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It has been suggested to the publisher of the ensuing speeches of the great departed statesman DANIEL WEBSTER-undeniably the most important and eloquent of all his public efforts, remarkable and memorable as they were that they should be accompanied by a sketch of his life, and some familiar account of his public and private career.
In compliance with the suggestion, the following brief narrative has been prepared. The extraordinary sale which the speeches have already received, justifies the publisher in making the work as complete as possible. By the kind permission of the publishers of Harper's Magazine, the publisher has been enabled to avail himself of an elaborate article in that work for December last, condensed soon after the death of its illustrious subject, from the elaborate columns of the journals of the day, extended discourses from the public pulpits, addresses of members of the bar, and associative or legislative eulogies.
The following account of Mr. WEBSTER's family, himself and his consecutive career, is condensed from an able article in a Boston journal, written by one who had long known Mr. WEBSTER intimately.
"DANIEL WEBSTER was the son of EBENEZER WEBSTER, of Salisbury, New Hampshire. He was born in that part of Salisbury now called Boscawen, on the eighteenth of January, 1782. His father was a captain in the revolutionary army, and became subsequently, though not bred a lawyer, one of the Judges of the Court of Common Pleas. He received his academical education at Exeter and
Portsmouth. He began his college studies at the latter seminary in 1797, and received his degree in 1801. During the intervals of study he taught a school. After leaving college, he tookcharge of an academy at Fryeburg, in Maine. He then applied himself to the study of the law, first with Mr. Thompson, a lawyer of Salisbury, and next with Christopher Gore, of Boston, who afterwards became Governor of Massachusetts. He came to Boston in 1804, and was
admitted to the bar in the following year.
"Mr. Webster's father at this time strongly urged him to take the office of Clerk of the Court of Common Pleas in New Hampshire, which was tendered for his acceptance; but the son fortunately resisted the temptation—for such it then appeared in the eyes of every body. He remained at Boscawen till his father's death, in 1807. He then removed to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where he formed an acquaintance with Dexter, Story, Mason, and other men, who became eminent at the bar and in public life. Mr. Webster was chosen Representative to Congress in November, 1812, and took his first seat in Congress at the extra session in May, 1813.
On the 10th of June, in that year, he delivered his first speech in that body, on the subject of the Orders in Council, and there he gave clear manifestations of those extraordinary powers of mind which his subsequent career brought out into so full a develop
"He was re-elected to Congress in 1814, and in December 1815, removed to Boston, where he devoted himself to legal practice. His reputation as a lawyer had now risen high, and for five or six years he had little to do with politics. In 1820 he served as an Elector of President, and in 1821 as a member of the State Convention which revised the Constitution of Massachusetts. In 1822 he was elected to Congress from the Boston district, and immediately became a leading member of that body. His speech on Greek Independence was delivered in 1823.
"Mr. Webster was re-elected to Congress from Boston in 1824.
He delivered the Address on laying the corner stone of the Bunker Hill Monument in 1825. He was again chosen to Congress in 1826, and in the following year he was elected a Senator of the United States by the Legislature of Massachusetts. In the same year he delivered his Eulogy on Adams and Jefferson.
"Mr. Webster's' Great Speech,' as it is deservedly called-great, both for its intrinsic qualities and for its effects upon the public mind-was delivered in the Senate on the 26th of January 1830, in the debate on what are called 'Foot's Resolutions.' Next to the Constitution itself, this speech is esteemed to be the most correct and ample definition of the true powers and functions of the Federal government.
"Mr. Webster continued in the Senate of the United States till 1840. When Van Buren was elected President, in 1836, Mr. Webster received the electoral vote of Massachusetts. On the election of General Harrison, in 1840, Mr. Webster was appointed Secretary of State. The sudden death of the President and the accession of Mr. Tyler, caused a breaking up of the cabinet, all the members of which, except Mr. Webster, resigned their places. The result of his remaining in office was the Ashburton treaty-negociated by Mr. Webster in 1842, which settled the question of the north-eastern boundary, and at once put an end to a long protracted and threatening dispute with Great Britian.
Shortly after this, Mr. Webster resigned the office of Secretary of State, and was again chosen Senator from Massachusetts in March, 1845. On the death of General Taylor, in July, 1850, and the accession of Mr. Fillmore to the Presidency, he was again appointed Secretary of State, and in this office he died at Marshfield, on the morning of the 24th of October, 1852."
Such, in brief but comprehensive compass, are the geneology and prominent points in the public life of Mr. Webster. A consideration of his character as a public man, gathered partly from the quarters we have indicated, and partly from original sources, will not be uninteresting to our readers:
"It seems to have been universally conceded, since Mr. Webster's death, that his ambition throughout life, or at least throughout his entire public career, was to serve his country; and to illustrate and perpetuate the great charter of our liberties, of which he was alike the ablest expounder and defender.
"And yet look at him-for the lesson is not unworthy of heedful consideration. He was a mere private individual; the son of a poor, struggling New Hampshire farmer; who rose to the highest State, eminence (for the PRESIDENT himself was not before him) in the by the force of his own mind. His public life comprised a period of nearly thirty-three years, during which he never shrunk from the declaration of his principles, nor from the full discharge of all his responsibilities. He never failed his country in the hour of her need. "He was independent, self-poised, steadfast, unmovable. You could calculate him, like a planet." His life was a series of great acts for great purposes. With the peace of 1815, his most distinguished public labors began; "and thenceforward,” remarks one of his ablest contemporaries, "he devoted himself, the ardor of his youth, the energies of his manhood, and the autumnal wisdom of his riper years, to the affairs of legislation and diplomacy, preserving the peace, keeping unsullied the honor, establishing the boundaries, and vindicating the neutral rights of his country, and laying its foundations deep and sure. On all measures, in fine, affecting his country, he has inscribed his opinions, and left the traces of his hand. By some felicity of his personal life, by some deep or beautiful word, by some service of his own, or some commemoration of the services of others, the PAST gives us back his name, and will pass it on and on, to the farthest Future."
Webster never betrayed the mere politician, either in his public acts or in his speeches. Their tone was always elevated. No undignified appeal, no merely personal reflection upon an opponent, no unparliamentary allusion, ever escaped his lips, in the hottest strife of debate; nor, during his whole career in the councils of the
nation, was he ever, "called to order," by the presiding officer of either body.
As a Man, DANIEL WEBSTER was esteemed and loved by all who knew him, and loved and esteemed the most by those who knew him most intimately. While his unaffected, natural, innate dignity never deserted him, he was nevertheless in heart and manner, as simple and unostentatious as a child. The kindliness and tenderness of his heart were seen and felt by all who came within the charmed circle of his intimacy. He was, as we have said, a country boy in early life; and it is eminently true, and especially worthy of remark, that the associations of the country were always uppermost in his bosom, when happily liberated from affairs of government and the state. He was always happy, if we may take the concurrent testimony of his oldest friends and of himself, when he could escape from the worrying cares and anxieties of professional or of public life, to the retired and homely pursuits of his Marshfield farm. The most genial humor pervaded all he did and said, while thus engaged.
"He loved," (says a forceful but evidently very warped writer, who, from some difference of opinion upon a much-agitated subject, regarded him with no partial eye,) "he loved out-door and manly sports-boating, fishing, fowling. He was fond of nature, loving New Hampshire's mountain scenery. He had started small and poor, had risen great and high, and honorably had fought his way alone. He was a farmer, and and took a countryman's delight in country things; in loads of hay, in trees; and the noble Indian corn-in monstrous swine. He had a patriarch's love of sheep— choice breeds thereof he had. He took delight in cows-shorthorned Durnhams, Herefordshires, Aryshires, Alderneys. He tilled paternal acres with his own oxen. He loved to give the kine fodder. It was pleasant to hear his talk of oxen. And but three days before he left the earth, too ill to visit them, his oxen, lowing, came to see their sick lord, and as he stood in his door, his great cattle were driven up, that he might smell their healthy breath,