Page images

duties, both public and private, both open and secret, with the most scrupulous, Heaven-attesting integrity: in that sense, farther, which drives from the bosom all little, dark,

crooked, sordid, debasing considerations of self, and sub5 stitutes in their place a bolder, loftier, and nobler spirit:

one that will dispose you to consider yourselves as born, not so much for yourselves, as for your country, and your fellow-creatures, and which will lead you to act, on every

occasion, sincerely, justly, generously, magnanimously. 10 There is a morality on a larger scale, perfectly con

sistent with a just attention to your own affairs, which it would be the height of folly to neglect; a generous expansion, a proud elevation, and conscious greatness of

character, which is the best preparation for a decided 15 course, in every situation into which you can be thrown;

and, it is to this high and noble tone of character that I would have you to aspire.

I would not have you to resemble those weak and meagre streamlets, which lose their direction at every 20 petty impediment that presents itself, and stop, and turn

back, and creep around, and search out every little channel through which they may wind their feeble and sickly

Nor yet would I have you to resemble the headlong torrent that carries havoc in its mad career. 25 But I would have you like the ocean, that noblest

emblem of majestic Decision, which, in the calmest hour, still heaves its resistless might of waters to the shore, filling the heavens, day and night, with the echoes of its

sublime Declaration of Independence, and tossing and 30 sporting on its bed, with an imperial consciousness of

strength that laughs at opposition. It is this depth, and weight, and power, and purity of character, that I would have you to resemble ; and I would have you, like the

waters of the ocean, to become the purer by your own 35 action.


LESSON CCXI.-WASHINGTON.-DANIEL WEBSTER. America has furnished to the world the character of Washington! And if our American institutions had done nothing else, that alone would have entitled them to the

respect of mankind. 5 Washington ! “First in war, first in peace, and first in

the hearts of his countrymen!" Washington is all oui own! The enthusiastic veneration and regard in which

[ocr errors]

the people of the United States hold him, prove them to be worthy of such a countryman; while his reputation abroad reflects the highest honor on his country and its

institutions. I would cheerfully put the question to-day 5 to the intelligence of Europe, and the world, what character

of the century, upon the whole, stands out in the relief of history, most pure, most respectable, most sublime; and I doubt not, that, by a suffrage approaching to unanimity,

the answer would be, Washington ! 10 This structure,* by its uprightness, its solidity, its dura

bility, is no unfit emblem of his character. His public virtues and public principles were as firm as the earth on which it stands; his personal motives, as pure as the se

rene heaven in which its summit is lost. But, indeed, 15 though a fit, it is an inadequate emblem. Towering high

above the column which our hands have builded, beheld, not by the inhabitants of a single city, or a single state,ascends the colossal grandeur of his character, and his life.

In all the constituents of the one in all the acts of the 20 other,-in all its titles to immortal love, admiration, and

renown,-it is an American production. It is the embodiment and vindication of our transatlantic liberty. Born upon our soil,-of parents also born upon it,-never for a

moment having had a sight of the old world,-instructed, 25 according to the modes of his time, only in the spare, plain,

but wholesome elementary knowledge, which our institutions provide for the children of the

people,-growing up beneath, and penetrated by, the genuine influences of

American society,-growing up amidst our expanding, 30 but not luxurious, civilization, partaking in our great

destiny of labor, our long contest with unreclaimed nature and uncivilized man,—our agony of glory, the war of independence,-our great victory of peace, the formation of

the Union, and the establishment of the Constitution,-he 35 is all,—all our own! That crowded and glorious life,

« Where multitudes of virtues passed along,
Each pressing foremost in the mighty throng,
Contending to be seen, then making room

For greater multitudes that were to come ;" — 40 that life was the life of an American citizen.

I claim him for America. In all the perils, in every darkened moment of the state, in the midst of the re

* The Bunker Hill Monument.

proaches of enemies and the misgivings of friends,- I turn to that transcendent name, for courage and for consolation. To him who denies, or doubts, whether our fervid liberty can be combined with law, with order, with the security

of property, with the pursuits and advancement of happi5 ness,--to him who denies that our institutions are capable

of producing exaltation of soul, and the passion of true glory,—to him who denies that we have contributed anything to the stock of great lessons and great examples, to all these I reply by pointing to Washington!




To expatiate on the value of public faith, may pass,

with some men, for declamation,—to such men I have nothing to say To others I will urge, can any circumstance mark

upon a people more turpitude and debasement, than the 5 want of it ? Can anything tend more to make men think

themselves mean, or degrade to a lower point their estimation of virtue, than such a standard of action ?

It would not merely demoralize mankind; it tends to break all the ligaments of society, to dissolve that myste10 rious charm which attracts individuals to the nation, and

to inspire, in its stead, a repulsive sense of shame and disgust.

What is patriotism? Is it a narow affection for the spot where a man was born ? Are the very clods where we 15 tread entitled to this ardent preference because they are

greener? No, sir, this is not the character of the virtue; and it soars higher for its object. It is an extended selflove, mingling with all the enjoyments of life, and twisting

itself with the minutest filaments of the heart. It is thus 20 we obey the laws of society, because they are the laws of

virtue. In their authority we see, not the array of force and terror, but the venerable image of our country's honor. Every good citizen makes that honor his own, and cher

ishes it not only as precious, but as sacred. He is willing 25 to risk his life in its defence, and is conscious that he

gains protection while he gives it. For what rights of a citizen will be deemed inviolable, when a state renounces the principles that constitute their security ? Or if his life

should not be invaded, what would its enjoyments be, in a 30 country odious in the eyes of strangers, and dishonored in

his own ? Could he look with affection and veneration to

such a country, as his parent? The sense of having one would die within him ; he would blush for his patriotism, if he retained any, and justly, for it would be a vice. He

would be a banished man in his native land. 5 I see no exception to the respect, that is paid among

nations, to the law of good faith. If there are cases in this enlightened period, when it is violated, there are none when it is decried. It is the philosophy of politics, the

religion of governments. It is observed by barbarians, 10 a whiff of tobacco smoke, or a string of beads, gives not

merely binding force, but sanctity to treaties. Even in Algiers, a truce may be bought for money, but when ratified, even Algiers is too wise, or too just, to disown and

annul its obligation. Thus we see, neither the ignorance 15 of savages, nor the principles of an association for piracy and rapine, permit a nation to despise its engagements. If

, sir, there could be a resurrection from the foot of the gallows, if the victims of justice could live again, collect

together and form a society, they would, however loath, 20 soon find themselves obliged to make justice, that justice

under which they fell, the fundamental law of their state. They would perceive it was their interest to make others respect, and they would therefore soon pay some respect

themselves to the obligations of good faith. 25 It is painful, I hope it is superfluous, to make even the

supposition, that America should furnish the occasion of this opprobrium. No, let me not even imagine that a republican government sprung, as our own is, from a people

enlightened and uncorrupted, a government whose origin 30 is right, and whose daily discipline is duty, can, upon

solemn debate, make its option to be faithless,-can dare to act what despots dare not avow, what our own example evinces, the states of Barbary are unsuspected of. No, let

me rather make the supposition, that Great Britain refuses 35 to execute the treaty, after we have done every thing to

carry it into effect. Is there any language of reproach, pungent enough to express your commentary on the fact ? What would you say, or rather what would you not say?

Would you not tell them, wherever an Englishman might 40 travel, shame would stick to him, he would disown his

country. You would exclaim, England, proud of your wealth, and arrogant in the possession of power,-blush for these distinctions, which become the vehicles of your dishonor. Such a nation might truly say to corruption, thou art my father, and to the worm, thou art my mother and my sister. We should say of such a race of men, their name is a heavier burden than their debt.



The greatest efforts of human genius have been made, where the nearest approach to free institutions has taken place. There shone not forth one ray of intellectual light,

to cheer the long and gloomy ages of the Memphian and 5 Babylonian despots. Not a historian, not an orator, not

a poet, is heard of in their annals. When you ask, what was achieved by the generations of thinking beings the millions of men, whose natural genius was as bright as

that of the Greeks, nay, who forestalled the Greeks in the 10 first invention of many of the arts,—you are told, that

they built the pyramids of Memphis, the temples of Thebes, and the tower of Babylon, and carried Sesostris and Ninus upon their shoulders, from the west of Africa

to the Indus. 15 Mark the contrast in Greece. With the first emerging

of that country into the light of political liberty, the poems of Homer appear. Some centuries of political misrule and literary darkness follow; and then the great constellation

of their geniuses seems to arise at once. The stormy elo20 quence and the deep philosophy, the impassioned drama

and the grave history, were all produced for the entertainment of that "fierce democracie” of Athens. Here, then, the genial influence of liberty on letters, is strongly put to

the test. Athens was certainly a free state; free to licen25 tiousness,—free to madness. The rich were arbitrarily

pillaged to defray the expenses of the state; the great were banished to appease the envy of their rivals; the wise sacrificed to the fury of the populace. It was a state,

in short, where liberty existed with most of the imperfec30 tions which have led men to love and praise despotism.

Still, however, it was for this lawless, merciless people, that the most chastised and accomplished literature, which the world has known, was produced.

The philosophy of Plato was the attraction which drew,

« PreviousContinue »