put at risk for the hazardous uncertainties, and the scarcely less hazardous certainties, of public life. It was not till after repeated refusals of a nomination to both houses of Congress, that Mr. Webster was at last called upon, in a manner which seemed to him imperative, to make the great sacrifice. In fact, it may truly be said, that, to an individual of his commanding talent and familiarity with political affairs, and consequent ability to take a lead in the public business, the question whether he shall do so is hardly submitted to his option. It is one of the great privileges of second-rate men, that they are permitted in some degree to follow the bent of their inclinations. It was the main inducement of Mr. Webster in returning to political life, that the cessation of the coarse conflicts of party warfare seemed to hold out some hope that statesmanship of a higher order, an impartial study of the great interests of the country, and a policy aiming to promote the development of its vast natural resources, might be called into action.
Although the domestic politics of the United States were in a condition of repose, the politics of Europe at this time were disturbed and anxious. Revolutions had within a few years broken out in Naples, Piedmont, and Spain; while in Greece a highly interesting struggle was in progress, between the Chris