Слике страница

won such lofty fame and acted so proud a part, to the quiet shades of private life, he merely followed an intention which he had long and anxiously cherished. The scene which attended his resignation was one of deep interest. · The Senate Chamber was densely filled : all presentthose Senators who had always been his warm and steady friends, and those with whom he had rarely or never acted-manifested the profoundest regard for his character and high abilities, and expressed the sincerest regret at his withdrawal from their midst. The address in which he bade them farewell, is marked by all the generous frankness and the deep feeling which are prominent traits of his personal character. Since his retirement to his home at Ashland, he has frequently met his fellow-citizens at public festivals given in his honor, and has always frankly avowed his political opinions and spread before them the leading principles by which his whole public career has been guided. More enthusiastic receptions have recently been accorded to him at Lexington, in Kentucky, at Dayton, Ohio, and other places, than have often been granted to the most renowned men of the earth; and the demonstrations of popular favor have been most marked and universal. By conven. tions in several of the States of the Union he has been nomi. nated as the candidate of the great party with which he has always acted, for the Presidency in 1844. He receives these public honors with dignity and gratitude-never shrinking from a declaration of all his principles, and courting the most rigid investigation into all the various actions of his extended public life. In the peaceful retirement of a happy home, he finds a welcome refuge from the cares and weighty responsibilities which have rested upon him for more than forty years of service to his country, offered in integrity, and discharged with an ability equaled by that of few statesmen in any age.

We have thus recorded the prominent public services of HENRY Clax, with an historical sketch of his country, just sufficient to render them intelligible. His personal biography has been left untouched : but it will readily be seen that those noble qualities of mind and heart which have made so glorious his public life, must have invested his domestic relations with the highest charms. He bears about him that surest mark of greatness, the power of being “great in little things :” of lending to the most common incidents of life a dignity which stamps them with the heroism of his personal character. In public life, he is the greatest statesman of his age. His eloquence, with which the nation is most familiar, is in fact one of the slightest elements of his fame : in a deeper source than this, resistless as it is, must be sought the secret of that power which has rested the nation upon his arm and interwoven his principles with the very framework of her policy. All the impulses of his heart—the instincts of his nature-are those of a statesman. No crisis, however sudden or fearful, surprises or disarms him. In the most perilous emergencies, when upon the counsel or decision of an hour hangs the fate of his country for years, his lofty mind moves with the same undaunted strength as in the most trivial con

In the beautiful words of WORDSWORTH, we may describe him as one,


“ Whose powers shed round him in the common strife,

Or mild concerns, of ordinary life,
A constant influence, a peculiar grace ;
But who, if called upon to face
Some awful moment, to which heaven has joined
Great issues, good or bad, for human kind,
Is happy as a lover-is attired
With sudden brightness, like a man inspired ;
And through the heat of conflict keeps the law
In calmness made, and sees what he foresaw."

In all his public life Mr. Clay has evinced a firm reliance upon great and enduring principles; and in this, perhaps, may be found one chief secret of his power and foresight. A fundamental truth is always stronger than any man; and by building faith and firm reliance upon it the man shall receive a portion of its strength, and see, through the mists of the hour, the future to which it leads. The confidence of Mr. Clay in the leading political principles which have formed the rule of all his long public life, has sprung from a firm faith in their permanent truth, and not from that blind devotion to a rule, merely because it is abstract, which belongs, sometimes, to men who have something of greatness in them, but who lack the essential wisdom to profit by experience. Though firm in maintaining the rights of each portion of the State, he never allows a passionate and blind defence of them to plunge the whole into disaster and ruin. He feels that the principles on which our government is based, have a high worth-not only of themselves, but for the sake of the superstructure of happiness and glory we have erected upon them; and the safety of this he is not willing to peril in their fruitless defence. He has none of the zeal of that ignorant worshiper who dug beneath the ruins of the Ephesian temple for the fuel on which it rested, to feed the flame upon its altars. Though he has ever proved himself a zealous defender of the rights of man, in all countries and conditions, he never seeks the destruction of established order, regardless of the happiness of those most nearly concerned ; nor even in the assertion of Right would he deem it well to trample, with ruthless violence, upon all the institutions which might stand in his way, and rush headlong to the end, like the cannon ball,

“Shattering that it may reach, and shattering what it reaches."

[ocr errors]

His democratic principles, therefore, ardent and spontaneous as they are, are tempered by a deep reverence for the permanent reason of the State, and a profound regard for the well-being of his fellows. All his aspirations are to build up, not to tear down-to create, not to destroy. All the safeguards, then, which the sound wisdom of the people, triumphing and establishing a law over that of transient impulse, has thrown about individual rights, he reverences, and, so long as they seem to be needed, seeks to preserve. Like SCHILLER's Wallenstein, while he knows that the flight of destruction is straight and swift, he feels that,

-“ the road the human being travels,
That on which BLESSING comes and goes, both follow
The river's course, the valley's playful windings,
Curves round the cornfield and the hill of vines,
Honoring the holy bounds of property.

Mr. Clay has always been the proud champion of that political party which maintains the true purpose of civil government to be, not merely the prevention of Wrong, but the establishment of Right,-not merely to define and punish offences, but to confer blessings and secure the highest good to those who live beneath its benignant sway. His public life has been consecrated to the development of this great principle ; and if his efforts seem not yet to have been attended with full success, they have been oftentimes of saving service to the country ; and the eye of Hope sees in them the germ of a power which shall yet work itself free from all crushing calamity, and accomplish the great end for which it was first put forth. He is one of those great men whose influence, even

• COLERIDAY'. Translation.

when unseen and despised, is potent and controlling. The spirit of his life has wrought even more than his active efforts; and, far more than any other statesman among us, he has thus given strength to those principles of public policy which alone conduct nations to the height of prosperity. The value of his public services can only be worthily set forth when candor shall have made a faithful record of his life and his acts: and just in proportion as that record is incomplete, will this great friend of mankind be defrauded of honor. It were rash and unwise to ask that his own age should rightly esteem and fully reward them. But, as in the old religion the lightning made sacred the object upon which it fell, so even now does Death hallow the victim whom he strikes. Future generations will not lose sight of his worth : those words of wisdom which, uttered by his living voice, fall too unheeded upon our hearts, shall come from his tomb with power as from a holy place : for such is the power of dispensing blessings, which Providence has attached to the truly great and good, that they cannot even die without advantage to their fellow creatures; for death consecrates their example ; and the wisdom, which might have been slighted at the council-table, becomes oracular from the shrine.”


« ПретходнаНастави »