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comer aroused the late sleepers. Then in to breakfast, where the homely, captivating humor of the young lawyer kept the table in a roar, and detained every inmate.
“Never was there such an actor lost to the stage,” Jeremiah Mason, his only rival at the New Hampshire bar, used to say, “as he would have made.” Returning in the afternoon from court, fatigued and languid, his spirits rose again with food and rest, and the evening was another festival of conversation and reading. A few months after his settlement at Portsmouth he visited his native hills, saying nothing respecting the object of his journey; and returned with a wife, — that gentle and high-bred lady, a clergyman's daughter, who was the chief source of the happiness of his happiest years, and the mother of all his children. He improved in health, his form expanded, his mind grew, his talents ripened, his fame spread, during the nine years of his residence at this thriving and pleasant town.
At Portsmouth, too, he had precisely that external stimulus to exertion which his large and pleasure-loving nature needed. Jeremiah Mason was, literally speaking, the giant of the American bar, for he stood six feet seven inches in his stockings. Like Webster, he was the son of a valiant Revolutionary officer; like Webster, he was an hereditary Federalist ; like Webster, he had a great mass of brain : but his mind was more active and acquisitive than Webster's, and his nineteen years of arduous practice at the bar had stored his memory with knowledge and given him dexterity in the use of it. Nothing shows the eminence of Webster's talents more than this, that, very early in his Portsmouth career, he should have been regarded at the bar of New Hampshire as the man to be employed against Jeremiah Mason, and his only fit antagonist. Mason was a vigilant, vigorous opponent,
sure to be well up in the law and the facts of a cause, sure to detect a flaw in the argument of opposing counsel. It was in keen encounters with this wary and learned man that Daniel Webster learned his profession; and this he always acknowledged. “If,” he said once in conversation, — "if anybody thinks I am somewhat familiar with che law on some points, and should be curious to know how it happened, tell him that Jeremiah Mason compelled me to study it. He was my master.” It is honorable, too, to both of them, that, rivals as they were, they were fast and affectionate friends, each valuing in the other the qualities in which he was surpassed by him, and each sincerely believing that the other was the first man of his time and country. • They say,” in Portsmouth, that Mason did not shrink from remonstrating with his friend upon his carelessness with regard to money; but, finding the habit inveterate and the man irresistible, desisted. Webster himself says that two thousand dollars a year was all that the best practice in New Hampshir? could be made to yield; and that that was inadequate to the sup port of his family of a wife and three little children. Two thousand dollars in Portsmouth, in 1812, was certainly equal, in purchasing power, to six thousand of the ineffectual things that now pass by the name of dollars; and upon such an income large families in a country town contrive to live, ride, and save.
He was a strenuous Federalist at Portsmouth, took a leading part in the public meetings of the party, and won great distinction as its frequent Fourth-of-July orator. All those mild and economical measures by which Mr. Jefferson sought to keep the United States from being drawn into the roaring vortex of the great wars in Europe, he opposed, and favored the policy of preparing the country for defence, not by gunboats and embargoes, but by a powerful navy of frigates and ships of the line. His Fourth-of-July orations, if we may judge of them by the fragments that have been found, show that his mind had strengthened more than it had advanced. His style wonderfully improved from eighteen to twenty-five; and he tells us himself why it did. He discovered, he says, that the value, as well as the force, of a sentence, depends chiefly upon its meaning, not its language; and that great writing is that in which much is said in few words, and those words the simplest that will answer the purpose. Having made this notable discovery, he became a great eraser of adjectives, and toiled after simplicity and directness. Mr Everett quotes a few sentences from his Fourth-of-July oration of 1806, when he was twenty-four, which shows an amazing advance upor the effort of his eighteenth year, quoted above:
“ Nothing is plainer than this: if we will have commerce, we must protect it. This country is commercial as well as agricultural. IndisBoluble bonds connect him who ploughs the land with him who ploughs the sea. Nature has placed us in a situation favorable to commercial pursuits, and no government can alter the destination. Habits confirmed by two centuries are not to be changed. An immense portion of our property is on the waves. Sixty or eighty thousand of our most useful citizens are there, and are entitled to such protection from the government as their case requires.”
How different this compact directness from the tremendour fulmination of the Dartmouth junior, who said:
“ Columbia stoops not to tyrants; her spirit will never cringe to France; neither a supercilious, five-headed Directory nor the gasconading pilgrim of Egypt will ever dictate terms to sovereign America. The thunder of our cannon shall insure the performance of our treaties, and fulminate destruction on Frenchmen, till the ocean is crimsoned with blood and gorged with pirates !”
The Fourth-of-July oration, which afterwards fell into some disrepute, had great importance in the earlier years of the Republic, when Revolutionary times and perils were fresh in the recollection of the people. The custom arose of assigning this duty to young men covetous of distinction, and this led in time to the flighty rhetoric which made sounding emptiness and a Fourth-of-July oration synonymous terms. The feeling that was real and spontaneous in the sons of Revolutionary soldiers was sometimes feigned or exaggerated in the young law students of the next generation, who had merely read the history of the Revolution. But with all the faults of those compositions, they were eminently serviceable to the country. We believe that to them is to be attributed a considerable part of that patriotic feeling which, after a suspended animation of several years, awoke in the spring of 1861 and asserted itself with such unexpected power, and which sustained the country during four years peculiarly disheartening war. How pleasant and spirit-stirring was a celebration of the Fourth of July as it was conducted in Webster's early day! We trust the old customs will be revived and improved upon, and become universal Nor is it
Nor is it any objeo
tion to the practice of having an oration, that the population is too large to be reached in that way; for if only a thousand hear, a million may read. Nor ought we to object if the orator is a little more flowery and boastful than becomes an ordinary occa. sion. There is a time to exult; there is a time to abandon our selves to pleasant recollections and joyous hopes. Therefore, we bay,
let the young men reappear upon the platform, and show what metal they are made of by giving the best utterance they can to the patriotic feelings of the people on the national anniversary. The Republic is safe so long as we celebrate that day in the spirit of 1776 and 1861.
At least we may assert that it was Mr. Webster's Fourth-ofJuly orations, of which he delivered five in eleven years, that first made him known to the people of New Hampshire. At that period the two political parties could not unite in the celebration of the day, and accordingly the orations of Mr. Webster had much in them that could be agreeable only to Federalists. He was an occasional speaker, too, in those years, at meetings of Federalists, where his power as an orator was sometimes exerted most effectively. No speaker could be better adapted to a New England audience, accustomed from of old to weighty, argumentative sermons, delivered with deliberate, unimpassioned earnestness. There are many indications that a speech by Daniel Webster in Portsmouth in 1810 excited as much expectation and comment as a speech by the same person in the Senate twenty years after. But he was a mere Federalist partisan, It does not appear that he had anything to offer to his countrymen beyond the stately expression of party issues ; and it was as a Federalist, pure and simple, that he was elected, in 1812, a member of the House of Representatives, after a keenly contested party conflict. His majority over the Republican candidate was 2,546, — the whole number of voters being 34,648.
The Federalists, from 1801 to 1825, were useful to the counfry only as an Opposition, — just as the present Tory party in England can be only serviceable in its capacity of critic and hold. back. The Federalists under John Adams had sinned past for. giveness ; while the Republican party, strong in being right, ir
che ability of its chiefs, in its alliance with Southern aristocrats, and in having possession of the government, was strong also in the odium and inconsistencies of its opponents. Nothing could shake the confidence of the people in the administration of Thomas Jefferson. But the stronger a party is, the more it needs an Opposition, — as we saw last winter in Washington, when the minority was too insignificant in numbers and ability to keep the too powerful majority from doing itself such harm as might have been fatal to it but for the President's well-timed antics. Next to a sound and able majority, the great need of a free country is a vigorous, vigilant, audacious, numerous minority. Better a factious and unscrupulous minority than none at all. The Federalists, who could justly claim to have among them a very large proportion of the rich men and the educated men of the country, performed the humble but useful service of keeping an eye upon the measures of the administration, and finding fault with every one of them. Daniel Webster, however, was wont to handle only the large topics. While Mr. Jefferson was struggling to keep the peace with Great Britain, he censured the policy as timorous, costly, and ineffectual; but when Mr. Madison declared war against that power, he deemed the act unnecessary and rash. His opposition to the war was never carried to the point of giving aid and comfort to the enemy; it was such an opposition as patriotic “ War Democrats " exhibited during the late Rebellion, who thought the war might have been avoided, and ought to be conducted more vigorously, but nevertheless stood by their country without a shadow of swerving.
He could boast, too, that from his boyhood to the outbreak of the war he had advocated the building of the very ships which gave the infant nation its first taste of warlike glory. The Republicans of that time, forgetful of what Paul Jones and others of Dr. Franklin's captains had done in the war of the Revolution, supposed that, because England had a thousand ships in commission, and America only seventeen, therefore an American ship could not venture out of a harbor without being taken. We have often laughed at Colonel Benton s ludicrous confession of his own terrors on this subject.