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IN FANEUIL HALL, ON THURSDAY, JUNE 5th, 1828.
At a public dinner given him, by the citizens of Boston, as a mark of respect for his public services as Senator of the United States, and late their Representative in Congress, -after the annunciation of the following toast :-“ Our distinguished Guest-worthy the noblest homage, which freemen can give, or a freeman receive: the homage of their hearts:” Mr. Webster rose and said :- .,
MR. CHAIRMAN,—The honor conferred by this occasion, as well as the manner in which the meeting has been pleased to receive what has now been proposed to them from the Chair; requires from me a most respectful acknowledgement, and a few words of honest and sincere thanks. I should, indeed, be lost to all just feeling, or guilty of a weak and peurile affectation, if I should fail to manifest the emotions which are excited by these testimonials of regard, from those among whom I live, who see me oftenest, and know me best. If the approbation of good men be an object fit to be pursued, it is fit to be enjoyed; if it be, as it doubtless is, one of the most stirring and invigorating motives, which operate upon the mind, it is, also, among the richest rewards which console and gratify the heart.
I confess myself particularly touched and affected, Mr. President, and gentlemen, by the kind feeling which you manifest towards me, as your fellow citizen, your neighbour, and your friend. Respect and confidence, in these relations of life, lie at the foundation of all valuable character; they are as essential to solid and permanent reputation, as to durable and social happiness. I assure you, sir, with the utmost sincerity, that there is nothing which could flow from human approbation or applause, no distinction, however high or alluring, go object of ambition, which could possibly be brought within the horizon of my view, that would tempt me, in any degree, justly to forfeit the attachment of my private friends, or surrender my hold, as a citizen, and a neighbour, on the confidence of the community in which I live; a community, to which I owe so much, in the bosom of which I have enjoyed so much, and where I still hope to remain, in the exercise of mutual good offices, and the interchange of mutual good wishes, for the residue of life.
The commendation which the meeting has bestowed on my attempts at public service, I am conscious, is measured rather by their own kindness, than by any other standard. Of those attempts, no one can think more humbly than I do. The affairs of the general government, foreign and domestic, are vast, and various, and complicated. They require from those who would aspire to take a leading part in them an amount, a variety, and an accuracy of information, which even if the adequate capacity were not wanting, are not easily attained, by one whose attention is necessarily mainly devoted to the duties of an active and laborious profession. For this as well as many other reasons, I am conscious of having discharged my public duties, in a manner no way entitling them to the degree of favor which has now been manifested. both administrations, which were of durable importance, and which drew after them interesting and long remaining consequences, have received general approbation. Such was the organization, or rather the creation, of the navy, in the administration of Mr. Adams; such the acquisition of Louisiana, in that of Mr. Jefferson. The country, it may safely be added, is not likely to be willing either to approve, or to reprobate, indiscriminately, and in the aggregate, all the measures of either, or of any, administration. The dictate of reason and of justice is, that, holding each one his own sentiments on the points in difference, we imitate the great men themselves, in the forbearance and moderation which they have cherished, and in the mutual respect and kindness which they have been so much inclined to feel and to reciprocate.
And this manifestation of favor and regard is the more especially to be referred to the candor and kindness of the meeting, on this occasion, since it is well known, that in a recent instance, and in regard to an important measure, I have felt it my duty to give a vote, in respect to the expediency and propriety of which considerable difference of opinion exists, between persons equally entitled to my regard and confidence.-The candid interpretation which has been given to that vote, by those who disapproved it, and the assembling together here, for the purpose of this occasion of those who felt pain, as well as those who felt pleasure, at the success of the measure for which the vote was given, afford ample proof, how far unsuspected uprightness of intention, and the exercise of an independent judgment may be respected, even by those who differ from the results to which that exercise of judgment has arrived. There is no class of the community for whose interests I have ever cherished a more sincere regard, than that on whose fursuits some parts of the measure alluded to bears with great severity. They are satisfied, I hope, that in supporting a measure in any degree injurious to them, I must have been governed by other paramount reasons, , satisfactory to my own conscience; and that the blow, inflicted on their interests, was felt by me almost as painfully and heavily, as it could be by those on whom it immediately fell, I am not now about to enter into the reason of that vote, or to explain the necessity under which I found myself placed by a most strange and unprecedented manner of legislation, of taking the evil of a public measure for the sake of its good; the good and the bad provisions relating to different subjects, having not the slightest connexion with each other, yet yoked together, and kept together, for reasons and purposes which I need not state, as they have been boldly avowed, and are now before the public.
It was my misfortune, sir, on that occasion to differ from my most estimable and worthy colleague. And yet probably our difference was not so broad as it might seem. We both saw, in the measure, something to approve, and something to disapprove. If it could have been left to us to mould and to frame it according to our opinions of what the good of the country required, there would have been no diversity of judgment between us, as to what should have been retained and what rejected. The only difference was, when the measure had assumed its final shape, whether the good it contained so far preponderated over its acknowledged evil, as to justify the reception and support of the whole together.' On a point of this sort, and under circumstances such as those in which we were placed, it is not strange that different minds should incline different ways. It gives me great pleasure to bear testimony to the constancy, the intelligence
No men, fellow citizens, ever served their country with more entire exemption from every imputation of selfish and mercenary motives than those to whose memory we are paying these proofs of respect. A suspicion of any disposition to enrich themselves, or to profit by their public employments, never rested on either. No sordid motive approached them. The inheritance which they have left to their children, is of their character and their fame.
Fellow-citizens, I will detain you no longer by this faint and feeble tribute to the memory of the illustrious dead. Even in other hands, adequate justice could not be performed, within the limits of this occasion. Their highest, their best praise, is your deep conviction of their merits, your affectionate gratitude for their labors and services. It is not my voice, it is this cessation of ordinary pursuits, this arresting of all attention, these solemn ceremonies, and this crowded house, which speak their eulogy. Their fame, indeed, is safe. That is now treasured up, beyond the reach of accident. Although no sculptured marble should rise to their memory, nor engraved stone bear record of their deeds, yet will their remembrance be as lasting as the land they honored. Marble columns may, indeed, moulder into dust, time may erase all impress from the crumbling stone, but their famne remains; for with AMERICAN LIBERTY it rose, and with AMERICAN LIBERTY ONLY can it perish. It was the last swelling peal of yonder choir, “THEIR BODIES ARE BURIED IN PEACE, BUT THEIR NAME LIVETH EVERMORE.” I catch that solemn song, I echo that lofty strain of funeral triumph, “THEIR NAME LIVETH EVERMORE."
Of the illustrious signers of the Declaration of Independence I there now remains only CHARLES CARROLL. He seems an aged
oak, standing alone on the plain, which time has spared a little longer, after all its contemporaries have been levelled with the dust. Venerable object! we delight to gather round its trunk, while yet it stands, and to dwell beneath its shadow. Sole survivor of an assembly of as great men as the world has witnessed, in a transaction, one of the most important that history records, what thoughts, what interesting reflections must fill his elevated and devout soul! If he dwell on the past, how touching its recollections; if he survey the present, how happy, how joyous, how full of the fruition of that hope, which his ardent patriotism indulged; if he glance at the future, how does the prospect of his country's advancement almost bewilder his weakened conception! Fortunate, distinguished patriot! Interesting relic of the past! Let him know that while we honor the dead, we do not forget the living; and that there is not a heart here which does not fervently pray, that Heaven may keep him yet back from the society of his companions.
And now, fellow citizens, let us not retire from this occasion, without a deep and solemn conviction of the duties which have devolved upon us. This lovely land, this glorious liberty, these benign institutions, the dear purchase of our fathers, are ours; ours to enjoy, ours to preserve, ours to transmit. Generations past, and generations to come, hold us responsible for this sacred trust. Our fathers, from behind, admonish us, with their anxious paternal voices, posterity calls out to us, from the bosom of the future, the world turns hither its solicitous eyes_all, all conjure us to act wisely, and faithfully, in the relation which we sustain. We can never, indeed, pay the debt which is upon us; but by virtue, by morality, by religion, by the cultivation of every good principle and every good habit, we may hope to enjoy the blessing, through our day, and to leave it unimpaired to our children. Let us feel deeply how much, of what we are and of what we possess, we owe to this liberty, and these institutions of government. Nature has, indeed, given us a soil, which yields bounteously to the hands of industry, the mighty and fruitful ocean is before us, and the skies over our heads shed health and vigor. But what are lands, and seas, and skies, to civilized man, without society, without knowledge, without morals, without religious culture; and how can these be enjoyed, in all their extent, and all their excellence, but under the protection of wise institutions and a free government? Fellow citizens, there is not one of us, there is not one of us here present, who does not, at this moment, and at every moment, experience, in his own condition, and in the condition of those most near and dear to him, the influence and the benefits of this liberty, and these institutions. Let us then acknowledge the blessing, let us feel it deeply and powerfully, let us cherish a strong affection for it, and resolve to maintain and perpetuate it. The blood of our fathers, let it not have been shed in vain; the great hope of posterity, let it not be blasted.
The striking attitude, too, in which we stand to the world around us, a topic to which, I fear, I advert too often, and dwell on too long, cannot be altogether omitted here. Neither individuals nor nations can perform their part well, until they understand and feel its importance, and comprehend and justly appreciate all the duties belonging to it. It is not to inflate national vanity, nor to swell a light and empty feeling of self-importance, but it is that we may judge justly of our situation, and of our own duties, that I earnestly urge this consideration of our position, and our character, among the nations of the earth. It cannot be denied, but by those who would dispute against the sun, that with America, and in America, a new era commences in human affairs. This era is distinguished by Free Representative Governments, by entire religious liberty, by improved systems of national intercourse, by a newly awakened,
and an unconquerable spirit of free inquiry, and by a diffusion of knowledge through the community, such as has been before altogether unknown and unheard of. America, America, our country, fellow citizens, our own dear and native land, is inseparably connected, fast bound up, in fortune and by fate, with these great interests. If they fall, we fall with them; if they stand, it will be because we have upholden them. Let us contemplate, then, this connexion, which binds the prosperity of others to our own; and let us manfully discharge all the duties which it imposes. If we cherish the virtues and the principles of our fathers, Heaven will assist us to carry on the work of human Jiberty and human happiness. Auspicious omens cheer us. Great examples are before us. Our own firmament now shines brightly upon our path. WASHINGTON is in the clear upper sky. These other stars have now joined the American constellation; they circle round their centre, and the heavens beam with new light. Beneath this illumination, let us walk the course of life, and at its close devoutly commend our beloved country, the common parent of us all, to the Divine Benignity.