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DELIVERED AT A MEETING OF CITIZENS OF BOSTON, HELD IN FAN.
EUIL 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 rivalry, may, indeed, be useful. But these are very different things from organized and systematic party combinations. He admitted, even, that party associations were sometimes unavoidable, and perhaps necessary, to the accomplishment of other ends and purposes.
-But this did not prove that, of themselves, they were good; or that they should be continued and preserved for their-own sake, when there had ceased to be any object to be effected by them.
But there were those who supposed, that whether political party distinctions were, or were not, useful, it was impossible to abolish them. Now he thought, on the contrary, that under present circumstances, it was quite impossible to continue them. New parties, indeed, might arise, growing out of new events, or new questions; but as to those old parties, which had sprung from controversies now no longer pending, or from feelings which time and other causes had now changed, or greatly allayed, he did not believe that they could long remain. Efforts, indeed, made to that end, with zeal and perseverance, might delay their extinction, but, he thought, could not prevent it. There was nothing to keep alive these distinctions, in the interests and objects which now engage society. New questions and new objects arise, having no connexion with the subjects of past controversies, and present interest overcomes or absorbs the recollection of former controversies. All that are united on these existing questions, and present interests, are not likely to weaken their efforts to promote them by angry reflections, on past differences. If there were nothing, in things, to divide about, he thought the people not likely to maintain systematic controversies about men. They have no interest in so doing. Associations formed to support principles, may be called parlies; but if they have no bond of union but adherence to particular men they become factions, - The people, in his opinion, were at present grateful to all parties, for whatever of good they had accomplished, and indulgent to all for whatever of error they had committed; and, with these feelings, were now mainly intent on the great objects which affected their present interests. There might be exceptions to this remark; he was afraid there were; but nevertheless, such appeared to him to be the general feeling in the country. . It was natural that some prejudices should remain longer than their causes, as the waves lash the shore, for a time, after the storm has subsided; but the tendency of the elements was to repose.—Monopolies of all sorts were getting out of fashion, they were yielding to liberal ideas, and to the obvious justice and expediency of fair competition.,
An administration of the general government, which had been, in general, highly satisfactory to the country, had now closed. He was not aware that it could with propriety be said that that administration had been either supported, or opposed by any party associations, or on any party principles. Certain it was, that as far as there had been any organized opposition to the administration, it had had nothing to do with former parties. A new adıninistration had now commenced, and he need hardly say that the most liberal and conciliatory principles had been avowed. It could not be doubted, that it would conform to those principles. Thus far, he believed, its course had given general satisfaction. After what they all had seen, in relation to the gentlemen holding the highest appointment in the Executive Department, under. the President, he would take this opportunity to say, that having been a member of the House of Representatives for six years, during the far greater part of which time Mr. Clay had presided in that House, he was most happy in being able, in a manner less formal than by concurring in the usual vote of thanks, to express his own opinion of his liberality, independence, and honorable feeling. And he would take this occasion also to add, if his opinion could be of any value in such a case, that he thought nothing more unfounded than that that gentleman owed his present situation to any unworthy compromise or arrangement whatever. He owed it to his talent, to his prominent standing in the community, to his course of public service, not now a short one, and to the high estimation in which he stands with that part of the country to which he belongs.
Remarks, Mr. Webster proceeded to say, had been made from the Chair, very kind and partial, as to the manner in which he had discharged the duties which he owed to his constituents, in the House of Representatives. He wished to say, that if he had been able to render any, the humblest services, either to the public or his constituents, in that place, it was owing wholly to the liberal manner in which his efforts there had been received.
Having alluded to the Inaugural Address, he did not mean in the slightest degree to detract from its merits, when he now said, that in his opinion, il either of the other candidates had succeeded in the election, he also would have adopted a liberal course of policy. He had no reason to believe that the sentiments of either of those gentlemen were, in this respect, narrow or contracted. He fully bebered the contrary, in regard to both of them; but if they had been otherwise, he thought still, that expediency or necessity, would have controlled their inclinations.
I forbear, said Mr. W., from pursuing these remarks farther. I repeat, that I do not complain of those who have hitherto thought, or who still think, that party organization is necessary to the public good. I do not question their motives; and I wish to be tolerant eren to those who think that toleration ought not to be indulged.
It is said, sir, that prosperity sometimes hardens the heart. Perhaps, also, it may sometimes have a contrary effect, and elevate and liberalize the feelings. If this can ever be the result of such a cause, there is certainly in the present condition of the country enough to inspire the most grateful and the kindest feelings. We have a common stock both of happiness and of distinction, of which we are all entitled as citizens of the country to partake. We may all rejoice in the general prosperity, in the peace and security which we enjoy, and in the brilliant success which has thus far attended our republican institutions. These are circumstances which may well excite in us all a noble pride. Our civil and political institutions, while they answer for us all the great ends designed by them, furnish at the same time an example to others, and diffuse blessings beyond our own limits.-In whatever part of the globe men are found contending for political liberty, they look to the United States
augment the prices of its great staples, it is reasonable to expect. that these objects will be pursued by the best means which offer. And it may therefore well deserve consideration, whether the commercial, and navigating, and manufacturing interests of the North do not call on us to aid and support them, by united counsels, and united efforts. But I abstain from enlarging on this topic. Let me rather say, sir, that in regard to the whole country, a new era has arisen. In a time of peace, the proper pursuits of peace engage society with a degree of enterprise, and an intenseness of application, heretofore unknown. New objects are opening, and new resources developed, on every side. We tread on a broader theatre; and if instead of acting our parts, according to the novelty and importance of the scene, we waste our strength in mutual crimination and recrimination about the past, we shall resemble those navigators, who having escaped from some crooked and narrow river to the sea, now that the whole ocean is before them, should, nevertheless, occupy themselves with the differences which happened as they passed along among the rocks and the shallows, instead of opening their eyes to the wide horizon around them, spreading their sail to the propitious gale that woos it, raising their quadrant to the sun, and grasping the helm, with the conscious hand of a master.