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ful waters of the Pacific, his name, his voice, his authority, were everywhere known and recognized as the great bulwark of our American nationality, of our American independence, of the integrity and perpetuity of our great and united American republic. At the north, and at the south, from the east to the farthest west, he was known and felt in this high capacity. But he was thus known, not by virtue of any office he ever filled; for he never rose to an office which made him the representative of more than one state in the confederacy. He was known as such, indeed, not so much as a senator from the patriotic state of Massachusetts, as for his personal ability and efforts, out of congress as well as in it, from the day his name became connected with the history of the country. He was so known, in a word, for the speeches he made, at different times, as the first of American orators devoted to the defence of the institutions and of the existence of the nation; and these speeches, which are destined to last from generation to generation, constitute the body of this volume. Since the living voice, then, is silent forever in the grave, shall not the immortal utterances of that voice be welcome throughout the whole country, east, west, north, south, as the best creations of American oratorical genius, and as the most salutary instructions and lessons to the entire American brotherhood? Though born in one section of the country, and settled in after life in another section, he belonged to all sections equally, to the whole people of the republic; and his name and fame, and his immortal works, should be equally welcome, and will be welcome, in every portion of the Union.
It will be a curious and instructive exercise for the reader, in the perusal of the several speeches, to look at the dates of their publication, and thus note the progress of Mr. Webster's mind toward that wonderful development which it finally attained; and it will be particularly noticed, that between the times of his Dartmouth College argument and of his reply to Hayne, which mark the two extremes of the most brilliant period of his life, there is a space of only twelve years, which were the years intervening between the thirty-sixth and the forty-eighth year of his age.
It is quite evident that Mr. Webster matured rather slowly; that his efforts made before the age of fifty were his most popular because the most impassioned efforts; but that his productions dated beyond the age of fifty, though less fiery, are generally more indic
ative of his unsurpassed abilities as a man of deep, penetrating, farreaching, and comprehensive mind. His mind, indeed, seemed to grow clearer as he advanced in years; and the very latest speeches, though not so striking to superficial hearers, will be regarded hereafter, by close and competent readers, as the most finished of all the productions of his tongue and pen.
One result, it is to be earnestly hoped, will not fail to follow a general circulation of these master pieces among the generous youth of Mr. Webster's native land. It is to be hoped that his style of clocution, calm, slow, dignified, natural, unambitious, and yet direct and powerful, will take the place of that showy, flowery, flashy, fitful and boisterous sort of speaking, which seems to be becoming too common, which so breaks down the health of the speaker, and which is nevertheless most likely to strike the feelings and corrupt the judgment of the young. Let me here say plainly, that, having heard Mr. Webster speak very frequently, on almost every variety of occasion, I have never heard him, even when most excited, raise his voice higher, or sink it lower, or utter his words more rapidly, than he could do consistently with the most perfect ease, and with the utmost dignity of movement. Ile never played the orator. He never seemed to be making any effort. What he had to say he said as easily, as naturally, and yet as forcibly as possible, with such a voice as he used in common conversation, only elevated and strengthened to meet the demands of his large audiences. So intent did he seem to be, so intent he certainly was, in making his hearers see and feel as he did, in relation to the subject of the hour, that no one thought of his manner, or whether he had any manner, till the speech was over. That is oratory, true oratory; and it is to be hoped that the more general distribution of these master-pieces will have the ultimate effect of making it the American standard of oratory from this age to all future ages.
CLIFTON SPRINGS, October, 1854.