Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

ing something which may promote their happiness, and leave some not dishonorable memorial of ourselves for their regard, when we shall sleep with the fathers, we protract our own earthly being, and seem to crowd whatever is future, as well as all that is past, into the narrow compass of our earthly existence. As it is not a vain and false, but an exalted and religious imagination, which leads us to raise our thoughts from the orb, which, amidst this universe of worlds, the Creator has given us to inhabit, and to send them with something of the feeling which nature prompts, and teaches to be proper among children of the same Eternal Parent, to the contemplation of the myriads of fellow beings, with which his goodness has peopled the infinite of space;-so neither is it false or vain to consider ourselves as interested and connected with our whole race, through all time; allied to our ancestors; allied to our posterity; closely compacted on all sides with others; ourselves being but links in the great chain of being, which begins with the origin of our race, runs onward through its successive generations, binding together the past, the present, and the future, and terminating at last, with the consummation of all things earthly, at the throne of God,

There may be, and there often is, indeed, a regard for ancestry, which nourishes only a weak pride; as there is also a care for posterity, which only disguises an habitual avarice, or hides the workings of a low and groveling vanity. But there is also a moral and philosophical respect for our ancestors, which elevates the character and improves the heart. Next to the sense of religious duty and moral feeling, I hardly know what should bear with stronger obligation on a liberal and enlightened mind, than a consciousness of alliance with excellence which is departed; and a consciousness, too, that in its acts and conduct, and even in its sentiments and thoughts, it may be actively operating on the happiness of those who come after it. Poetry is found to have few stronger conceptions, by which it would affect or overwhelm the mind, than those in which it presents the moving and speaking image of the departed dead to the senses of the living. This belongs to poetry, only because it is congenial to our nature. Poetry is, in this respect, but the handmaid of true philosophy and morality; it deals with us as human beings, naturally reverencing those whose visible connexion with this state of existence is severed, and who may yet exercise we know not what sympathy with ourselves;- and when it carries us forward, also, and shows us the long continued result of all the good we do, in the prosperity of those who follow us, till it bears us from ourselves, and absorbs us in an intense interest for what shall happen to the generations after us, it speaks only in the language of our nature, and affects us with sentiments which belong to us as human beings.

Standing in this relation to our ancestors and our posterity, we are assembled on this memorable spot, to perform the duties which that relation, and the present occasion, impose upon us. We have come to this Rock, to record here our homage for our Pilgrim Fathers; our sympathy in their sufferings; our gratitude for their labors; our admiration of their virtues; our veneration for their piety; and our attachment to those principles of civil and religious liberty, which they encountered the dangers of the ocean, the storms of heaven, the violence of savages, disease, exile, and famine, to enjoy and to establish.—And we would leave here, also, for the generations which are rising up rapidly to fill our places, some proof, that we have endeavoured to transmit the great inheritance unimpaired; that in our estimate of public principles, and private virtue; in our veneration of religion and piety; in our devotion to civil and religious liberty; in our regard to whatever, advances human knowledge, or improves human happiness, we are not altogether unworthy of our origin.

There is a local feeling, connected with this occasion, too strong to be resisted; a sort of genius of the place, which inspires and awes us. We feel that we are on the spot, where the first scene of our history was laid; where the hearths and altars of New England were first placed; where Christianity, and civilisation, and letters made their first lodgement, in a vast extent of country, covered with a wilderness, and peopled by roving barbarians. We are here, at the season of the year at which the event took place. The imagination irresistibly and rapidly draws around us the principal features, and the leading characters in the original scene. We cast our eyes abroad on the ocean, and we see where the little bark, with the interesting group upon its deck, made its slow progress to the shore. We look around us, and behold the hills and promontories, where the anxious eyes of our fathers first saw the places of habitation and of rest. We feel the cold which benumbed, and listen to the winds which pierced them. Beneath us is the Rock, on which New England received the feet of the Pilgrims. We seem even to behold them, as they struggle with the elements, and, with toilsome efforts, gain the shore. We listen to the chiefs in council; we see the unexampled exhibition of female fortitude and resignation; we hear the whisperings of youthful impatience, and we sce, what a painter of our own has also represented by his pencil, chilled and shivering childhood, houseless, but for a mother's arms, couchless but for a mother's breast, till our own blood almost freezes. The mild dignity of CARVER and of BRADFORD; the decisive and soldierlike air and manner of STANDISH; the devout BREWSTER; the enterprising ALLERTON; the general firmness and thoughtfulness of the whole band; their conscious joy for dangers escaped; their deep solicitude about dangers to come; their trust in Heaven; their high religious faith, full of confidence and anticipation:all of these seem to belong to this place, and to be present upon this occasion, to fill us with reverence and admiration.

The settlement of New England by the colony which landed here on the twenty-second of December, sixteen hundred and twenty, although not the first European establishment in what now constitutes the United States, was yet so peculiar in its causes and character, and has been followed and must still be followed, by such consequences, as to give it a high claim to lasting commemoration. On these causes and consequences, more than on its immediately attendant circumstances, its importance as an historical event depends. Great actions and striking occurrences, having excited a temporary Speech on a Resolution relative to the more effectual collection of the public

Revenue, delivered in the House of Representatives of the United States. 1816. . .

. . . . . . . . . . 232 Speech on the Greek Revolution, delivered in the House of Representatives

of the United States, Jan. 19, 1823. . . . . . . 241 SPEECH upon the Tariff ; delivered in the House of Representatives of the

United States, April, 1824. . . . . . . . . . 265 SPEECH in the Senate of the United States, on the Tariff Bill.—May 9, 1828. 307 Speech upon the Panama Mission; delivered in the House of Representatives

of the United States.-April, 1826. . . . . . . . 322 SPEECH in the Senate of the United States, on the Bill for the relief of the

surviving Officers of the Revolution.—April 25, 1828. · · · · 351 SPEECHES in the Senate of the United States, on the Resolution of Mr. Foote

respecting the sale, &c. of Public Lands.—Jan. 1830. . . . . 858 REMARKS in the Senate of the United States, on the application for the erec

tion of a Breakwater at Nantucket.—1828. · · · · · · 433 INTRODUCTORY Lecture, read to the Boston Mechanics’ Institution, at the

opening of the Course of Lectures.—Nov. 12, 1828. . . . . 439 ARGUMENT on the Trial of John F. Knapp, for the Murder of Joseph White,

Esq. of Salem, in the county of Essex, Massachusetts; on the night of the

6th of April, 1830. . . . . . . . . . . 450 REMARKS in the House of Representatives of the United States, on the Bill to

amend the Judiciary System.--Jan. 4, 1826. . . . . . 490

MISCELLANIES.
EXAMINATION of the remarks in the Quarterly Review on the Laws of Cred-

itor and Debtor in the United States. (1820.). . . . . . 510 LETTER of Mr. Webster, addressed to Rev. Louis Dwight, Secretary of the

Prison Discipline Society, on the subject of Imprisonment for Debt.—May
2, 1830. . . . . . . . . . . . . 519

PREFACE.

The present generation of American citizens seems to have a part to act scarcely less remarkable than the preceding. Our immediate ancestors are, indeed, singularly distinguished as the founders of our Free Institutions; but we are ourselves almost as critically, and, for usefulness at least, as fortunately situated. In the view of the sagacious observer, we are objects of as profound and fearful interest as were our Fathers. The ultimate success of our political system depends, perhaps, nearly as much on the first generation that grows up under them, as on that by which they were framed and organized.

It is our part not only to exhibit to the world a practical illustration of the influence of the Federal Constitution, but to define and determine its construction; to apply its provisions to unforeseen exigences, and to cases contemplated by its framers, as they may arise under unexpected circumstances and new modifications; to give, in short, its influence to the public sentiment, on questions of deep and permanent interest; and thus, in all probability, to establish in the community, habits of thinking and of action, which will affect the public concerns as long as the Union shall exist. It is not altogether in paper constitutions, however skilfully devised or precisely expressed, to control the administration; the habits of the national mind, the course of legislative policy and judicial decision, the customs of the government, will in practice more or less affect the received meaning of the Constitution, and so become a part of the public law..

On the public men of this age, therefore, rests a responsibility of no ordinary kind. To the friends of rational liberty and popular happiness they cannot be regarded but as objects of deep and singular interest. Their course is all important to the State. The productions of such of them as incorporate their opinions and spirit, with the national literature and national politics, may be among the richest and best gifts of Providence to the land. The results of great powers and large experience in public affairs, committed to writing in any country and any age, can never be disregarded or neglected; but the lessons of civil and political wisdom, and the tone of social and patriotic feeling, expressed in the works of our own distinguished Statesmen of the present generation, are more emphatically important. They may be regarded strictly " above all price,” the most precious and most sacred of the national treasures; as they will probably constitute the nearest approximation to a conservative principle in our political institutions, which our state of society admits.

Of this character, in an eminent degree, the publishers of this volume look upon the works of Mr. WEBSTER; and having obtained his consent to their undertaking, they now present it to the community, in strong confidence that they are doing important service to the country.

Among individuals who have grown into distinction altogether under the existing Federal Government, it is not invidious to say, that few or none are more conspicuous. Endowed by nature with extraordinary powers, he has cultivated them in a

« AnteriorContinuar »