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HENRY CLAY was born in Hanover county, Virginia, April 12, 1777. From being the "Mill-boy of the Slashes" and a country store-keeper, he was transferred, through the influence of his kind-hearted stepfather, Captain H. Watkins, to a situation as copyist in the office of the clerk of the Virginia Court of Chancery.
This was an event of no small moment in Clay's life; for, in all probability, it was the peculiar surroundings of this situation-its associations of documents and doctors of the law-which confirmed, if they did not awaken, his design of following the legal profession. At any rate, we find him shortly afterwards (in 1797) qualified for practicing law. He then removed to Lexington, Kentucky, opened an office there, and speedily gained an extensive practice.
Clay's first political honors were bestowed in 1803, in his election to the State Legislature. Subsequently, after filling two partial terms as United States Senator, he was elected (in 1811) to the House of Representatives, and, on taking his seat, was complimented in an extraordinary manner by being chosen Speaker. This was the beginning of a long and eminent national service, which numbered among its distinctions Member and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Senator, Commissioner for negotiating the Treaty of Ghent, and Secretary of State; in all of which he shone with no light borrowed of the dignity of the office, but with a native lustre of integrity, devotion, and ability which might well have glorified any responsibility.
Henry Clay died in the city of Washington, June 29, 1852.
"His speeches are sincere and impassioned, qualities which distinguished the man, and which were among the chief causes of the great personal popularity he enjoyed.
Full, flowing, sensuous, his style of oratory was modulated by a voice of sustained power and sweetness, and a heart of chivalrous courtesy. Of the great triumvirate of the Senate, Calhoun, Webster, and Clay, respectively representing the South, the East, and the West, the last was the great master of feeling.
"His frank bearing, his self-developed vigor, his spontaneous eloquence and command of language, were Western characteristics, and reached the heart of the whole country. There was at once something feminine and manly in his composition. He united the gentlest affections of woman with the pride of the haughtiest manhood. When his last moments came, he died, as he had lived, with simplicity and dignity.” *
SPEECH ON THE COMPROMISE RESOLUTIONS.
MR. PRESIDENT, I am directly opposed to any purpose of seces sion or separation. I am for staying within the Union, and defying any portion of this confederacy to expel me or drive me out of the Union. I am for staying within the Union and fighting for my rights, if necessary, with the sword, within the bounds and under the safeguard of the Union. I am for vindicating those rights, not by being driven out of the Union harshly and unceremoniously by any portion of this confederacy. Here I am within it, and here I mean to stand and die, as far as my individual wishes or purposes can go-within it to protect my property and defend myself, defying all the power on earth to expel me or drive me from the situation in which I am placed.
Sir, I have said that I thought there was no right on the part of one or more States to secede from the Union. I think so. The Constitution of the United States was made not merely for the generation that then existed, but for posterity-unlimited, undefined, endless, perpetual posterity. And every State that then came into the Union, and every State that has since come into the Union, came into it binding itself, by indissoluble bands, to remain within the Union itself, and to remain within it by its * Duyckinck's Cyclopædia of American Literature
posterity for ever. Like another of the sacred connections i private life, it is a marriage which no human authority can dissolve or divorce the parties from. And if I may be allowed to refer to some examples in private life, let me say to the North and to the South, what husband and wife say to each other: We have mutual faults; neither of us is perfect; nothing in the form of humanity is perfect; let us, then, be kind to each other-forbearing, forgiving each other's faults-and, above all, let us live in happiness and peace together.
Mr. President, I have said, what I solemnly believe, that dissolution of the Union and war are identical and inevitable; and they are convertible terms; and such a war as it would be, following a dissolution of the Union! Sir, we may search the pages of history, and none so ferocious, so bloody, so implacable, so exterminating—not even the wars of Greece, including those of the Commoners of England and the Revolution of France-none, none of them all would rage with such violence, or be characterized with such bloodshed and enormities, as would the war which must succeed, if that event ever happens, the dissolution of the Union. And what would be its termination? Standing armies and navies, to an extent stretching the revenues of each portion of the dissevered members, would take place. An exterminating war would follow-not, sir, a war of two or three years' duration, but a war of interminable duration—and exterminating wars would ensue, until, after the struggles and exhaustion of both parties, some Philip or Alexander, some Cæsar or Napoleon, would rise and cut the Gordian knot, and solve the problem of the capacity of man for self-government, and crush the liberties of both the severed portions of this common empire. Can you doubt it?
Look at all history-consult her pages, ancient or modern— look at human nature; look at the contest in which you would be engaged in the supposition of war following in the dissolution of the Union, such as I have suggested; and I ask you if it is possible for you to doubt that the final disposition of the whole would be some despot treading down the liberties of the people— the final result would be the extinction of this last and glorious light which is leading mankind who are gazing upon it, in the hope and anxious expectation that the liberty which prevails
here will sooner or later be diffused throughout the whole of the civilized world?
Sir, can you lightly contemplate these consequences? Can you yield yourself to the tyranny of passion,.amid dangers which I have depicted in colors far too tame of what the result would be if that direful event to which I have referred should ever occur? Sir, I implore gentlemen, I adjure them, whether from. the South or the North, by all that they hold dear in this world --by all their love of liberty-by all their veneration for their ancestors-by all their regard for posterity—by all their gratitude to Him who has bestowed on them such unnumbered and countless blessings-by all the duties which they owe to mankind, and by all the duties which they owe to themselves, to pause, solemnly to pause, at the edge of the precipice, before the fearful and dangerous leap be taken into the yawning abyss be.ow, from which none who ever take it shall return in safety. Finally, Mr. President, and in conclusion, I implore, as the best blessing which Heaven can bestow upon me upon earth, that if the direful event of the dissolution of this Union is to happen, 1 shall not survive to behold the sad and heart-rending spectacle.
EDWARD EVERETT was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts, April 11, 1794. From earliest youth circumstances seemed to favor, and even court, his advancement. Furnished with the best education his own country afforded, he was privileged to quaff yet higher culture at the great universities of Germany and France. Foreign travel, also, lent its charms of nature and treasures of art, its instruction and its marvel; and the acquaintance of such master-spirits as Scott, Byron, Jeffrey, Campbell, Mackintosh, and Davy, yielded its exhilarating influence to enrich, and polish, and inspire the young and susceptible student.
With such generous preparation, rivaled only by the capacity and genius of the man, Everett entered on that public career which was to be so long, so varied, so honorable, so beneficial, and so brilliant. In that almost Briarean-handed career we find embraced the stations of minister at the Brattle Street Church, Boston; professor of Greek at Harvard; editor of the North American Review; representative in the National Congress for ten successive years, from Middlesex; Governor of Massachusetts, for four years; Minister to England; President of Harvard College; Secretary of State, and United States Senator.
Through all these blooming fields of varied honors Everett bore aloft one chosen flower of rare and dazzling worth-the flower of Oratory. His orations and speeches constitute the most voluminous, scholarly, and rhetorical productions of the sort to be found in American literature. They are one hundred and eighty-six in number, and are extraordinary in the variety of subjects they treat of, in the familiarity they evince with those subjects, in the lucid statement, the exquisite polish and electric vigor of diction.