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Such, sir, and so deep, I can conceive to be the emotions at this hour, of not a few of the honored friends and associates whom I see around me. Indeed, no one who has been ever so distant an observer of the course of public affairs for a quarter of a century past can fail to realize that a star of the first magnitude has been struck from our political firmament. Let us hope, sir, that it has only been transferred to a higher and purer sphere, where it may shine on with undimmed brilliancy forever!
Mr. Speaker, it is for others to enter into the details of Mr. Calhoun's life and services. It is for others to illustrate and to vindicate his peculiar opinions and principles. It is for me to speak of him only as he was known to the country at large, and to all, without distinction of party, who have represented the country of late years, in either branch of the National Councils.
And speaking of him thus, sir, I cannot hesitate to say, that, among what may be called the second generation of American statesmen since the adoption of the Federal Constitution, there has been no man of a more marked character, of more pronounced qualities, or of a wider and more deserved distinction.
The mere length and variety of his public services, in almost every branch of the National Government, running through a continuous period of almost forty years,— as a member of this House, as Secretary of War, as VicePresident of the United States, as Secretary of State, and as a Senator from his own adored and adoring South Carolina,—would alone have secured him a conspicuous and permanent place upon our public records.
But he has left better titles to remembrance than any which mere office can bestow. There was an unsullied purity in his private life; there was an inflexible integrity in his public conduct; there was an indescribable fascination in his familiar conversation; there was a condensed energy in his formal discourse; there was a quickness of perception, a vigor of deduction, a directness and a devotedness of purpose, in all that he said, or wrote, or did; there was a Roman dignity in his whole Senatorial deportment; which, together, made up a character, which cannot fail to be contemplated and admired to the latest posterity.
I have said, sir, that New England can appropriate no
part of his fame. But we may be permitted to remember, that it was in our schools of learning and of law that he was trained up for the great contests which awaited him in the forum or the Senate chamber. Nor can we forget how long and how intimately he was associated, in the Executive or Legislative branches of the Government, with more than one of our own most cherished statesmen.
The loss of such a man, sir, creates a sensible gap in the public councils. To the State which he represented, and the section of country with which he was so peculiarly identified, no stranger tongue may venture to attempt words of adequate consolation. But let us hope that the event may not be without a wholesome and healing influence upon the troubles of the times. Let us heed the voice, which comes to us all, both as individuals and as public officers, in so solemn and signal a providence of God. Let us remember, that, whatever happens to the Republic, we must die! Let us reflect how vain are the personal strifes and partisan contests in which we daily engage, in view of the great account which we may so soon be called on to render! Well may we exclaim, as Cicero exclaimed, in considering the death of Crassus: “O fal lacem hominum spem, fragilem que fortunam, et inanes nostras contentiones!"
Finally, sir, let us find fresh bonds of brotherhood and of union in the cherished memories of those who have gone before us;
and let us resolve that, in so far as in us lies, the day shall never come, when New England men may not speak of the great names of the South, whether among the dead or the living, as of Americans and fellow countrymen!
THE DEATH OF PRESIDENT TAYLOR
[Address by Robert Charles Winthrop, delivered in the House of Representatives, Washington, D. C., July 10, 1850, on the announcement of the death of General Taylor.)
It would not be easily excused, Mr. Speaker, by those whom I represent in this Hall, if there were no Massachusetts voice to respond to the eulogy which las been pronounced by Louisiana upon her illustrious and lamented son. Indeed, neither my personal feelings nor my political relations, either to the living or to the dead, would permit me to remain altogether silent on this occasion. And yet, sir, I confess, I know not how to say anything satisfactory to myself, or suitable to the circumstances of the hour.
The event which has just been officially announced, has come upon us so suddenly-has so overwhelmed us with mingled emotions of surprise and sadness—that all ordinary forms of expression seem to lose their significance, and one would fain bow his head to the blow in silence, until its first shock has in some degree passed away.
Certainly, sir, no one can fail to realize that a most momentous and mysterious Providence has been manifested in our midst. At a moment when, more than almost ever before in our history, the destinies of our country seemed, to all human sight, to be inseparably associated with the character and conduct of its Chief Executive Magistrate, that Magistrate has been summoned from his post, by the only messenger whose mandates he might not have defied, and has been withdrawn forever from the sphere of human existence!
There are those of us, I need not say, sir, who had looked to him with affection and reverence as our chosen leader and guide in the difficulties and perplexities by which we are surrounded. There are those of us, who had relied confidently on him, as upon no other man, to uphold the Constitution and maintain the Union of the country in that future, upon which “shadows, clouds, and darkness” may well be said to rest. And, as we now behold him,
borne away by the hand of God from our sight, in the very hour of peril, we can hardly repress the exclamation, which was applied to the departing prophet of old: “My father, my father! the chariot of Israel and the horsemen thereof."
Let me not even seem to imply, however, that the death of General Taylor is anything less than a national loss. There may be, and we know there is, in this event, a privileged and pre-eminent grief for his immediate family and relatives, to which we can only offer the assurance of our heartfelt sympathy. There is, too, a peculiar sorrow for his political friends and supporters, which we would not affect to conceal. But the whole people of the United States will feel, and will bear witness, when they receive these melancholy tidings, that they have all been called to sustain a most afflicting national bereavement.
I hazard nothing, sir, in saying, that the roll of our Chief Magistrates, since 1789, illustrious as it is, presents the name of no man who has enjoyed a higher reputation with his contemporaries, or who will enjoy a higher reputation with posterity, than Zachary Taylor, for some of the best and noblest qualities which adorn our nature.
His indomitable courage, his unimpeachable honesty, his Spartan simplicity and sagacity, his frankness, kindness, moderation, and magnanimity, his fidelity to his friends, his generosity and humanity to his enemies, the purity of his private life, the patriotism of his public principles, will never cease to be cherished in the grateful remembrance of all just men and all true-hearted Americans.
As a Soldier and a General, his fame is associated with some of the proudest and most thrilling scenes of our military history. He may be literally said to have conquered every enemy he has met save only that last enemy, to which we must all, in turn, surrender.
As a Civilian and Statesman, during the brief period in which he has been permitted to enjoy the transcendent honors which a grateful country had awarded him, he has given proof of a devotion to duty, of an attachment to the Constitution and the Union, of a patriotic determination to maintain the peace of our country, which no trials or temptations could shake. He has borne his faculties
meekly but firmly. He has been “clear in his great office.' He has known no local partialities or prejudices, but has proved himself capable of embracing his whole country, in the comprehensive affections and regards of a large and generous heart.
But he has fallen almost at the threshold of his civil career and at a moment when some of us were looking to him to render services to the country, which we had thought no other man could perform. Certainly, sir, he has died too soon for everybody but himself. We can hardly find it in our hearts to repine that the good old man has gone to his rest. We would not disturb the repose in which the brave old soldier sleeps. His part in life had been long and faithfully performed. In his own last words, “he had always done his duty, and he was not afraid to die.” But our regrets for ourselves and for our country are deep, strong, and unfeigned. “He should have died hereafter."
Sir, it was a fit and beautiful circumstance in the close of such a career, that his last official appearance was at the celebration of the birthday of our National Independence, and more especially, that his last public act was an act of homage to the memory of him, whose example he had ever revered and followed, and who, as he himself so well said, “was, by so many titles, the Father of his Country.”
And now, Mr. Speaker, let us hope that this event may teach us all how vain is our reliance upon any arm of flesh. Let us hope that it may impress us with a solemn sense of our national as well as individual dependence on a higher than human Power. Let us remember that “the Lord is king, be the people never so impatient! that He sitteth between the cherubim, be the earth never so unquiet.” Let us, in language which is now hallowed to us all
, as having been the closing and crowning sentiment of the brief but admirable Inaugural Address with which this illustrious Patriot opened his Presidential term, and which it is my privilege to read at this moment from the very copy from which it was originally read by himself to the American people, on the fourth day of March, 1849,– “Let us," in language in which "he, being dead, yet speaketh "_“let us invoke a continuance of the same