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DELIVERED AT A MEETING OF CITIZENS OF BOSTON, HELD IN FAN.
ECIL HALL, ON THE EVENING OF APRIL 30, 1825, PREPARATORY TO THE GENERAL ELECTION IN MASSACHUSETTS.
Mr.WEBSTER said, he was quite unaccustomed to appear in that place; having, on no occasion, addressed his fellow citizens there, either to recommend or to oppose the support of any candidates for public office. He had long been of opinion, that to preserve the distinction, and the hostility, of political parties, was not consistent with the highest degree of public good. At the same time he did not find fault with the conduct, nor question the motives, of those who thought otherwise. But, entertaining this opinion, he had abstained from attending on those occasions, in which the merits of public men, and of candidates for office, were discussed, necessarily, with more or less reference to party attachment, and party organization.
The present was a different occasion. The sentiment which had called this meeting together, was a sentiment of union and conciliation, a sentiment so congenial to his own feelings, and to his opinion of the public interest, that he could not resist the inclination to be present, and to express his entire and hearty approbation.
He should forbear, Mr. W. said, from all remarks upon the particular names which had been recommended by the committee. They had been selected, he must presume, fairly, and with due consideration, by those who were appointed for that purpose. In cases of this sort every one cannot expect to find everything precisely as he might wish it; but those who concurred in the general sentiment would naturally allow that sentiment to prevail, as far as possible, over particular objections.
On the general question he would make a few remarks, begging the indulgence of the meeting, if he should say anything which might with more propriety, proceed from others.
He hardly conceived how well disposed and intelligent minds could differ, as to the question, whether party contest, and party strife, organized, systematic, and continued, were of themselves desirable ingredients in the composition of society.--Difference of opinion, on political subjects, honorable competition, and emulous SAMUEL Adams; a man who hungered and thirsted for the independence of his country; who thought the declaration halted and lingered, being himself not only ready, but eager, for it, long before it was proposed; a man of the deepest sagacity, the clearest foresight, and the profoundest judgment in men. And there is GERRY, himself among the earliest and the foremost of the patriots, found, when the battle of Lexington summoned them to common councils, by the side of WARREN; a man who lived to serve his country at home and abroad, and to die in the second place in the government. There, too, is the inflexible, the upright, the Spartan character, Robert TREAT PAINE. He, also, lived to serve his country through the struggle, and then withdrew from her councils, only that he might give his labors and his life to his native State, in another relation. These names, fellow citizens, are the treasures of the commonwealth; and they are treasures which grow brighter by time.
It is now necessary to resume, and to finish with great brevity, the notice of the lives of those, whose virtues and services we have met to commemorate.
Mr. ADAMS remained in Congress from its first meeting, till Noycmber 1777, when he was appointed minister to France. He proceeded on that service, in the February following, embarking in the Boston frigate, on the shore of his native town, at the foot of Mount Wollaston. The year following, he was appointed commissioner to treat of peace with England. Returning to the United States, he was a delegate from Braintree in the convention for framing the constitution of this commonwealth, in 1780. At the latter end of the same year, he again went abroad, in the diplomatic service of the country, and was employed at various courts, and occupied with various negotiations, until 1788. The particulars of these interesting and important services this occasion does not allow time to relate. In 1782 he concluded our first treaty with Holland. His negotiations with that republie, his efforts to persuade the StatesGeneral to recognise our independence, his incessant and indefatigable exertions to represent the American cause favorably, on the Continent, and to counteract the designs of its enemies, open and secret; and his successful undertaking to obtain loans, on the credit of a nation yet new and unknown, are among his most arduous, most useful, most honorable services. It was his fortune to bear a part in the negotiation for peace with England, and in something more than six years from the declaration which he had so strenuously supported, he had the satisfaction to see the minister plenipotentiary of the crown subscribe to the instrument which declared, that his “Britanic Majesty acknowledged the United States to be free, sovereign, and independent.” In these important transactions, Mr. Adams's conduct received the marked approbation of Congress, and of the country.
While abroad, in 1787, he published his Defence of the American Constitutions; a work of merit, and ability, though composed with haste, on the spur of a particular occasion, in the midst of other occupations, and under circumstances not admitting of careful revision. The immediate object of the work was to counteract the weight of opinions advanced by several popular European writers of that day, Mr. Turgot, the Abbé de Mably, and Dr. Price, at a time when the people of the United States were employed in forming and revising their systems of government.
Returning to the United States in 1788, he found the new government about going into operation, and was himself elected the first Vice-President, a situation which he filled with reputation for eight years, at the expiration of which he was raised to the Presidential chair, as immediate successor to the immortal Washington. In this high station he was succeeded by Mr. Jefferson, after a memorable controversy, between their respective friends, in 1801; and from that period his manner of life has been known to all who hear me. He has lived, for five and twenty years, with every enjoyment that could render old age happy. Not inattentive to the occurrences of the times, political cares have yet not materially, or for any long time, disturbed his repose. In 1820 he acted as elector of President and Vice-President, and in the same year we saw him, then at the age of eighty-five, a member of the convention of this Commonwealth, called to revise the constitution. Forty years before, he had been one of those who formed that Constitution; and he had now the pleasure of witnessing that there was little which the people desired to change. Possessing all his faculties to the end of his long life, with an unabated love of reading and contemplation, in the centre of interesting circles of friendship and affection, he was blessed, in his retirement, with whatever of repose and felicity, the condition of man allows. He had, also, other enjoyments. He saw around him that prosperity and general happiness, which had been the object of his public cares and labors. No man ever beheld more clearly, and for a longer time, the great and beneficial effects of the services rendered by himself to his country. That liberty, which he so early defended, that independence of which he was so able an advocate and supporter, he saw, we trust, firmly and securely established. The population of the country thickened around him faster, and extended wider, than his own sanguine predictions had anticipated; and the wealth, respectability, and power of the nation sprang up to a magnitude, which it is quite impossible he could have expected to witness, in his day. He lived, also, to behold those principles of civil freedom, which had been developed, established, and pratically applied in America, attract attention, command respect, and awaken imitation, in other regions of the globe: and well might, and well did he, exclaim,“ Where will the consequences of the American Revolution end !”
If anything yet remain to fill this cup of happiness, let it be added, that he lived to see a great and intelligent people bestow the highest honor in their gift, where he had bestowed his own kindest parental affections, and lodged his fondest hopes. Thus honored in life, thus happy at death, he saw the JUBILEE, and he died; and with the last prayers which trembled on his lips, was the fervent supplication for his country, “independence forever."
Mr. Jefferson, having been occupied in the years 1778 and 1779, in the important service of revising the laws of Virginia, was elected governor of that State, as successor to Patrick Henry, and held the situation when the State was invaded by the British arms.
In 1781 he published his Notes on Virginia, a work which attracted attention in Europe as well as America, dispelled many misconceptions respecting this Continent, and gave its author a place among men distinguished for science. In November 1783, he again took his seat in the Continental Congress, but in the May following was appointed Minister Plenipotentiary, to act abroad, in the negotiation of commercial treaties, with Dr. Franklin and Mr. Adams. He proceeded to France, in execution of this mission, embarking at Boston; and that was the only occasion on which he ever visited this place. In 1785 he was appointed minister to France, the duties of which situation he continued to perform, until October 1789, when he obtained leave to retire, just on the eve of that tremendous Revolution which has so much agitated the world, in our times. Mr. Jefferson's discharge of his diplomatic duties was marked by great ability, diligence, and patriotism; and while he resided at Paris, in one of the most interesting periods, his character for intelligence, his love of knowledge, and of the society of learned men, distinguished him in the highest circles of the French capital. No court in Europe had, at that time, in Paris, a representative commanding or enjoying higher regard, for political knowledge or for general attainment, than the minister of this then infant republic. Immediately on his return to his native country, at the organization of the government under the present Constitution, his talents and experience recommended him to President Washington, for the first office in his gift. He was placed at the head of the Department of State. In this situation, also, he manifested conspicuous ability. His correspondence with the ministers of other powers residing here, and his instructions to our own diplomatic agents abroad, are among our ablest State Papers. A thorough knowledge of the laws and usages of nations, perfect acquaintance with the immediate subject before him, great felicity, and still greater facility, in writing, show themselves in whatever effort his official situation called on him to make. It is believed, by competent judges, that the diplomatic intercourse of the government of the United States, from the first meeting of the Continental Congress in 1774 to the present time, taken together, would not suffer, in respect to the talent with which it has been conducted, by comparison with anything which other and older states can produce; and to the attainment of this respectability and distinction, Mr. Jefferson has contributed his full part,
On the retirement of General Washington from the presidency, and the election of Mr. Adams to that office, in 1797, he was chosen Vice-President. While presiding, in this capacity, over the deliberations of the senate, he compiled and published a Manual of Parliamentary Practice, a work of more labor and more merit, than is indicated by its size. It is now received, as the general standard, by which proceedings are regulated, not only in both Houses of Congress, but in most of the other legislative bodies in the country. In 1801, he was elected President, in opposition to Mr. Adams, and re-elected in 1805, by a vote approaching towards unanimity.
From the time of his final retirement from public life, in 1808, Mr. Jefferson lived, as became a wise man. Surrounded by affectionate friends, his ardor in the pursuit of knowledge undiminished, with uncommon health, and unbroken spirits, he was able to enjoy largely the rational pleasures of life, and to partake in that public prosperity, which he had so much contributed to produce. His kindness and hospitality, the charm of his conversation, the ease of his manpers, the extent of his acquirements, and especially the full store of resolutionary incidents, which he possessed, and which he knew when and how to dispense, rendered his abode in a high degree attractive to his admiring countrymen, while his high public and scientific character drew towards him every intelligent and educated trayeller from abroad. Both Mr. Adams and Mr. Jefferson had the pleasure of knowing that the respect, which they so largely received, was not paid to their official stations. They were not men made great by office; but great men, on whom the country for its own benetit had conferred office. There was that in them, which office did not give, and which the relinquishment of office did not, and could not, take away. In their retirement, in the midst of their fellow citizens, themselves private citizens, they enjoyed as high regard and esteem, as when filling the most important places of public trust.
There remained to Mr. Jefferson yet one other work of patriotism and beneficence, the establishment of a university in his native state. To this object he devoted years of incessant and anxious attention, and by the enlightened liberality of the legislature of Virginia, and the co-operation of other able and zealous friends, he lived to see it accomplished. May all success attend this infant seminary; and may those who enjoy its advantages, as often as their eyes shall rest on the neighbouring height, recollect what they owe to their disinterested and indefatigable benefactor; and may letters honor him who thus labored in the cause of letters.
Thus useful, and thus respected, passed the old age of Thomas Jefferson. But time was on its ever-ceaseless wing, and was now bringing the last hour of this illustrious man. He saw its approach, with undisturbed serenity. He counted the moments, as they passed, and beheld that his last sands were falling. That day, too, was at hand, which he had helped to make immortal. One wish, one hope--if it were not presumptuous-beat in his fainting breast. Could it be so-might it please God-he would desire-once more to see the sun-once more to look abroad on the scene around him, on the great day of liberty. Heaven, in its mercy, fulfilled that praver. He saw that sun-he enjoyed its sacred light-he thanked God, for this mercy, and bowed his aged head to the grave. “Felir, non rila lantum claritate, sed etiam opportunitate mortis."
The last public labor of Mr. Jefferson naturally suggests the expression of the high praise which is due, both to him and to Mr. Adains, for their uniform and zealous attachment to learning, and to the cause of general knowledge. Of the advantages of learning, indeed, and of literary accomplishments, their own characters were striking recommendations, and illustrations. They were scholars, ripe and good scholars; widely acquainted with ancient, as well as modern literature, and not altogether uninstructed in the deeper sciences. Their acquirements, doubtless, were different, and so were the par