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manner it would be most agreeable to you that they should be carried into effect. “With very great regard, your obedient servants, “DANIEL PHILLIPs, GeoRGE LEONARD, GEo. H. WETHERBEE, and many others.”
To this invitation Mr. Webster returned the following reply:—
“Marshfield, Aug. 3, 1848. “GENTLEMEN, - I have received your letter. The critical state of things at Washington obliges me to think it my duty to repair thither immediately and take my seat in the Senate, notwithstanding the state of my health and the heat of the weather render it disagreeable for me to leave home. “I cannot, therefore, comply with your wishes at present; but on my return, if such should continue to be your desire, I will meet you and the other Whigs of Marshfield, in an unceremonious manner, that we may confer upon the topics to which your letter relates. “I am, Gentlemen, with esteem and friendship, “Your obliged fellow-citizen, “DANIEL WEBSTER. “To Messrs. DANIEL PHILLIPs, GEoRGE LEONARD, GEo. H. WETHERBEE, and others.”
Soon after Mr. Webster's return from Washington, it was arranged that the meeting should take place at the “Winslow House,” the ancient seat of the Winslow family, now forming a part of Mr. Webster's farm at Marshfield, on Friday, the first day of September.
SPEECH AT MARSHIFIELD. *
Although it is not my purpose, during the present recess of Congress, frequently to address public assemblies on political subjects, I have felt it my duty to comply with your request, as neighbors and townsmen, and to meet you to-day; and I am not unwilling to avail myself of this occasion to signify to the people of the United States my opinions upon the present state of our public affairs. I shall perform that duty, certainly with great frankness, I hope with candor. It is not my intention today to endeavor to carry any point, to act as any man's advocate, to put up or put down any body. I wish, and I propose, to address you in the language and in the spirit of conference and consultation. In the present extraordinary crisis of our public concerns, I desire to hold no man's conscience but my own. My own opinions I shall communicate, freely and fearlessly, with equal disregard to consequences, whether they respect myself or respect others.
We are on the eve of a highly important Presidential election. In two or three months the people of this country will be called upon to elect an executive chief magistrate of the United States; and all see, and all feel, that great interests of the country are to be affected, for good or evil, by the results of that election. Of the interesting subjects over which the person who shall be elected must necessarily exercise more or less control, there are especially three, vitally connected, in my judgment, with the honor and happiness of the country. In the first place, the honor and happiness of the country imperatively require that there shall be a chief magistrate elected who shall not plunge us into further wars of ambition and conquest. In the second place, in my judgment, the interests of the country and the feeling of a vast majority of the people require that a President of these United States should be elected, who will neither use official influence to promote, nor feel any desire in his heart to promote, the further extension of slavery in this community, or its further influence in the public councils. In the third place, if I have any just estimate, if an experience not now a short one in public affairs has enabled me to know any thing of what the public interest demands, the state of the country requires an essential reform in the system of revenue and finance, such as shall restore the prosperity, by prompting the industry and fostering the labor of the country, in its various branches. There are other things important, but I will not allude to them. These three I hold to be essential. There are three candidates presented to the choice of the American people. General Taylor is the Whig candidate, standing upon the nomination of the Whig Convention; General Cass is the candidate of the opposing and now dominant party in the country; and a third candidate is presented in the person of Mr. Van Buren, by a convention of citizens assembled at Buffalo, whose object, or whose main object, as it appears to me, is contained in one of those considerations which I have mentioned; and that is, the prevention of the further increase of slavery; — an object in which you and I, Gentlemen, so far as that goes, entirely concur with them, I am Sure. Most of us who are here to-day are Whigs, National Whigs, Massachusetts Whigs, Old Colony Whigs, and Marshfield Whigs, and if the Whig nomination made at Philadelphia were entirely satisfactory to the people of Massachusetts and to us, our path of duty would be plain. But the nomination of a candidate for the Presidency made by the Whig Convention at Philadelphia is not satisfactory to the Whigs of Massachusetts. That is certain, and it would be idle to attempt to conceal the fact. It is more just and more patriotic, it is more manly and practical, to take facts as they are, and things as they are, and to deduce our own conviction of duty from what exists before us. However respectable and distinguished in the line of his own profession, or however estimable as a private citizen, General Taylor is a military man, and a military man merely. He has had no training in civil affairs. He has performed no functions of a civil nature under the Constitution of his country. He has been known, and is known, only by his brilliant achievements at the head of an army. Now the Whigs of Massachusetts, and I among them, are of opinion that it was not wise, nor discreet, to go to the army for the selection of a candidate for the Presidency of the United States. It is the first instance in their history in which any man of mere military character has been proposed for that high office. General Washington was a great military character; but by far a greater civil character. He had been employed in the councils of his country from the earliest dawn of the Revolution. He had been in the Continental Congress, and he had established a great character for civil wisdom and judgment. After the war, as you know, he was elected a member of that convention which formed the Constitution of the United States; and it is one of the most honorable tributes ever paid to him, that by that assembly of good and wise men he was selected to preside over their deliberations. And he put his name first and foremost to the Constitution under which we live. President Harrison was bred a soldier, and at different periods of his life rendered important military services. But President Harrison, nevertheless, was for a much greater period of his life employed in civil than in military service. For twenty years he was either governor of a Territory, member of one or the other house of Congress, or minister abroad; and discharged all these duties to the satisfaction of his country. This case, therefore, stands by itself; without a precedent or justification from any thing in our previous history. It is for this reason, as I imagine, that the Whigs of Massachusetts feel dissatisfied with this nomination. There may be other reasons, there are others; they are, perhaps, of less importance, and more easily to be answered. But this is a well-founded objection; and in my opinion it ought to have prevailed, and to have prevented this nomination. I know enough of history to see the dangerous tendency of such resorts to military popularity. But, if I may borrow a mercantile expression, I may now venture to say, that there is another side to this account. The impartiality with which I propose to discharge my duty to-day requires that it should be stated. And in the first place, it is to be considered, that General Taylor has been nominated by a Whig convention, held in conformity with the usages of the Whig party, and, so far as I know, fairly nominated. It is to be considered, also, that he is the only Whig before the people, as a candidate for the Presidency; and no citizen of the country, with any effect, can vote for any other Whig, let his preferences be what they might or may. In the next place, it is proper to consider the personal char. acter of General Taylor, and his political opinions, relations, and connections, so far as they are known. In advancing to a few observations on this part of the case, I wish every body to understand that I have no personal acquaintance whatever with General Taylor. I never saw him but once, and that but for a few moments in the Senate. The sources of information are open to you, as well as to me, from which I derive what I know of his character and opinions. But I have endeavored to obtain access to those sources. I have endeavored to inform and instruct myself by communication with those who have known him in his profession as a soldier, in his associations as a man, in his conversations and opinions on political subjects; and I will tell you frankly what I think of him, according to the best lights which I have been able to obtain. I need not say, that he is a skilful, brave, and gallant soldier. That is admitted by all. With me, all that goes but very little way to make out the proper qualifications for President of the United States. But what is more important, I believe that he is an entirely honest and upright man. I believe that he is modest, clear-headed, of independent and manly character, possessing a mind trained by proper discipline and self-control. I believe that he is estimable and amiable in all the relations of private life. I believe that he possesses a reputation for equity and fair judgment, which gives him an influence over those under his command, beyond what is conferred by the authority of station. I believe that he is a man possessing the confidence and attachment of all who have been near him and know him. And I believe, that, if elected President, he will do his best to relieve the country from present evils, and guard it against future dangers. So much for what I think of the personal character of General Taylor. I will say, too, that, so far as I have observed, his conduct
* Delivered at a Meeting of the Citizens of Marshfield, Massachusetts, on the 1st of September, 1848.