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controversy. We do not set up his statue because he changed his early opinions upon the tariff, because he remained in Tyler's cabinet after that President's quarrel with the Whigs, or because he made upon the 7th of March a speech about which men have differed always and probably always will differ. Still less do we place here his graven image in memory of his failings or his shortcomings. History, with her cool hands, will put all these things into her scales and mete out her measure with calm, unflinching eyes. But this is history's task, not ours, and we raise this statue on other grounds.
“ Not ours to gauge the more or less,
The will's defect, the blood's excess,
The radiant mind.
To his greatness, then, we rear this monument. In what does that greatness, acknowledged by all, unquestioned and undenied by any one, consist? Is it in the fact that he held high office? He was a brilliant member of Congress; for nineteen years a great senator; twice Secretary of State. But “the peerage solicited him, not he the peerage.”
Tenure of office is nothing, no matter how high the place. A name recorded in the list of holders of high office is little better than one writ in water if the office-holding be all. We do not raise this statue to the member of Congress, to the senator of the United States, or to the Secretary of State, but to Daniel Webster.
That which concerns us is what he did with these great places which were given to him; for to him, as to all others, they were mere opportunities. What did he do with these large opportunities? Still more, what did he do with the splendid faculties which nature gave him? In the answer
lies the greatness which lifts him out of the ranks and warrants statues to his memory.
First, then, of those qualities which he inherited from the strong New England stock that gave him birth, and which Nature, the fairy who stands by every cradle, poured out upon him. How generous, how lavish she was to that “infant crying in the night; that infant crying for the light” in the rough frontier village of New Hampshire a hundred and eighteen years ago. She gave him the strong, untainted blood of a vigorous race—the English Puritans—who in the New World had been for five generations fighting the hard battle of existence against the wilderness and the savage.
His father was a high type of this class, a farmer and a frontiersman, a pioneer and Indian fighter, then a soldier of the Revolution. On guard the night of Arnold's treason, Washington in that dark hour declared that Captain Webster was a man who could be trusted; simple words, but an order of merit higher and more precious than any glowing ribbon or shining star. So fathered and so descended, the child was endowed with physical attributes at once rare and inestimable.
When developed into manhood he was of commanding stature and seemed always even larger and taller than he really was. Strong, massive, and handsome, he stood before his fellow men looking upon them with wonderful eyes, if we may judge from all that those who saw him tell us. “Dull anthracite furnaces under overhanging brows, waiting only. to be blown,” says Carlyle, and those deep-set, glowing eyes pursue us still in all that we read of Webster, just as they seemed to haunt everyone who looked upon them in life.
When in a burst of passion or of solemn eloquence he fixed his eyes upon his hearers, each man in a vast audience felt
that the burning glance rested upon him alone and that there was no escape.
Above the eyes were the high, broad brow and the great leonine head; below them the massive jaw and the firm mouth accurately closed.” All was in keeping.
No one could see him and not be impressed. The English navvy with his “ There goes a king,” Sydney Smith, who compared Webster to “ a walking cathedral,” and the great Scotchman, harsh in judgment and grudging of praise, who set him down as a “Parliamentary Hercules," all alike felt the subduing force of that personal presence.
Look upon some of the daguerreotypes taken of him in his old age,
when the end was near. I think the face is one of the most extraordinary, in its dark power and tragic sadness, of all the heads which any form of human portraiture has preserved. So imposing was he that when he rose to speak, even on the most unimportant occasions, he looked, as Parton says, like “ Jupiter in a yellow waistcoat," and even if he uttered nothing but commonplaces, or if he merely sat still, such was his “ might and majesty” that all who listened felt that every phrase was charged with deep and solemn meaning, and all who gazed at him were awed and impressed. Add to all this a voice of great compass, with deep organ tones, and we have an assemblage of physical gifts concentrated in this one man which would have sufficed to have made even common abilities seem splendid.
But the abilities were far from common. The intellect within answered to the outward vesture. Very early does it appear when we hear of “ Webster's boy” lifted upon a stone wall to read or recite to the teamsters stopping to water their horses near the Webster farm. They were a rough, hardy set, but there was something in the child with the
great dark eyes that held them and made them listen. And the father, gallant and quite pathetic soul, with a dumb and very manifest love of higher things, resolved that this boy, should have all the advantages which had been denied to himself.
Like the Scottish peasants, who toiled and moiled and pinched and saved that their boy might go to the university, to cultivate learning on a little oatmeal, so with many silent sacrifices Ebenezer Webster sent his son to school and college and gave him every opportunity the little State afforded. The boy was not slow to make the most of all that was thus opened to him. The dormant talents grew and burgeoned in the congenial soil. Love of books made him their reader and master. Rare powers of memory and of acquisition showed themselves; a strong imagination led him to the great makers of verse, and natural taste took him to the masters of style, both in English and Latin.
When he passed out of college his capacity for work brought him hardly earned pittances as a school teacher, and then carried him through the toilsome, early stages of the law.
As he advanced, the eager delight of acquisition was succeeded, as is ever the case, by the passionate desire for expression, and soon the signs come of the power of analysis, of the instinct of lucid statement at once so clear and so forcible as to amount to demonstration. We see before us as we study those early years the promise of the great master of words to whom a whole nation was one day to listen.
And with all these gifts, physical and mental, possibly, but not necessarily, the outcome of them all, we see that Webster had that indefinable quality which for lack of a better name we call " charm." He exercised a fascination upon men and
women alike, upon old and young, upon all who came in contact with him. When as a boy he returned from the country fair, his mother said to him, “ Daniel, what did you do with your quarter?” “ Spent it.”
Ezekiel, what did you do with yours?" “ Lent it to Daniel."
As with the elder brother then, so it was through life. Webster strode along the pathway of his great career in solemn state, and there were always people about him ready to lend to him and to give to him; not money, merely, but love and loyalty and service, ungrudging and unreasoning, without either question or hope of reward. A wonderful power this, as impalpable as the tints of the rainbow, and yet as certain as the sun which paints the colors on the clouds and makes all mankind look toward them for the bow of hope and promise.
So he went on and up from the college, the schoolhouse, and the country jury, until he stood at the head of the American bar before the supreme court of the nation. On and up he went, from the early, florid orations of youth until he became the first orator of his time, without superior or rival. He frightened and disappointed his father by refusing the safe harbor of a clerk of court, and strode onward and upward until he stood at the head of the Senate and directed from the State Department the foreign policy of his country. Up and on from the farmhouse and the schoolhouse, from the stone wall whence he read to the rude audience of teamsters, to the times when thousands hung upon his words, when he created public opinion and shaped the political thought of his nation.
What a triumphant progress it was, and of it all what now