Page images

in relation to the gentlemen holding the highest appointment in the Executive Department, under the President, he would take this opportunity to say, that having been a member of the House of Representatives for six years, during the far greater part of which time MR. CLAY had presided in that House, he was most happy in being able, in a manner less formal than by concurring in the usual vote of thanks, to express his own opinion of his liberality, independence, and honorable feeling. And he would take this occasion also to add, if his opinion could be of any value in such a case, that he thought nothing more unfounded than that that gentleman owed his present situation to any unworthy compromise or arrangement whatever. He owed it to his talent, to his prominent standing in the community, to his course of public service, not now a short one, and to the high estimation in which he stands with that part of the country to which he belongs.

Remarks, Mr. Webster proceeded to say, had been made from the Chair, very kind and partial, as to the manner in which he had discharged the duties which he owed to his constituents, in the House of Representatives. He wished to say, that if he had been able to render any, the humblest services, either to the public or his constituents, in that place, it was owing wholly to the liberal manner in which his efforts there had been received.

Having alluded to the Inaugural Address, he did not mean in the slightest degree to detract from its merits, when he now said, that in his opinion, if either of the other candidates had succeeded in the election, he also would have adopted a liberal course of policy. He had no reason to believe that the sentiments of either of those gentlemen were, in this respect, narrow or contracted. He fully believed the contrary, in regard to both of them; but if they had been otherwise, he thought still, that expediency or necessity, would have controlled their inclinations.

I forbear, said Mr. W., from pursuing these remarks farther. I repeat, that I do not complain of those who have hitherto thought, or who still think, that party organization is necessary to the public good. I do not question their motives; and I wish to be tolerant even to those who think that toleration ought not to be indulged.

It is said, sir, that prosperity sometimes hardens the heart. Perhaps, also, it may sometimes have a contrary effect, and elevate and liberalize the feelings. If this can ever be the result of such a cause, there is certainly in the present condition of the country enough to inspire the most grateful and the kindest feelings. We have a common stock both of happiness and of distinction, of which we are all entitled as citizens of the country to partake. We may all rejoice in the general prosperity, in the peace and security which we enjoy, and in the brilliant success which has thus far attended our republican institutions. These are circumstances which may well excite in us all a noble pride. Our civil and political institutions, while they answer for us all the great ends designed by them, furnish at the same time an example to others, and diffuse blessings beyond our own limits.-In whatever part of the globe men are found contending for political liberty, they look to the United States

with a feeling of brotherhood, and put forth. a claim of kindred. The South American States, especially, exhibit a most interesting spectacle. Let the great men who formed our constitutions of government, who still survive, and let the children of those who have gone to their graves console themselves with the reflection, that whether they have risen or fallen in the little contests of party, they have not only established the liberty and happiness of their own native land, but have conferred blessings beyond their own country, and beyond their own thoughts, on millions of men, and on successions of generations. Under the influence of these institutions, received and adopted in principle, from our example, the whole southern continent has shaken off its colonial subjection.-A new world, filled with fresh and interesting nations, has risen to our sight. America seems again discovered; not to geography, but to commerce, to social intercourse, to intelligence, to civilisation, and to liberty. Fifty years ago, some of those who now hear me, and the fathers of many others; listened in this place, to those mighty masters, Otis and Adams. When they then uttered the spirit stirring sounds of Independence and Liberty, there was not a foot of land on the continent inhabited by civilized man, that did not acknowledge the dominion of European power. Thank God, at this moment, from us to the south pole, and from sea to sea, there is hardly a foot that does.

And, sir, when these States, thus newly disenthralled and emancipated, assume the tone, and bear the port of independence, what language, and what ideas do we find associated, with their new acquired liberty? They speak, sir, of Constitutions, of Declarations of Rights, of the Liberty of the Press, of a Congress, and of Representative Government. Where, sir, did they learn these? And when they have applied, to their great leader, and the founder of their States, the language of praise and commendation, till they have exhausted it-when unsatisfied gratitude can express itself no otherwise, do they not call him their WASHINGTON? Sir, the Spirit of Continental Independence, the Genius of American Liberty, which in earlier times tried her infant voice in the halls and on the hills of New England, utters it now, with power that seems to wake the dead, on the plains of Mexico, and along the sides of the Andes.

"Her path, where'er the Goddess roves,

Glory pursues, and generous shame,

The unconquerable mind, and Freedom's holy flame."

There is one other point of view, sir, in regard to which I will say a few words, though perhaps at some hazard of misinterpreta


In the wonderful spirit of improvement and enterprise which animates the country, we may be assured that each quarter will naturally exert its power in favor of objects in which it is interested. This is natural and unavoidable. Each portion, therefore, will use its best means. If the West feels a strong interest in clearing the navigation of its mighty streams, and opening roads through its vast forests; if the South is equally zealous to push the production and

augment the prices of its great staples, it is reasonable to expect, that these objects will be pursued by the best means which offer. And it may therefore well deserve consideration, whether the commercial, and navigating, and manufacturing interests of the North do not call on us to aid and support them, by united counsels, and united efforts. But I abstain from enlarging on this topic. Let me rather say, sir, that in regard to the whole country, a new era has arisen. In a time of peace, the proper pursuits of peace engage society with a degree of enterprise, and an intenseness of application, heretofore unknown. New objects are opening, and new resources developed, on every side. We tread on a broader theatre; and if instead of acting our parts, according to the novelty and importance of the scene, we waste our strength in mutual crimination and recrimination about the past, we shall resemble those navigators, who having escaped from some crooked and narrow river to the sea, now that the whole ocean is before them, should, nevertheless, occupy themselves with the differences which happened as they passed along among the rocks and the shallows, instead of opening their eyes to the wide horizon around them, spreading their sail to the propitious gale that woos it, raising their quadrant to the sun, and grasping the helm, with the conscious hand of a master.



At a public dinner given him, by the citizens of Boston, as a mark of respect for his public services as Senator of the United States, and late their Representative in Congress,-after the annunciation of the following toast:-" Our distinguished Guest-worthy the noblest homage, which freemen can give, or a freeman receive: the homage of their hearts:" Mr. Webster rose and said :

MR. CHAIRMAN,The honor conferred by this occasion, as well as the manner in which the meeting has been pleased to receive what has now been proposed to them from the Chair, requires from me a most respectful acknowledgement, and a few words of honest and sincere thanks. I should, indeed, be lost to all just feeling, or guilty of a weak and peurile affectation, if I should fail to manifest the emotions which are excited by these testimonials of regard, from those among whom I live, who see me oftenest, and know me best. If the approbation of good men be an object fit to be pursued, it is fit to be enjoyed; if it be, as it doubtless is, one of the most stirring and invigorating motives, which operate upon the mind, it is, also, among the richest rewards which console and gratify the heart.

I confess myself particularly touched and affected, Mr. President, and gentlemen, by the kind feeling which you manifest towards me, as your fellow citizen, your neighbour, and your friend. Respect and confidence, in these relations of life, lie at the foundation of all valuable character; they are as essential to solid and permanent reputation, as to durable and social happiness. I assure you, sir, with the utmost sincerity, that there is nothing which could flow from human approbation or applause, no distinction, however high or alluring, no object of ambition, which could possibly be brought within the horizon of my view, that would tempt me, in any degree, justly to forfeit the attachment of my private friends, or surrender my hold, as a citizen, and a neighbour, on the confidence of the community in which I live; a community, to which I owe so much, in the bosom of which I have enjoyed so much, and where I still hope to remain, in the exercise of mutual good offices, and the interchange of mutual good wishes, for the residue of life.

The commendation which the meeting has bestowed on my attempts at public service, I am conscious, is measured rather by their own kindness, than by any other standard. Of those attempts, no one can think more humbly than I do. The affairs of the general

government, foreign and domestic, are vast, and various, and complicated. They require from those who would aspire to take a leading part in them an amount, a variety, and an accuracy of information, which even if the adequate capacity were not wanting, are not easily attained, by one whose attention is necessarily mainly devoted to the duties of an active and laborious profession. For this as well as many other reasons, I am conscious of having discharged my public duties, in a manner no way entitling them to the degree of favor which has now been manifested.

And this manifestation of favor and regard is the more especially to be referred to the candor and kindness of the meeting, on this occasion, since it is well known, that in a recent instance, and in regard to an important measure, I have felt it my duty to give a vote, in respect to the expediency and propriety of which considerable difference of opinion exists, between persons equally entitled to my regard and confidence.-The candid interpretation which has been given to that vote, by those who disapproved it, and the assembling together here, for the purpose of this occasion, of those who felt pain, as well as those who felt pleasure, at the success of the measure for which the vote was given, afford ample proof, how far unsuspected uprightness of intention, and the exercise of an independent judgment may be respected, even by those who differ from the results to which that exercise of judgment has arrived. There is no class of the community for whose interests I have ever cherished a more sincere regard, than that on whose pursuits some parts of the measure alluded to bears with great severity. They are satisfied, I hope, that in supporting a measure in any degree injurious to them, I must have been governed by other paramount reasons, satisfactory to my own conscience; and that the blow, inflicted on their interests, was felt by me almost as painfully and heavily, as it could be by those on whom it immediately fell. I am not now about to enter into the reason of that vote, or to explain the necessity under which I found myself placed by a most strange and unprecedented manner of legislation, of taking the evil of a public measure for the sake of its good; the good and the bad provisions relating to different subjects, having not the slightest connexion with each other, yet yoked together, and kept together, for reasons and purposes which I need not state, as they have been boldly avowed, and are now before the public.

It was my misfortune, sir, on that occasion to differ from my most estimable and worthy colleague. And yet probably our difference was not so broad as it might seem. We both saw, in the measure, something to approve, and something to disapprove. If it could have been left to us to mould and to frame it according to our opinions of what the good of the country required, there would have been no diversity of judgment between us, as to what should have been retained and what rejected. The only difference was, when the measure had assumed its final shape, whether the good it contained so far preponderated over its acknowledged evil, as to justify the reception and support of the whole together. On a point of this sort, and under circumstances such as those in which we were placed, it is not strange that different minds should incline different ways. It gives me great pleasure to bear testimony to the constancy, the intelligence

« PreviousContinue »