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Daniel Webster by Henry Cabot Lodge

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gaunt figure bent over as if to catch the slightest whisper, the
deep furrows of his cheek expanded with emotion and his eyes
suffused with tears; Mr. Justice Washington, at his side, with his
small and emaciated frame, and countenance more like marble than I
ever saw on any other human being,--leaning forward with an eager,
troubled look; and the remainder of the court at the two
extremities, pressing, as it were, to a single point, while the
audience below were wrapping themselves round in closer folds
beneath the bench, to catch each look and every movement of the
speaker's face....

"Mr. Webster had now recovered his composure, and, fixing his keen
eye on the Chief Justice, said in that deep tone with which he
sometimes thrilled the heart of an audience:--

"'Sir, I know not how others may feel' (glancing at the opponents
of the college before him), 'but for myself, when I see my Alma
Mater surrounded, like Caesar in the senate-house, by those who are
reiterating stab after stab, I would not, for this right hand, have
her turn to me, and say, _Et tu quoque, mi fili! And thou too, my

This outbreak of feeling was perfectly genuine. Apart from his personal
relations to the college, he had the true oratorical temperament, and no
man can be an orator in the highest sense unless he feels intensely, for
the moment at least, the truth and force of every word he utters. To move
others deeply he must be deeply moved himself. Yet at the same time Mr.
Webster's peroration, and, indeed, his whole speech, was a model of
consummate art. Great lawyer as he undoubtedly was, he felt on this
occasion that he could not rely on legal argument and pure reason alone.
Without appearing to go beyond the line of propriety, without indulging in
a declamation unsuited to the place, he had to step outside of legal points
and in a freer air, where he could use his keenest and strongest weapons,
appeal to the court not as lawyers but as men subject to passion, emotion,
and prejudice. This he did boldly, delicately, successfully, and thus he
won his case.

The replies of the opposing counsel were poor enough after such a speech.
Holmes's declamation sounded rather cheap, and Mr. Wirt, thrown off his
balance by Mr. Webster's exposure of his ignorance, did but slight justice
to himself or his cause. March 12th the arguments were closed, and the next
day, after a conference, the Chief Justice announced that the court could
agree on nothing and that the cause must be continued for a year, until the
next term. The fact probably was that Marshall found the judges five to two
against the college, and that the task of bringing them into line was not a
light one.

In this undertaking, however, he was powerfully aided by the counsel and
all the friends of the college. The old board of trustees had already paid
much attention to public opinion. The press was largely Federalist, and,
under the pressure of what was made a party question, they had espoused
warmly the cause of the college. Letters and essays had appeared, and
pamphlets had been circulated, together with the arguments of the counsel
at Exeter. This work was pushed with increased eagerness after the argument
at Washington, and the object now was to create about the three doubtful
judges an atmosphere of public opinion which should imperceptibly bring
them over to the college. Johnson, Livingston, and Story were all men who
would have started at the barest suspicion of outside influence even in the
most legitimate form of argument, which was all that was ever thought of or
attempted. This made the task of the trustees very delicate and difficult
in developing a public sentiment which should sway the judges without their
being aware of it. The printed arguments of Mason, Smith, and Webster were
carefully sent to certain of the judges, but not to all. All documents of a
similar character found their way to the same quarters. The leading
Federalists were aroused everywhere, so that the judges might be made to
feel their opinion. With Story, as a New England man, a Democrat by
circumstances, a Federalist by nature, there was but little difficulty. A
thorough review of the case, joined with Mr. Webster's argument, caused him
soon to change his first impression. To reach Livingston and Johnson was
not so easy, for they were out of New England, and it was necessary to go a
long way round to get at them. The great legal upholder of Federalism in
New York was Chancellor Kent. His first impression, like that of Story, was
decidedly against the college, but after much effort on the part of the
trustees and their able allies, Kent was converted, partly through his
reason, partly through his Federalism, and then his powers of persuasion
and his great influence on opinion came to bear very directly on
Livingston, more remotely on Johnson. The whole business was managed like a
quiet, decorous political campaign. The press and the party were everywhere
actively interested. At first, and in the early summer of 1818, before Kent
was converted, matters looked badly for the trustees. Mr. Webster knew the
complexion of the court, and hoped little from the point raised in Trustees
vs. Woodward. Still, no one despaired, and the work was kept up until, in
September, President Brown wrote to Mr. Webster in reference to the

"It has already been, or shortly will be, read by all the
_commanding_ men of New England and New York; and so far as it has
gone it has united them all, without a single exception within my
knowledge, in one broad and impenetrable phalanx for our defence
and support. New England and New York _are gained_. Will not this
be sufficient for our present purposes? If not, I should recommend
reprinting. And on this point you are the best judge. I
prevailingly think, however, that the current of opinion from this
part of the country is setting so strongly towards the South that
we may safely trust to its force alone to accomplish whatever is

The worthy clergyman writes of public opinion as if the object was to elect
a President. All this effort, however, was well applied, as was found when
the court came together at the next term. In the interval the State had
become sensible of the defects of their counsel, and had retained Mr.
Pinkney, who stood at that time at the head of the bar of the United
States. He had all the qualifications of a great lawyer, except perhaps
that of robustness. He was keen, strong, and learned; diligent in
preparation, he was ready and fluent in action, a good debater, and master
of a high order of eloquence. He was a most formidable adversary, and one
whom Mr. Webster, then just at the outset of his career, had probably no
desire to meet in such a doubtful case as this.[1] Even here, however,
misfortune seemed to pursue the State, for Mr. Pinkney was on bad terms
with Mr. Wirt, and acted alone. He did all that was possible; prepared
himself elaborately in the law and history of the case, and then went into
court ready to make the wisest possible move by asking for a re-argument.
Marshall, however, was also quite prepared. Turning his "blind ear," as
some one said, to Pinkney, he announced, as soon as he took his seat, that
the judges had come to a conclusion during the vacation. He then read one
of his great opinions, in which he held that the college charter was a
contract within the meaning of the Constitution, and that the acts of the
New Hampshire Legislature impaired this contract, and were therefore void.
To this decision four judges assented in silence, although Story and
Washington subsequently wrote out opinions. Judge Todd was absent, through
illness, and Judge Duvall dissented. The immediate effect of the decision
was to leave the college in the hands of the victorious Federalists. In the
precedent which it established, however, it had much deeper and more
far-reaching results. It brought within the scope of the Constitution of
the United States every charter granted by a State, limited the action of
the States in a most important attribute of sovereignty, and extended the
jurisdiction of the highest federal court more than any other judgment ever
rendered by them. From the day when it was announced to the present time,
the doctrine of Marshall in the Dartmouth College case has continued to
exert an enormous influence, and has been constantly sustained and attacked
in litigation of the greatest importance.

[Footnote 1: Mr. Peter Harvey, in his _Reminiscences_ (p. 122), has an
anecdote in regard to Webster and Pinkney, which places the former in the
light of a common and odious bully, an attitude as alien to Mr. Webster's
character as can well be conceived. The story is undoubtedly either wholly
fictitious or so grossly exaggerated as to be practically false. On the
page preceding the account of this incident, Mr. Harvey makes Webster say
that he never received a challenge from Randolph, whereas in Webster's own
letter, published by Mr. Curtis, there is express reference to a note of
challenge received from Randolph. This is a fair example of these
_Reminiscences_. A more untrustworthy book it would be impossible to
imagine. There is not a statement in it which can be safely accepted,
unless supported by other evidence. It puts its subject throughout in the
most unpleasant light, and nothing has ever been written about Webster so
well calculated to injure and belittle him as these feeble and distorted
recollections of his loving and devoted Boswell. It is the reflection of a
great man upon the mirror of a very small mind and weak memory.]

The defendant Woodward having died, Mr. Webster moved that the judgment be
entered _nunc pro tunc_. Pinkney and Wirt objected on the ground that the
other causes on the docket contained additional facts, and that no final
judgment should be entered until these causes had been heard. The court,
however, granted Mr. Webster's motion. Mr. Pinkney then tried to avail
himself of the stipulation in regard to the special verdict, that any new
and material facts might be added or any facts expunged. Mr. Webster
peremptorily declined to permit any change, obtained judgment against
Woodward, and obliged Mr. Pinkney to consent that the other causes should
be remanded, without instructions, to the Circuit Court, where they were
heard by Judge Story, who rendered a decree _nisi_ for the college. This
closed the case, and such were the last displays of Mr. Webster's dexterous
and vigorous management of the famous "college causes."

The popular opinion of this case seems to be that Mr. Webster, with the aid
of Mr. Mason and Judge Smith, developed a great constitutional argument,
which he forced upon the acceptance of the court by the power of his close
and logical reasoning, and thus established an interpretation of the
Constitution of vast moment. The truth is, that the suggestion of the
constitutional point, not a very remarkable idea in itself, originated, as
has been said, with a layman, was regarded by Mr. Webster as a forlorn
hope, and was very briefly discussed by him before the Supreme Court. He
knew, of course, that if the case were to be decided against Woodward, it
could only be on the constitutional point, but he evidently thought that
the court would not take the view of it which was favorable to the college.
The Dartmouth College case was unquestionably one of Mr. Webster's great
achievements at the bar, but it has been rightly praised on mistaken
grounds. Mr. Webster made a very fine presentation of the arguments mainly
prepared by Mason and Smith. He transcended the usual legal limits with a
burst of eloquent appeal which stands high among the famous passages of his
oratory. In what may be called the strategy of the case he showed the best
generalship and the most skilful management. He also proved himself to be
possessed of great tact and to be versed in the knowledge of men, qualities
not usually attributed to him because their exercise involved an amount of
care and painstaking foreign to his indolent and royal temperament, which
almost always relied on weight and force for victory.

Mr. Webster no doubt improved in details, and made better arguments at the
bar than he did upon this occasion, but the Dartmouth College case, on the
whole, shows his legal talents so nearly at their best, and in such unusual
variety, that it is a fit point at which to pause in order to consider some
of his other great legal arguments and his position and abilities as a
lawyer. For this purpose it is quite sufficient to confine ourselves to the
cases mentioned by Mr. Curtis, and to the legal arguments preserved in the
collection of Mr. Webster's speeches.

Five years after the Dartmouth College decision, Mr. Webster made his
famous argument in the case of Gibbons vs. Ogden. The case was called
suddenly, and Mr. Webster prepared his argument in a single night of
intense labor. The facts were all before him, but he showed a readiness in
arrangement only equalled by its force. The question was whether the State
of New York had a right under the Constitution to grant a monopoly of steam
navigation in its waters to Fulton and Livingston. Mr. Webster contended
that the acts making such a grant were unconstitutional, because the power
of Congress to regulate commerce was, within certain limitations,
exclusive. He won his cause, and the decision, from its importance,
probably enhanced the contemporary estimate of his effort. The argument was
badly reported, but it shows all its author's strongest qualities of close
reasoning and effective statement. The point in issue was neither difficult
nor obscure, and afforded no opportunity for a display of learning. It was
purely a matter of constitutional interpretation, and could be discussed
chiefly in a historical manner and from the standpoint of public interests.
This was particularly fitted to Mr. Webster's cast of mind, and he did his
subject full justice. It was pure argument on general principles. Mr.
Webster does not reach that point of intense clearness and condensation
which characterized Marshall and Hamilton, in whose writings we are
fascinated by the beauty of the intellectual display, and are held fast by
each succeeding line, which always comes charged with fresh meaning.
Nevertheless, Mr. Webster touches a very high point in this most difficult
form of argument, and the impressiveness of his manner and voice carried
all that he said to its mark with a direct force in which he stood

In Ogden v. Saunders, heard in 1827, Mr. Webster argued that the clause
prohibiting state laws impairing the obligation of contracts covered future
as well as past contracts. He defended his position with astonishing
ability, but the court very correctly decided against him. The same
qualities which appear in these cases are shown in the others of a like
nature, which were conspicuous among the multitude with which he was
intrusted. We find them also in cases involving purely legal questions,
such as the Bank of the United States v. Primrose, and The Providence
Railroad Co. v. The City of Boston, accompanied always with that ready
command of learning which an extraordinary memory made easy. There seemed
to be no diminution of Mr. Webster's great powers in this field as he
advanced in years. In the Rhode Island case and in the Passenger Tax cases,
argued when he was sixty-six years old, he rose to the same high plane of
clear, impressive, effective reasoning as when he defended his Alma Mater.

Two causes, however, demand more than a passing mention,--the Girard will
case and the Rhode Island case. The former involved no constitutional
points. The suit was brought to break the will of Stephen Girard, and the
question was whether the bequest to found a college could be construed to
be a charitable devise. On this question Mr. Webster had a weak case in
point of law, but he readily detected a method by which he could go boldly
outside the law, as he had done to a certain degree in the Dartmouth
College case, and substitute for argument an eloquent and impassioned
appeal to emotion and prejudice. Girard was a free-thinker, and he provided
in his will that no priest or minister of any denomination should be
admitted to his college. Assuming that this excluded all religious
teaching, Mr. Webster then laid down the proposition that no bequest or
gift could be charitable which excluded Christian teaching. In other words,
he contended that there was no charity except Christian charity, which, the
poet assures us, is so rare. At this day such a theory would hardly be
gravely propounded by any one. But Mr. Webster, on the ground that Girard's
bequest was derogatory to Christianity, pronounced a very fine discourse
defending and eulogizing, with much eloquence, the Christian religion. The
speech produced a great effect. One is inclined to think that it was the
cause of the court's evading the question raised by Mr. Webster, and
sustaining the will, a result they were bound to reach in any event, on
other grounds. The speech certainly produced a great sensation, and was
much admired, especially by the clergy, who caused it to be printed and
widely distributed. It did not impress lawyers quite so favorably, and we
find Judge Story writing to Chancellor Kent that "Webster did his best for
the other side, but it seems to me altogether an address to the prejudices
of the clergy." The subject, in certain ways, had a deep attraction for Mr.
Webster. His imagination was excited by the splendid history of the Church,
and his conservatism was deeply stirred by a system which, whether in the
guise of the Romish hierarchy, as the Church of England, or in the form of
powerful dissenting sects, was, as a whole, imposing by its age, its
influence, and its moral grandeur. Moreover, it was one of the great
established bulwarks of well-ordered and civilized society. All this
appealed strongly to Mr. Webster, and he made the most of his opportunity
and of his shrewdly-chosen ground. Yet the speech on the Girard will is not
one of his best efforts. It has not the subdued but intense fire which
glowed so splendidly in his great speeches in the Senate. It lacked the
stately pathos which came always when Mr. Webster was deeply moved. It was
delivered in 1844, and was slightly tinged with the pompousness which
manifested itself in his late years, and especially on religious topics. No
man has a right to question the religious sincerity of another, unless upon
evidence so full and clear that, in such cases, it is rarely to be found.
There is certainly no cause for doubt in Mr. Webster's case. He was both
sincere and honest in religion, and had a real and submissive faith. But he
accepted his religion as one of the great facts and proprieties of life. He
did not reach his religious convictions after much burning questioning and
many bitter experiences. In this he did not differ from most men of this
age, and it only amounts to saying that Mr. Webster did not have a deeply
religious temperament. He did not have the ardent proselyting spirit which
is the surest indication of a profoundly religious nature; the spirit of
the Saracen Emir crying, "Forward! Paradise is under the shadow of our
swords." When, therefore, he turned his noble powers to a defence of
religion, he did not speak with that impassioned fervor which, coming from
the depths of a man's heart, savors of inspiration and seems essential to
the highest religious eloquence. He believed thoroughly every word he
uttered, but he did not feel it, and in things spiritual the heart must be
enlisted as well as the head. It was wittily said of a well-known
anti-slavery leader, that had he lived in the Middle Ages he would have
gone to the stake for a principle, under a misapprehension as to the facts.
Mr. Webster not only could never have misapprehended facts, but, if he had
flourished in the Middle Ages he would have been a stanch and honest
supporter of the strongest government and of the dominant church. Perhaps
this defines his religious character as well as anything, and explains why
the argument in the Girard will case, fine as it was, did not reach the
elevation and force which he so often displayed on other themes.

The Rhode Island case grew out of the troubles known at that period as
Dorr's rebellion. It involved a discussion not only of the constitutional
provisions for suppressing insurrections and securing to every State a
republican form of government, but also of the general history and theory
of the American governments, both state and national. There was thus
offered to Mr. Webster that full scope and large field in which he
delighted, and which were always peculiarly favorable to his talents. His
argument was purely constitutional, and although not so closely reasoned,
perhaps, as some of his earlier efforts, is, on the whole, as fine a
specimen as we have of his intellectual power as a constitutional lawyer at
the bar of the highest national tribunal. Mr. Webster did not often
transcend the proper limits of purely legal discussion in the courts, and
yet even when the question was wholly legal, the court-room would be
crowded by ladies as well as gentlemen, to hear him speak. It was so at the
hearing of the Girard suit; and during the strictly legal arguments in the
Charles River Bridge case, the court-room, Judge Story says, was filled
with a brilliant audience, including many ladies, and he adds that
"Webster's closing reply was in his best manner, but with a little too much
_fierte_ here and there." The ability to attract such audiences gives an
idea of the impressiveness of his manner and of the beauty of his voice and
delivery better than anything else, for these qualities alone could have
drawn the general public and held their attention to the cold and dry
discussion of laws and constitutions.

There is a little anecdote told by Mr. Curtis in connection with this Rhode
Island case, which illustrates very well two striking qualities in Mr.
Webster as a lawyer. The counsel in the court below had been assisted by a
clever young lawyer named Bosworth, who had elaborated a point which he
thought very important, but which his seniors rejected. Mr. Bosworth was
sent to Washington to instruct Mr. Webster as to the cause, and, after he
had gone through the case, Mr. Webster asked if that was all. Mr. Bosworth
modestly replied that there was another view of his own which his seniors
had rejected, and then stated it briefly. When he concluded, Mr. Webster
started up and exclaimed, "Mr. Bosworth, by the blood of all the Bosworths
who fell on Bosworth field, that is _the_ point of the case. Let it be
included in the brief by all means." This is highly characteristic of one
of Mr. Webster's strongest attributes. He always saw with an unerring
glance "_the_ point" of a case or a debate. A great surgeon will detect the
precise spot where the knife should enter when disease hides it from other
eyes, and often with apparent carelessness will make the necessary incision
at the exact place when a deflection of a hair's breadth or a tremor of the
hand would bring death to the patient. Mr. Webster had the same
intellectual dexterity, the mingled result of nature and art. As the tiger
is said to have a sure instinct for the throat of his victim, so Mr.
Webster always seized on the vital point of a question. Other men would
debate and argue for days, perhaps, and then Mr. Webster would take up the
matter, and grasp at once the central and essential element which had been
there all along, pushed hither and thither, but which had escaped all eyes
but his own. He had preeminently

"The calm eye that seeks
'Midst all the huddling silver little worth
The one thin piece that comes, pure gold."

The anecdote further illustrates the use which Mr. Webster made of the
ideas of other people. He did not say to Mr. Bosworth, here is the true
point of the case, but he saw that something was wanting, and asked the
young lawyer what it was. The moment the proposition was stated he
recognized its value and importance at a glance. He might and probably
would have discovered it for himself, but his instinct was to get it from
some one else.

It is one of the familiar attributes of great intellectual power to be able
to select subordinates wisely; to use other people and other people's labor
and thought to the best advantage, and to have as much as possible done for
one by others. This power of assimilation Mr. Webster had to a marked
degree. There is no depreciation in saying that he took much from others,
for it is a capacity characteristic of the strongest minds, and so long as
the debt is acknowledged, such a faculty is a subject for praise, not
criticism. But when the recipient becomes unwilling to admit the obligation
which is no detraction to himself, and without which the giver is poor
indeed, the case is altered. In his earliest days Mr. Webster used to draw
on one Parker Noyes, a mousing, learned New Hampshire lawyer, and freely
acknowledged the debt. In the Dartmouth College case, as has been seen, he
over and over again gave simply and generously all the credit for the
learning and the points of the brief to Mason and Smith, and yet the glory
of the case has rested with Mr. Webster and always will. He gained by his
frank honesty and did not lose a whit. But in his latter days, when his
sense of justice had grown somewhat blunted and his nature was perverted by
the unmeasured adulation of the little immediate circle which then hung
about him, he ceased to admit his obligations as in his earlier and better
years. From no one did Mr. Webster receive so much hearty and generous
advice and assistance as from Judge Story, whose calm judgment and wealth
of learning were always at his disposal. They were given not only in
questions of law, but in regard to the Crimes Act, the Judiciary Act, and
the Ashburton treaty. After Judge Story's death, Mr. Webster not only
declined to allow the publication by the judge's son and biographer of
Story's letters to himself, but he refused to permit even the publication
of extracts from his own letters, intended merely to show the nature of the
services rendered to him by Story. A cordial assent would have enhanced the
reputation of both. The refusal is a blot on the intellectual greatness of
the one and a source of bitterness to the descendants and admirers of the
other. It is to be regretted that the extraordinary ability which Mr.
Webster always showed in grasping and assimilating masses of theories and
facts, and in drawing from them what was best, should ever have been
sullied by a want of gratitude which, properly and freely rendered, would
have made the lustre of his own fame shine still more brightly.

A close study of Mr. Webster's legal career, in the light of contemporary
reputation and of the best examples of his work, leads to certain quite
obvious conclusions. He had not a strongly original or creative legal mind.
This was chiefly due to nature, but in some measure to a dislike to the
slow processes of investigation and inquiry which were always distasteful
to him, although he was entirely capable of intense and protracted
exertion. He cannot, therefore, be ranked with the illustrious few, among
whom we count Mansfield and Marshall as the most brilliant examples, who
not only declared what the law was, but who made it. Mr. Webster's powers
were not of this class, but, except in these highest and rarest qualities,
he stands in the front rank of the lawyers of his country and his age.
Without extraordinary profundity of thought or depth of learning, he had a
wide, sure, and ready knowledge both of principles and cases. Add to this
quick apprehension, unerring sagacity for vital and essential points, a
perfect sense of proportion, an almost unequalled power of statement,
backed by reasoning at once close and lucid, and we may fairly say that Mr.
Webster, who possessed all these qualities, need fear comparison with but
very few among the great lawyers of that period either at home or abroad.



The conduct of the Dartmouth College case, and its result, at once raised
Mr. Webster to a position at the bar second only to that held by Mr.
Pinkney. He was now constantly occupied by most important and lucrative
engagements, but in 1820 he was called upon to take a leading part in a
great public work which demanded the exertion of all his talents as
statesman, lawyer, and debater. The lapse of time and the setting off of
the Maine district as a State had made a convention necessary, in order to
revise the Constitution of Massachusetts. This involved the direct resort
to the people, the source of all power, which is only required to effect a
change in the fundamental law of the State. On these rare occasions it has
been the honored custom in Massachusetts to lay aside all the
qualifications attaching to ordinary legislatures and to choose the best
men, without regard to party, public office, or domicile, for the
performance of this important work. No better or abler body could have been
assembled for this purpose than that which met in convention at Boston in
November, 1820. Among these distinguished men were John Adams, then in his
eighty-fifth year, and one of the framers of the original Constitution of
1780, Chief Justice Parker, of the Supreme Bench, the Federal judges, and
many of the leaders at the bar and in business. The two most conspicuous
men in the convention, however, were Joseph Story and Daniel Webster, who
bore the burden in every discussion; and there were three subjects, upon
which Mr. Webster spoke at length, that deserve more than a passing

Questions of party have, as a rule, found but little place in the
constitutional assemblies of Massachusetts. This was peculiarly the case in
1820, when the old political divisions were dying out, and new ones had not
yet been formed. At the same time widely opposite views found expression in
the convention. The movement toward thorough and complete democracy was
gathering headway, and directing its force against many of the old colonial
traditions and habits of government embodied in the existing Constitution.
That portion of the delegates which favored certain radical changes was
confronted and stoutly opposed by those who, on the whole, inclined to make
as few alterations as possible, and desired to keep things about as they
were. Mr. Webster, as was natural, was the leader of the conservative
party, and his course in this convention is an excellent illustration of
this marked trait in his disposition and character.

One of the important questions concerned the abolition of the profession of
Christian faith as a qualification for holding office. On this point the
line of argument pursued by Mr. Webster is extremely characteristic.
Although an unvarying conservative throughout his life, he was incapable of
bigotry, or of narrow and illiberal views. At the same time the process by
which he reached his opinion in favor of removing the religious test shows
more clearly than even ultra-conservatism could, how free he was from any
touch of the reforming or innovating spirit. He did not urge that, on
general principles, religious tests were wrong, that they were relics of
the past and in hopeless conflict with the fundamental doctrines of
American liberty and democracy. On the contrary, he implied that a
religious test was far from being of necessity an evil. He laid down the
sound doctrine that qualifications for office were purely matters of
expediency, and then argued that it was wise to remove the religious test
because, while its principle would be practically enforced by a Christian
community, it was offensive to some persons to have it engrafted on the
Constitution. The speech in which he set forth these views was an able and
convincing one, entirely worthy of its author, and the removal of the test
was carried by a large majority. It is an interesting example of the
combination of steady conservatism and breadth of view which Mr. Webster
always displayed. But it also brings into strong relief his aversion to
radical general principles as grounds of action, and his inborn hostility
to far-reaching change.

His two other important speeches in this convention have been preserved in
his works, and are purely and wholly conservative in tone and spirit. The
first related to the basis of representation in the Senate, whose members
were then apportioned according to the amount of taxable property in the
districts. This system, Mr. Webster thought, should be retained, and his
speech was a most masterly discussion of the whole system of government by
two Houses. He urged the necessity of a basis of representation for the
upper House different from that of the lower, in order to make the former
fully serve its purpose of a check and balance to the popular branch. This
important point he handled in the most skilful manner, and there is no
escape from his conclusion that a difference of origin in the two
legislative branches of the government is essential to the full and perfect
operation of the system. This difference of origin, he argued, could be
obtained only by the introduction of property as a factor in the basis of
representation. The weight of his speech was directed to defending the
principle of a suitable representation of property, which was a subject
requiring very adroit treatment. The doctrine is one which probably would
not be tolerated now in any part of this country, and even in 1820, in
Massachusetts, it was a delicate matter to advocate it, for it was hostile
to the general sentiment of the people. Having established his position
that it was all important to make the upper branch a strong and effective
check, he said that the point in issue was not whether property offered the
best method of distinguishing between the two Houses, but whether it was
not better than no distinction at all. This being answered affirmatively,
the next question to be considered was whether property, not in the sense
of personal possessions and personal power, but in a general sense, ought
not to have its due influence in matters of government. He maintained the
justice of this proposition by showing that our constitutions rest largely
on the general equality of property, which, in turn, is due to our laws of
distribution. This led him into a discussion of the principles of the
distribution of property. He pointed out the dangers arising in England
from the growth of a few large estates, while on the other hand he
predicted that the rapid and minute subdivision of property in France would
change the character of the government, and, far from strengthening the
crown, as was then generally prophesied, would have a directly opposite
effect, by creating a large and united body of small proprietors, who would
sooner or later control the country. He illustrated, in this way, the value
and importance of a general equality of property, and of steadiness in
legislation affecting it. These were the reasons, he contended, for making
property the basis of the check and balance furnished to our system of
government by an upper House. Moreover, all property being subject to
taxation for the purpose of educating the children of both rich and poor,
it deserved some representation for this valuable aid to government. It is
impossible, in a few lines,[1] to do justice to Mr. Webster's argument. It
exhibited a great deal of tact and ingenuity, especially in the distinction
so finely drawn between property as an element of personal power and
property in a general sense, and so distributed as to be a bulwark of
liberty. The speech is, on this account, an interesting one, for Mr.
Webster was rarely ingenious, and hardly ever got over difficulties by
fine-spun distinctions. In this instance adroitness was very necessary, and
he did not hesitate to employ it. By his skilful treatment, by his
illustrations drawn from England and France, which show the accuracy and
range of his mental vision in matters of politics and public economy, both
at home and abroad, and with the powerful support of Judge Story, Mr.
Webster carried his point. The element of property representation in the
Senate was retained, but so wholly by the ability of its advocate, that it
was not long afterwards removed.

[Footnote 1: My brief statement is merely a further condensation of the
excellent abstract of this speech made by Mr Curtis.]

Mr. Webster's other important speech related to the judiciary. The
Constitution provided that the judges, who held office during good
behavior, should be removable by the Governor on an address from the
Legislature. This was considered to meet cases of incompetency or of
personal misconduct, which could not be reached by impeachment. Mr. Webster
desired to amend the clause so as to require a two thirds vote for the
passage of the address, and that reasons should be assigned, and a hearing
assured to the judge who was the subject of the proceedings. These changes
were all directed to the further protection of the bench, and it was in
this connection that Mr. Webster made a most admirable and effective speech
on the well-worn but noble theme of judicial independence. He failed to
carry conviction, however, and his amendments were all lost. The perils
which he anticipated have never arisen, and the good sense of the people of
Massachusetts has prevented the slightest abuse of what Mr. Webster rightly
esteemed a dangerous power.

Mr. Webster's continual and active exertion throughout the session of this
convention brought him great applause and admiration, and showed his powers
in a new light. Judge Story, with generous enthusiasm, wrote to Mr. Mason,
after the convention adjourned:--

"Our friend Webster has gained a noble reputation. He was before
known as a lawyer; but he has now secured the title of an eminent
and enlightened statesman. It was a glorious field for him, and he
has had an ample harvest. The whole force of his great mind was
brought out, and, in several speeches, he commanded universal
admiration. He always led the van, and was most skilful and
instantaneous in attack and retreat. He fought, as I have told him,
in the 'imminent deadly breach;' and all I could do was to
skirmish, in aid of him, upon some of the enemy's outposts. On the
whole, I never was more proud of any display than his in my life,
and I am much deceived if the well-earned popularity, so justly and
so boldly acquired by him on this occasion, does not carry him, if
he lives, to the presidency."

While this convention, so memorable in the career of Mr. Webster and so
filled with the most absorbing labors, was in session, he achieved a still
wider renown in a very different field. On the 22d of December, 1820, he
delivered at Plymouth the oration which commemorated the two hundredth
anniversary of the landing of the Pilgrims. The theme was a splendid one,
both in the intrinsic interest of the event itself, in the character of the
Pilgrims, in the vast results which had grown from their humble beginnings,
and in the principles of free government, which had spread from the cabins
of the exiles over the face of a continent, and had become the common
heritage of a great people. We are fortunate in having a description of the
orator, written at the time by a careful observer and devoted friend, Mr.
Ticknor, who says:--

"_Friday Evening._--I have run away from a great levee there is
down-stairs, thronging in admiration round Mr. Webster, to tell you
a little word about his oration. Yet I do not dare to trust myself
about it, and I warn you beforehand that I have not the least
confidence in my own opinion. His manner carried me away
completely; not, I think, that I could have been so carried away if
it had been a poor oration, for of that, I apprehend, there can be
no fear. It _must_ have been a great, a very great performance, but
whether it was so absolutely unrivalled as I imagined when I was
under the immediate influence of his presence, of his tones, of his
looks, I cannot be sure till I have read it, for it seems to me

"I was never so excited by public speaking before in my life. Three
or four times I thought my temples would burst with the gush of
blood; for, after all, you must know that I am aware it is no
connected and compacted whole, but a collection of wonderful
fragments of burning eloquence, to which his whole manner gave
tenfold force. When I came out I was almost afraid to come near to
him. It seemed to me as if he was like the mount that might not be
touched and that burned with fire. I was beside myself, and am so

"_Saturday._--Mr. Webster was in admirable spirits. On Thursday
evening he was considerably agitated and oppressed, and yesterday
morning he had not his natural look at all; but since his entire
success he has been as gay and playful as a kitten. The party came
in one after another, and the spirits of all were kindled brighter
and brighter, and we fairly sat up till after two o'clock. I think,
therefore, we may now safely boast the Plymouth expedition has gone
off admirably."

Mr. Ticknor was a man of learning and scholarship, just returned from a
prolonged sojourn in Europe, where he had met and conversed with all the
most distinguished men of the day, both in England and on the Continent. He
was not, therefore, disposed by training or recent habits to indulge a
facile enthusiasm, and such deep emotion as he experienced must have been
due to no ordinary cause. He was, in fact, profoundly moved because he had
been listening to one of the great masters of eloquence exhibiting, for the
first time, his full powers in a branch of the art much more cultivated in
America by distinguished men of all professions than is the custom
elsewhere. The Plymouth oration belongs to what, for lack of a better name,
we must call occasional oratory. This form of address, taking an
anniversary, a great historical event or character, a celebration, or
occasion of any sort as a starting point, permits either a close adherence
to the original text or the widest latitude of treatment. The field is a
broad and inviting one. That it promises an easy success is shown by the
innumerable productions of this kind which, for many years, have been
showered upon the country. That the promise is fallacious is proved by the
very small number among the countless host of such addresses which survive
the moment of their utterance. The facility of saying something is
counterbalanced by the difficulty of saying anything worth hearing. The
temptation to stray and to mistake platitude for originality is almost
always fatal.

Mr. Webster was better fitted than any man who has ever lived in this
country for the perilous task of occasional oratory. The freedom of
movement which renders most speeches of this class diluted and commonplace
was exactly what he needed. He required abundant intellectual room for a
proper display of his powers, and he had the rare quality of being able to
range over vast spaces of time and thought without becoming attenuated in
what he said. Soaring easily, with a powerful sweep he returned again to
earth without jar or shock. He had dignity and grandeur of thought,
expression, and manner, and a great subject never became small by his
treatment of it. He had, too, a fine historical imagination, and could
breathe life and passion into the dead events of the past.

Mr. Ticknor speaks of the Plymouth oration as impressing him as a series of
eloquent fragments. The impression was perfectly correct. Mr. Webster
touched on the historical event, on the character of the Pilgrims, on the
growth and future of the country, on liberty and constitutional principles,
on education, and on human slavery. This was entirely proper to such an
address. The difficulty lay in doing it well, and Mr. Webster did it as
perfectly as it ever has been done. The thoughts were fine, and were
expressed in simple and beautiful words. The delivery was grand and
impressive, and the presentation of each successive theme glowed with
subdued fire. There was no straining after mere rhetorical effect, but an
artistic treatment of a succession of great subjects in a general and yet
vivid and picturesque fashion. The emotion produced by the Plymouth oration
was akin to that of listening to the strains of music issuing from a
full-toned organ. Those who heard it did not seek to gratify their reason
or look for conviction to be brought to their understanding. It did not
appeal to the logical faculties or to the passions, which are roused by the
keen contests of parliamentary debate. It was the divine gift of speech,
the greatest instrument given to man, used with surpassing talent, and the
joy and pleasure which it brought were those which come from listening to
the song of a great singer, or looking upon the picture of a great artist.

The Plymouth oration, which was at once printed and published, was received
with a universal burst of applause. It had more literary success than
anything which had at that time appeared, except from the pen of Washington
Irving. The public, without stopping to analyze their own feelings, or the
oration itself, recognized at once that a new genius had come before them,
a man endowed with the noble gift of eloquence, and capable by the exercise
of his talents of moving and inspiring great masses of his fellow-men. Mr.
Webster was then of an age to feel fully the glow of a great success, both
at the moment and when the cooler and more critical approbation came. He
was fresh and young, a strong man rejoicing to run the race. Mr. Ticknor
says, in speaking of the oration:--

"The passage at the end, where, spreading his arms as if to embrace
them, he welcomed future generations to the great inheritance which
we have enjoyed, was spoken with the most attractive sweetness and
that peculiar smile which in him was always so charming. The effect
of the whole was very great. As soon as he got home to our
lodgings, all the principal people then in Plymouth crowded about
him. He was full of animation, and radiant with happiness. But
there was something about him very grand and imposing at the same
time. I never saw him at any time when he seemed to me to be more
conscious of his own powers, or to have a more true and natural
enjoyment from their possession."

Amid all the applause and glory, there was one letter of congratulation and
acknowledgment which must have given Mr. Webster more pleasure than
anything else, It came from John Adams, who never did anything by halves.
Whether he praised or condemned, he did it heartily and ardently, and such
an oration on New England went straight to the heart of the eager,
warm-blooded old patriot. His commendation, too, was worth having, for he
spoke as one having authority. John Adams had been one of the eloquent men
and the most forcible debater of the first Congress. He had listened to the
great orators of other lands. He had heard Pitt and Fox, Burke and
Sheridan, and had been present at the trial of Warren Hastings. His
unstinted praise meant and still means a great deal, and it concludes with
one of the finest and most graceful of compliments. The oration, he says,

"is the effort of a great mind, richly stored with every species of
information. If there be an American who can read it without tears,
I am not that American. It enters more perfectly into the genuine
spirit of New England than any production I ever read. The
observations on the Greeks and Romans; on colonization in general;
on the West India islands; on the past, present, and future of
America, and on the slave-trade, are sagacious, profound, and
affecting in a high degree."

"Mr. Burke is no longer entitled to the praise--the most consummate
orator of modern times."

"What can I say of what regards myself? To my humble name,
_Exegisti monumentum aere perennius_."

Many persons consider the Plymouth oration to be the finest of all Mr.
Webster's efforts in this field. It is certainly one of the very best of
his productions, but he showed on the next great occasion a distinct
improvement, which he long maintained. Five years after the oration at
Plymouth, he delivered the address on the laying of the corner-stone of
Bunker Hill monument. The superiority to the first oration was not in
essentials, but in details, the fruit of a ripening and expanding mind. At
Bunker Hill, as at Plymouth, he displayed the massiveness of thought, the
dignity and grandeur of expression, and the range of vision which are all
so characteristic of his intellect and which were so much enhanced by his
wonderful physical attributes. But in the later oration there is a greater
finish and smoothness. We appreciate the fact that the Plymouth oration is
a succession of eloquent fragments; the same is true of the Bunker Hill
address, but we no longer realize it. The continuity is, in appearance,
unbroken, and the whole work is rounded and polished. The style, too, is
now perfected. It is at once plain, direct, massive, and vivid. The
sentences are generally short and always clear, but never monotonous. The
preference for Anglo-Saxon words and the exclusion of Latin derivatives are
extremely marked, and we find here in rare perfection that highest
attribute of style, the union of simplicity, picturesqueness, and force.

In the first Bunker Hill oration Mr. Webster touched his highest point in
the difficult task of commemorative oratory. In that field he not only
stands unrivalled, but no one has approached him. The innumerable
productions of this class by other men, many of a high degree of
excellence, are forgotten, while those of Webster form part of the
education of every American school-boy, are widely read, and have entered
into the literature and thought of the country. The orations of Plymouth
and Bunker Hill are grouped in Webster's works with a number of other
speeches professedly of the same kind. But only a very few of these are
strictly occasional; the great majority are chiefly, if not wholly,
political speeches, containing merely passages here and there in the same
vein as his great commemorative addresses. Before finally leaving the
subject, however, it will be well to glance for a moment at the few
orations which properly belong to the same class as the first two which we
have been considering.

The Bunker Hill oration, after the lapse of only a year, was followed by
the celebrated eulogy upon Adams and Jefferson. This usually and with
justice is ranked in merit with its two immediate predecessors. As a whole
it is not, perhaps, quite so much admired, but it contains the famous
imaginary speech of John Adams, which is the best known and most hackneyed
passage in any of these orations. The opening lines, "Sink or swim, live or
die, survive or perish, I give my hand and my heart to this vote," since
Mr. Webster first pronounced them in Faneuil Hall, have risen even to the
dignity of a familiar quotation. The passage, indeed, is perhaps the best
example we have of the power of Mr. Webster's historical imagination. He
had some fragmentary sentences, the character of the man, the nature of the
debate, and the circumstances of the time to build upon, and from these
materials he constructed a speech which was absolutely startling in its
lifelike force. The revolutionary Congress, on the verge of the tremendous
step which was to separate them from England, rises before us as we read
the burning words which the imagination of the speaker put into the mouth
of John Adams. They are not only instinct with life, but with the life of
impending revolution, and they glow with the warmth and strength of feeling
so characteristic of their supposed author. It is well known that the
general belief at the time was that the passage was an extract from a
speech actually delivered by John Adams. Mr. Webster, as well as Mr.
Adams's son and grandson, received numerous letters of inquiry on this
point, and it is possible that many people still persist in this belief as
to the origin of the passage. Such an effect was not produced by mere
clever imitation, for there was nothing to imitate, but by the force of a
powerful historic imagination and a strong artistic sense in its

In 1828 Mr. Webster delivered an address before the Mechanics' Institute in
Boston, on "Science in connection with the Mechanic Arts," a subject which
was outside of his usual lines of thought, and offered no especial
attractions to him. This oration is graceful and strong, and possesses
sufficient and appropriate eloquence. It is chiefly interesting, however,
from the reserve and self-control, dictated by a nice sense of fitness,
which it exhibited. Omniscience was not Mr. Webster's foible. He never was
guilty of Lord Brougham's weakness of seeking to prove himself master of
universal knowledge. In delivering an address on science and invention,
there was a strong temptation to an orator like Mr. Webster to substitute
glittering rhetoric for real knowledge; but the address at the Mechanics'
Institute is simply the speech of a very eloquent and a liberally educated
man upon a subject with which he had only the most general acquaintance.
The other orations of this class were those on "The Character of
Washington," the second Bunker Hill address, "The Landing at Plymouth,"
delivered in New York at the dinner of the Pilgrim Society, the remarks on
the death of Judge Story and of Mr. Mason, and finally the speech on laying
the corner-stone for the addition to the Capitol, in 1851. These were all
comparatively brief speeches, with the exception of that at Bunker Hill,
which, although very fine, was perceptibly inferior to his first effort
when the corner-stone of the monument was laid. The address on the
character of Washington, to an American the most dangerous of great and
well-worn topics, is of a high order of eloquence. The theme appealed to
Mr. Webster strongly and brought out his best powers, which were peculiarly
fitted to do justice to the noble, massive, and dignified character of the
subject. The last of these addresses, that on the addition to the Capitol,
was in a prophetic vein, and, while it shows but little diminution of
strength, has a sadness even in its splendid anticipations of the future,
which makes it one of the most impressive of its class. All those which
have been mentioned, however, show the hand of the master and are worthy to
be preserved in the volumes which contain the noble series that began in
the early flush of genius with the brilliant oration in the Plymouth
church, and closed with the words uttered at Washington, under the shadow
of the Capitol, when the light of life was fading and the end of all things
was at hand.



The thorough knowledge of the principles of government and legislation, the
practical statesmanship, and the capacity for debate shown in the State
convention, combined with the splendid oration at Plymouth to make Mr.
Webster the most conspicuous man in New England, with the single exception
of John Quincy Adams. There was, therefore, a strong and general desire
that he should return to public life. He accepted with some reluctance the
nomination to Congress from the Boston district in 1822, and in December,
1823, took his seat.

The six years which had elapsed since Mr. Webster left Washington had been
a period of political quiet. The old parties had ceased to represent any
distinctive principles, and the Federalists scarcely existed as an
organization. Mr. Webster, during this interval, had remained almost wholly
quiescent in regard to public affairs. He had urged the visit of Mr. Monroe
to the North, which had done so much to hasten the inevitable dissolution
of parties. He had received Mr. Calhoun when that gentleman visited
Boston, and their friendship and apparent intimacy were such that the South
Carolinian was thought to be his host's candidate for the presidency.
Except for this and the part which he took in the Boston opposition to the
Missouri compromise and to the tariff, matters to be noticed in connection
with later events, Mr. Webster had held aloof from political conflict.

When he returned to Washington in 1823, the situation was much altered from
that which he had left in 1817. In reality there were no parties, or only
one; but the all-powerful Republicans who had adopted, under the pressure
of foreign war, most of the Federalist principles so obnoxious to Jefferson
and his school, were split up into as many factions as there were
candidates for the presidency. It was a period of transition in which
personal politics had taken the place of those founded on opposing
principles, and this "era of good feeling" was marked by the intense
bitterness of the conflicts produced by these personal rivalries. In
addition to the factions which were battling for the control of the
Republican party and for the great prize of the presidency, there was still
another faction, composed of the old Federalists, who, although without
organization, still held to their name and their prejudices, and clung
together more as a matter of habit than with any practical object. Mr.
Webster had been one of the Federalist leaders in the old days, and when
he returned to public life with all the distinction which he had won in
other fields, he was at once recognized as the chief and head of all that
now remained of the great party of Washington and Hamilton. No Federalist
could hope to be President, and for this very reason Federalist support was
eagerly sought by all Republican candidates for the presidency. The favor
of Mr. Webster as the head of an independent and necessarily disinterested
faction was, of course, strongly desired in many quarters. His political
position and his high reputation as a lawyer, orator, and statesman made
him, therefore, a character of the first importance in Washington, a fact
to which Mr. Clay at once gave public recognition by placing his future
rival at the head of the Judiciary Committee of the House.

The six years of congressional life which now ensued were among the most
useful if not the most brilliant in Mr. Webster's whole public career. He
was free from the annoyance of opposition at home, and was twice returned
by a practically unanimous popular vote. He held a commanding and
influential and at the same time a thoroughly independent position in
Washington, where he was regarded as the first man on the floor of the
House in point of ability and reputation. He was not only able to show his
great capacity for practical legislation, but he was at liberty to advance
his own views on public questions in his own way, unburdened by the outside
influences of party and of association which had affected him so much in
his previous term of service and were soon to reassert their sway in all
his subsequent career.

His return to Congress was at once signalized by a great speech, which,
although of no practical or immediate moment, deserves careful attention
from the light which it throws on the workings of his mind and the
development of his opinions in regard to his country. The House had been in
session but a few days when Mr. Webster offered a resolution in favor of
providing by law for the expenses incident to the appointment of a
commissioner to Greece, should the President deem such an appointment
expedient. The Greeks were then in the throes of revolution, and the
sympathy for the heirs of so much glory in their struggle for freedom was
strong among the American people. When Mr. Webster rose on January 19,
1824, to move the adoption of the resolution which he had laid upon the
table of the House, the chamber was crowded and the galleries were filled
by a large and fashionable audience attracted by the reputation of the
orator and the interest felt in his subject. His hearers were disappointed
if they expected a great rhetorical display, for which the nature of the
subject and the classic memories clustering about it offered such strong
temptations. Mr. Webster did not rise for that purpose, nor to make
capital by an appeal to a temporary popular interest. His speech was for a
wholly different purpose. It was the first expression of that grand
conception of the American Union which had vaguely excited his youthful
enthusiasm. This conception had now come to be part of his intellectual
being, and then and always stirred his imagination and his affections to
their inmost depths. It embodied the principle from which he never swerved,
and led to all that he represents and to all that his influence means in
our history.

As the first expression of his conception of the destiny of the United
States as a great and united nation, Mr. Webster was, naturally, "more fond
of this child" than of any other of his intellectual family. The speech
itself was a noble one, but it was an eloquent essay rather than a great
example of the oratory of debate. This description can in no other case be
applied to Mr. Webster's parliamentary efforts, but in this instance it is
correct, because the occasion justified such a form. Mr. Webster's purpose
was to show that, though the true policy of the United States absolutely
debarred them from taking any part in the affairs of Europe, yet they had
an important duty to perform in exercising their proper influence on the
public opinion of the world. Europe was then struggling with the monstrous
principles of the "Holy Alliance." Those principles Mr. Webster reviewed
historically. He showed their pernicious tendency, their hostility to all
modern theories of government, and their especial opposition to the
principles of American liberty. If the doctrines of the Congress of Laybach
were right and could be made to prevail, then those of America were wrong
and the systems of popular government adopted in the United States were
doomed. Against such infamous principles it behooved the people of the
United States to raise their voice. Mr. Webster sketched the history of
Greece, and made a fine appeal to Americans to give an expression of their
sympathy to a people struggling for freedom. He proclaimed, so that all men
might hear, the true duty of the United States toward the oppressed of any
land, and the responsibility which they held to exert their influence upon
the opinions of mankind. The national destiny of his country in regard to
other nations was his theme; to give to the glittering declaration of
Canning, that he would "call in the new world to redress the balance of the
old," a deep and real significance was his object.

The speech touched Mr. Clay to the quick. He supported Mr. Webster's
resolution with all the ardor of his generous nature, and supplemented it
by another against the interference of Spain in South America. A stormy
debate followed, vivified by the flings and taunts of John Randolph, but
the unwillingness to take action was so great that Mr. Webster did not
press his resolution to a vote. He had at the outset looked for a practical
result from his resolution, and had desired the appointment of Mr. Everett
as commissioner, a plan in which he had been encouraged by Mr. Calhoun, who
had given him to understand that the Executive regarded the Greek mission
with favor. Before he delivered his speech he became aware that Calhoun had
misled him, that Mr. Adams, the Secretary of State, considered Everett too
much of a partisan, and that the administration was wholly averse to any
action in the premises. This destroyed all hope of a practical result, and
made an adverse vote certain. The only course was to avoid a decision and
trust to what he said for an effect on public opinion. The real purpose of
the speech, however, was achieved. Mr. Webster had exposed and denounced
the Holy Alliance as hostile to the liberties of mankind, and had declared
the unalterable enmity of the United States to its reactionary doctrines.
The speech was widely read, not only wherever English was spoken, but it
was translated into all the languages of Europe, and was circulated
throughout South America. It increased Mr. Webster's fame at home and laid
the foundation of his reputation abroad. Above all, it stamped him as a
statesman of a broad and national cast of mind.

He now settled down to hard and continuous labor at the routine business
of the House, and it was not until the end of March that he had occasion to
make another elaborate and important speech. At that time Mr. Clay took up
the bill for laying certain protective duties and advocated it strenuously
as part of a general and steady policy which he then christened with the
name of "the American system." Against this bill, known as the tariff of
1824, Mr. Webster made, as Mr. Adams wrote in his diary at the time, "an
able and powerful speech," which can be more properly considered when we
come to his change of position on this question a few years later.

As chairman of the Judiciary Committee, the affairs of the national courts
were his particular care. Western expansion demanded an increased number of
judges for the circuits, but, unfortunately, decisions in certain recent
cases had offended the sensibilities of Virginia and Kentucky, and there
was a renewal of the old Jeffersonian efforts to limit the authority of the
Supreme Court. Instead of being able to improve, he was obliged to defend
the court, and this he did successfully, defeating all attempts to curtail
its power by alterations of the act of 1789. These duties and that of
investigating the charges brought by Ninian Edwards against Mr. Crawford,
the Secretary of the Treasury, made the session an unusually laborious one,
and detained Mr. Webster in Washington until midsummer.

The short session of the next winter was of course marked by the
excitement attendant upon the settlement of the presidential election which
resulted in the choice of Mr. John Quincy Adams by the House of
Representatives. The intense agitation in political circles did not,
however, prevent Mr. Webster from delivering one very important speech, nor
from carrying through successfully one of the most important and
practically useful measures of his legislative career. The speech was
delivered in the debate on the bill for continuing the national Cumberland
road. Mr. Webster had already, many years before, defined his position on
the constitutional question involved in internal improvements. He now, in
response to Mr. McDuffie of South Carolina, who denounced the measure as
partial and sectional, not merely defended the principle of internal
improvements, but declared that it was a policy to be pursued only with the
purest national feeling. It was not the business of Congress, he said, to
legislate for this State or that, or to balance local interests, and
because they helped one region to help another, but to act for the benefit
of all the States united, and in making improvements to be guided only by
their necessity. He showed that these roads would open up the West to
settlement, and incidentally defended the policy of selling the public
lands at a low price as an encouragement to emigration, telling his
Southern friends very plainly that they could not expect to coerce the
course of population in favor of their own section. The whole speech was
conceived in the broadest and wisest spirit, and marks another step in the
development of Mr. Webster as a national statesman. It increased his
reputation, and brought to him a great accession of popularity in the West.

The measure which he carried through was the famous "Crimes Act," perhaps
the best monument that there is of his legislative and constructive
ability. The criminal law of the United States had scarcely been touched
since the days of the first Congress, and was very defective and
unsatisfactory. Mr. Webster's first task, in which he received most
essential and valuable though unacknowledged assistance from Judge Story,
was to codify and digest the whole body of criminal law. This done, the
hardly less difficult undertaking followed of carrying the measure through
Congress. In the latter, Mr. Webster, by his skill in debate and
familiarity with his subject, and by his influence in the House, was
perfectly successful. That he and Judge Story did their work well in
perfecting the bill is shown by the admirable manner in which the Act stood
the test of time and experience.

When the new Congress came together in 1825, Mr. Webster at once turned his
attention to the improvement of the Judiciary, which he had been obliged to
postpone in order to ward off the attacks upon the court. After much
deliberation and thought, aided by Judge Story, and having made some
concessions to his committee, he brought in a bill increasing the Supreme
Court judges to ten, making ten instead of seven circuits, and providing
that six judges should constitute a quorum for the transaction of business.
Although not a party question, the measure excited much opposition, and was
more than a month in passing through the House. Mr. Webster supported it at
every stage with great ability, and his two most important speeches, which
are in their way models for the treatment of such a subject, are preserved
in his works. The bill was carried by his great strength in debate and by
height of forcible argument. But in the Senate, where it was deprived of
the guardianship of its author, it hung along in uncertainty, and was
finally lost through the apathy or opposition of those very Western members
for whose benefit it had been devised. Mr. Webster took its ultimate defeat
very coolly. The Eastern States did not require it, and were perfectly
contented with the existing arrangements, and he was entirely satisfied
with the assurance that the best lawyers and wisest men approved the
principles of the bill. The time and thought which he had expended were not
wasted so far as he was personally concerned, for they served to enhance
his influence and reputation both as a lawyer and statesman.

This session brought with it also occasions for debate other than those
which were offered by measures of purely legislative and practical
interest. The administration of Mr. Adams marks the close of the "era of
good feeling," as it was called, and sowed the germs of those divisions
which were soon to result in new and definite party combinations. Mr. Adams
and Mr. Clay represented the conservative and General Jackson and his
friends the radical or democratic elements in the now all-embracing
Republican party. It was inevitable that Mr. Webster should sympathize with
the former, and it was equally inevitable that in doing so he should become
the leader of the administration forces in the House, where "his great and
commanding influence," to quote the words of an opponent, made him a host
himself. The desire of Mr. Adams to send representatives to the Panama
Congress, a scheme which lay very near his heart and to which Mr. Clay was
equally attached, encountered a bitter and factious resistance in the
Senate, sufficient to deprive the measure of any real utility by delaying
its passage. In the House a resolution was introduced declaring simply that
it was expedient to appropriate money to defray the expenses of the
proposed mission. The opposition at once undertook by amendments to
instruct the ministers, and generally to go beyond the powers of the House.
The real ground of the attack was slavery, threatened, as was supposed, by
the attitude of the South American republics--a fact which no one
understood or cared to recognize. Mr. Webster stood forth as the champion
of the Executive. In an elaborate speech of great ability he denounced the
unconstitutional attempt to interfere with the prerogative of the
President, and discussed with much effect the treaty-making power assailed
on another famous occasion, many years before, by the South, and defended
at that time also by the eloquence of a representative of Massachusetts.
Mr. Webster showed the nature of the Panama Congress, defended its objects
and the policy of the administration, and made a full and fine exposition
of the intent of the "Monroe doctrine." The speech was an important and
effective one. It exhibited in an exceptional way Mr. Webster's capacity
for discussing large questions of public and constitutional law and foreign
policy, and was of essential service to the cause which he espoused. It was
imbued, too, with that sentiment of national unity which occupied a larger
space in his thoughts with each succeeding year, until it finally pervaded
his whole career as a public man.

At the second session of the same Congress, after a vain effort to confer
upon the country the benefit of a national bankrupt law, Mr. Webster was
again called upon to defend the Executive in a much more heated conflict
than that aroused by the Panama resolution. Georgia was engaged in
oppressing and robbing the Creek Indians, in open contempt of the treaties
and obligations of the United States. Mr. Adams sent in a message reciting
the facts and hinting pretty plainly that he intended to carry out the laws
by force unless Georgia desisted. The message was received with great wrath
by the Southern members. They objected to any reference to a committee, and
Mr. Forsyth of Georgia declared the whole business to be "base and
infamous," while a gentleman from Mississippi announced that Georgia would
act as she pleased. Mr. Webster, having said that she would do so at her
peril, was savagely attacked as the organ of the administration, daring to
menace and insult a sovereign State. This stirred Mr. Webster, although
slow to anger, to a determination to carry through the reference at all
hazards. He said:--

"He would tell the gentleman from Georgia that if there were rights
of the Indians which the United States were bound to protect, that
there were those in the House and in the country who would take
their part. If we have bound ourselves by any treaty to do certain
things, we must fulfil such obligation. High words will not terrify
us, loud declamation will not deter us from the discharge of that
duty. In my own course in this matter I shall not be dictated to by
any State or the representative of any State on this floor. I shall
not be frightened from my purpose nor will I suffer harsh language
to produce any reaction on my mind. I will examine with great and
equal care all the rights of both parties.... I have made these few
remarks to give the gentleman from Georgia to understand that it
was not by bold denunciation nor by bold assumption that the
members of this House are to be influenced in the decision of high
public concerns."

When Mr. Webster was thoroughly roused and indignant there was a darkness
in his face and a gleam of dusky light in his deep-set eyes which were not
altogether pleasant to contemplate. How well Mr. Forsyth and his friends
bore the words and look of Mr. Webster we have no means of knowing, but the
message was referred to a select committee without a division. The interest
to us in all this is the spirit in which Mr. Webster spoke. He loved the
Union as intensely then as at any period of his life, but he was still far
distant from the frame of mind which induced him to think that his devotion
to the Union would be best expressed and the cause of the Union best served
by mildness toward the South and rebuke to the North. He believed in 1826
that dignified courage and firm language were the surest means of keeping
the peace. He was quite right then, and he would have been always right if
he had adhered to the plain words and determined manner to which he treated
Mr. Forsyth and his friends.

This session was crowded with work of varying importance, but the close of
Mr. Webster's career in the lower House was near at hand. The failing
health of Mr. E.H. Mills made it certain that Massachusetts would soon have
a vacant seat in the Senate, and every one turned to Mr. Webster as the
person above all others entitled to this high office. He himself was by no
means so quick in determining to accept the position. He would not even
think of it until the impossibility of Mr. Mills's return was assured, and
then he had to meet the opposition of the administration and all its
friends, who regarded with alarm the prospect of losing such a tower of
strength in the House. Mr. Webster, indeed, felt that he could render the
best service in the lower branch, and urged the senatorship upon Governor
Lincoln, who was elected, but declined. After this there seemed to be no
escape from a manifest destiny. Despite the opposition of his friends in
Washington, and his own reluctance, he finally accepted the office of
United States senator, which was conferred upon him by the Legislature of
Massachusetts in June, 1827.

In tracing the labors of Mr. Webster during three years spent in the lower
House, no allusion has been made to the purely political side of his career
at this time, nor to his relations with the public men of the day. The
period was important, generally speaking, because it showed the first signs
of the development of new parties, and to Mr. Webster in particular,
because it brought him gradually toward the political and party position
which he was to occupy during the rest of his life. When he took his seat
in Congress, in the autumn of 1823, the intrigues for the presidential
succession were at their height. Mr. Webster was then strongly inclined to
Mr. Calhoun, as was suspected at the time of that gentleman's visit to
Boston. He soon became convinced, however, that Mr. Calhoun's chances of
success were slight, and his good opinion of the distinguished South
Carolinian seems also to have declined. It was out of the question for a
man of Mr. Webster's temperament and habits of thought, to think for a
moment of supporting Jackson, a candidate on the ground of military glory
and unreflecting popular enthusiasm. Mr. Adams, as the representative of
New England, and as a conservative and trained statesman, was the natural
and proper candidate to receive the aid of Mr. Webster. But here party
feelings and traditions stepped in. The Federalists of New England had
hated Mr. Adams with the peculiar bitterness which always grows out of
domestic quarrels, whether in public or private life; and although the old
strife had sunk a little out of sight, it had never been healed. The
Federalist leaders in Massachusetts still disliked and distrusted Mr. Adams
with an intensity none the less real because it was concealed. In the
nature of things Mr. Webster now occupied a position of political
independence; but he had been a steady party man when his party was in
existence, and he was still a party man so far as the old Federalist
feelings retained vitality and force. He had, moreover, but a slight
personal acquaintance with Mr. Adams and no very cordial feeling toward
him. This disposed of three presidential candidates. The fourth was Mr.
Clay, and it is not very clear why Mr. Webster refused an alliance in this
quarter. Mr. Clay had treated him with consideration, they were personal
friends, their opinions were not dissimilar and were becoming constantly
more alike. Possibly there was an instinctive feeling of rivalry on this
very account. At all events, Mr. Webster would not support Clay. Only one
candidate remained: Mr. Crawford, the representative of all that was
extreme among the Republicans, and, in a party sense, most odious to the
Federalists. But it was a time when personal factions flourished rankly in
the absence of broad differences of principle. Mr. Crawford was bidding
furiously for support in every and any quarter, and to Mr. Crawford,
accordingly, Mr. Webster began to look as a possible leader for himself and
his friends. Just how far Mr. Webster went in this direction cannot be
readily or surely determined, although we get some light on the subject
from an attack made on Mr. Crawford just at this time. Ninian Edwards,
recently senator from Illinois, had a quarrel with Mr. Crawford, and sent
in a memorial to Congress containing charges against the Secretary of the
Treasury which were designed to break him down as a candidate for the
presidency. Of the merits of this quarrel it is not very easy to judge,
even if it were important. The character of Edwards was none of the best,
and Mr. Crawford had unquestionably made a highly unscrupulous use,
politically, of his position. The members of the administration, although
with no great love for Edwards, who had been appointed Minister to Mexico,
were distinctly hostile to Mr. Crawford, and refused to attend a dinner
from which Edwards had been expressly excluded. Mr. Webster's part in the
affair came from his being on the committee charged with the investigation
of the Edwards memorial. Mr. Adams, who was of course excited by the
presidential contest, disposed to regard his rivals with extreme disfavor,
and especially and justly suspicious of Mr. Crawford, speaks of Mr.
Webster's conduct in the matter with the utmost bitterness. He refers to it
again and again as an attempt to screen Crawford and break down Edwards,
and denounces Mr. Webster as false, insidious, and treacherous. Much of
this may be credited to the heated animosities of the moment, but there can
be no doubt that Mr. Webster took the matter into his own hands in the
committee, and made every effort to protect Mr. Crawford, in whose favor he
also spoke in the House. It is likewise certain that there was an attempt
to bring about an alliance between Crawford and the Federalists of the
North and East. The effort was abortive, and even before the conclusion of
the Edwards business Mr. Webster avowed that he should take but little part
in the election, and that his only purpose was to secure the best terms
possible for the Federalists, and obtain recognition for them from the next
administration. At that time he wished Mr. Mason to be attorney-general,
and had already turned his thoughts toward the English mission for himself.

To this waiting policy he adhered, but when the popular election was over,
and the final decision had been thrown into the House of Representatives,
more definite action became necessary. From the questions which he put to
his brother and others as to the course which he ought to pursue in the
election by the House, it is obvious that he was far from anxious to secure
the choice of Mr. Adams, and was weighing carefully other contingencies.
The feeling of New England could not, however, be mistaken. Public opinion
there demanded that the members of the House should stand by the New
England candidate to the last. To this sentiment Mr. Webster submitted, and
soon afterwards took occasion to have an interview with Mr. Adams in order
to make the best terms possible for the Federalists, and obtain for them
suitable recognition. Mr. Adams assured Mr. Webster that he did not intend
to proscribe any section or any party, and added that although he could not
give the Federalists representation in the cabinet, he should give them one
of the important appointments. Mr. Webster was entirely satisfied with this
promise and with all that was said by Mr. Adams, who, as everybody knows,
was soon after elected by the House on the first ballot.

Mr. Adams on his side saw plainly the necessity of conciliating Mr.
Webster, whose great ability and influence he thoroughly understood. He
told Mr. Clay that he had a high opinion of Mr. Webster, and wished to win
his support; and the savage tone displayed in regard to the Edwards affair
now disappears from the Diary. Mr. Adams, however, although he knew, as he
says, that "Webster was panting for the English mission," and hinted that
the wish might be gratified hereafter, was not ready to go so far at the
moment, and at the same time he sought to dissuade Mr. Webster from being a
candidate for the speakership, for which in truth the latter had no
inclination. Their relations, indeed, soon grew very pleasant. Mr. Webster
naturally became the leader of the administration forces in the House,
while the President on his side sought Mr. Webster's advice, admired his
oration on Adams and Jefferson, dined at his house, and lived on terms of
friendship and confidence with him. It is to be feared, however, that all
this was merely on the surface. Mr. Adams at the bottom of his heart never,
in reality, relaxed in his belief that Mr. Webster was morally unsound. Mr.
Webster, on the other hand, whose Federalist opposition to Mr. Adams had
only been temporarily allayed, was not long in coming to the conclusion
that his services, if appreciated, were not properly recognized by the
administration. There was a good deal of justice in this view. The English
mission never came, no help was to be obtained for Mr. Mason's election as
senator from New Hampshire, the speakership was to be refused in order to
promote harmony and strength in the House. To all this Mr. Webster
submitted, and fought the battles of the administration in debate as no one
else could have done. Nevertheless, all men like recognition, and Mr.
Webster would have preferred something more solid than words and confidence
or the triumph of a common cause. When the Massachusetts senatorship was in
question Mr. Adams urged the election of Governor Lincoln, and objected on
the most flattering grounds to Mr. Webster's withdrawal from the House. It
is not a too violent conjecture to suppose that Mr. Webster's final
acceptance of a seat in the Senate was due in large measure to a feeling
that he had sacrificed enough for the administration. There can be no doubt
that coolness grew between the President and the Senator, and that the
appointment to England, if still desired, never was made, so that when the
next election came on Mr. Webster was inactive, and, despite his hostility
to Jackson, viewed the overthrow of Mr. Adams with a good deal of
indifference and some satisfaction. It is none the less true, however, that
during these years when the first foundations of the future Whig party were
laid, Mr. Webster formed the political affiliations which were to last
through life. He inevitably found himself associated with Clay and Adams,
and opposed to Jackson, Benton, and Van Buren, while at the same time he
and Calhoun were fast drifting apart. He had no specially cordial feeling
to his new associates; but they were at the head of the conservative
elements of the country, they were nationalists in policy, and they favored
the views which were most affected in New England. As a conservative and
nationalist by nature and education, and as the great New England leader,
Mr. Webster could not avoid becoming the parliamentary chief of Mr. Adams's
administration, and thus paved the way for leadership in the Whig party of
the future.

In narrating the history of these years, I have confined myself to Mr.
Webster's public services and political course. But it was a period in his
career which was crowded with work and achievement, bringing fresh fame and
increased reputation, and also with domestic events both of joy and sorrow.
Mr. Webster steadily pursued the practice of the law, and was constantly
engaged in the Supreme Court. To these years belong many of his great
arguments, and also the prosecution of the Spanish claims, a task at once
laborious and profitable. In the summer of 1824 Mr. Webster first saw
Marshfield, his future home, and in the autumn of the same year he visited
Monticello, where he had a long interview with Mr. Jefferson, of whom he
has left a most interesting description. During the winter he formed the
acquaintance and lived much in the society of some well-known Englishmen
then travelling in this country. This party consisted of the Earl of Derby,
then Mr. Stanley, Lord Wharncliffe, then Mr. Stuart Wortley; Lord Taunton,
then Mr. Labouchere, and Mr. Denison, afterwards Speaker of the House of
Commons. With Mr. Denison this acquaintance was the foundation of a lasting
and intimate friendship maintained by correspondence. In June, 1825, came
the splendid oration at Bunker Hill, and then a visit to Niagara, which, of
course, appealed strongly to Mr. Webster. His account of it, however,
although indicative of a deep mental impression, shows that his power of
describing nature fell far short of his wonderful talent for picturing
human passions and action. The next vacation brought the eulogy on Adams
and Jefferson, when perhaps Mr. Webster may be considered to have been in
his highest physical and intellectual perfection. Such at least was the
opinion of Mr. Ticknor, who says:--

"He was in the perfection of manly beauty and strength; his form
filled out to its finest proportions, and his bearing, as he stood
before the vast multitude, that of absolute dignity and power. His
manner of speaking was deliberate and commanding. I never heard him
when his manner was so grand and appropriate; ... when he ended the
minds of men were wrought up to an uncontrollable excitement, and
then followed three tremendous cheers, inappropriate indeed, but as
inevitable as any other great movement of nature."

He had held the vast audience mute for over two hours, as John Quincy Adams
said in his diary, and finally their excited feelings found vent in cheers.
He spoke greatly because he felt greatly. His emotions, his imagination,
his entire oratorical temperament were then full of quick sensibility. When
he finished writing the imaginary speech of John Adams in the quiet of his
library and the silence of the morning hour, his eyes were wet with tears.

A year passed by after this splendid display of eloquence, and then the
second congressional period, which had been so full of work and
intellectual activity and well-earned distinction, closed, and he entered
upon that broader field which opened to him in the Senate of the United
States, where his greatest triumphs were still to be achieved.



The new dignity conferred on Mr. Webster by the people of Massachusetts had
hardly been assumed when he was called upon to encounter a trial which must
have made all his honors seem poor indeed. He had scarcely taken his seat
when he was obliged to return to New York, where failing health had
arrested Mrs. Webster's journey to the capital, and where, after much
suffering, she died, January 21, 1828. The blow fell with terrible severity
upon her husband. He had many sorrows to bear during his life, but this
surpassed all others. His wife was the love of his youth, the mother of his
children, a lovely woman whose strong but gentle influence for good was now
lost to him irreparably. In his last days his thoughts reverted to her, and
as he followed her body to the grave, on foot in the wet and cold, and
leading his children by the hand, it must indeed have seemed as if the wine
of life had been drunk and only the lees remained. He was excessively pale,
and to those who looked upon him seemed crushed and heart-broken.

The only relief was to return to his work and to the excitement of public
affairs; but the cloud hung over him long after he was once more in his
place in the Senate. Death had made a wound in his life which time healed
but of which the scar remained. Whatever were Mr. Webster's faults, his
affection for those nearest to him, and especially for the wife of his
youth, was deep and strong.

"The very first day of Mr. Webster's arrival and taking his seat in
the Senate," Judge Story writes to Mr. Ticknor, "there was a
process bill on its third reading, filled, as he thought, with
inconvenient and mischievous provisions. He made, in a modest
undertone, some inquiries, and, upon an answer being given, he
expressed in a few words his doubts and fears. Immediately Mr.
Tazewell from Virginia broke out upon him in a speech of two hours.
Mr. Webster then moved an adjournment, and on the next day
delivered a most masterly speech in reply, expounding the whole
operation of the intended act in the clearest manner, so that a
recommitment was carried almost without an effort. It was a triumph
of the most gratifying nature, and taught his opponents the danger
of provoking a trial of his strength, even when he was overwhelmed
by calamity. In the labors of the court he has found it difficult
to work himself up to high efforts; but occasionally he comes out
with all his powers, and when he does, it is sure to attract a
brilliant audience."

It would be impossible to give a better picture than that presented by
Judge Story of Mr. Webster's appearance and conduct in the month
immediately following the death of his wife. We can see how his talents,
excited by the conflicts of the Senate and the court, struggled, sometimes
successfully, sometimes in vain, with the sense of loss and sorrow which
oppressed him.

He did not again come prominently forward in the Senate until the end of
April, when he roused himself to prevent injustice. The bill for the relief
of the surviving officers of the Revolution seemed on the point of being
lost. The object of the measure appealed to Mr. Webster's love for the
past, to his imagination, and his patriotism. He entered into the debate,
delivered the fine and dignified speech which is preserved in his works,
and saved the bill.

A fortnight after this he made his famous speech on the tariff of 1828, a
bill making extensive changes in the rates of duties imposed in 1816 and
1824. This speech marks an important change in Mr. Webster's views and in
his course as a statesman. He now gave up his position as the ablest
opponent in the country of the protective policy, and went over to the
support of the tariff and the "American system" of Mr. Clay. This change,
in every way of great importance, subjected Mr. Webster to severe criticism
both then and subsequently. It is, therefore, necessary to examine briefly
his previous utterances on this question in order to reach a correct
understanding of his motives in taking this important step and to
appreciate his reasons for the adoption of a policy with which, after the
year 1828, he was so closely identified.

When Mr. Webster first entered Congress he was a thorough-going Federalist.
But the Federalists of New England differed from their great chief,
Alexander Hamilton, on the question of a protective policy. Hamilton, in
his report on manufactures, advocated with consummate ability the adoption
of the principle of protection for nascent industries as an integral and
essential part of a true national policy, and urged it on its own merits,
without any reference to its being incident to revenue. The New England
Federalists, on the other hand, coming from exclusively commercial
communities, were in principle free-traders. They regarded with disfavor
the doctrine that protection was a good thing in itself, and desired it, if
at all, only in the most limited form and purely as an incident to raising
revenue. With these opinions Mr. Webster was in full sympathy, and he took
occasion when Mr. Calhoun, in 1814, spoke in favor of the existing double
duties as a protective measure, and also in favor of manufactures, during
the debate on the repeal of the embargo, to define his position on this
important question. A few brief extracts will show his views, which were
expressed very clearly and with his wonted ability and force.

"I consider," he said, "the imposition of double duties as a mere
financial measure. Its great object was to raise revenue, not to
foster manufactures.... I do not say the double duties ought to be
continued. I think they ought not. But what I particularly object
to is the holding out of delusive expectations to those concerned
in manufactures.... In respect to manufactures it is necessary to
speak with some precision. I am not, generally speaking, their
enemy. I am their friend; but I am not for rearing them or any
other interest in hot-beds. I would not legislate precipitately,
even in favor of them; above all, I would not profess intentions in
relation to them which I did not purpose to execute. I feel no
desire to push capital into extensive manufactures faster than the
general progress of our wealth and population propels it.

"I am not in haste to see Sheffields and Birminghams in America.
Until the population of the country shall be greater in proportion
to its extent, such establishments would be impracticable if
attempted, and if practicable they would be unwise."

He then pointed out the inferiority and the perils of manufactures as an
occupation in comparison with agriculture, and concluded as follows:--

"I am not anxious to accelerate the approach of the period when the
great mass of American labor shall not find its employment in the
field; when the young men of the country shall be obliged to shut
their eyes upon external nature, upon the heavens and the earth,
and immerse themselves in close and unwholesome workshops; when
they shall be obliged to shut their ears to the bleatings of their
own flocks upon their own hills, and to the voice of the lark that
cheers them at the plough, that they may open them in dust and
smoke and steam to the perpetual whirl of spools and spindles, and
the grating of rasps and saws. I have made these remarks, sir, not
because I perceive any immediate danger of carrying our
manufactures to an extensive height, but for the purpose of
guarding and limiting my opinions, and of checking, perhaps, a
little the high-wrought hopes of some who seem to look to our
present infant establishments for 'more than their nature or their
state can bear.'

"_It is the true policy of government to suffer the different
pursuits of society to take their own course, and not to give
excessive bounties or encouragements to one over another. This,
also, is the true spirit of the Constitution. It has not, in my
opinion, conferred on the government the power of changing the
occupations of the people of different States and sections, and of
forcing them into other employments._ It cannot prohibit commerce
any more than agriculture, nor manufactures any more than commerce.
It owes protection to all."

The sentences in italics constitute a pretty strong and explicit statement
of the _laissez faire_ doctrine, and it will be observed that the tone of
all the extracts is favorable to free trade and hostile to protection and
even to manufactures in a marked degree. We see, also, that Mr. Webster,
with his usual penetration and justice of perception, saw very clearly that
uniformity and steadiness of policy were more essential than even the
policy itself, and in his opinion were most likely to be attained by
refraining from protection as much as possible.

When the tariff of 1816 was under discussion Mr. Webster made no elaborate
speech against it, probably feeling that it was hopeless to attempt to
defeat the measure as a whole, but he devoted himself with almost complete
success to the task of reducing the proposed duties and to securing
modifications of various portions of the bill.

In 1820, when the tariff recommended at the previous session was about to
come before Congress, Mr. Webster was not in public life. He attended,
however, a meeting of merchants and agriculturists, held in Faneuil Hall in
the summer of that year, to protest against the proposed tariff, and he
spoke strongly in favor of the free trade resolutions which were then
adopted. He began by saying that he was a friend to manufactures, but not
to the tariff, which he considered as most injurious to the country.

"He certainly thought it might be doubted whether Congress would
not be acting somewhat against the spirit and intention of the
Constitution in exercising a power to control essentially the
pursuits and occupations of individuals in their private
concerns--a power to force great and sudden changes both of
occupation and property upon individuals, _not as incidental to the
exercise of any other power, but as a substantial and direct

It will be observed that he objects to the constitutionality of protection
as a "direct power," and in the speech of 1814, in the portion quoted in
italics, he declared against any general power still more forcibly and
broadly. It is an impossible piece of subtlety and refining, therefore, to
argue that Mr. Webster always held consistently to his views as to the
limitations of the revenue power as a source of protection, and that he put
protection in 1828, and subsequently sustained it after his change of
position, on new and general constitutional grounds. In the speeches of
1814 and 1820 he declared expressly against the doctrine of a general power
of protection, saying, in the latter instance:--

"It would hardly be contended that Congress possessed that sort of
general power by which it might declare that particular occupations
should be pursued in society and that others should not. _If such
power belonged to any government in this country, it certainly did
not belong to the general government._"

Mr. Webster took the New England position that there was no general power,
and having so declared in this speech of 1820, he then went on to show that
protection could only come as incidental to revenue, and that, even in this
way, it became unconstitutional when the incident was turned into the
principle and when protection and not revenue was the object of the duties.
After arguing this point, he proceeded to discuss the general expediency
of protection, holding it up as a thoroughly mistaken policy, a failure in
England which that country would gladly be rid of, and defending commerce
as the truest and best support of the government and of general prosperity.
He took up next the immediate effects of the proposed tariff, and,
premising that it would confessedly cause a diminution of the revenue,

"In truth, every man in the community not immediately benefited by
the new duties would suffer a double loss. In the first place, by
shutting out the former commodity, the price of the domestic
manufacture would be raised. The consumer, therefore, must pay more
for it, and insomuch as government will have lost the duty on the
imported article, a tax equal to that duty must be paid to the
government. The real amount, then, of this bounty on a given
article will be precisely the amount of the present duty added to
the amount of the proposed duty."

He then went on to show the injustice which would be done to all
manufacturers of unprotected articles, and ridiculed the idea of the
connection between home industries artificially developed and national
independence. He concluded by assailing manufacturing as an occupation,
attacking it as a means of making the rich richer and the poor poorer; of
injuring business by concentrating capital in the hands of a few who
obtained control of the corporations; of distributing capital less widely
than commerce; of breeding up a dangerous and undesirable population; and
of leading to the hurtful employment of women and children. The meeting,
the resolutions, and the speech were all in the interests of commerce and
free trade, and Mr. Webster's doctrines were on the most approved pattern
of New England Federalism, which, professing a mild friendship for
manufactures and unwillingly conceding the minimum of protection solely as
an incident to revenue, was, at bottom, thoroughly hostile to both. In 1820
Mr. Webster stood forth, both politically and constitutionally, as a
free-trader, moderate but at the same time decided in his opinions.

When the tariff of 1824 was brought before Congress and advocated with
great zeal by Mr. Clay, who upheld it as the "American system," Mr. Webster
opposed the policy in the fullest and most elaborate speech he had yet made
on the subject. A distinguished American economist, Mr. Edward Atkinson,
has described this speech of 1824 briefly and exactly in the following

"It contains a refutation of the exploded theory of the balance of
trade, of the fallacy with regard to the exportation of specie, and
of the claim that the policy of protection is distinctively the
American policy which can never be improved upon, and it indicates
how thoroughly his judgment approved and his better nature
sympathized with the movement towards enlightened and liberal
commercial legislation, then already commenced in Great Britain."

This speech was in truth one of great ability, showing a remarkable
capacity for questions of political economy, and opening with an admirable
discussion of the currency and of finance, in regard to which Mr. Webster
always held and advanced the soundest, most scientific, and most
enlightened views. Now, as in 1820, he stood forth as the especial champion
of commerce, which, as he said, had thriven without protection, had brought
revenue to the government and wealth to the country, and would be
grievously injured by the proposed tariff. He made his principal objection
to the protection policy on the ground of favoritism to some interests at
the expense of others when all were entitled to equal consideration. Of
England he said, "Because a thing has been wrongly done, it does not follow
that it can be undone; and this is the reason, as I understand it, for
which exclusion, prohibition, and monopoly are suffered to remain in any
degree in the English system." After examining at length the different
varieties of protection, and displaying very thoroughly the state of
current English opinion, he defined the position which he, in common with
the Federalists of New England, then as always adhered to in the following

"Protection, when carried to the point which is now recommended,
that is, to entire prohibition, seems to me destructive of all
commercial intercourse between nations. We are urged to adopt the
system on general principles; ... I do not admit the general
principle; on the contrary, I think freedom of trade the general
principle, and restriction the exception."

He pointed out that the proposed protective policy involved a decline of
commerce, and that steadiness and uniformity, the most essential requisites
in any policy, were endangered. He then with great power dealt with the
various points summarized by Mr. Atkinson, and concluded with a detailed
and learned examination of the various clauses of the bill, which finally
passed by a small majority and became law.

In 1828 came another tariff bill, so bad and so extreme in many respects
that it was called the "bill of abominations." It originated in the
agitation of the woollen manufacturers which had started the year before,
and for this bill Mr. Webster spoke and voted. He changed his ground on
this important question absolutely and entirely, and made no pretence of
doing anything else. The speech which he made on this occasion is a
celebrated one, but it is so solely on account of the startling change of
position which it announced. Mr. Webster has been attacked and defended for
his action at this time with great zeal, and all the constitutional and
economic arguments for and against protection are continually brought
forward in this connection. From the tone of the discussion, it is to be
feared that many of those who are interested in the question have not
taken the trouble to read what he said. The speech of 1828 is by no means
equal in any way to its predecessors in the same field. It is brief and
simple to the last degree. It has not a shred of constitutional argument,
nor does it enter at all into a discussion of general principles. It makes
but one point, and treats that point with great force as the only one to be
made under the circumstances, and thereby presents the single and
sufficient reason for its author's vote. A few lines from the speech give
the marrow of the whole matter. Mr. Webster said:--

"New England, sir, has not been a leader in this policy. On the
contrary, she held back herself and tried to hold others back from
it, from the adoption of the Constitution to 1824. Up to 1824 she
was accused of sinister and selfish designs, _because she
discountenanced the progress of this policy_.... Under this angry
denunciation against her the act of 1824 passed. Now the imputation
is of a precisely opposite character.... Both charges, sir, are
equally without the slightest foundation. The opinion of New
England up to 1824 was founded in the conviction that, on the
whole, it was wisest and best, both for herself and others, that
manufactures should make haste slowly.... When, at the commencement
of the late war, duties were doubled, we were told that we should
find a mitigation of the weight of taxation in the new aid and
succor which would be thus afforded to our own manufacturing labor.
Like arguments were urged, and prevailed, but not by the aid of New
England votes, when the tariff was afterwards arranged at the
close of the war in 1816. Finally, after a winter's deliberation,
the act of 1824 received the sanction of both Houses of Congress
and settled the policy of the country. What, then, was New England
to do?... Was she to hold out forever against the course of the
government, and see herself losing on one side and yet make no
effort to sustain herself on the other? No, sir. Nothing was left
to New England but to conform herself to the will of others.
Nothing was left to her but to consider that the government had
fixed and determined its own policy; and that policy was
_protection_.... I believe, sir, almost every man from New England
who voted against the law of 1824 declared that if, notwithstanding
his opposition to that law, it should still pass, there would be no
alternative but to consider the course and policy of the government
as then settled and fixed, and to act accordingly. The law did
pass; and a vast increase of investment in manufacturing
establishments was the consequence."

Opinion in New England changed for good and sufficient business reasons,
and Mr. Webster changed with it. Free trade had commended itself to him as
an abstract principle, and he had sustained and defended it as in the
interest of commercial New England. But when the weight of interest in New
England shifted from free trade to protection Mr. Webster followed it. His
constituents were by no means unanimous in support of the tariff in 1828,
but the majority favored it, and Mr. Webster went with the majority. At a
public dinner given to him in Boston at the close of the session, he
explained to the dissentient minority the reasons for his vote, which were
very simple. He thought that good predominated over evil in the bill, and
that the majority throughout the whole State of which he was the
representative favored the tariff, and therefore he had voted in the

Much fault has been found, as has been said, both at the time and since,
with Mr. Webster's change of position on this question. It has been held up
as a monument of inconsistency, and as indicating a total absence of deep
conviction. That Mr. Webster was, in a certain sense, inconsistent is
beyond doubt, but consistency is the bugbear of small minds, as well as a
mark of strong characters, while its reverse is often the proof of wisdom.
On the other hand, it may be fairly argued that, holding as he did that the
whole thing was purely a business question to be decided according to
circumstances, his course, in view of the policy adopted by the government,
was at bottom perfectly consistent. As to the want of deep conviction, Mr.
Webster's vote on this question proves nothing. He believed in free trade
as an abstract general principle, and there is no reason to suppose that he
ever abandoned his belief on this point. But he had too clear a mind ever
to be run away with by the extreme vagaries of the Manchester school. He
knew that there was no morality, no immutable right and wrong, in an
impost or a free list. It has been the fashion to refer to Mr. Disraeli's
declaration that free trade was "a mere question of expediency" as a proof
of that gentleman's cynical indifference to moral principles. That the late
Earl of Beaconsfield had no deep convictions on any subject may be readily
admitted, but in this instance he uttered a very plain and simple truth,
which all the talk in the world about free trade as the harbinger and
foundation of universal peace on earth, cannot disguise.

Mr. Webster never at any time treated the question of free trade or
protection as anything but one of expediency. Under the lead of Mr.
Calhoun, in 1816, the South and West initiated a protective policy, and
after twelve years it had become firmly established and New England had
adapted herself to it. Mr. Webster, as a New England representative,
resisted the protective policy at the outset as against her interests, but
when she had conformed to the new conditions, he came over to its support
simply on the ground of expediency. He rested the defence of his new
position upon the doctrine which he had always consistently preached, that
uniformity and permanency were the essential and sound conditions of any
policy, whether of free trade or protection. In 1828, neither at the dinner
in Boston nor in the Senate, did he enter into any discussion of general
principles or constitutional theories. He merely said, in substance, You
have chosen to make protection necessary to New England, and therefore I am
now forced to vote for it. This was the position which he continued to hold
to the end of his life. As he was called upon, year after year, to defend
protection, and as New England became more and more wedded to the tariff,
he elaborated his arguments on many points, but the essence of all he said
afterwards is to be found in the speech of 1828. On the constitutional
point he was obliged to make a more violent change. He held, of course, to
his opinion that, under the revenue power, protection could be incidental
only, because from that doctrine there was no escape. But he dropped the
condemnation expressed in 1814 and the doubts uttered in 1820 as to the
theory that it was within the direct power of Congress to enact a
protective tariff, and assumed that they had this right as one of the
general powers in the Constitution, or that at all events they had
exercised it, and that therefore the question was henceforward to be
considered as _res adjudicata_. The speech of 1828 marks the separation of
Mr. Webster from the opinions of the old school of New England Federalism.
Thereafter he stood forth as the champion of the tariff and of the
"American system" of Henry Clay. Regarding protection in its true light, as
a mere question of expediency, he followed the interests of New England
and of the great industrial communities of the North. That he shifted his
ground at the proper moment, bad as the "bill of abominations" was, and
that, as a Northern statesman, he was perfectly justified in doing so,
cannot be fairly questioned or criticised. It is true that his course was a
sectional one, but everybody else's on this question was the same, and it
could not be, it never has been, and never will be otherwise.

The tariff of 1828 was destined indirectly to have far more important
results to Mr. Webster than the brief speech in which he signalized his
change of position on the question of protection. Soon after the passage of
the act, in May, 1828, the South Carolina delegation held a meeting to take
steps to resist the operation of the tariff, but nothing definite was then
accomplished. Popular meetings in South Carolina, characterized by much
violent talk, followed, however, during the summer, and in the autumn the
Legislature of the State put forth the famous "exposition and protest"
which emanated from Mr. Calhoun, and embodied in the fullest and strongest
terms the principles of "nullification." These movements were viewed with
regret and with some alarm throughout the country, but they were rather
lost sight of in the intense excitement of the presidential election. The
accession of Jackson then came to absorb the public attention, and brought
with it the sweeping removals from office which Mr. Webster strongly
denounced. At the same time he was not led into the partisan absurdity of
denying the President's power of removal, and held to the impregnable
position of steady resistance to the evils of patronage, which could be
cured only by the operation of an enlightened public sentiment. It is
obvious now that, in the midst of all this agitation about other matters,
Mr. Calhoun and the South Carolinians never lost sight of the conflict for
which they were preparing, and that they were on the alert to bring
nullification to the front in a more menacing and pronounced fashion than
had yet been attempted.

The grand assault was finally made in the Senate, under the eye of the
great nullifier, who then occupied the chair of the Vice-President, and
came in an unexpected way. In December, 1829, Mr. Foote of Connecticut
introduced a harmless resolution of inquiry respecting the sales and
surveys of the Western lands. In the long-drawn debate which ensued,
General Hayne of South Carolina, on January 19, 1830, made an elaborate
attack on the New England States. He accused them of a desire to check the
growth of the West in the interests of the protective policy, and tried to
show the sympathy which should exist between the West and South, and lead
them to make common cause against the tariff. Mr. Webster felt that this
attack could not be left unanswered, and the next day he replied to it.
This first speech on Foote's resolution has been so obscured by the
greatness of the second that it is seldom referred to and but little read.
Yet it is one of the most effective retorts, one of the strongest pieces of
destructive criticism, ever uttered in the Senate, although its purpose was
simply to repel the charge of hostility to the West on the part of New
England. The accusation was in fact absurd, and but few years had elapsed
since Mr. Webster and New England had been assailed by Mr. McDuffie for
desiring to build up the West at the expense of the South by the policy of
internal improvements. It was not difficult, therefore, to show the
groundlessness of this new attack, but Mr. Webster did it with consummate
art and great force, shattering Hayne's elaborate argument to pieces and
treading it under foot. Mr. Webster only alluded incidentally to the tariff
agitation in South Carolina, but the crushing nature of the reply inflamed
and mortified Mr. Hayne, who, on the following day, insisted on Mr.
Webster's presence, and spoke for the second time at great length. He made
a bitter attack upon New England, upon Mr. Webster personally, and upon the
character and patriotism of Massachusetts. He then made a full exposition
of the doctrine of nullification, giving free expression of the views and
principles entertained by his master and leader, who presided over the
discussion. The debate had now drifted far from the original resolution,
but its real object had been reached at last. The war upon the tariff had
been begun, and the standard of nullification and of resistance to the
Union and to the laws of Congress had been planted boldly in the Senate of
the United States. The debate was adjourned and Mr. Hayne did not conclude
till January 25. The next day Mr. Webster replied in the second speech on
Foote's resolution, which is popularly known as the "Reply to Hayne."

This great speech marks the highest point attained by Mr. Webster as a
public man. He never surpassed it, he never equalled it afterwards. It was
his zenith intellectually, politically, and as an orator. His fame grew and
extended in the years which followed, he won ample distinction in other
fields, he made many other splendid speeches, but he never went beyond the
reply which he made to the Senator from South Carolina on January 26, 1830.

The doctrine of nullification, which was the main point both with Hayne and
Webster, was no new thing. The word was borrowed from the Kentucky
resolutions of 1799, and the principle was contained in the more cautious
phrases of the contemporary Virginia resolutions and of the Hartford
Convention in 1814. The South Carolinian reproduction in 1830 was fuller
and more elaborate than its predecessors and supported by more acute
reasoning, but the principle was unchanged. Mr. Webster's argument was
simple but overwhelming. He admitted fully the right of revolution. He
accepted the proposition that no one was bound to obey an unconstitutional
law; but the essential question was who was to say whether a law was
unconstitutional or not. Each State has that authority, was the reply of
the nullifiers, and if the decision is against the validity of the law it
cannot be executed within the limits of the dissenting State. The vigorous
sarcasm with which Mr. Webster depicted practical nullification, and showed
that it was nothing more or less than revolution when actually carried out,
was really the conclusive answer to the nullifying doctrine. But Mr.
Calhoun and his school eagerly denied that nullification rested on the
right to revolt against oppression. They argued that it was a
constitutional right; that they could live within the Constitution and
beyond it,--inside the house and outside it at one and the same time. They
contended that, the Constitution being a compact between the States, the
Federal government was the creation of the States; yet, in the same breath,
they declared that the general government was a party to the contract from
which it had itself emanated, in order to get rid of the difficulty of
proving that, while the single dissenting State could decide against the
validity of a law, the twenty or more other States, also parties to the
contract, had no right to deliver an opposite judgment which should be
binding as the opinion of the majority of the court. There was nothing very
ingenious or very profound in the argument by which Mr. Webster
demonstrated the absurdity of the doctrine which attempted to make
nullification a peaceable constitutional privilege, when it could be in
practice nothing else than revolution. But the manner in which he put the
argument was magnificent and final. As he himself said, in this very speech
of Samuel Dexter, "his statement was argument, his inference

The weak places in his armor were historical in their nature. It was
probably necessary, at all events Mr. Webster felt it to be so, to argue
that the Constitution at the outset was not a compact between the States,
but a national instrument, and to distinguish the cases of Virginia and
Kentucky in 1799 and of New England in 1814, from that of South Carolina in
1830. The former point he touched upon lightly, the latter he discussed
ably, eloquently, ingeniously, and at length. Unfortunately the facts were
against him in both instances. When the Constitution was adopted by the
votes of States at Philadelphia, and accepted by the votes of States in
popular conventions, it is safe to say that there was not a man in the
country from Washington and Hamilton on the one side, to George Clinton and
George Mason on the other, who regarded the new system as anything but an
experiment entered upon by the States and from which each and every State
had the right peaceably to withdraw, a right which was very likely to be
exercised. When the Virginia and Kentucky resolutions appeared they were
not opposed on constitutional grounds, but on those of expediency and of
hostility to the revolution which they were considered to embody. Hamilton,
and no one knew the Constitution better than he, treated them as the
beginnings of an attempt to change the government, as the germs of a
conspiracy to destroy the Union. As Dr. Von Holst tersely and accurately
states it, "there was no time as yet to attempt to strangle the healthy
human mind in a net of logical deductions." That was the work reserved for
John C. Calhoun.

What is true of 1799 is true of the New England leaders at Washington when
they discussed the feasibility of secession in 1804; of the declaration in
favor of secession made by Josiah Quincy in Congress a few years later; of
the resistance of New England during the war of 1812, and of the right of
"interposition" set forth by the Hartford Convention. In all these
instances no one troubled himself about the constitutional aspect; it was a
question of expediency, of moral and political right or wrong. In every
case the right was simply stated, and the uniform answer was, such a step
means the overthrow of the present system.

When South Carolina began her resistance to the tariff in 1830, times had
changed, and with them the popular conception of the government established
by the Constitution. It was now a much more serious thing to threaten the
existence of the Federal government than it had been in 1799, or even in
1814. The great fabric which had been gradually built up made an overthrow
of the government look very terrible; it made peaceable secession a
mockery, and a withdrawal from the Union equivalent to civil war. The
boldest hesitated to espouse any principle which was avowedly
revolutionary, and on both sides men wished to have a constitutional
defence for every doctrine which they promulgated. This was the feeling
which led Mr. Calhoun to elaborate and perfect with all the ingenuity of
his acute and logical mind the arguments in favor of nullification as a
constitutional principle. At the same time the theory of nullification,
however much elaborated, had not altered in its essence from the bald and
brief statement of the Kentucky resolutions. The vast change had come on
the other side of the question, in the popular idea of the Constitution. It
was no longer regarded as an experiment from which the contracting parties
had a right to withdraw, but as the charter of a national government. "It
is a critical moment," said Mr. Bell of New Hampshire to Mr. Webster, on
the morning of January 26, "and it is time, it is high time that the
people of this country should know what this Constitution _is_." "Then,"
answered Mr. Webster, "by the blessing of heaven they shall learn, this
day, before the sun goes down, what I understand it to be." With these
words on his lips he entered the senate chamber, and when he replied to
Hayne he stated what the Union and the government had come to be at that
moment. He defined the character of the Union as it existed in 1830, and
that definition so magnificently stated, and with such grand eloquence,
went home to the hearts of the people, and put into noble words the
sentiment which they felt but had not expressed. This was the significance
of the reply to Hayne. It mattered not what men thought of the Constitution
in 1789. The government which was then established might have degenerated
into a confederation little stronger than its predecessor. But the
Constitution did its work better, and converted a confederacy into a
nation. Mr. Webster set forth the national conception of the Union. He
expressed what many men were vaguely thinking and believing, and the
principles which he made clear and definite went on broadening and
deepening until, thirty years afterwards, they had a force sufficient to
sustain the North and enable her to triumph in the terrible struggle which
resulted in the preservation of national life. When Mr. Webster showed that
practical nullification was revolution, he had answered completely the
South Carolinian doctrine, for revolution is not susceptible of
constitutional argument. But in the state of public opinion at that time it
was necessary to discuss nullification on constitutional grounds also, and
Mr. Webster did this as eloquently and ably as the nature of the case
admitted. Whatever the historical defects of his position, he put weapons
into the hands of every friend of the Union, and gave reasons and arguments
to the doubting and timid. Yet after all is said, the meaning of Mr.
Webster's speech in our history and its significance to us are, that it set
forth with every attribute of eloquence the nature of the Union as it had
developed under the Constitution. He took the vague popular conception and
gave it life and form and character. He said, as he alone could say, the
people of the United States are a nation, they are the masters of an
empire, their union is indivisible, and the words which then rang out in
the senate chamber have come down through long years of political conflict
and of civil war, until at last they are part of the political creed of
every one of his fellow-countrymen.

The reply to Hayne cannot, however, be dismissed with a consideration of
its historical and political meaning or of its constitutional significance.
It has a personal and literary importance of hardly less moment. There
comes an occasion, a period perhaps, in the life of every man when he
touches his highest point, when he does his best, or even, under a sudden
inspiration and excitement, something better than his best, and to which he
can never again attain. At the moment it is often impossible to detect this
point, but when the man and his career have passed into history, and we can
survey it all spread out before us like a map, the pinnacle of success can
easily be discovered. The reply to Hayne was the zenith of Mr. Webster's
life, and it is the place of all others where it is fit to pause and study
him as a parliamentary orator and as a master of eloquence.

Before attempting, however, to analyze what he said, let us strive to
recall for a moment the scene of his great triumph. On the morning of the
memorable day, the senate chamber was packed by an eager and excited crowd.
Every seat on the floor and in the galleries was occupied, and all the
available standing-room was filled. The protracted debate, conducted with
so much ability on both sides, had excited the attention of the whole
country, and had given time for the arrival of hundreds of interested
spectators from all parts of the Union, and especially from New England.
The fierce attacks of the Southern leaders had angered and alarmed the
people of the North. They longed with an intense longing to have these
assaults met and repelled, and yet they could not believe that this
apparently desperate feat could be successfully accomplished. Men of the
North and of New England could be known in Washington, in those days, by
their indignant but dejected looks and downcast eyes. They gathered in the
senate chamber on the appointed day, quivering with anticipation, and with
hope and fear struggling for the mastery in their breasts. With them were
mingled those who were there from mere curiosity, and those who had come

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