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But it was to the great domain of English literature that he daily turned for fireside companions and really kindred spirits. As he said in a letter to Sumner, with whom his literary fraternity was at one time very close: “Mind that Burke is the fourth Englishman,-Shakespeare, Bacon, Milton, Burke;" and then in one of those dashing outbursts of playful extravagance which were so characteristic of him, fearing that Sumner in his proposed review might fail to do full justice to the great ideal of both, he adds: “Out of Burke might be cut 50 Mackintoshes, 175 Macaulays, 40 Jeffreys, and 250 Sir Robert Peels, and leave him greater than Pitt and Fox together."
In the constant company of these great thinkers and writers he revelled and made their thoughts his own; and bis insatiable memory seemed to store up all things committed to it, as the books not in daily use are stacked away in your public library, so that at that moment, with notice or without, he could lay his hand straightway upon them. What was once imbedded in the gray matter of his brain did not lie buried there, as with most of us, but grew and flourished and bore fruit. What he once read he seemed never to forget.
This love of study became a ruling passion in his earliest youth. To it he sacrificed all that the youth of our dayeven the best of them-consider indispensable, and especially the culture and training of the body; and when we recall his pale face, worn and lined as it was in his later years, one of his most pathetic utterances is found in a letter to his son at school: “I hope that you are well and studious and among the best scholars. If this is so, I am willing you should play every day till the blood is ready to burst from your cheeks. Love the studies that will make you wise, useful, and happy
when there shall be no blood at all to be seen in
cheeks or lips.”
He never rested from his delightful labors—and that is the pity of it—he took no vacations. Except for one short trip to Europe, when warned of a possible breakdown in 1850, an occasional day at Essex, a three days' journey to the White Mountains, was all that he allowed himself. Returning from such an outing in the summer of 1854, on which it was my great privilege to accompany him, he said, “That is my entire holiday for this year.”
So that when he told Judge Warren so playfully that “ The lawyer's vacation is the space between the question put to a witness and his answer," it was of himself almost literally true. Would that he had realized his constant dream of an ideal cottage in the old walnut grove in Essex, where he might spend whole summers with his books, his children, and his thoughts.
His splendid and blazing intellect, fed and enriched by constant study of the best thoughts of the great minds of the race; his all-persuasive eloquence, his teeming and radiant imagination, whirling his hearers along with it and sometimes overpowering himself, his brilliant and sportive fancy, lighting up the most arid subjects with the glow of sunrise, his prodigious and never failing memory, and his playful wit, always bursting forth with irresistible impulse, have been the subject of scores of essays and criticisms, all struggling with the vain effort to describe and crystallize the fascinating and magical charm of his speech and his influence.
And now, in conclusion, let me speak of his patriotism. I have always believed that Mr. Webster, more than any other man, was entitled to the credit of that grand and universal outburst of devotion with which the whole north
sprang to arms in defence of the constitution and the Union many years after his death, when the first shot at Fort Sumter, like a fire-bell in the night, roused them from their slumber and convinced them that the great citadel of their liberties was in actual danger.
Differ as we may and must as to his final course in his declining years, the one great fact can never be blotted out, that the great work of his grand and noble life was the defence of the constitution so that he came to be known of all men as its one defender—that for thirty years he preached to the listening nation the crusade of nationality and fired New England and the whole north with its spirit. He inspired them to believe that to uphold and preserve the Union against every foe was the first duty of the citizen; that if the Union was saved, ali was saved; that if that was lost, all was lost. He molded better even than he knew. It was his great brain that designed, his flaming heart that forged, his sublime eloquence that welded the sword which was at last, when he was dust, to consummate his life's work and make liberty and union one and inseparable forever.
And so, in large measure, it was with Mr. Choate. His glowing heart went out to his country with the passionate ardor of a lover. He believed that the first duty of the lawyer, orator, scholar was to her. His best thoughts, his noblest words were always for her. Seven of the best years of his life, in the Senate and House of Representatives, at the greatest personal sacrifice he gave absolutely to her service.
On every important question that arose he made, with infinite study and research, one of the great speeches of the debate. He commanded the affectionate regard of his fellows and of the watchful and listening nation. He was a,
anything that any party had to bestow. But he desired none of the rewards or honors of success.
He foresaw clearly that the division of the country into geographical parties must end in civil war. What he could not see was, that there was no other way—that only by cutting out slavery by the sword could America secure liberty and union too; but to the last drop of his blood and the last fibre of his being he prayed and pleaded for the life of the nation, according to his light. Neither of these great patriots lived to see the fearful spectacle which they had so eloquently deprecated.
But when at last the dread day came, and our young heroes marched forth to bleed and die for their countrytheir own sons among the foremost--they carried in their hearts the lessons which both had taught; and all Massachusetts, all New England, from the beginning, marched behind them, “ carrying the flag and keeping step to the music of the Union,” as he had bade them; and so, I say, let us award to them both their due share of the glory.
Thus to-day we consign this noble statue to the keeping of posterity, to remind them of “the patriot, jurist, orator, scholar, citizen, and friend," whom we are proud to have known and loved.