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On the accession of General Harrison to the Presidency of the United States, on the 4th of March, 1841, Mr. Webster was called to the office of Secretary of State, in which, after the President's untimely death, he continued under Mr. Tyler for about two years. The relations of the country with Great Britain were at that time in a very critical position, as is more particularly stated in the introduction to a subsequent volume of this collection containing Mr. Webster's diplomatic correspondence. The most important and difficult subject which engaged the attention of the government, while he filled the Department of State, was the negotiation of the treaty with Great Britain, which was signed at Washington on the 9th of August, 1842. The other members of General Harrison's Cabinet having resigned their places in the autumn of 1841, discontent was felt by some of their friends, that Mr. Webster should have consented to retain his. But as Mr. Tyler continued to place entire confidence in Mr. Webster's administration of the Department of State, the great importance of pursuing a steady line of policy in reference to foreign affairs, and especially the hope of averting a rupture with England by an honorable settlement of our difficulties with that country, induced Mr. Webster to remain at his post.
On occasion of a visit made by him to Boston, after the adjournment of Congress, in August, 1842, a number of his friends were desirous of manifesting their sense of the services which he had rendered to the country by pursuing this course, and the following correspondence took place.
To THE HoN. DANIEL WEBSTER : — SIR,-The undersigned, desirous of evincing their gratitude for your eminent and patriotic public services, during a long term of years, and especially for the part sustained by you in the late negotiations which have been so skilfully conducted and happily terminated in a treaty with Great Britain, invite you to meet them at a public dinner, at such time as shall be convenient to yourself.
HARRISON GRAY OTIS,
BosTox, September 8, 1842.
Boston, September 9, 1842.
GENTLEMEN, -I have received your letter of the 8th instant, inviting me to a public dinner, and am duly sensible of the value of this proof of your regard. It will give me great pleasure to meet all my fellow-citizens, who may desire to see me; and the mode of such meeting I should leave to them, with a preference, however, on my part, if equally agreeable to others, that the dinner should be dispensed with, and that the meeting should be had in such a manner as shall impose the least restrictions, and best suit the convenience of all who may be disposed to attend it. I am, Gentlemen, with very sincere regard, Your obliged fellow-citizen, and obedient servant, DANIEL WEBstER. To Messrs. H. G. OTIs, J. MAsoN, WILLIAM STURGIs, Josiah BRADLEE, CHARLEs G. LoRING, CHARLEs P. CURTIs, WILLIAM APPLEToN, ABBott LAwRENCE, and others.
In pursuance of this correspondence, a public meeting was appointed to be held in Faneuil Hall, on the 30th of September. Some time before the hour appointed for the reception of Mr. Webster, the hall was filled. Very many of the most distinguished citizens came at an early hour, to make sure of admission, and the hall was soon crowded to its utmost capacity. Great numbers were obliged to turn away without being able to come within the doors. Just before eleven o'clock, His Honor Jonathan Chapman, Mayor of the city, rose, and said that he had received a letter from a committee of those gentlemen who had extended the invitation to Mr. Webster, requesting him to preside. This he had consented to do, unless objection should be made. He would only add, that the committee would introduce Mr. Webster precisely at eleven o'clock. Amid the enthusiastic applause that followed this information, Mr. Webster, with the committee of his friends, entered the hall. Mr. Chapman led him forward upon the platform, and, after the assembly had given nine hearty cheers, addressed its guest as follows.
“MR. WEBSTER: — I have the honor, Sir, to be the organ of this large assembly of your former constituents, and still fellow-citizens and friends, who have gathered to greet you with a cordial welcome, upon your visit to what we are proud to call, and trust you will always feel to be, your home. We sought to meet you at a social festival; but it has taken the present far better form, at your own request. The pointed meaning, however, of the occasion is unchanged. Believing that, as a true republican, you will find the richest reward of your public services in the respect and gratitude of those whom you serve, we would assure you in the most emphatic manner, that, so far as your friends here are concerned, you have them from the heart. We would assure you, that though your duties, at your country's call, have separated you from us for a season, you are not forgotten ; but that wherever your destiny may place you, so long as you shall be nobly defending your country's Constitution, as in time past, and maintaining untarnished her honor, there will be living and beating here hearts in which you will ever be enshrined.
“A large portion, Sir, of your mature life has been spent in the public service, and of that portion, a great part as the immediate representative of this city and Commonwealth. We rejoice in this opportunity of testifying to you, that your long and eminent services in our behalf are still held in most grateful remembrance. We acknowledge our deep obligations to you, for your unwavering fidelity to our interests, for your able support of that cause of American industry, whose protection has so distinguished the recent session of Congress, and for the broad and comprehensive spirit in which your legislative duties were ever discharged. Bright, Sir, ever bright, will be the page of history which records the efforts of your commanding intellect in the councils of the nation. And New England, – glorious New England, your birthplace and your home, whose heart, you know, is warm, though her skies be cold, - New England, from every summit of her granite hills, will never cease to hail you as her worthy representative.
“We resigned you with regret, indeed, but still with ready acquiescence in the wise judgment of that good old man, who, himself placed in the Presidential chair amidst a people's acclamations, from amongst the bright lights of this broad land selected you to stand at his right hand. It pleased a wise but inscrutable Providence, too soon, alas ! to mortal eyes, to remove him from his elevated seat on earth to, we trust, a higher one above. But nobly, Sir, have you sustained the momentous interests, which, in a most critical period of the country's history, he committed to your charge. No sound, indeed, of his glad voice shall ever again greet your ear. But we feel that his benignant spirit has been, and will still be, near to bless you, and approve the loud ‘Well done !” with which every true patriot must salute you. “It is to your eminent services, Sir, on this broader field which you have lately occupied, that we look this day with special pride and admiration. Sir, in simple but heartfelt language, we thank you for the honorable attitude in which, so far as your department has been concerned, you have placed your country before the world. Would to God that it stood as well in other respects In the many emergencies in our foreign relations which the two past years have presented, you have been faithful throughout to the true interests and honor of the country, and nowhere in its archives can abler, manlier, wiser, or more dignified papers be found, than those which bear your signature. “When the dark cloud lowered upon our neighboring frontier, when a great and fundamental law of nations had wellnigh yielded to popular passion, when a single step only intervened between us and a war that must have been disastrous, as it would have found us in the wrong, it was your wise and energetic interference that dispelled the storm, by seeking to make us just, even under galling provocation. “When a gasconading upstart from a neighboring republic, so called, presumed to address to this government a communication worthy only of his own, but which no one of his coadjutors was bold enough to present in person, one firm and dignified look from our own Secretary of State, a single sweep of his powerful arm, relieved the country from any further specimens of Mexican diplomacy. “And, crowning act of all, when, amidst the numerous and perplexing questions which had so long disturbed the harmony of two nations whom God meant should always be friends, England sent forth her ambassador of compromise and peace, you met him like a man. Subtle diplomacy and political legerdemain you threw to the winds; and taking only for your guides simple honesty, common sense, and a Christian spirit, behold ! by their magic influence, there is not a cloud in the common heavens above us, but only the glad and cheering sunlight of friendship and peace. “We have already, Sir, on this same spot, expressed our approbation of this treaty with England, while paying a merited tribute of respect to the distinguished representative of that country" who was associated with you in its adjustment. We repeat to you our satisfaction with the result, and with the magnanimous spirit by which it was accomplished. We may add now, as we might not then, that we know not the other