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nothing to patronage, but every tliing to Providence, to his own strong mind and resolute purpose,—why should not such a man enter the wide, the straight, the beaten, easy path which leads to aggrandizement? He is a republican of the purest school: the true whig blood of the revolution flows in all his veins; and he has followed his father to the labors of the plain New England husbandman. Why are not the catchwords of a false and party republicanism forever on his lips? He was born and reared in poverty; never was, nor will be rich; and owes the honorable competence he enjoys to the strenuous efforts of a most laborious profession. Why does he not join wealthy office-holders in bewailing the oppression of the people, and in raising that delusive cry," the hatred of the poor against the rich," which he denounced in the Senate-chamber, in the hearing of some who had given countenance to that detestable fraud? Why does not he throw himself into the circle of those who are stimulating and leading on the people to a mad crusade against the people's Constitution and laws? Is he so blind as not to see that that way lies the road to honor, office, and power? Is he so wanting in discernment that he wanders from this path through ignorance? Are there so few examples to guide his choice? Not so. Mr. Webster is a patriot. He would find no pleasure in influence and place obtained by fomenting prejudices, by sowing alienation and hatred among the members of the community, by exciting the people to tear down the fabric of their own liberty, and by making the institutions odious in which it is organized, and, so to say, enshrined. It i s not merely that his understanding is too just and manly to adopt and repeat these odious sophistries, but his moral sense revolts from them, as mean and treacherous.
The people, we apprehend, do too little justice to such a course, and do not sufficiently consider how much they owe to such a man. Suppose the power, which Mr. Webster has employed to sustain and build up, had been exerted to subvert and destroy; suppose he, too, with all the resources of his understanding, had endeavored to stimulate those less favored of Providence against their fellow-citizens who have been successful in life; suppose he had endeavored to propagate discontent and disaffection, elevating himself by persuading the people they are wretched, and making them so by making ihem feel so; suppose he had contributed to embarrass every man's business, by empirical attempts upon the currency, under the flimsy but popular pretext of substituting gold for paper; suppose he had lent his aid to paralyze all the industrious interests of the country, and arrest every measure for its internal improvement, by propagating cheap metaphysical refinements on Constitutional powers; suppose he had raised his voice against the Judiciary and against the Senate, and looked coldly on while the Union was assailed, an ostentatious patron of the rights of the States, and lukewarm friend of the rights of the United States; suppose Mr. Webster had done this, and thus deprived the people of a most efficient, real friend, and the cause of the Constitution of its most powerful advocacy;—should we have stood where we now stand? Would not Nullification, struggling with the official power of the President, adorned and recommended by its eloquent and ingenious champions, and unexposed in its true nature, have commanded more of the sympathy of the people? Would not regulated, Constitutional liberty have passed under a cloud, in the loss of such a friend, under the influence of such an opponent? Would not every man, who has any property, have felt that it was shaken, and every one, who relies upon the conservative principles of the Constitution, have begun to despair of their efficacy? Unquestionably. And if the country still stands unshaken on its foundations, the people should understand that they owe it partly to the irresistible power of argument, the noonday light of illustration, which have been shed upon the great principles of the Constitution, in the late fearful crisis. That we yet have a country to be the subject of these desolating experiments, is in no small degree owing to the ability, with which they have been exposed and counteracted. . i
In the variety of speeches and addresses contained in the present volume, we may distinguish two or three classes.
The first are the Constitutional, unquestionably those in which the feelings, as well as powers, of Mr. Webster have found their most grateful exercise. Events seem, by a singular coincidence, to have prepared him, in a peculiar manner, for the noble province of the champion of the Constitution. He had, at a very early period of his professional career, in the Dartmouth College case, and subsequently in the great steam-boat cause, and in other cases involving the leading principles of Constitutional law, been called to explore its doctrines to their foundation. They are doctrines of a nature which require the lawyer's precision and discrimination. Loose and popular views cannot be relied upon, in drawing the delicate line between the powers granted by the Federal Constitution and the powers reserved to the States. They must be distinguished, compared, reconciled, and limited, by a severe professional logic. But logic alone is not enough. Constitutions are historical documents: their formation and adoption are historical facts; and a judgment well disciplined in historical studies is as necessary as the talent of perception or argument. Nor must a sort of patriotic moral sense be wanting. The politician whose soul is not warmed with an elevated and comprehensive patriotism, knows nothing of the Constitution; he does not feel the value of the objects for which the Constitution was framed. The qualities we have enumerated are found in the closest union in Mr. Webster's Constitutional speeches—the sternest dialectics—a species of historical tact, as well as an entire familiarity with historical records,—and a love of the Union which takes the heart to the work of its defence. The student of Constitutional law will ever resort to the speeches of Mr. Webster, in this department, with the same deference that he pays to the numbers of the Federalist and the opinions of Chief Justice Marshall.
The speeches on the financial policy of the Administration, and the Bank question, are of a character somewhat different, although the reply to the Protest is also a Constitutional argument. Mr. Webster's knowledge of the whole question of finance is second to that of no man in the country. He was a leader on this subject, upon his first entrance into public life, in the debates on the charter of a bank in 1814, and the years immediately following. For unadorned and close reasoning, on a financial question,—for luminous exposition of a subject wrapped up in mystery, by the declamations of the party press,—Mr. Webster's report, as chairman of the committee of finance, at the last session of Congress, may be quoted as a model. But even in the speeches of this class, it is pleasing to see the strong patriotic and Constitutional bent of his mind. The Bank, in itself, is comparatively nothing. As an instrument of finance, it is convenient; as the fiscal agent of the Government, it is probably indispensable; and these topics are properly enforced. But it is the distress of the country, produced by this unhappy tampering with the currency; the loss of a twelvemonth's prosperity; the ruin of thousands; the embarrassment of hundreds of thousands;—these are the topics which perpetually force themselves upon his mind. Nor these alone; he beholds, in the treatment of the stockholders and directors of the Bank, a violation of the law, a breach m the spirit of the Constitution, an absorption into executive discretion of powers, intended to be exercised by other functionaries; and these higher views give a peculiar warmth and solemnity to his appeals.
The miscellaneous speeches present a great variety of the most interesting subjects of discussion. In this class we include his addresses at the great public festivals, offered by his admiring fellow-citizens, as expressions of their gratitude for his defence of their Constitutional liberties. It will be recollected, that, at the close of the session of 1831, Mr. Webster was invited by a large number of the most respectable citizens of New York and its vicinity, including among them distinguished gentlemen of both political parties, to meet them at a festival prepared as an expression of their satisfaction, at the part which he had taken in the great Constitutional struggle, that had occurred in the Senate of the United States. There were persons uniting in this tribute of respect and gratitude to Mr. Webster, who had perhaps never acted together before, in any matter connected with party politics. The principle and the feeling, which had brought them together for the purpose named, are emphatically stated in the address made to Mr. Webster, by the president of the day, (Chancellor Kent,) and which we have prefixed, as the proper introduction, to the report of Mr. Webster's speech, at the commencement of the present volume. It was a principle of attachment to the Union, and a feeling that the maxims of Constitutional law, on which the stability of the Union rests, had, " by the discussions in the Senate, and the master genius that guided them, been rescued from the archives of tribunals, and the libraries of lawyers, and placed under the eye, and submitted to the judgment, of the American people. Their verdict is with us, and from it their lies no appeal." The speech of Mr. Webster, which we have already ventured to name as one of the very happiest of his efforts, is conceived in the spirit of the occasion. It is the outpouring of a full heart, the breathing of a pure patriotism, kindling with the sentiment of the worth of the Union, as illustrated in the history, the growth, and the prosperity, of the great metropolis in which he spoke, and in the lives and services of the patriot statesmen, who, in all the States, contributed to establish the Independence and frame the Constitution of the United States. What citizen of New York but must have glowed with honest pride, as Mr. Webster unrolled, on this occasion, the long record of her illustrious men! What lover of the Union but must have caught new views of its inestimable value, as its connection with the prosperity, the industry, and the whole social system of the country was pointed out with the eloquence of a master! Not less significant, appropriate, and instructive, is the delineation of the character of Washington, delivered on the 22d of February, 1832, before a company assembled to commemorate the birthday of the father of his country. The character of Washington is there lifted up from common-places; its strong points cleared away from the mere generalities of eulogy; the distinctive features which marked him pointed out; and that beau ideal of the perfect patriot, which exists under his name, in every American imagination, shown to have its original, in the life and conduct of our Washington.
It is not our province to enter into any criticism on the style of Mr. Webster's addresses. He is himself, in several instances, in no degree responsible for their style, in the common acceptation of the term. Not one of the speeches contained in this volume is of a character to admit of being written beforehand. They are taken by the publishers as found in the reports of the day, in the contemporaneous newspaper and pamphlet form. In some cases, the publishers presume, of course, that the speeches, as printed, were written out by Mr. Webster, from his own brief notes and the minutes of the stenographer; in others, it is probable that the speech written out by the reporter may have passed under Mr. Webster's revision; but not seldom, as the publishers have reason to know, they have been obliged to content themselves with