« НазадПродовжити »
tła: nation, as a nation, nothing to convert our ore into iron. Mr. Webster's reply to this seems to us eminently worthy of consideration at the present moment, and at every moment when the tariff is a topic of debate.
“I think,” said he, “it would cost us precisely what we can least afford, that is, great labor. . . . . Of manual labor no nation has more than a certain quantity; nor can it be increased at will. . . . . A most important question for every nation, as well as for every individual, to propose to itself, is, how it can best apply that quantity of labor which it is able to perform. . . . . Now, with respect to the quantity of labor, as we all know, different nations are differently circumstanced. Some need, more than anything, work for hands; others require hands for work; and if we ourselves are not absolutely in the latter class, we are still, most fortunately, very near it.”
The applicability of these observations to the present condition of affairs in the United States labor very scarce, and protectionists clamoring to make it scarcer— must be apparent to every reader.
But this was the last of Mr. Webster's efforts in behalf of the freedom of trade. In the spring of 1825, when it devolved upon the House of Representatives to elect a President, the few Federalists remaining in the House became, for a few days, an important body. Mr. Webster had an hereditary love for the house of Adams; and the aged Jefferson himself had personally warned him against Andrew Jackson. Webster it was who, in an interview with Mr. Adams, obtained such assurances as determined the Federalists to give their vote for the New England candidate; and thus terminated the existence of the great party which Hamilton had founded, with which Washington had sympathized, which had ruled the country for twelve years, and maintained a vigorous and useful opposition for a quarter of a century. Daniel Webster was in opposition no longer. He was a defender of the administration of Adams and Clay, supported all their important measures, and voted for, nay, advocated, the Tariff Bill of 1828, which went far beyond that of 1824 in its protective provisions. Taunted with such a remarkable and sudden change of opinion, he said that, New England having been ompelled by the act of
1824 to transfer a large part of her capital from commerce to manufactures, he was bound, as her representative, to demand the continuance of the system. Few persons, probably, who heard him give this reason for his conversion, believed it was the true one; and few will ever believe it who shall intimately know the transactions of that winter in Washington. But if it was the true reason, Mr. Webster, in giving it, ruled himself out of the rank of the Great, — who, in every age and land, lead, not follow, their generation. In his speech of 1824 he objects to the protective system on general principles, applicable to every case not clearly exceptional ; and the further Congress was disposed to carry an erroneous system, the more was he bound to lift up his voice against it. It seems to us that, when he abandoned the convictions of his own mind and took service under Mr. Clay, he descended (to use the fine simile of the author of * Felix Holt”) from the rank of heroes to that of the multitude for whom heroes fight. He was a protectionist, thenceforth, as long as he lived. If he was right in 1824, how wrong he was in 1846! In 1824 he pointed to the high wages of American me. chanics as a proof that the protective system was unnecessary; and he might have quoted Adam Smith to show that, in 1770, wages in the Colonies were just as high, compared with wages in Europe, as in 1824. In 1846 he attributed high wages in America to the operation of the protective system.
In 1824 free trade was the good, and restriction the evil; in 1846 restriction was the good, and free trade the evil.
Practical wisdom, indeed, was not in this man. He was not formed to guide, but to charm, impress, and rouse mankind. His advocacy of the Greek cause, in 1824, events have shown to be unwise ; but his speech on this subject contains some passages so exceedingly fine, noble, and harmonious, that we do not believe they have ever been surpassed in extempore speech by any man but himself. The passage upon Public Opinion, for example, is always read with delight, even by those who can call to mind the greatest number of instances of its apparent untruth.
“ The time has been, indeed, when fleets, and armies, and subsidies were the principal reliances, even in the best cause. But, happily for
mankind, a great change has taken place in this respect. Moral causes come into consideration in proportion as the progress of knowledge is advanced ; and the public opinion of the civilized world is rapidly gaining an ascendency over mere brutal force. . . . . It may be silenced by military power, but it cannot be conquered. It is elastic, irrepressible, and invulnerable to the weapons of ordinary warfare. It is tbat impassible, unextinguishable enemy of mere violence and arbitrary rule, which, like Milton's angels,
• Vital in every part, ·
Cannot, but by annihilating, die.' Until this be propitiated or satisfied, it is vain for power to talk either of triumphs or of repose. No matter what fields are desolated, what fortresses surrendered, what armies subdued, or what provinces
There is an enemy that still exists to check the glory of these triumphs. It follows the conqueror back to the very scene of his ovations; it calls upon him to take notice that Europe, though silent, is yet indignant; it shows him that the sceptre of his victory is a barren sceptre ; that it shall confer neither joy nor honor ; but shall moulder to dry ashes in his grasp. In the midst of his exultation, it pierces his ear with the cry of injured justice; it denounces against him the indignation of an enlightened and civilized age; it turns to bitterness the cup of his rejoicing, and wounds him with the sting which belongs to the consciousness of having outraged the opinion of mankind.” — Works, Vol. III. pp. 77, 78.
Yes : if the conqueror had the moral feeling which inspired this passage, and if the cry of injured justice could pierce the flattering din of office-seekers surrounding him. But, reading the paragraph as the expression of a hope of what may one day be, how grand and consoling it is! The information given in this fine oration respecting the condition of Greece and the history of her struggle for independence was provided for him by the industry of his friend, Edward Everett.
One of the minor triumphs of Mr Webster's early Congressional life was his conquest of the heart of John Randolph. In he course of a debate on the sugar tax, in 1816, Mr. Webster had the very common fortune of offending the irascible member from Virginia, and Mr. Randolph, as his custom was, demanded an explanation of the offensive words. Explanation was re. fused by the member from Massachusetts ; whereupon Mr. Rapdolph demanded “the satisfaction which his insulted feelings required.” Mr. Webster's reply to this preposterous demand was everything that it ought to have been. He told Mr. Randolph that he had no right to an explanation, and that the temper and style of the demand were such as to forbid its being conceded as a matter of courtesy. He denied, too, the right of any man to call him to the field for what he might please to consider an insult to his feelings, although he should be “always prepared to repel in a suitable manner the aggression of any man who may presume upon such a refusal.” The eccentric Virginian was so much pleased with Mr. Webster's bearing upon this occasion, that he manifested a particular regard for him, and pronounced him a very able man for a Yankee.
It was during these years that Daniel Webster became dear, beyond all other men of his time, to the people of New England. Removing to Boston in 1816, and remaining out of Congress for some years, he won the first place at the New England bar, and a place equal to the foremost at the bar of the Supreme Court of the United States. Not one of his legal arguments has been exactly reported, and some of the most important of them we possess merely in outline; but in such reports as we have, the weight and clearness of his mind are abundantly apparent. In almost every argument of his, there can be found digressions which relieve the strained attention of the bench, and please the unlearned hearer; and he had a happy way of suddenly crystallizing his argument into one luminous phrase, which often seemed to prove his case by merely stating it. Thus, in the Dartmouth College case, he made a rare display of learning (furnished him by associate counsel, he tells us); but his argument is concentrated in two of his simplest sentences :— 1. The endowment of a college is private property; 2. The charter of a college is that which constitutes its endowment private property. The Supreme Court accepted these two propositions, and thus secured to every college in the country its right to its endowment. This seems too simple for argument, but it cost a prodigious and powerfully contested lawsuit to reduce the question to this sim. plicity; and it was Webster's large, calm, and discriminating glance which detected these two fundamental truths in the inountain mass of testimony, argument, and judicial decision. In arguing the great steamboat case, too, he displayed the same qualities of mind. New York having granted to Livingston and Fulton the exclusive right to navigate her waters by steamboats, certain citizens of New Jersey objected, and, after a fierce strug. gle upon the waters themselves, transferred the contest to the Supreme Court. Mr. Webster said: “The commerce of the United States, under the Constitution of 1787, is a unit,” and 6s what we call the waters of the State of New York are, for the purposes of navigation and commerce, the waters of the United States”; therefore no State can grant exclusive privileges. The Supreme Court affirmed this to be the true doctrine, and thenceforth Captain Cornelius Vanderbilt ran his steamboat without feeling it necessary, on approaching New York, to station a lady at the helm and to hide himself in the hold. Along with this concentrating power, Mr. Webster possessed, as every school-boy. knows, a fine talent for amplification and narrative. His narration of the murder of Captain White was almost enough of itself to hang a man.
But it was not his substantial services to his country which drew upon him the eyes of all New England, and made him dear to every son of the Pilgrims. In 1820, the Pilgrim Society of Plymouth celebrated the anniversary of the landing of their forefathers in America. At the dinner of the Society, that day, every man found beside his plate five kernels of corn, to remind him of the time when that was the daily allowance of the settlers, and it devolved upon Daniel Webster to show how worthy they were of better fare. His address on this anniversary is but an amplification of his Junior Fourth-of-July oration of 1800 ;. but what an amplification! It differed from that youthful essay as the first flights of a young eagle, from branch to branch upon its native tree, differ from the sweep of his wings when he takes a continent in his flight, and swings from mountain range: to mountain range.
We are aware that eulogy is, of all the kinds of composition, the easiest to execute in a tolerable manner. What Mr. Everett calls “patriotic eloquence” should