DELIVERED BEFORE THE
STUDENTSOF PHILLIPS ACADEMY,
DECEMBER 29, 1852,
BY EDWIN D. SANBORN,
PROFESSOR OF LATIN, &c. IN DARTMOUTH COLLEGE.
"URIT ENIM FULGORE SUO, QUI PRAEGRAVAT ARTES
INFRA SE POSITAS; EXTINCTUS, AMABITUR IDEM."
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[ 2 ]
DARTMOUTH PRESS, HANOVER.
PIIILLIPS ACADEMY, JAN. 26, 18~B.
In appreciation of the interesting and instructive Eulogy on the late DANIEL WEBSTER, which you recently delivered to the Students of this Academy, the undersigned were appointed a Committee to request in their behalf a copy for publication.
Yours very respectfully,
J. F. AIKIN.
J. QUINCY BITTINGER,
T. B. RAYNOLDS,
J. B. BRACKETT
PROF. E. D. SANBORN.
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NATURE’S noblemen ought to be tried by their peers. Those illustrious patriots, whose words and deeds constitute the materials of history, should be portrayed by men who can fully comprehend them. The actions and opinions of the honored dead should be scanned and weighed by such of their disciples as are competent to appreciate and imitate them. To hold up their virtues to the admiration of posterity is the office of kindred spirits possessing like tastes and endowments.
"What light is, ‘t is only light can show."
But Webster has gone and left no peer. The man who can justly estimate his mind and heart, his character and influence, does not live. Centuries may elapse before the advent of his equal ; for Nature is not prodigal of such gifts. Those epochs, in human history, which have been distinguished by the life and services of truly great men are separated by centuries and not by generations. Poets, philosophers and statesmen and commanding genius, only appear, when the common mind is prepared, by previous development, to take an onward step in social improvement. Then God condescends to raise up and educate a leader.
" Such men are rais’d to station and command,
When Providence means mercy to the land.
He speaks and they appear ; to him they owe
Skill to direct and strength to strike the blow
To manage with address, to seize with pow’r
The crisis of a dark decisive hour.
Such men are commissioned to perform their service at the proper time and are removed at the proper time
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for, " the Judge of all the earth doeth right." It hath pleased Almighty God to take from this nation its counsellor; from the civilized world, its pacificator. Daniel Webster is no more ! In his own appropriate words, uttered on a similar occasion, we may now say " It is fit that, by public assembly and solemn observance, by anthem and by eulogy, we commemorate the services of national benefactors, extol their virtues, and render thanks to God for eminent blessings, early given and long continued, through their agency, to our favored country." The true artist admires the most perfect specimens of art though he never hopes to equal them. The genuine patriot loves the noblest exhibitions of patriotism and delights to commemorate those virtues which ennoble the land of his birth. When he sees them embodied in human character and exhibited in human conduct, he renders to their living exemplars the sincere homage of a grateful heart, though they walk in paths far above his own highest aspirations. When the light which cheered and guided him is quenched in death and a night of sorrow broods over the land, he bewails the nation’s loss and commends his country to God. Such is our duty. The lights of the age are leaving us. From eternity, these great souls that have gone before, are beckoning their companions home. The stars of our political heavens are going down. Like the Grecian navigator, of old, cased in oak and triple brass, whom winds and currents bore over the AEgean, till the guiding constellations, one by one, disappeared from his view, we feel that night and storm have drifted us far over the ocean of time, till the last luminary to which we looked for guidance has sunk from our sight. It is never right to despair of the republic ; still we may borrow the touching language of poetry when we would express the sense of our irreparable loss ;
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" We have fallen upon evil days,
Star after star decays
The brightest names that shed
Light o’er the land, have fled. "
The history of Daniel Webster is known. It is identified with that of his country. Its laws, its literature, its arts, have all felt the influence of his great mind for half a century. There is no public interest, in the land, that has not been controlled by his wisdom and fostered by his care. It is not my purpose, therefore, to speak, particularly of his public life and services ; but, of these less obvious and comparatively unnoticed agencies which moulded his mind and heart, and gave direction and force to his native endowments. Every truly great man is the joint product of genius and culture. Mind and affections expanding from within, and precept and example operating from without, form the character. The relative influence of the natural faculties and education, in producing the best specimens of our race, was as well understood and defined by Horace, as it now is, after two thousand years of discussion and experience.
"Doctrina sed vim promovet insitam,
Rectique cultus pertora roborant :
Utcumque defecere mores
Indecorant bene nata culpae."
Mr. Webster’s condition in early life, explains many of his prominent characteristics, his fondness for rural life and manly exercises grew directly out of the occupations of his childhood. His reverence for the Bible, his hatred of violence and cruelty, and his earnest devotion to the institutions of his country, are the result of 1parental instruction. His love of liberal learning, his cultivated taste, his elevated aims in life, his intense scorn of all affectation, pretence and intrigue are the spontaneous developments of the intellect and heart with which the Creator endued him. The entire biography of Mr. Webster
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gives new confirmation to a very common maxim of teachers
That the habits formed in early life, determine the destiny of the man. Happy is he, whose habits are his friends. I shall now attempt to follow out some of those prominent traits of his character, which run, like golden threads, through the whole tissue of his history, beginning with the first activities of buoyant childhood, and terminating in the sublime close of the most eventful life of the age.
Mr. Webster was passionately fond of the country. He loved its green fields and sombre forests, its rugged mountains and quiet vales ; its summer toils and winter sports. With Cowper he could cordially say:
" Not rural sights alone, but rural sounds
Exhilarate the spirit and restore
The tone of languid nature."
The lowing of herds and the bleating of flocks cheered him like strains of’ music. Such scenes brought back the recollections of his early days. His love of rural life was, perhaps, his ruling passion. It never forsook him. The purchase of land and the regulation of his estates were among the last business transactions of his life. Farming, with him was a reality, he gave personal attention to the most minute arrangements upon his farms, as his letters to his tenants abundantly show. John Taylor has hundreds of Mr. Webster’s letters containing specific direction respecting the time and place of ploughing, sowing and planting. The amount and kind of seed and manure, for each piece, are mentioned. The various animals, upon the farm, are spoken of by their appropriate names, or peculiar marks ; and particular directions are given for the feeding of them or for their sale and the purchase of others. He was seldom deceived, in the qualities of the animal that he had examined. In the
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management of his farms he was as careful and judicious as in the administration of the State. The highest pleasure he ever knew was in retirement ; in inspecting his crops, examining his stock, preparing tools and seed for future use and planning extensive improvements in every department of rural industry. Like Antaeus, he seemed to acquire new strength, by touching the earth. His spirits rose; the feelings of childhood revived and with them, the artlessness, the simplicity and playfulness of childhood. The stately reserve of the Senator was laid aside; the cares of the diplomatist were forgotten while he re-enacted the scenes of his youth. He donned the farmer’s dress. His discourse was of bullocks, of horses, of flocks and of swine. The farmer’s vocabulary was as familiar to him as the technicalities of the law. All the common processes of agriculture were as vivid in his recollection as when he followed the plough and "drove the team. a-field."
Daniel Webster performed the ordinary services of a boy, on his father’s farm, till the age of fourteen. Imagine to yourself a slender, black-eyed, serious lad, with raven locks, leading the traveller’s horse to water when he alighted at his father’s inn, driving the cows to pasture, at early dawn, and returning them at evening, riding the horse to harrow between the rows of corn, in weeding time, and following the mowers, with a wooden spreader, in haying time, and you have the portrait. His early opportunities for improvement were far less than those of farmers’ sorts at the present day. Schools were few and short. In Salisbury, they were migratory, kept in each of three districts, which comprised the town, in turn. Sometimes the school was more than three miles from his father’s house. Two or three months in winter, with constant occupation in summer, furnished but limited means of improvement to the lover of
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learning. Books and periodicals were almost unknown. The few books, which his father owned, were thoroughly conned. The Bible, Watts’s Psalms and hymns, Shakespeare and Pope constituted his literary treasures. He could recite the whole of Pope’s ‘‘ Essay on Man,’’ when he was twelve years of age. Being once asked, why he committed this philosophic poem to memory, at that time of life, he replied, " Because I had little else to commit.’’ He said that he could not remember the time when he could not read, he learned his letters and infant prayers from the lips of his mother. He was an accomplished reader very early in life. He once told me that he recollected, when a very small boy, that the teamsters from the North, who called at his father’s tavern for refreshment, used to insist on his reading them a psalm. They leaned upon their long whip-stocks and listened, with delighted attention, to the elocution of the young orator. There was a charm, in his voice, at this early age. The hymns which he then committed, he recited with pleasure to the close of life. He was often heard singing or reciting stanzas from Watts as he walked about his house or grounds. At. Franklin, in September, 1851, while he was laboring under severe indisposition, I often heard the clear, silvery tones of his voice ringing through the old house as he sung,
" Our lives through various scenes are drawn,
And vex’d with trifling cares
While thine eternal thoughts move on
Thine undisturbed affairs."
The last line was often heard alone. The contrast of human government with the divine, undoubtedly, suggested it. At midnight ,while the rapt singer was tortured with pain, the same strain was heard, from his sickroom. I have known him to repeat a psalm of Watts and pronounce it unsurpassed in beauty and sublimity. "Wherever you find Watts" said he, "you find true devotion."
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He showed the same love for the sweet minstrel during his last illness. The impressions of youth grew stronger with age. Near the close of his life, he expressed a wish to leave his testimony in favor of early piety ; declaring that the hymns of Watts, from his cradle hymns to his version of the Psalms, were always uppermost in his mind ; oftener occurring to his memory than the writings of his favorite poets, Dryden, Pope, Cowper, Milton and Shakespeare. He wished his friends to understand, that the early religious instruction and example of his parents had moulded and influenced his whole subsequent life.
Daniel Webster a serious, earnest and truthful boy.
The reverence for God’s word and ordinances which his parents inculcated, never forsook him. On this point, he being dead yet speaketh. His earliest written and published productions evince an elevation of thought and a solemnity of style above his years. " Erat in verbis gravitas, et facile dicebat, et auctoritatem naturalem. quandam habebat oratio."
He entered College, with very imperfect preparation, at fifteen. He had devoted only about ten months to the preparatory studies; and, less than three months of that time, to Greek. In College, he early became a contributor for the press. His first printed production is on "Hope.’’ It is written both in prose and verse. This passage occurs in it:
" Through the whole journey of man’s life, however deplorable his condition, Hope still irradiates his path and saves him from sinking in wretchedness and despair. Thanks to Heaven that human nature is endowed with such an animating principle When man is reduced to the lowest spoke of fortune’s wheel; when the hard hand of pinching poverty binds him to the dust ; when sickness and disease prey upon his body; yea, when meagre death approaches him, what then supports and buoys him safe over the abyss of misery ? Tis Hope."
The close is as follows:
But first of all, go ask the dying soul,
Whose all, whose only portion lies beyond
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The narrow confines of this earthly realm,
How thus he can support affliction’s weight
And grapple with the mighty foe of man
He says, ‘tis faith ; ‘tis hope;
By these he penetrates death’s dreary vale,
And lo! a blest Eternity appears."
His next piece is on " Charity." A brief extract will show its character:
Let hate and discord vanish at thy sight,
And every fibre of the human breast
Be tun’d to genuine sympathy and love.
When thou, in smiles, descendest from the skies,
Celestial radiance shines around thy path,
And happiness, attendant on thy steps,
Proclaims, in cheerful accents, thine approach."
The next article is on" Fear," written partly in prose and partly in blank verse. I find others upon the seasons of the year, upon war and upon political topics, both in prose and verse. The style is somewhat ambitious as is natural, at that early age, but the thoughts are always elevated and serious. Almost every composition is imbued with religious sentiments.
Mr. Webster possessed one of those well balanced minds which can find pleasure in the acquisition of all truth. He did not adopt one study and neglect another in his College course; but pursued them all with equal ardor and manifest delight. If he had continued to cultivate poetry he would, undoubtedly, have excelled in that species of composition.
During the first term of his Senior year, he was called to mourn the death of a classmate, to whom he was fondly attached. He was invited to pronounce his eulogy. A copy was requested for publication. " This oration," says a classmate, " was full of good sentiments. It would have done honor to one of long-improved privileges."
It shows very clearly what his views of religion then were. Speaking of his deceased classmate, he said
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"To surviving friends gladdening is the reflection, that he died as had lived, a firm believer
in the sublime doctrines of christianity. * * * * Whoever knew him, in life, and saw him in death, will cordially address this honorable testimony to his memory:
'He taught us how to live ; and oh! too high
The price of knowledge, taught us how to die.'
Religion dissevers the chain that binds man to the dust and bids him be immortal. It enables the soul to recline on the arm of the Almighty, and the tempest beats harmless around her. In the smooth seasons and the calms of life, the worth of religion is not estimated. Like every thing else which has in it the genuine marks of greatness, it is not captivated with the allurements of worldly grandeur, nor the soft and silken scenes of luxury. Amidst the gaiety and frivolity of a Parisian court, the philosopher of Ferney could curse religion without a blush ; Hume, proud of that reputation which his talents had acquired him, could play it off in a metaphysical jargon; and Paine disposes of it with a sneer and a lie. But let religion be estimated by him who is just walking to the stake of the martyr; by him who is soon to suffer the tortures of the inquisition; by him who is proscribed and banished from his family, from his friends and from his country — these will tell you that religion is invaluable; that it gives them comfort here; that it is the earnest of life eternal; the warrant that gives possession of endless felicity."
These are the opinions of his youth. How like the matured convictions of age; like that solemn declaration of his sentiments which he subscribed, with his own hand, on his dying bed:
" My heart him always assured and re—assured me that the gospel of Jesus Christ must be a divine reality. The Sermon on the Mount cannot be a merely human production. This belief enters into the depths of my conscience. The whole history of man proves it."
As a teacher., while he was preceptor of Fryeburg Academy, in 1802, then a youth of twenty years, he exhibited the same serious deportment and respect for religion. An old pupil of his, Dr. T. P. Hill of Hanover, N. H. says " It was his invariable practice to open and close the school with extempore prayer; and, I shall never forget the solemnity with which the duty was always performed." Mr. Webster was never known to
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trifle, with the affairs of time, much less with the realities of eternity. In his public speeches, he always alluded to the Scriptures, with profound reverence, and never uttered the name of the Supreme Being but with manifest awe. He was a careful reader of the Bible and delighted to repeat passages of elevated poetry and sublime devotion from its pages, in contrast with the inferior productions of uninspired poets and philosophers. His early poetic productions are all redolent of the truths of God’s word. From a religious poem published April 28, 1800, I quote the introduction and close:
"When that grand period in the eternal mind,
Long predetermined, had arrived, behold
The universe, this most stupendous mass
Of things, to instant being rose. This globe
For light and heat dependent on the sun,
By power supreme, was then ordained to roll
And on its surface Dear immortal MAN,
Complete in bliss, the image of his God.
His soul to gentle harmonies attuned,
Th’ ungovern’d rage of boisterous passions knew not;
Malice, revenge and hate were then unknown;
Love held its empire in the human heart,
The voice of love alone escaped the lip
And gladd’ning nature echoed back the strain.
Oh happy state! too happy to remain;
Temptation comes and man, a victim, falls !
Farewell to peace, farewell to human bliss !
Farewell ye kindred virtues, all farewell!
Ye flee the world and seek sublimer realms.
Passions impetuous now possess the heart
And hurry every gentler feeling thence.
* * * * * * * * *
Is it now asked why man for slaughter pants,
Raves with revenge, and with detraction burns?
Go ask of Aetna why her thunders roar,
Why her volcanoes smoke, and why she pours,
In torrents, down her side, the igneous mass
That hurries men and cities to the grave.
These but the effects of bursting fires within;
Convulsions that are hidden from our sight
And bellow under ground. Just so in man;
The love of conquest and the lust of power
Am but the effects of passion unsubdued.
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T’ avert th’ effects then, deeply strike the cause,
O’ercome the rage of passion and obtain
The empire over self. This once achieved,
Impress fair virtue’s precept on the heart,
Teach man t’ adore his God and love his brother;
War then no more shall raise the rude alarm,
Widows and orphans then shall sigh no more,
Peace shall return and man again be bless’d."
Another prominent element of his character was respect for law. In youth, he practised obedience to his parents and teachers with Spartan equanimity; and, in manhood, he inculcated the same principle with Roman firmness. You know how he loved and honored his parents ; how he delighted to recall their pious instructions; how he made an annual pilgrimage to the place, where their honored dust reposes, to weep over their graves; how he delighted to take his children to the site of the old log cabin which his father built, in the forest, beyond every vestige of civilized man how he delighted to recount to them the toils, the sufferings and victories of that heroic' father through the blood and fire of two long protracted wars. You know, too, how fully he appreciated the sacrifice made by his parents, in their deep poverty, to give him an education which seemed beyond their means and thus to raise him above their own condition. You know, too, how timidly, after a sleepless night, spent in conference with Ezekiel, he ventured to ask that his beloved brother might leave the farm for the halls of learning. In the family council which was called in consequence, when the father, bowed with toil and suffering and oppressed with pecuniary burdens, was speechless with grief at the thought of losing the supports of his age, then that strong-minded, generous mother having a presentiment of the future eminence of her sons decided the question. Her verdict was " I have lived long in the world and have been happy in my children, and I wish them to be happy. If Daniel and Ezekiel will promise
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to take care of their father and mother, in their old age, I will consent to the sale of all our property, at once, that they may enjoy the benefit of what remains after our debts are paid.’’ The memory of that fond mother was very dear to her illustrious sons. She was a woman of commanding presence and great personal beauty. The only representation of her face extant is a small profile likeness, at Marshfield, handsomely framed, with this title, "My excellent Mother," written by Mr. Webster and subscribed with his own name.*
When Daniel and Ezekiel had completed their collegiate education, they consecrated their first earnings to the support and comfort of their parents. When Daniel Webster attained his majority, he hired money, in his own name, went to Salisbury and notified all the creditors of Judge Webster to present to him their claims for settlement. This was at the time when his father had secured for him the Clerkship of the Court of Common Pleas, in Hillsborough County, with a salary of $1,500 per annum. He was very anxious that his son should accept it as it would place the family above want. But Daniel had resolved to influence the decisions of Courts rather than record them. I have heard him say that his father’s black eyes flashed with momentary displeasure, when he respectfully declined this tempting offer, and he added with some spirit, "well Daniel, your mother has often said that you would make something or nothing,
* Every thing which reminded him of his mother was very precious. In one of his letters to John Taylor during the last year, he bids him be careful to cultivate his mother’s garden, if it required the expense of an extra hand. The flowers that grew there were his favorites. On the evening of his triumphant reception in Boston, in July last, after entering the Hotel, exhausted by the fatigues of the day, a lady who knew his favorite flower, selected from the thousands of elegant bouquets, that were showered upon him, as he passed through the streets, a little bunch of carnation pinks and presented them to him. He kissed her hand with inimitable grace and said; How fragrant , how beautiful ! they remind me of my mother’s garden."
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and I think you have decided the question." He had decided it; and, that was the turning point in his life. His brother Ezekiel, as I find from their correspondence, debated afterwards a similar question and decided in the same way, though he was, at the very time, giving his note for money to aid his brother in the payment of his father’s liabilities; and, in addition to the fatigues of a school by day, teaching sailors in the evening, to eke out the scanty means of his own support. It seems that Daniel had suggested to his brother, while teaching, a lucrative position as a clerk which was within his reach. In a letter dated Aug. 14, 1805, Ezekiel replies as follows:
" I should wish it, if convinced that I might do better than in a profession. In that office, you know a man stands on a mine that may be sprung almost any moment. In a profession, he is on a little surer ground. When the storm beats, he can buffet it. Men must be sick, and they will be dishonest; and the few upright will want lawyers to protect them from rogues. The fees of the clerk may be frittered down till they bear no proportion to the labor." He concludes by referring the matter to his brother’s direction. We hear no more of the proposal. The offer was, of course, declined. This rejection of an office of such emolument, under such circumstances, shows the self-reliance of those young men. They were conscious of ability to act in the affairs of men and to direct them. They chose, therefore, to depend on their own resources for success, and they were not disappointed.— Ezekiel Webster could scarcely be said to be inferior to Daniel in talents or moral virtues. He was a kindred spirit in mind and heart. N. P. Rogers, Esq., writing to the Editor of the New York Tribune in 1846, uses the following language:
"Daniel Webster had a brother Ezekiel ; Zeke the people used to call him, the best looking man and the most of a man that has
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trodden the soil since George Washington. He was a more proper looking man than Daniel himself, and there was as little about him you could trifle with as there is about the White Hills. And yet he was as modest and delicate as a child. Judge Livermore said of him, he was a model of a lawyer and of a man. He was a New Hampshire Lawyer. He is dead, He fell dead in the Court house in the very midst of a mighty argument. All eyes were riveted upon him as he was in the full tide of terrible remark on the testimony of an opposing witness. He paused for breath, rolled up his majestic eyes and fell, like an oak, entirely dead. Judge Livermore instantly adjourned the Court, without day."
This brother, Daniel loved with intense affection. They labored together in boyhood on the farm, they aided each other in securing an education. They were co-workers in earning money, with a common purse, to take a heavy pecuniary load from the shoulders of a revered father. Of the personal appearance of the father and brother Daniel thus speaks:
"My father ! Ebenezer Webster born at Kingston in the lower part of the State in 1739—the handsomest man I ever saw except my brother Ezekiel, who appeared to me, and so does he now,the very finest human form that ever I laid eyes on. I saw him in his coffin—a white forehead—a tinged cheek—a complexion as clear as heavenly light! But where am I straying? The grave has closed upon him as it has upon all my brothers and sisters. We shall soon be all together. But this is melancholy and I leave it. Dear, dear kindred blood, how I love you all."
This affectionate regard for his relatives was manifested in a modified form for all his teachers. You have all seen his filial epistle to old Master Tappan, which was also accompanied with a liberal donation. His tribute to Dr. Abbott, at the meeting of the Alumni of Exeter Academy, was said to be surpassingly touching and eloquent. The venerable Dr. Wood, to whom he recited for six months, while he was preparing for College, so long as he lived, always received from him an annual visit of respect; and, when he heard of his death, he exclaimed: "He was a good man and true. He has acted well his part, in life ; and, the children will rise up and call him blessed."
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Of the professors, in College, to whom he recited, he ever spoke, with warm interest; and, once, admitted that, in his youth, he was so captivated with the brilliant and stately periods of President Wheelock, that his own style was, for a season, greatly marred by imitating him. While in College, no man was more observant of order and punctuality. His classmate, Mr. Smith, says:
"He was a strict observer of order. His mind was too dignified to do otherwise. He never-engaged in College disturbances. I should as soon have suspected John Wheelock, the President, of improper conduct as Daniel Webster. He looked with contempt upon all lawless conduct. I never knew him to waste the study hours. He was constant, at the recitations, and always well prepared. He was peculiarly industrious. In addition to the college studies, he read more than any one in his class. He read with great rapidity and remembered all. He would accomplish more business, in a given time, than any one of his classmates. As a general scholar, Webster was good. He was not deficient in a single study. As a composer and speaker there was not his equal in the class. The truth is, that, by his thorough investigation of every subject, and every study, while in College, together with his giant mind, he rose to the very pinnacle of fame; and since he left College all he had to do, was to sustain himself where he was, and fame would roll in uponhim; and all his classmates have been compelled to look up high to see him which I have ever been proud to do."
You have heard of Diomed and Ulysses; of Pylades and Orestes; of Achates and AEneas, in ancient times. Here, from our own Academic shades, has come forth an armor-bearer worthy of the intellectual hero whom he chooses to follow. Rev. Brown Emerson, D. D., of Salem, Mass., who was in College with Mr. Webster, writes to me as follows:
"As a classical and belles-lettres scholar, and as a speaker and debater, he stood far above all the other members of the College. Though young, he gave such unequivocal evidence of a powerful genius, that some, I remember, predicted his future eminence. The powers of his mind were remarkably developed by the compass and force of his arguments in extemporaneous debate. The clearness of his reasoning, though so young, connected with his aspect and manner, made an almost irresistible impression. His large, black, piercing eyes peering out under
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dark, overhanging brows ;—his broad intellectual forehead; the solemn tones of his voice;—the dignity of his mein;—with an earnestness, by which he seemed to throw his whole great soul into his subject, evincing the sincerity of his belief that the cause he pleaded was that of truth and justice; all these together created a power of eloquence which, in the maturity of after life, neither judge nor jury could often withstand, and gave him a success as an advocate, at the bar, which, in this country, is without a parallel."
Dr. George Farrar of Derry, N. 1-I., who preceded Mr. Webster, one year, in College, says:
" Mr. Webster very early showed that he possessed talents of the first order. He was one of the first in his class as a classical scholar. He possessed a very retentive memory ;—by reading twenty or even more pages of poetry twice over, I have heard him repeat their contents almost verbatim. He was much in the habit of extemporaneous speaking. He read much in general history and philosophy. He was a strict observer of the Sabbath and read much in the Bible and religious books. He had the rare talents united of a good judgment and a retentive memory."
Hon. Henry Hubbard, of Charlestown, N. H., who was two years in College with Mr. Webster, confirms all these statements from his own knowledge. Speaking of his success, as a writer and speaker, he says:
"He was so decidedly beyond any one else that no other student, in his class, was ever spoken of as second to him. The students and those who knew him best and judged of his merit impartially, felt that no one, connected with the College, deserved to be compared with him, at thetime he received his degree. His habits and moral character were entirely stainless. I never heard them questioned during our College acquaintance."
Another gentleman, Rev. Dr. Merrill, of Middlebury, Vt., who was his classmate, writes me
"He was a student of good habits. I presume, confidently, that he was never concerned in any mischief. I suppose that he acted upon the principle of mastering his lessons and attending on all the exercises of the College, both literary and religious."
Dr. Shurtleff, who was then a tutor in the College, says:
"Mr. Webster, while in College, was remarkable for his steady habits, his intense application to study and his punctual attendance upon all the prescribed exercises. He was always in his place and with a decorum suited to it. He had no collision with any one, nor appeared to enter into the concerns of others; but, emphatically minded his own business."
This is what he has always done, and this is the secret sf his success. I have been thus minute in describing his College life, because, there prevails among students, an erroneous opinion respecting his habits and rank as a scholar. Mr. Webster’s habits of reading have been alluded to. He was supposed tote a very extensive reader. This opinion arose from the extent of his knowledge, the clearness and accuracy of his statements. He was, however, no literary gourmand. lie read much but not many books. He always read with an object in view and with concentrated attention. The mere reading of many hooks neither makes a man learned or wise. It is the appropriation and assimilation of knowledge that contributes to mental growth. There must be an intellectual appetency in the soul, else it will derive no strength from the pabulum which it devours. An old friend of Mr. Webster, who roomed with him when he taught, at Fryehurg, has furnished me with Mr. Webster’s own account of his mental habits at that time:
So much as I read," sai(i he, " I made my o~ a. When a half hour, or an hour, at most, hadl expired, I closed my book and thought it all over. If there was any thing particularly interesting to me, either in sentiment or language, I endeavored to recall it and lay it up ill my memory ; and, commonly could effect my object. Then, if in dlebate or conversation, afterward, any subject came up on which I had read something, I could talk very ~asilv so far as I had read and then I was very careful to stop."
In later years, when his experience and observation had become more enlarged, he ha-d no occasion to slop till the subject was completely exhausted. It is worthy of notice that he never devoted much time to the reading of works of fiction. While a student, he scarcely read novels, at all; in after life, he merely looked into them, occasionally, to ascertain how the public mind was employed in reading them.*
* In 1805, he gave the following account of himself to a classmate: "In Boston, my reading was mostly appropriate to my profession. Gifford’s
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He made a thorough investigation of every subject upon which he was to speak. He prepared his cases for Court with great care. This he regarded as a duty which he owed to his client and to justice. His addresses for public occasions were the fruit of long and patient reflection. His best passages were often composed while following the windings of a brook for trout, or wandering through quiet forests in quest of game. He delayed writing out his thoughts till near the time of their delivery, that he might gain momentum from the tide of passing events. Such was his practice in College. He matured his thoughts, in his solitary rambles, and put them on paper but a short time before they were due. One of his classmates says:
"He was in the habit of writing his own declamations, even when not required to do so, by the laws of the College. When he had to speak, at two o’clock, he would frequently begin to write after dinner; and, when the bell rung, he would fold his paper and put it into his pocket and go in and speak with great ease. At one time, when thus writing, his windows being open, a sudden flaw of wind took away his paper and it was last seen flying over the meeting house; but, he went in and spoke its contents with remarkable fluency."
The thoughts all lay combined in his memory. The writing of them was merely mechanical. It would not be safe, therefore, for ordinary students to attempt to imitate him, unless they first learn to " read, mark, and inwardly digest," as he did; and, then subject themselves to like habits of profound abstraction and long continued reflection. He could use the words of Horace with a significancy which the Roman poet never dreamed of:
"neque enim quum lectulus aut me
Porticus excepit, desum inihi."
Juvenal has amused me for some evenings, Gibbon’s Life end Posthumous Works, Moore’s Travels in France and Italy, Paley’s Natural Theology, et pauca alia similia, have rescued me from the condemnation of doing nothing. I am earnest in the study of the French Language, and can now translate about as much, for a task, as we could read of Tully in our Freshman year."
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It will be recollected that the speech ascribed to John Adams, in Mr. Webster’s eulogy on Adams and Jefferson, which Mr. Everett pronounces unsurpassed, by any thing of the kind in our language; and, which has caused much search to be made respecting its origin, and called forth many letters of inquiry, where, in the works of Adams, it could be found, was composed by Mr. Webster, in his house, in Boston, on the day before the delivery of it in Faneuil Hall. It is very probable that some of the finest passages in his speeches, which he was presumed to have prepared beforehand, were called forth by the excitement of the occasion ; by the inspiration of the time, place and circumstances, he seemed to make little preparation for his most elaborate orations. Some thought, therefore, that he could speak, on any subject, without mental effort. He thought while others trifled; he labored while others slept; he meditated while others disputed.* His opinions were thus matured on matters of national concern, long before he had occasion to use them. He was oftener the last than the ,first to engage in debate. He then came with the authority of a judge rather than the pleadings of an advocate. He often delayed speaking on questions that agitated the public mind and divided the Senate, till the country became impatient. His friends complained of him; his enemies challenged him. When the tumult has reached its height, he ‘‘ mounts the whirlwind and directs the storm.’’ He
* James H. Bingham, Esq., a classmate of Mr. Webster, writes to me under date of Nov. 25, 1852, respecting his habits of study in College: "He was sure to understand the subject of his recitation; sometimes ~ used to think, in a more extended and comprehensive sense, than his teacher. He never liked to be confined to small technicalities or views but seemed to possess an intuitive knowledge of whatever he was considering. He did not find it necessary, as was the case with most of us, to sit downl to hard work, three or four hours, to make himself master of his lesson, but seemed to comprehend it, in a larger view; and, would sometimes procure other books, on the same subject, for further examination, and employ hours, in close thought, either in his room, or in his walk, which would enlarge his viewsand, at the same time, might with some, give him the character of not being a close student."
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appears, with the dignity of a monarch to sustain the right and defeat the wrong. His words are borne, on the wings of the lightning, to every corner of the land. The nation reads. His friends exult; his enemies revile. Both parties feel as though a great mountain had fallen upon their battlefield, to separate by an insurmountable barrier, the contending hosts. His friends repose under its shadow, and bid defiance to all corners; his enemies, like the tenants of a crushed ant-hill, are busy in removing, particle by particle, those frowning cliffs that protect their fainting foes. Many such victories has he achieved. His only armor was invincible logic. He never entered the lists till his country needed a champion. He never sought controversy. On the contrary, all the tendencies of his nature were pacific. He was quiescent and contemplative rather than aggressive and excitable. ‘‘ No man was ever more respectful to others; no man carried himself with greater decorum, no man with superior dignity." He was never called to order in debate ; never rebuked by an offended court. From childhood to age, he was a man of peace,—national peace,—social peace,—domestic peace.
The following extract is from an article, published by him, Nov. 25, 1799.
"Cry havoc! and let slip the dogs of war !"
"For what was man created, but to cultivate the arts of peace and friendship, to beam charity and benevolence on all around him, to improve his own mind by study and reflection, to serve his God with all the powers of his soul, and, finally, when the days of his years are completed, to bid adieu to earthly objects with a smile, to close his eyes on the pillow of religious hope and sink to repose in the bosom of his Maker? Why then is the object of our existence unattained? Why does man relentless draw the sword to spill the blood of man? And why are the fairest countries on earth desolated and depopulated with the ravages of war? Why are the annals of the world swelled with the details of "murder, treason, sacrilege and crimes that strike the soul with horror but to name them ?" Oh corrupted nature! Oh depraved man! Those who are delighted with tales of bloodshed
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and destruction flail a rich repast in the daily accounts from Europe, where:
"Gigantic slaughter stalks with awful strides,
And vengeful fury pours her copious tides."
But to the child of humanity, to the man of true benevolence, it is a sad, a painful reflection, that iniquity should usurp the reign of justice, that the liberties and the lives of millions should be sacrificed to satiate the ambition of individuals and, that tyrants should wade through seas of blood to empire and dominion.
War, under some circumstances is proper, is just. When men take arms to burst those chains which have bound them in slavery, to assert and maintain those privileges, which they justly claim as natural rights, their object is noble and we wish them success.
But on the contrary, when individuals prompted by desire of revenge, or from motives of ambition and personal aggrandizement, lead forth their bloody hosts to slaughter and wantonly sport in the destruction of their species, our bosoms glow with indignation, and we, reluctantly, but resolutely, have recourse to those means for our own preservation, which tyrants would employ for our destruction."
On his dying bed, he closed his sublime discourse upon the gospel of Jesus Christ with these words,
"Peace on earth, and good will toward men;" then clasping his hands together, he added with solemn emphasis; " That is happiness—the essence of Christianity-—good will toward men.’’
From all the patriots and statesmen of the world, he selected Washington for his model to study and imitate.
Among his earliest productions there is a poetic apostrophe to the Father of his Country. It was written in 1801.
"Ah Washington, thou once didst guide the helm,
And point each danger to our infant realm,
Didst show the gulf, where faction’s tempests sweep,
And the big thunders frolic o’er the deep,
Through the red wave didst lead our bark, nor stood,
Like Moses on the other side the flood !
But thou art gone, yes, gone, and we deplore
The man, the Washington we knew before.
But when thy spirit mounted to the sky,
And scarce beneath thee left a tearless eye,
Tell,—what Elisha then thy mantle caught
Warmed with thy virtue—with thy wisdom fraught ?'
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The question that interested the youthful poet has been once solved; and, we are now prepared to repeat it with pensive earnestness, over the tomb of Webster. On Bunker Hill, in 1843, he said: "America has furnished to the world the character of Washington! And if our American Institutions had done nothing else, that alone would have entitled them to the respect of mankind." We may now add, with a melancholy pleasure, the respect of mankind is drawn to us by "a twofold cord which is not easily broken." Webster, like Washington, exhibited, in public life, a native dignity of manner, which forbade the approaches of intrusive meddlers, and arrested, at once, all impertinent interference with his appropriate duties. Those legislators, who, from time to time, have moved to investigate his official conduct, and have preferred charges of malversation, against him, have always found those measures suicidal to themselves, and have ever after, been spoken of, as politically dead.
Mr. Webster scorned to secure official station by artifice; nor, would he tolerate political intrigue to gain party success. You might as soon expect Mount Washington to stoop for the convenience of those who climb. He has received no honor which he did not deserve. He has held no office which could add lustre to his reputation. Unlike Washington, Mr. Webster, in private life, was eminently social. His conversation was always instructive. No man ever listened to his familiar discourse, for an hour, who was not deeply impressed with his wisdom. He exhibited the same charming affability in youth. Dr. Farrar says: "He, very early in life, attracted the attention of all present by his pleasant conversation. He was agreeable, without ostentation." An old friend of his, who knew him intimately, while a teacher at Fryeburg, says: "He had not then attained the full development of manhood; nor, had that intellectual
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expression of countenance become so marked as in after years. His cheeks were thin; the bones of his face prominent: so that he was far from exhibiting that beautiful and majestic appearance which a few more years brought upon him. But his gentleness, modesty and agreeable manners produced for him a more friendly feeling in those with whom he lived, as well as in those who were under his instruction, than his first appearance promised. There was nothing specially noticeable about him, at this time, except his full, steady, large and searching eyes. Nobody could see those eyes and ever forget their appearance or him who possessed them."
An old pupil of his writes to me as follows:
"He gained the universal respect both of scholars and villagers; and the regret with which they parted from him is among my most vivid recollections of that day. The remarkable equanimity of temper he ever manifested in the school was a matter of common observation, he seemed, at times, somewhat abstracted in manner and devoted every interval of leisure, which occurred in school, to reading. When called on for explanation of the subjects studied, he was full, accurate and clear."
Another pupil of his, Rev. Dr. Osgood of Springfield, Mass., says:
He was greatly bcloved by all who knew him. His habits were strictly abstemious ; and, he neither took wine nor any strong drink. He was punctual in his attendance on public worship, and, even opened his school with prayer. I never heard him use a profane word. I never saw him disturbed in his temper. He was then, in straightened circumstances and paid his board by copying deeds for my father, who was then Register for the County."
I have much other testimony of the like import, which it is unnecessary to add.
Mr. Webster, undoubtedly, owed much to his superior endowments, but still more to his industry. His life was one of incessant toil. Writing to a friend, in 1846, he says:" I have worked for more than twelve hours a day, for fifty years, on an average." In 1851, he said, in~a public speech: "I know not how the bread of idleness
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tastes." His very amusements were all manly and invigorating; and, even his solitary rambles in hunting and fishing, were often devoted to the composition of his orations. His address to the veterans of the Revolution,, on Bunker Hill, was first pronounced on the borders of Marshpee brook. He was, habitually, an early riser. What little I have accomplished," he once said, "has been done early in the morning." When a student, his love of books often caused him long vigils, at night, and in subsequent life, as it seems, public duties often encroached upon the hours which were devoted to rest. When in office, he was usually the first at his post of duty and the last to leave it. An appointment was kept as sacredly as an oath. However distant the day, he remembered it. No one was compelled to wait, on his account. If we may judge by his practice, he approved of short visits and long friendships.
Mr. Webster was a man of large sympathies, of warm and earnest affections. His heart was the fit companion of his head. His friendship was lost only by unkindness or injustice. His love was not chilled by the frosts of age or, even the icy hand of death. When too feeble to rise to salute his friends, he still folded them to his bosom with a dying embrace. He has been called cold and unsympathising. No assertion could be more false. No man ever lived who was more ready to make personal sacrifices for the comfort of others. Could his private life be spread out before the world, men would look with a deeper interest, upon the gentle play of his domestic affections than upon the gigantic achievements of his intellect. He loved, as he thought, with great intensity of emotion. The thousand little incidents, that show the native generosity of his soul, are the strong ties that bind him to the common mind. These unostentatious acts of benevolence, are like the countless filaments that bound
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the man-mountain in the Liliputian tale, to the earth; taken separately, they are like the spider’s web, but united, they can not be broken. Men admire his genius; they love his humanity. This shows us why the multitude are so eager to know how his great heart beat, when he breathed the same low atmosphere in which they live; and, when they find that "their homely joys and destiny obscure" call forth the warm and gushing sympathies of his soul, they love him as a brother and honor him as a sage. Mr. Webster was known in his public character, to the whole civilized world. He could not, of course, make all mankind his particular friends. In his social intercourse, he seems to have followed the advice of old Polonius to his son:
"Give thy thoughts no tongue,
Nor any unproportioned thought his act.
Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar,
The friends thou hast and their adoption tried,
Grapple them to thy soul with hooks of steel,
But do not dull thy palm with entertainment
Of each new, unlintch’d, unfledg’d comrade.
Beware of entrance to a quarrel; but being in
Bear it, that the opposer may beware of thee.
Give every man thine ear, but few thy voice:
Take each man’s censure, but reserve thy judgment."
We have a strong proof of the genuine kindness of his nature, in the fact, that children, domestics and laborers who knew him, were always warmly attached to him. His eye had a peculiar fascination for children. They always came, at his bidding; and, he instantly became their companion. His condescension to servants, his cordial greeting of old acquaintances, caused them to forget their inferiority and to speak with the freedom of equals. In his early letters to his classmates, he addresses them, in terms of the strongest endearment; and he seems to covet their affection with the fondness of woman’s love. This was no transient emotion. He loved them, to the last; and, in age addressed them with the
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fervor of youthful feeling. Writing to an old classmate in 1849, he says:
"My dear old Classmate, Roommate, and Friend, It gives me very true pleasure to hear from you and to learn that you are well. Years have not abated my affectionate regard. We have been boys together; and men together; and now we are growing old together, but you always occupy the same place in my remembrance and good wishes."
Time did not abate his friendship; public and private cares did not stifle it. He was naturally genial, kind, and even playful, in social life. When engaged in public duties, he seemed abstracted, and inaccessible. His eye was, apparently, introverted; as if his mind had, for a time, withdrawn to some private apartment of its ponderous dome, to work out some problem for eternity. But when he met his guests, at his own fireside, then, " Ceasar was himself again." Those who have enjoyed his society, under such circumstances, will mark those days with white in the calendar of their history. He did not, like Johnson, make his memory (accurate and tenacious as it was,) an engine of social oppression, but when conversation flagged, he never failed to draw, from its stores. anecdote and fact, something both pleasant and profitable. In society, his only object was to make others happy.
I have thus attempted to sketch some of the prominent traits of a great and good man. Some may now ask, had he no faults? Those who know him, only by report, affirm that he had many; but, I have been so absorbed in admiration of his eminent virtues, that I have failed to notice them. I leave that investigation to those whose temper and heart incline them to the ungrateful service. Our modern philanthropists who presume to act the part of Rhadamanthus as well as of Hercules, never do things by halves. Whether they love or hate, they do it with all their might; and, there are as many "good haters" of Daniel Webster, in New England, as there were of Socrates, in Athens, or of Cicero, in Rome. Anytus
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and Melitus, Clodius and Catiline, were heathen, and, consequently far less culpable, for their murderous spirit, than the reckless defamers of the modern patriot, who cloak their malignant hate under the sacred name of philanthropy. "It requires some talent," says an old writer, "and some generosity, to find out talent and generosity in others, though nothing but self-conceit and malice are needed to discover or to imagine faults." I hold that men should be judged by their excellencies rather than by their defects. I have, therefore, endeavored to set before you, in this brief notice of Mr. Webster, as a student, a teacher anti citizen, an example of industry, punctuality and fidelity, worthy of all imitation. It remains for me to speak of him as a man of letters. Were I gifted with his impressive elocution, I would repeat to you his own words, to show how profoundly he thought, how eloquently he spoke; but, alas! the best that I can do, is to light a feeble taper to supply the place of the departed sun. Johnson said, many years ago, if a student would acquire a finished English style, he must spend his days and nights with Addison. To American students, that rule has become obsolete. We have a better model. If you would drink from "the well of pure English undefiled," study Webster’s works;
"Nocturna versate manu, versate diurna."
Mr. Thackeray, in his lectures on the Wits of the reign of Queen Anne, gives some good advice to young men:
"Try," said he, "to frequent the company of your betters in books and in life,—that is the most wholesome society; learn to admire rightly, that is the great pleasure of life. Note what the great men admire—they admire great things; small minds admire basely and worship meanly.
I have heard Mr. Webster say, that he regarded it as a proof of superior intellect, to admire and appreciate Shakespeare. Intercourse with great minds tends to raise us to their level. Another star now beams on us from the galaxy of departed genius. I need not urge you,
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young gentlemen, to admire its brilliancy or to walk by its light. Every student, before me, who ever made a school declamation, has, probably, learned it from Webster. Few scholars now live, in our country, whose minds have not received stimulus and nutriment from his immortal thoughts. It is fortunate, that the interests of learning, that we have such a model for imitation. his oratorical style may be pronounced faultless. "Clearness, force and earnestness are the qualities which produce conviction." In these characteristics of true eloquence, he has no superior in ancient or modern times. The effect of Webster’s eloquence has, frequently, been greatest after years of agitation and discussion. He often stood on an eminence above his contemporaries, and with the "vision and faculty divine" of a prophetic eye, scanned the future and revealed its coming events. The people were, sometimes, not prepared to adopt his conclusions. He was obliged to educate the popular mind before he could convince it. Accordingly, the first effect of some of his greatest efforts has been a storm of opposition. It has been as if a rock-ribbed mountain had suddenly risen, by internal convulsions, from the deep. The ocean boils and surges around it, the angry waves roll high and dash against its frowning cliffs, till the powers of nature seem wearied with the conflict, and the same waves bow and worship before it. There are other instances ; for example, his plea, in the Dartmouth College case, his Reply to Col. Hayne, anti his Defence of the Treaty of Washington, where the utterance of his sentiments, at once, silenced all opposition, and the whole country received his opinions as law. Considering the extent of that country, the superior intelligence of its citizens and the general unanimity with which his views were adopted, it is not extravagant in us to assert, that he has no peer as an effective orator, in the world’s history.
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It required a great crisis to call forth the highest powers of his eloquence. He was no popular orator or rhetorician, aiming at great effects on small occasions. It required a moral earthquake to disturb his equanimity and kindle the fires that slept within him. Hence, some who have only heard him discuss the ordinary topics of the day, in a calm and dispassionate manner, have pronounced him dull and phlegmatic. The truth is, that he was always appropriate to the occasion; never below it. His words, therefore, when printed, are "like apples of gold in pictures of silver," always more weighty and enduring than they seemed to be. In his orations that were written out before delivery, there is evidence of profound research and acute discrimination. His views of Greek and Roman colonization, in his Centennial Oration, at Plymouth, would do honor to the acumen and learning of Niebuhr. To present a single paragraph to illustrate my position, would be like wrenching a diamond, for exhibition, from a coronet of brilliants. If you would treasure up the beauties of Webster’s Works, you must study and appropriate them entire. This is the only way in which you can become familiar with his "large round-about common sense." In his works he still lives and will live, so long as patriotism has an admirer or eloquence a eulogist. "All his writings and all his judgments, all his opinions and the whole influence of his character, public and private, leaned strongly and always to the support of sound principles, to the restraint of illegal power, and to the discouragement and rebuke of licentious and disorganizing sentiments." "Ad rem-public am firmandam, et ad stabiliendas vires et sanandum populuni, omnis ejus pergebat institutio."
The subjects which employed his pen, as a student, are the same which engrossed his thoughts in later life. His College compositions, besides the ordinary themes of
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the class, and stage declamations, were newspaper articles in poetry and prose, a drama, which was publicly enacted in the meeting-house, in accordance with the custom of those times, on the evening preceding Commencement, at the close of his Junior year, an Oration, before the citizens of Hanover, delivered July 4, 1800 a Eulogy on a deceased classmate; an Oration before the United Fraternity, at the Commencement when he was graduated, and several occasional Orations, before the same Society, delivered, at intervals, during his Junior and Senior years. Under date of Oct. 15, 1799, the following entry is found in the records of the Society:
"Voted to reposit, in the archives of the United Fraternity, an Oration, delivered by Junior Webster."
Within a few years, the manuscript, here referred to, has disappeared. Some literary thief has purloined it.
He deserves to be excluded from Helicon.
— "Intestabilis et sacer esto" *
It is fortunate for mankind that so many of Mr. Webster’s thoughts have been preserved. He has left abundant materials for the history of his whole life; and, when his biography is fully written, it will furnish the richest entertainment to which the reading public was ever invited. It will interest the millions as well as the literati;
*It appears from the records of the Fraternity, that Mr. Webster, during his College course, was honored with all the offices in the gift of its members. In his Freshman year, he was chosen "Inspector of Books;" in his Sophomore year " Librarian ;" in his Junior year, Orator." "Vice President," and " Dialogist ;" in his Senior year, "President," and" Commencement Orator." With reference to the ordinary exercises of the Society, both written and extemporaneous, compared with his associates, he could truly say "I labored more abundantly than they all." He not only performed the duties assigned him but often volunteered to supply the place of delinquent members. One of his classmates remarks: " Whenever the Society had a difficult task to execute, it was laid upon Webster." If an argument was to be made; or a poem to be delivered, Daniel Webster was ever the first choice of the students; and he never disappointed the confidence reposed m him.
It deserves to be noticed, in this connection, that all the early manuscripts of Daniel and Ezekiel Webster are remarkable for their plain, legible chirography, with scarcely a blot orerasure, and, for their accurate spelling and punctuation, matters of thorough scholarship, which, in recent times, are too often overlooked.
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for his theatre was the world, and the party for which he labored,.—mankind. His works constitute a rich legacy to coming generations; "a possession for eternity," a patrimony, which can not be diminished, by minute division, nor destroyed by personal appropriation. —Mr. Webster was a scholar, possessing rich and varied stores of ancient and modern lore, besides being the most eminent Jurist and Statesman of his age. What he said of the elder Adams and Jefferson is equally true of himself:
"His scholarship was so in keeping with his character so blended and inwrought, that careless observers or bad judges, not seeing an ostentatious display of it, might infer that it did not exist; forgetting, or not knowing, that classical learning in men who act in conspicuous public stations, perform duties which exercise the faculty of writing, or address popular, deliberative or judicial bodies, is often felt where it is little seen, and sometimes felt more effectually because it is not seen at all."
The arts of the sophist and demagogue he despised. He sought to convince, but did not refuse to please. He was high-minded and honorable in speech, as well as in purpose. He employed no philosophical, abstract or technical terms in his logic ; but used plain, vigorous, manly English. His discourse, like the bosom of the calm and clear lake, revealed all that was in its own depths, and reflected heaven besides. He preferred to commend, rather than censure. His praise was delightful; his rebuke was terrible. No man ever forgot his smile or his frown. The language of his face was felt. When his eye kindled with anger, his presence was truly awful. But his indignation was momentary. He never treasured up the bitter memories of the past ; on the contrary, he sought to efface them from his own mind and to obliterate them from the published reports of his speeches. I need not recount to you the great events of his life. His conflicts and his victories at the bar, in the Senate, and in the field of diplomacy are all known to you; and every
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son of New England, feels that he has a personal interest in them. You remember how in 1830, the hosts of disunion were marshalled for the fight ; how the conspirators came into the Senate, and destined, not a Consul, but the Defender of the Constitution, to political death. You know how bold and defiant was the challenge ; how fierce and vindictive was the assault. You know, too, how the enemy was met ; how their forces were broken, discomfited, routed, driven from the field, and "chased like a dead leaf over the desert." You remember well how the satellite of the Austrian Emperor dared to dictate to this government principles of foreign policy. You know, also, how signally the insolent diplomatist was rebuked; and how the answer of freedom’s champion was received at the tyrant’s court. As in the days of the Babylonian monarch, when the hand-writing appeared on the wall: "Then the King’s countenance was changed and his thoughts troubled him."
To the young student, the history of his early life is invaluable. His example is as rich, in instruction, as his recorded opinions. There is probably not a student who hears me, to-day, whose condition, in life is so adverse to literary eminence, as was that of Daniel Webster. He was encompassed with obstacles that to ordinary minds would have been insurmountable. Not only the means but the necessary stimulus to successful scholarship were wanting. His father was embarassed with debt,, and burdened with private and public cares. The whole country was impoverished. All its institutions were new, rude and imperfect. Public opinion was hostile to a liberal education. Many of the citizens of New Hampshire had just come out of the blood and fire of the Revolutionary War, where, shoulder to shoulder, they had fought for liberty and equality. They scorned all aristocratic rank, whether it belonged to birth or learning. They
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declared, at once, that the education of the boy would be his ruin. His services were needed at home, and it was very unwise, in their opinion, to weaken the hands of those who were felling the forests and subduing an ungenial soil. A book was a "rara avis in terris." Schools were few and short; the instruction given was meagre and imperfect; the government was harsh and tyrannical. Refined society was unknown, in the newly settled portions of the state. When Daniel Webster, at the age of fourteen, entered Exeter Academy, his manners were unpolished; his dress was decidedly unfashionable, being entirely of domestic manufacture; his shoes were coarse and his language was redolent of rural life. His rustic appearance called forth the sneers of his associates who could read the language of dress better than that of books. He was precisely in the condition of the person (supposed to be Virgil,) alluded to by the Roman satirist:
"Iracundior est paullo: minus aptus acutis
Naribus horum hominum rideri possit eo, quod
Rusticius tonso toga defluit, et male laxus
In pede calceus haeret. At est bonus, ut melior vir
Non alms quisquam: at tibi amicus at ingenium ingens
Inculto latet hoc sub corpore."
This fact explains that standing enigma of his life; that he could not make a declamation before the school while at Exeter But this difficulty was, triumphantly, overcome and his talents and industry soon raised him above his condition, and out of sight of his persecutors. His example speaks words of hope and consolation to the indigent and depressed student; for, though he may not equal him in successful study, he may follow in his footsteps, "hand pan passu." His example rebukes the idle and disorderly student. I have examined with great care, Mr. Webster’s early lire. I have read his letters, his compositions and orations, have consulted his surviving classmates, have visited the place of his nativity and
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conversed with his playmates; and, I have not found a single act, in all his student life, derogatory to the character of a gentleman,—a high minded, christian gentleman, which is the highest style of man.* He showed, then, the same chastened and honorable ambition to be wise and good, the same intense scorn of meanness, intrigue, affectation, and low cunning, the same respect for age and official station, the same reverence for law and religion, which marked his whole subsequent course. His example cheers and animates the industrious and faithful student; for, by the homely virtues of diligence, punctuality, perseverance and devotion to duty, he achieved his intellectual and moral pre-eminence, and made himself, "the foremost man of all this world." My young friends, if you cannot equal him, in scholarship and achievements, you may imitate him; and, perhaps, be next to him," longo intervallo," and enjoy the "proximos honores" of successful effort, though, as the poet said of Jove:
"Nec viget quidquam simile aut secundum."
* It has been commonly reported, that great injustice was done to Mr. Webster in the assignment of College honors. The facts are these at the time of his graduation, the Latin Salutatory was regarded, by the Faculty, as the first appointment. In the words of one of hisclassmates, who was afterwards a College officer, "the Faculty thought it would be almost barbarous to set the best English scholar, in the class, to jabber in Latin," so they assigned him the second part," to wit: "an Oration on the Fine Arts, or a Poem." With this appointment Mr. Webster and his class were not well pleased. The bitter rivalry between the two literary Societies, in the College, gave rise to this dissatisfaction. The causes which led to this state of feeling, I can not stay to examine. It has been said that Mr. Webster, in consequence of his dislike of his appointment, tore up his diploma. So far as I can learn, there is not a shadow of evidence for this assertion. The-oldest inhabitants of the village, the officers of the College, and the classmates of Mr. Webster, are all ignorant of the alleged fact. They never heard of the report, till years after the tragedy was said to have been enacted. I cannot, for a moment, suppose that a young gentleman of Mr. Webster’s well-known gravity and dignity of character would allow himself, even under strong excitement, to commit such an unscholarly act and, his modest estimate of his own abilities, as abundantly appears, from his own letters, at that period, forbids the supposition, that he did it in a spirit of vain boasting.
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His whole history will bear the test of near approach and strict examination. When he is better known, he will be more loved and honored. His life was august, his death sublime.He lived like a christian patriot; he died like a christian Philosopher.* There was a moral grandeur, in his words and actions, almost unparalleled. His conversation, in the near view of death, was as far above that of Socrates, as the sublime truths of christianity are above the dim and erratic conjectures of heathen
*A few months before his decease, while sitting with him, alone, by his own fire-side, I heard him discourse most eloquently upon the great truths of Christianity and the proper method of teaching them.
"Last Sabbath," said he, "I listened to an able and learned discourse upon the evidences of Christianity. The arguments were drawn from prophecy, history, and internal evidence. They were stated with logical accuracy and force; but, as it seemed to me, the clergyman failed to draw from them the right conclusion. He came so near the truth that I was astonished that he missed it. In summing up his arguments, he said the only alternative presented by these evidences is this: Either Christianity is true, or it is a delusion produced by an excited imagination. Such is not the alternative, said the critic; but it is this: The Gospel is either true history, or it is a consummate fraud; it is either a reality, or an imposition. Christ was what He professed to be, or He was an impostor. There is no other alternative. His spotless life, His earnest enforcement of the truth, His suffering in its defence forbid us to suppose that He was following an illusion of a heated brain.
"Every act of His pure and holy life shows that He was the author of truth, the advocate of truth, the earnest defender of truth, and the uncomplaining sufferer for truth. Now, considering the purity of His doctrines, the simplicity of His life, and the sublimity of His death, is it possible that He would have died for an illusion? In all His preaching, the Saviour made no popular appeals. His discourses were all directed to the individual. Christ and His apostles sought to impress upon every man the conviction that he must stand or fall alone—he must live for himself and die for himself, and give up his account to the omniscient God as though he were the only dependent creature in the universe. The Gospel leaves the individual sinner alone with himself and his God. To his own Master he stands or falls. He has nothing to hope from the aid and sympathy of associates. The deluded advocates of new doctrines do not so preach. Christ and His Apostles, had they been deceivers, would not have so preached.
If clergymen in our day, would return to the simplicity of the Gospel, and preach more to individuals and less to the crowd, there would not be so much complaint of the decline of true religion. Many of the ministers of the present day take their text from St. Paul, and preach from the newspapers. When they do so, I prefer to enjoy my own thoughts7 rather than to listen. I want my pastor to come to me in the spirit of the Gospel, saying, "You are mortal; your probation is brief; your work must be done speedily. You are immortal, too. You are hastening to the bar of God the Judge standeth before the door." When I am thus admonished, I have no disposition to muse or to sleep. These topics have often occupied my thoughts; and if I had time, I would write upon them myself."
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philosophy. Socrates, as he was leaving this life, remembered his vow to the god, AEsculapius. Webster prayed, " Almighty God, receive me to thyself, for Jesus Christ’s sake ;" and dictated as the caption of his epitaph, this scripture : "Lord, I believe, help thou my unbelief." Such was his dying testimony. His earliest and his latest opinions are in confirmation of his faith in God’s revealed truth. While he lived, his voice was often heard in defence of religion; now that he is no more, his example pleads her cause, with a more sublime, impressive and convincing eloquence. But we sorrow, most of all, because we shall see his face no more. He has gone to the land of silence. His voice is hushed and the light of his eye is quenched in death. Yet how little is there of the great and the good that can die ! —Webster still lives in the history of his actions. He still lives in his recorded sentiments ; he lives in his illustrious example. He lives in the influence, which the principles he advocated will exert on coming ages. He lives in the gratitude and homage of all good men.
"Vivit, enim, vivetque semper ; atque etiam latius in rnemoria hominum et sermone versabitur postquam ab oculis recessit."
In the words, which the pious Baxter used concerning that illustrious Commoner, John Pym, we may now say: Webster "is now a member of a more knowing, well-ordered, right-aiming, self-denying, unanimous, honorable, triumphant senate than that from which he was taken."
"Why weep ye then for him, who, having won
The bound of man’s appointed years, at last,
Life’s blessings all enjoyed—life’s labors done,
Serenely to his final rest has passed
While the soft memory of his virtues yet
Lingers, like twilight hues, when the bright sun is set."
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Mr. Webster inspired, in his early friends, an attachment as strong, confiding and permanent as his own. A few paragraphs from their letters will confirm this assertion.
A classmate, under date of Feb. 8, 1806, writes:
"My dear Daniel,"
"I have hardly, since our last interview, known an hour of real pleasure, till that in which I perused and re-perused your communication of Jan. 19th. There is more pure satisfaction and rational entertainment to be derived from one sheet of paper written and communicated by a real, intelligent friend than from the whole round of common ‘social intercourse.’ General and extensive knowledge of men and books contribute to render an intimate friend doubly valuable. This consideration heightens the degree of happiness and instruction anticipated from the promise in your last, " to treat me with a course of epistles." I expect much from that promise and only lament that I can make no return that will, in any tolerable degree, compensate your labor unless the heart be received in room of language. Instead of lessening "the pleasure and tranquility of my winter evenings" by the fulfilment of this proposition, depend upon it, my good friend, there is no circumstance except the presence of Daniel Webster that can contribute more to pass time pleasantly than reading his letters."
The same writer, in a letter, dated Aug. 16, 1804, says
No wonder, Daniel, considering our long and sincere attachment, that Boston, with all its attractions, cannot "supersede the use of friendship, ancient and honorable." There is a vacancy in human happiness, which must be filled with something besides the common business of life or the amusements and avocations of the city; something adapted to the gentler feelings of the soul. Here friendship claims a place: here she finds it."
In another letter, the same writer speaks of his own location in business, and adds:
"I sincerely regret that you did not determine to settle in the County of Cheshire. Could I but enjoy the society of my brother Webster, by giving him half or two thirds of my scanty share of business, it would be a blessing I should esteem invaluable. Notwithstanding, I commend your compliance with the wishes of a fond father. As duty, necessity, and choice, you say, co-operated to induce your settlement, at Boscawen, I cannot, in conscience, reprove you. It always seemed to me, that we were made for neighbors; —that we were made for brothers, needs no demonstration."
The close of another letter, by the same writer, is as follows:
"The only way in which I can converse with you is by reading your old letters which I have mostly by heart."
Another friend writing, under date of March, 1806, says:
"If, when you receive this, you have clients waiting, throw it under the table but if you are alone, read far enough to know that my heart heats respondent to your prosperity, and knows how to feel grateful for the friendship with which you have honored me."
Another friend, writing under date of Nov. 1805, says : I have just time to inform you that I have had the pleasure of hearing from you by Rev. Samuel Wood. I heartily congratulate you, my worthy counsellor, on your establishment in business and am extremely rejoiced that your prospects are so flattering. I understand from the excellent and benevolent bearer of this, that you are becoming the greatest and most eminent lawyer in the County of Hillsboro’ and that your success is unprecedented. Esto perpetus."
Another College friend writes, in Aug. 1804: "Dear Friend," Say
Will you think it presuming for an old friend to address to you a few lines?
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Should such a thought occur—revert to old times, when you were accustomed to treat me with the friendly familiarity of a brother ;—and, those were happy times alas! too happy to last long."
Another friend, in May 1805, writes —"I should be rejoiced to see you after so long an absence. I hear, with peculiar pleasure, that you have finished your studies and are likely to succeed in Boscawen. Nothing can give me more pleasure than to hear of the prosperity of those who call me friend and whom I esteem as such. I doubt not but that your talents will exalt you as high in this world’s estimation as you can wish,."
Peter Thacher, Esq., writes from Boston, May 17, 1805, as follows:— "My dear Sir, Your brother informed me to-day of your place of residence. Give me leave to add my good wishes to those of your other friends, who are interested in your success. You may reasonably calculate on a favorable course of affairs, for I believe that the qualities of your mind will ensure your establishment. I hope that you will give me some account of your situation and prospects, and be assured of my readiness to render you any services in this quarter.
My friends who are engaged in the support of the ‘Anthology,’ have instructed me to thank the author of the criticism on Dr. Caustic’s" Terrible Tractoration." It is highly pleasing to them, and has been favourably received by the public. We have thought that the author of that piece was well qualified to do justice to the Dr.’s last publication. I beg your acceptance of the volume, and hope that you will authorize me to say to the gentlemen, that they may shortly expect to receive a review of the work. If you are compelled to confine yourself in a situation remote from the pursuits of cities, still, I hope that you will allow your mind sometimes to pay us a visit. I remind you of all your promises in favor of the ‘Anthology’ and I hope that you will find nothing in Coke or Rastell, which will impair the obligation.—I wish you would tell your brother, that it will give me pleasure, at any time, to have him pass an hour in my office. Sometimes I shall use his friendship, he may always use mine."
Sept. 1,1806.—" I observe that our critics have noticed your "address," which I assure you I read with great pleasure. I am daily expecting to receive from you your promised communications."
Nov. 1, 1806.—" Our Society were much gratified with your communication. It appears in this Anthology. We regard your promise of future communications with great pleasure. You must contrive to make the wilderness and desolate places of New Hampshire blossom with the roses of genius and learning."
April 24, 1807.—" Your review will appear in the No. which is now in press, with all its vernal honors. Do not let the cares of the world, nor the deceitfulness of riches choke the growth of literature in your mind. New Hampshire has yet to produce its portion of eminent men."
Thomas W. Thompson, Esq., with whom Mr. Webster studied law, for a time, writing from Salisbury, under date of Oct. 17, 1804, to Mr. Webster in Boston, says :—" I am much pleased with the communication signed "Mass. & W." ; and I can assure you they have excited a very interesting inquiry for the authors. The former I recognized. The latter I had not seen till after the receipt of your letter. Go on: catch every leisure moment. If pecuniary compensation should not follow, you will have a satisfaction of a higher nature. * * * * I shall wish you to write me often, and you must pardon me, if I insist upon paying the postage upon my own and your letters. At some distant period, I shall not object to your paying your proportion. * * Should you have occasion to borrow money, please to let me know it, and, if I have it on hand, I will accommodate you with it as long as you please."