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quiet penetration of the gospel which, as Mr. Webster then said, "went to the first fountain of all the social and political relations of the human race.” For though the remedy did suddenly appear in the form of civil convulsion, that convulsion came, not by the wisdom of the wise but by the fury of the madman and folly of the fool; the cost of one man's life for every four men's freedom was a price that neither God nor man could · justify. That the convulsion did not become a general massacre and extermination at the South was due to the wisdom of the negro and the wisdom of God.
Did Mr. Webster on that day maintain the duty of rendition of fugitive slaves ? So he had always done; for so it was written in the Constitution, and he was bound to do it, as he wrote to the citizens of Newbury. port, “by his oath of office.” Nay, he boldly said before the Senate and before the world : “I put it to all the sober and sound minds of the North as a question of morals and a question of conscience.” Secession, revolution, was the only escape; and that was a bottomless pit into which neither he nor we were prepared to leap. Was he willing to forego extending the Wilmot Proviso to the new territories of California and New Mexico? It was, he said, because nature had rendered it needless, and he would not add a useless irritant to the heated passions of the South. History vindicated his judgment. Slavery gained no firm foothold in that territory. And still more remarkable was his vindication when, eleven years later, the very men who reproached him for this act, the radical men of Congress,
Sumner, Wade, Seward, Chandler, Lovejoy, Stevens, the Washburns, — did the very same thing for the same considerations; they consented to organize the territories of Colorado, Dakota, and Nevada without a word on the Wilmot Proviso and without a word of explanation. “It is seldom,” says Mr. Blaine, "that history so exactly repeats itself; in both cases the acts were altogether honorable, the motives altogether patriotic.” “But," Mr. Blaine pointedly adds, “these republicans should at least have offered and recorded their apology for their animadversions upon Mr. Webster.” He builded better than his censors knew, but he builded as he knew. Those eleven years that he gained to the Union were of inestimable value for the final conflict. Did he speak disapprovingly of the doings of abolition societies while conceding to "thousands of their members" the praise of being “honest and good men " and "not imputing gross motives to their leaders "? There lay before his mind the resolutions adopted in Ohio and reaffirmed in Faneuil Hall advocating a "dissolution of the Union," the resolvers avowing themselves “enemies of the Union, the Constitution, and the government of the United States.” Did not such utterances deserve rebuke? But Mr. Webster also rebuked the violent utterances of southern men and even arraigned a senator then upon the floor for words of “offense" and “injustice" to the North.
Many were disappointed, and I was among them, that his words were not more severe denunciatory — toward the South and its principles. But we can now see that this would have been to defeat his whole aim in speaking and to precipitate the catastrophe which he strove to avert. He then clearly knew, what the North did not know, the imminent danger of secession; and "peaceable secession,” said he with prophetic solemnity, “is an utter impossibility.” “Sir," said he on that day, “I see as plainly as I see the sun in the heavens, what disruption must produce. I see it must produce war, and such war as I will not describe.” How dreadfully was his prophecy fulfilled — by a wreck of life and health and morals, of family and social happiness, of individual and national wealth, on a more terrific scale than the world had seen since the desolations of the first Napoleon. To avert that awful calamity he stood forth on that day; and he may righteously demand to be judged by his own life and lifelong principles, by his keen foresight and lofty purpose.
See, too, how different has been the fate of Webster and of Lincoln. Till a dozen years after Mr. Webster's death, and till within three years of his own death, Mr. Lincoln occupied precisely Webster's position, only even more pronounced. He had even acted as attorney for the reclamation of five slaves escaped from Kentucky. Only three years before Mr. Webster's speech Lincoln had introduced into Congress a fugitive slave law for the District of Columbia. Twelve years after that seventh of March he had published to the world this well-known statement: “I would save the Union. I would save it in the shortest way under the Constitution ... the Union as it was. My paramount object is to save the Union, and not either to save or destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it. If I could do it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it. If I could do it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that." It was only after the hardest education, and when compelled by the necessities of war, that he took his final stand. But while Lincoln is justly canonized, Webster has been as unjustly anathematized. Let the last cloud pass away from over the fame of a majestic character. Let us see him as he was, bound by all his history, his principles, and his prophecies, and able to say as did Luther: “Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise.” And let us not fail to see how, with his inborn hatred of slavery itself, when once the bonds of the Constitution were finally broken by the emergencies of war, he would have said, in more commanding tones than he said of the slave-trade thirty years before, " It is not fit that the land bear the shame longer," and with a zeal like that with which his honored father fought for liberty at Bunker Hill and Bennington he would have cheered on every stroke for universal freedom against the rampant slave power from Bull Run to Appomattox.
Such, imperfectly sketched, was Webster, the jurist and advocate, the orator, the statesman and diplomatist. But more than all and the basis of all was the grandeur and fullness of the man in his intellect, his sympathies, his affections. He had faults, and they have been exaggerated. I am here neither to arraign nor defend them. His make was large. Though not technically a scholar, he was much more, in his mastery of the highest results of scholarship and in his broad range of knowledge and thought. In his speeches, his papers, his letters, to whomsoever and for whatsoever, from the great themes of the state down to the details of farm life, there is the same singular fertility of matter, strength, and brightness. His private conversation and social life were equally exuberant of wisdom, reminiscence, anecdote, and humor. No man met him casually or permanently but felt his power. He could not move unknown.
Mr. Webster's sympathies were as broad as his intellect. Beneath a dignified and often cold exterior he had a great warm heart. He could be on friendly terms with political opponents. He seemed to “love all things, both great and small.” He was fond of nature, of outdoor recreations, and of the whole animal world. The great secretary of state would bring the eggs from his barn in his wife's workbasket. He loved to feed his fine cattle with his own hand, and in the last few days of his life he gathered them to his door to look once more on their friendly faces. Quail, rabbit, and squirrel were safe on his lands. He would gaze on the sun rising over the sea; he shouted and sang with the exhilaration. “I know the morning,' said he, “I am acquainted with it, and I love it. I love it, fresh and sweet as it is – a daily new creation, breaking forth and calling all that have life and breath and being to new adoration, new enjoyments, and new