« PreviousContinue »
THE CAPITOL AT WASHINGTON In this imposing building the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States assemble. Here the most distinguished orators of the country are heard on great questions. The Supreme Court also meets here and famous lawyers speak eloquently on great legal questions.
of our independence, is paid to the gray hairs of the venerable survivor in our neighborhood,* let it not less heartily be sped to him whose hand traced the lines of that sacred charter, which, to the end of time, has made this day illustrious. And is an empty profession of respect all that we owe to the man who can show the original draft of the declaration of the independence of the United States of America, in his own handwriting? Ought not a title-deed like this to become the acquisition of the nation? Ought it not to be laid up in the archives of the people? Ought not the price at which it is bought to be the ease and comfort of the old age of him who drew it? Ought not he who, at the age of thirty, declared the independence of his country, at the age of eighty to be secured by his country in the enjoyment of his own? I
Nor let us forget, on the return of this eventful day, the men who, when the conflict of counsel was over, stood forward in that of arms. Yet let me not, by faintly endeavoring to sketch, do deep injustice to the story of their exploits. The efforts of a life would scarce suffice to paint out this picture, in all its astonishing incidents, in all its mingled colors of sublimity and woe, of agony and triumph. But the age of commemoration is at hand. The voice of our fathers' blood begins to cry to us, from beneath the soil which it moistened. Time is bringing forward, in their proper relief, the men and the deeds of that high-souled day. The generation of contemporary worthies is gone; the crowd of unsignalized great and good disappears; and the leaders in war as well as council are seen, in Fancy's eye, to take their stations on the Mount of Remembrance. They come from the embattled cliffs of Abraham ; they start from the heaving sods of Bunker's Hill; they gather from the blazing lines of Saratoga and Yorktown, from the blood-dyed waters of the Brandywine, from the dreary snows of Valley Forge, and all the hard-fought fields of the war. With all their wounds and all their honors, they rise and plead with us for their brethren who survive; and bid us, if indeed we cherish the memory of those who bled in our cause, to show our gratitude, not by sounding words, but by stretching out the strong arm of the country's prosperity to help the veteran survivors gently down to their graves.
* John Adams.
I It is a circumstance of striking interest that Adams and Jefferson, the two men spoken of in this passage, both died on the day in which the oration was delivered, departing from life, by one of the most remarkable coincidences in history, on the fiftieth anuiversary of the siguing of the great Declaration of wbich they were the joint authors.
RUFUS CHOATE (1799-1858)
AMERICA'S ABLEST ADVOCATE
UFUS CHOATE was not alone the great light of the bar of
New England, but may fairly be given place as the most
eminent legal advocate America has ever produced. His vast learning in law and literature formed but the ground-work of his illustrious career. Nature had endowed him with the requisites to the highest success in oratory. A tall and commanding person, a highly expressive countenance, a voice rich, musical and sympathetic, gestures varied and forcible, were the outward elements of a personality of which the inward were an exuberant imagination, fertile and prodigious mental resources, unusual amplitude, profuseness and brilliancy in speech, and an instinctive knowledge of the methods by which the mind can best be moved. Whether he addressed the dozen men of a jury or a thronging multitude, he had the power of controlling their minds and bending their thoughts to his will, while his gracious and winning manners and amiable character won him hosts of friends. Alike as an advocate and as a public orator he may claim place among the masters of modern eloquence.
A PANEGYRIC OF WEBSTER [The death in 1852 of the giant of American oratory, the far-famed Daniel Webster, called forth many earnest oratorical tributes to his public and private character and his eminent statesmanship. Of these none are of more interest than the words of praise and encomium of his distinguished friend and co-laborer, Rufus Choate. This address was delivered at Dartmouth College, the alma mater of both Webster and Choate, on the 27th of July, 1853. We select from this fine eulogy a passage in which Webster's life-long services to his country are summed up in culiminating strength in a single sentence, certainly one of the longest in the literature of our language.]
It was while Mr. Webster was ascending through the long gradations of the legal profession to its highest rank, that, by a parallel series of display on a stage, and in parts totally distinct, by other studies, thoughts and actions, he rose also to be at his death the first of American statesmen. The last of the mighty rivals was dead before, and he stood alone. Give this aspect also of his greatness a passing glance. His public life began in May, 1813, in the House of Representatives in Congress, to which this State had elected him. It ended when he died. If you except the interval between his removal from New Hampshire and his election in Massachusetts, it was a public life of forty years. By what political morality, and by what enlarged patriotism, embracing the whole country, that life was guided, I shall consider hereafter. Let me now fix your attention rather on the magnitude and variety and actual value of the service. Consider that, from the day he went upon the Committee of Foreign Relations, in 1813, in time of war, and more and more the longer he lived and the higher he rose, he was a man whose great talents and devotion to public duty placed and kept him in a position of associated or sole command ; command in the political connection to which he belonged, command in opposition, command in power; and appreciate the responsibilities which that implies, what care, what prudence, what mastery of the whole ground-exacting for the conduct of a party, as Gibbon says of Fox, abilities and civil discretion equal to the conduct of an empire. Consider the work he did in that life of forty years; the range of subjects investigated and discussed—composing the whole theory and practice of our organic and administrative politics, foreign and domestic ; the vast body of instructive thought he produced and put in possession of the country ; how much he achieved in Congress as well as at the bar; to fix the true interpretation, as well as to impress the transcendent value of the Constitution itself, as much altogether as any jurist or statesman since its adoption ; how much to establish in the general mind the great doctrine that the Government of the United States is a government proper, established by the people of the States, not a compact between sovereign communities; that within its limits it is supreme, and that whether it is within its limits or not, in any given exertion of itself, is to be determined by the Supreme Court of the United States—the ultimate arbiter in the last resort, from which there is no appeal but to revolution ; how much he did in the course of the discussions which grew out of the proposed mission to Panama, and, at a later day, out of the removal of the deposits, to place the Executive Department of the Government on its true basis and under its true limitations; to secure to that department all its just fowers on the one hand, and, on the other hand, to