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Eutered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1835,
BY PERKINS, MARVIN, AND COMPANY,
TO THE SECOND VOLUME.
It is now about five years, since the publishers of the present collection presented their fellow-citizens with the former volume of the Speeches and Forensic Arguments of Mr. Webster. It commanded the attention, which might have been anticipated from the reputation of the author; and the curiosity and interest thus excited were amply sustained, by the contents of the work. It is believed, that no volume has ever issued from the American press, better calculated to take a permanent hold of the public mind;to be regarded as a choice specimen of excellence in the various kinds of intellectual effort which it embraced ; and to be consulted as a standard authority, on the great Political and Constitutional questions, which have agitated the public mind during the last twenty years. The estimation in which it was held from its appearance, may be safely inferred from the tenor of a very judicious and eloquent notice of it, in the eighteenth number of the American Quarterly Review; and the rapid sale of the edition has proved that the judgment of the critic was sanctioned by the reading community at large, not merely in this country, but in Europe. The critical journals of Great Britain have confirmed the estimate formed by his countrymen of Mr. Webster's professional and parliamentary talent, and have quoted his works as containing some of the best specimens of American forensic eloquence.*
The publishers now find themselves called upon for a second volume of the speeches and occasional addresses of Mr. Webster The five years since the appearance of the former volume have, as
*Quarterly Journal of Jurisprudence, for August, 1834.
is known to every one, been passed by Mr. Webster on the same elevated stage of public duty, on which he had before acquired a most enviable reputation. A series of the most important discussions in the Senate of the United States, in which he has borne a highly conspicuous part, has attracted the attention of the people throughout the Union. Those great Constitutional questions, which formed the theme of the closing speeches in the first volume, have been again the subject of strenuous contest, between the master minds of the country. Not inferior in interest to these are the speeches of Mr. Webster, contained in the present volume, in the financial controversy which has lately agitated, and still agitates, the country. Commencing with his argument in answer to the President's veto of the Bank bill, in 1832, down to the overwhelming refutation of the Protest, in 1834, they will all be found in the present volume. It contains also several other speeches, on subjects of less commanding interest, but characterized by the same high qualities. In addition to these parliamentary efforts, the publishers have introduced into the volume several occasional speeches, such as that delivered at a public dinner in New York, the address to the citizens of Pittsburgh, the eulogium on the character of Washington, the speech before the Convention at Worcester in 1832, with some others of a miscellaneous class.
The general aspect of the present collection will be found, in some degree, different from the former, in the range of topics. It was, at that time, the pleasing duty of the publishers, in preparing the first collection which had been made of the works of Mr. Webster, to introduce into it his admirable discourses at Plymouth, and Bunker Hill, that delivered on occasion of the death of Adams and Jefferson, and the law arguments which occupy a considerable space in the volume. The complexion of the present series is more uniform, as to topics and form of address, though infinitely rich and various in illustration, and in application to the fortunes of the Republic, of inappreciable interest. Every thing, or almost every thing, contained in the present volume, has been delivered by Mr. Webster, in the period which has elapsed since the former volume was published. It accordingly exhibits to us the action of his intellect, almost exclusively, on the great questions which have convulsed the country, in this highly momentous period of time. It presents the operations of his mind, at the very meridian of its vigor, trained in the most strenuous exercises of the bar and the Senate-house, acting under the intensest excitement, and the responsibility of a commanding reputation already acquired, compelled, at every moment, not merely to struggle with the ablest competitors and opponents, but to equal himself, and sustaining at times upon his shoulders the weight of the almost severed Union. There is, perhaps, nothing, in the present volume, finished in a style so highly academic as the orations at Plymouth and Bunker Hill, unless we except the speech at the New York dinner, which is surpassed by nothing of the kind which Mr. Webster has ever produced. But the speech in reply to Mr. Calhoun, and the speech on the Protest, are like leaves of the Constitution. They are authorities rather than illustrations. While we are engaged in perusing them, every thing like mere discourse, however ingenious, forcible, or ornate, seems comparatively insipid.
At no period, it is believed, since the adoption of the Constitution, has either House of Congress contained a greater number of very eminent men, than the Senate of the United States for the last four years. At no period have questions so important been discussed, or principles so fundamental to the Government been maintained and contested. At no period has a succession so rapid of the most powerful and animated harangues commanded the attention of the people ; and the publishers think they may add, without being deemed unjust to his eminent contemporaries, that, among all the powerful voices with which the Senate-chamber has resounded, none has been heard, with such effect, by the great mass of the people throughout the country, as that of which the record, inadequate at best, is now offered to the reading world, in the following pages. That, in a country divided into parties, which are brought in powerful collision with each other, and led by the most accomplished and skilful champions, there should be great diversity in the judgments formed of distinguished men, is a matter of course. It is scarcely possible to form a perfectly candid estimate of the intellectual power, exerted in the defence of a cause which we greatly disapprove, and in the support of principles which we deem wholly false. There is, bowever, a meed of applause which men of discrimination and liberality never withhold