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begin the study of law; where he composed, sitting on a rock, one of his first public orations, and wrote, half a century later, the famous Hülsemann letter; whither he sent his humorous epistles to John Taylor ; where in his maturity and fame he was wont to welcome his friends of both parties and of every degree ; and where he diffused around him till his death all the genial kindnesses of a neighborly, a friendly, and a benevolent heart.
Back again, among the hills of Salisbury, in sight of old Kearsarge, is the church in which, at the age of twenty-five, he stood alone before the congregation to profess his Christian faith, and where in later years I saw him sit a reverent worshiper, joining the sacred song with his burly voice; hard by the spot where a vision of loveliness first dawned upon his sight, and just across the way from the house in which his lot was united with that of the Grace Fletcher whose name to the end of his days he “could not write without tears.” Not quite halfway from that place to this is the mansion of Dr. Wood, where he learned in part his first Latin and all his first Greek. Still nearer is the plain of Boscawen, on which he opened his office for the practice of the law; and in the tower of its academy swings the bell that still sounds forth the generosity of his prime. In the adjoining town of Hopkinton his father heard his first argument in court, and was satisfied. Two hours away, as we now travel it, to the northwest of us, is the 'college that molded his young titanic powers, whose diploma, whatever others may foolishly repeat, he did
not tear in pieces, but gracefully accepted — a college that throughout his life he loved and cherished. Not quite so far away, southeasterly, is the fitting school at which he felt the kind influence of the polished Buckminster. A little beyond is the home for years of his early manhood, where he matched his strength with that prince of lawyers, Jeremiah Mason, and from which he was first sent to the councils of the nation. The place of our assembling to-day once knew him well. During his early practice of the law his face was a familiar sight upon these streets, and the old mansion of the Kents received him long and often as a guest. He has listened to the debates in this legislative Hall; and in the former North Church, the old Phenix Hall, and a great pavilion on School Street common — all passed away — his voice has been heard by the citizens of Concord.
It was not until the early prime of his manhood, the mature age of thirty-four, that he left the scenes so incorporated with his earlier history and so embedded in his latest recollections to become the master spirit of a sister state, the stalwart champion of New England, a leader in the Republic, and a power in the world. He was in the opening fullness of his strength. He had laid down the principles of public policy that governed his life. He had measured his strength with the keenest of legal intellects. He had been heard in the Supreme Court of the United States. He had made his mark in Congress by the breadth and clearness of his views, the mingled firmness and temperance of his positions, and the forensic power with which he maintained them. The great Chief Justice Marshall had foretold that “he would become one of the first statesmen in America, and perhaps the very first.”
Trained thus in every motion and toughened in every fiber of his intellect, he stepped forth upon the great arena "like a strong man to run a race." He was made and molded for victory. His very physique was the organ and symbol of an intellectual athlete. What a statue he was in repose! In speech what an incarnation of kindled thought and ponderous power ! Though his townsman by birth, I saw him but three times in my life, but the vision can never pass away : once on the highway as he rode home from the Dart. mouth Commencement with his brother Ezekiel by his side, and they seemed duo fulmina belli ; again in the little church from which his membership was never removed, as I looked timidly from the pulpit upon his face in the pew and he looked up so kindly and listened so attentively to the youthful preacher; and once more when on the slope of Bunker Hill thirty thousand of us listened to his words, and he seemed like the finished granite shaft that rose above us all. Three times only, but a lifelong memory.
That powerful frame clad, when he spoke, in continental colors, that massive head, those deep-flashing eyes, that penetrating voice that could ring out like a trumpet or strike like a cannon ball, are never to be forgotten. In his young manhood he was to Judge Richard Fletcher “the most majestic form and the noblest countenance on which he had ever looked”; and, after his death, to Theodore Parker "the grandest figure in Christendom since Charlemagne.” Thorwaldsen, the sculptor, thought his bust in a studio was not that of a living man but of an ancient Jupiter. Thomas Carlyle, that prince of carpers, saw him once at a breakfast and wrote of him : “He is a magnificent specimen. As a logic fencer, advocate, or parliament. ary Hercules, one would incline to back him at first sight against all the extant world. That tanned complexion, that amorphous, crag-like face, the dull black eyes under the precipice of brows, like dull anthracite furnaces waiting only to be blown, the mastiff mouth accurately closed — I have not traced so much silent Berserker rage, that I remember of, in any other man.”
Corresponding to this noble completeness of physical manhood was the rounded greatness of his intellect and character.
a fullness that filled many spheres. Wherever he moved there was momentum in the motion ; wherever he stood, he stood entrenched and strong Farming or fishing, in sport or in soberness, writing social letters or state papers, arguing the law, questioning a witness, or addressing a jury, in the Senate, on the platform, in the home circle, in conflict, in friendship, or in love, there was the same fullness of outflow and the same fullness of reserve.
A generation has elapsed since his death. Political and personal animosities have passed to the tomb. The smoke and dust of conflict have cleared away.
As we now look back upon the scene of half a century ago,
brilliant with great names at the bar, on the bench, in the cabinet and the forum ; as we gaze on those struggles and often battles of the giants, there stands out on that arena no figure more colossal than Daniel Webster; and as the very greatness of his services would render it impossible adequately to portray them on this occasion, so does their conspicuousness render it unnecessary. The place he holds in the annals of the first half of this century is no longer a question for argument; it is a verdict of history. It is therefore my function to-day not to make that argument, but to report that verdict.
It was as a lawyer that he first rose rapidly to eminence. His skill in extracting the truth from a witness was singular, and sometimes, as with Bramble and Goodrich, almost magical. His power of grasping a case by its strong points was equaled only by his ability to array the law in their support, the clearness of his presentation to the Court, and the impressiveness of his address to the jury. He seemed like some great commander, throwing out his scouts and skirmish lines, seizing the strongholds, training his great batteries, pushing forward the heavy battalions, and then hurling his cavalry upon the center of the foe. Many of his arguments, as in the case of Dartmouth College, of Gibbons vs. Ogden, and of the United States against McCulloch, will live on in the records of the courts; others, as in the trial of the Knapps and the testing of the Girard will, will live on in the hearts of the people Matched in the courts against Mason, Dexter, Choate,