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bate, and heard with regret ihat Mr. Webster was “ demolishing" him. Far, indeed, was any one from supposing that a movement had been set on foot which was to end only with the total destruction of the “interest” sought to be protected by it. Far was any one from foreseeing that so poor and slight a thing as the Exposition was the beginning of forty years of strife. It is evident from the Banquo passage of Mr. Webster's principal speech, when, looking at Vice-President Calhoun, he reminded that ambitious man that, in joining the coalition which made Jackson President, he had only given Van Buren a push toward the Presidency, — “No son of theirs succeeding," — it is evident, we say, from this passage, and from other covert allusions, that he understood the game of Nullification from the beginning, so far as its objects were personal. But there is no reason for supposing that he attached importance to it before that memorable afternoon in December, 1830, when he strolled from the Supreme Court in. to the Senate-chamber, and chanced to hear Colonel Hayne reviling New England, and repeating the doctrines of the South Carolina Exposition.
Every one knows the story of this first triumph of the United States over its enemies. Daniel Webster, as Mr. Everett records, appeared to be the only person in Washington who was entirely at his ease ; and he was so remarkably unconcerned, that Mr. Everett feared he was not aware of the expectations of the public, and the urgent necessity of his exerting all his powers. Another friend mentions, that on the day before the delivery of the principal speech the orator lay down as usual, after dinner, upon a sofa, and soon was heard laughing to himself. Being asked what he was laughing at, he said he had just thought of a way to turn Colonel Hayne's quotation about Banquo's ghost against himself, and he was going to get up and make a note of it. This he did, and then resumed his nap.
Notwithstanding these appearances of indifference, he was fully roused to the importance of the occasion ; and, indeed, we have he impression that only on this occasion, in his whole life, were all his powers in full activity and his en‘ire mass of being in full glow. But even then the artist was apparent in all that he did, and particularly in the dress which he wore. At that time, in his forty-eighth year, his hair was still as black as an Indian's, and it lay in considerable masses about the spacious dome of his fore head. His form had neither the slenderness of his youth nor the elephantine magnitude of his later years; it was fully, but finely developed, imposing and stately, yet not wanting in alertness and grace. No costume could have been better suited to it than his blue coat and glittering gilt buttons, his ample yellow waistcoat, his black trousers, and snowy cravat. It was in some degree, perhaps, owing to the elegance and daintiness of his dress that, while the New England men among his hearers were moved to tears, many Southern members, like Colonel Benton, regarded the speech merely as a Fourth-of-July oration delivered on the 6th of January. Benton assures us, however, that he soon discovered his error, for the Nullifiers were not to be put down by a speech, and soon revealed themselves in their true character, as “ irreconcilable ” foes of the Union. This was Daniel Webster's own word in speaking of that faction in 1830, — “irreconcilable.”
After this transcendent effort, — perhaps the greatest of its kind ever made by man, — Daniel Webster had nothing to gain in the esteem of the Northern States. He was indisputably our foremost man, and in Massachusetts there was no one who could be said to be second to him in the regard of the people: he was a whole species in himself. In the subsequent winter of debate with Calhoun upon the same subject, he added many details to his argument, developed it in many directions, and accumulated a great body of constitutional reasoning; but so far as the people were concerned, the reply to Hayne sufficed. In all those debates we are struck with his colossal, his superfluous superiority 10 his opponents; and we wonder how it could have been that such a man should have thought it worth while to refute such puerilities. It was, however, abundantly worth while. The assailed Constitution needed such a defender. It was necessary that the patriotic feeling of the American people, which was destined to a trial so severe, should have an unshakable basis of intelligent conviction. It was necessary that all men should be made distinctly to see that the Constitution was not a “compact” to which the States “acceded,' and from which they could secede, but the fundamental law, which the people had established and ordained, from which there could be no secession but by revolution. It was necessary that the country should be made to understand that Nullification and Secession were one and the same; and that to admit the first, promising to stop short at the second, was as though a man “should take the plunge of Niag. ara and cry out that he would stop half-way down.” Mr. Webster's principal speech on this subject, delivered in 1832, has, and will ever have, with the people and the Courts of the United States, the authority of a judicial decision ; and it might very properly be added to popular editions of the Constitution as an appendix. Into the creation of the feeling and opinion which fought out the late war for the Union a thousand and ten thousand causes entered ; every man who had ever performed a patriotic action, and every man who ever from his heart had spoken a patriotic word, contributed to its production ; but to no man, perhaps, were we more indebted for it than to the Daniel Webster of 1830 and 1832.
We cannot so highly commend his votes in 1832 as his speeches. General Jackson's mode of dealing with nullification seems to us the model for every government to follow which has to deal with discontented subjects : -1. To take care that the laws are obeyed; 2. To remove the real grounds of discontent. This was General Jackson's plan. This, also, was the aim of Mr. Clay's compromise. Mr. Webster objected to both, on the ground that nullification was rebellion, and that no legislation respecting the pretext for rebellion should be entertained until the rebellion was quelled. Thus he came out of the battle, dear to the thinking people of the country, but estranged from the three political powers, — Henry Clay and his friends, General Jackson and his friends, Calhoun and his friends ; and though he soon lapsed again under the leadership of Mr. Clay, there was never again a cordial union between Lim and any interior circle of politicians who could have gratified his ambition. Deceived by the thunders of applause which greeted him wherever he
went, and the intense adulation of his own immediate circle, he thought that he too could be an independent power in politics. Two wild vagaries seemed to have haunted him ever after : first, that a man could merit the Presidency; secondly, that a man could get the Presidency by meriting it.
From 1832 to the end of his life it appears to us that Daniel Webster was undergoing a process of deterioration, moral and mental. His material part gained upon his spiritual. Naturally inclined to indolence, and having an enormous capacity for phys. ical enjoyment, a great hunter, fisherman, and farmer, a lover of good wine and good dinners, a most jovial companion, his physical desires and tastes were constantly strengthened by being keenly gratified, while his mind was fed chiefly upon past acquisitions. There is nothing in his later efforts which shows any intellectual advance, nothing from which we can infer that he had been browsing in forests before untrodden, or feeding in pastures new. He once said, at Marshfield, that, if he could live three lives in one, he would like to devote them all to study, one to geology, one to astronomy, and one to classical literature. But it does not appear that he invigorated and refreshed the old age of his mind, by doing more than glance over the great works which treat of these subjects. A new language every ten years, or a new science vigorously pursued, seems necessary to preserve the freshness of the understanding, especially when the physical tastes are superabundantly nourished. He could praise Rufus Choate for reading a little Latin and Greek every day, and this was better than nothing, — but he did not follow his example. There is an aged merchant in New York, who has kept his mind from growing old by devoting exactly twenty minutes every day to the reading of some abstruse book, as far removed from his necessary routine of thought as he could find. Goethe's ad vice to every one to read every day a short poem, recognizes the danger we all incur in taking systematic care of the body and letting the soul take care of itself. During the last ten years of Daniel Webster's life, he spent many a thousand dollars upon his library, and almost ceased to be an intellectual being.
His pecuniary habits demoralized him. It was wrong and
mean in him to accept gifts of money from the people of Boston it was wrong in them to submit to his merciless exactions. What need was there that their Senator should sometimes be a mendi. cant and sometimes a pauper? If he chose to maintain baronial state without a baron's income; if he chose to have two fancy farms of more than a thousand acres each; if he chose to keep two hundred prize cattle and seven hundred choice sheep for his pleasure; if he must have about his house lamas, deer, and all rare fowls; if his flower-garden must be one acre in extent, and his books worth thirty thousand dollars ; if he found it pleasant to keep two or three yachts and a little fleet of smaller craft; if he could not refrain from sending money in answer to begging letters, and pleased himself by giving away to his black man money enough to buy a very good house; and if he could not avoid adding wings and rooms to his spacious mansion at Marshfield, and must needs keep open house there and have a dozen guests at a time, — why should the solvent and careful business men of Boston have been taxed, or have taxed themselves, to pay any part of the expense ?
Mr. Lanman, his secretary, gives us this curious and contradictory account of his pecuniary habits:
“He made money with ease, and spent it without reflection. He had accounts with various banks, and men of all parties were always glad to accommodate him with loans, if he wanted them. He kept no record of his deposits, unless it were on slips of paper hidden in his pockets; these matters were generally left with his secretary. His notes were seldom or never regularly protested, and when they were, they caused him an immense deal of mental anxiety. When the writer has sometimes drawn a check for a couple of thousand dollars, he has not even looked at it, but packed it away in his pockets, like so much waste paper. During his long professional career, he earned money enough to make a dozen fortunes, but he spent it liberally, and gave it away to the poor by hundreds and thousands. Begging letters from women and unfortunate men were received by him almost daily, at certain periods; and one instance is remembered where, on six successive days, he sent remittances of fifty and one hundred dollars to people with whom he was entirely unacquainted. He was indeed careless, but strictly and religiously honest, in all his money matters. llo