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" Though pleased to see the dolphins play,
He minds his compass and his way;
Now, Gentlemen, a patriot President, acting from the impulses of this high and honorable purpose, may reach what Washington reached. He may contribute to raise high the public prosperity, to help to fill up the measure of his country's glory and renown. He may
be able to find a rich reward in the thankfulness of the people,
“ And read his history in a nation's eyes."
In the evening of the 28th of May, Mr. Webster was entertained at dinner by a large company of the most distinguished citizens of Albany. Hon. John C. Spencer presided at the table, and, after the cloth was removed, addressed the company as follows:
“ I am about to offer a sentiment, my friends, which you expect from the chair. The presence of the distinguished guest whom we have met to honor imposes restraints which may not be overleaped. Within those limits, and without offending the generous spirit which has on this occasion discarded all political and partisan feeling, I may recall to our recollection a few incidents in his public life, which have won for him the proud title of Defender of the Constitution.'
“When, in 1832-33, South Carolina raised her parricidal arm against our common mother, and the administration of the government was in. the hands of that man of determined purpose and iron will, Andrew Jackson, whose greatest glory was his inflexible resolution to sustain the Union or perish with it, — in that dark and gloomy day, where was our guest found ? Did he think of paltry politics, of how much his party might gain by leaving their antagonists to fight the battle of the Union between themselves, and thus become a prey to their watchful opponents ? No, Gentlemen, you know what he did. He rallied his mighty energies, and tendered them openly and heartily to a political chieftain whose administration he had constantly opposed. He breasted himself to the storm. Where blows were thickest and heaviest, there was he ;
and when he encountered the great champion of the South, Colonel Hayne, in that immortal intellectual struggle, the parallel of which no country has witnessed, the hopes, the breathless anxiety of a nation, hung upon his efforts. And, 0, what a shout of joy and gratulation ascended to heaven at the matchless victory which he achieved! Had he then been called to his fathers, the measure of his fame would have been full to overflowing, and he would have left a monument in the grateful recollection of his countrymen such as no statesman of modern times had reared. But he was reserved by a kind Providence for greater efforts. For more than twenty years, in the Senate-chamber, in the courts of justice, and in the executive councils, he has stood sentinel over the Constitution. It seems to have been the master passion of his life to love, to venerate, to defend, to fight for the Constitution, at all times and in all places. He did so because the Union existed and can exist only in the Constitution ; and the peace and happiness of the country can exist only in the Union. In fighting for the Constitution, he fought therefore for the country, for the whole country.
“I may not speak in detail of the many acts of his public life which have developed this absorbing love of country. But there are a few of the precious gems in the circlet which adorns his brow, that are so marked and prominent that they cannot be overlooked.
“When he first assumed the duties of the Department of State, war was lowering on our horizon like a black cloud, ready to launch its thunderbolts around us. The alarming state of our foreign relations at that time is shown by the extraordinary fact, that the appropriation bills passed by Congress, at the close of Mr. Van Buren's administration, contained an unusual provision, authorizing the President to transfer them to military purposes. In a few months after our guest took the matter in hand, the celebrated treaty with Lord Ashburton was con. cluded, by which the irritating question of boundary was settled, every difficulty then known or anticipated was adjusted, and among others, the detestable claim to search our vessels for British seaman was re. nounced.
“In connection with this treaty, I take this occasion, the first that has presented itself, to state some facts which are not generally known, The then administration had no strength in Congress; it could command no support for any of its measures. This was an obstacle sufficiently formidable in itself. But Mr. Webster had also to deal with a feeble and wayward President, an unfriendly Senate, a hostile House of Rep. resentatives, and an accomplished British diplomatist. I speak of what I personally know, when I say, that never was a negotiation environed with greater or more perplexing difficulties. He had at least three par. ties to negotiate with instead of one, to say nothing of Massachusetts
and Maine, who had to be consulted in relation to a boundary that affected their territory.* You know the result ; glorious as it was to our country, how glorious was it also to the pilot that guided the ship through such difficulties !
“ You have not forgotten how the generous sympathies of our guest were awakened in behalf of the noble Hungarians, in their immortal resistance against the forces of barbarism. And sure I am there is not a heart here that has not treasured up the contents of that worldrenowned letter to Chevalier Hülsemann, in answer to the intimations of threats by Austria to treat our diplomatic agent as a spy.
What American was not proud of being the countryman of the author of that letter?
“I confess I cannot now think of that letter without recollecting the sensations a particular part of it produced upon my risible faculties. I mean the comparison between the territories and national importance of the house of Hapsburg and those of he United States of America.
“ But I must stop the enumeration of the great deeds in the glory of which we all participate, and by the results of which the whole civilized world has been benefited. I must stop, or the setting sun would leave me still at the task, and the rising sun would find it unfinished.
“The same soul-absorbing devotion to the country and to the Constitution, as its anchor of safety, has been exhibited so recently and so remarkably, that no one can have forgotten it. In the view which I present of the matter, it is quite immaterial whether we regard our guest as having been right or wrong.
He deemed the course he took to be the only one permitted to him by his sense of duty. On the one side were the strong feelings with which, as a Northern man, he had always sympathized; there also were the friends of his youth and of his age; the troops of ardent and devoted admirers; all whose love was equal to their reverence; all the associations and affections of life were clus. tered there; while on the other side a feeling of enmity, engendered by former contests and the defeat of all their schemes ; nothing to allure or invite, but every thing to repel except one, and that was the Constitu.
For the purpose of explanation it may be well to say, that, the Northeastern Boundary having been a matter of controversy for fifty years, and the award of the King of the Netherlands having failed to take effect, Mr. Webster proposed that a line should be established by agreement, upon the principle of fair equivalents, to be assented to by Massachusetts and Maine. Massachusetts accordingly appointed three commissioners, and Maine four, selected from both political parties, to proceed to Washington, and take part in the negotiations. The consent of all the commissioners was made the condition of binding their respective States. It will thus be seen, that the difficulty of making a treaty, when so many and such diverse interests were to be harmonized, was immeasurably increased.
tion of the country. That, as he conscientiously believed, required him to interpose and prevent a breach of faith, as well as of the organic law, and avert a civil war that he believed to be impending. He hesitated not a moment, but at once marched up to the deadly breach, and was ready to sacrifice upon his country's altar more than life, every thing that could render life worth retaining.
“My friends, whatever other view may be taken of that step, every one knows that it conformed to the whole plan of his public life to know no North, no South, where the Constitution is in question ; and there is not a heart in this assembly that will not respond to my voice when I pronounce it heroism; heroism of the most sublime order. It can be compared only to that of the great Reformer, who, when advised not to proceed to the Diet that was convoked to condemn him, declared that, if fifty thousand legions of devils stood in the way, go he would !
“ How poor and insignificant are all our efforts to express our appreciation of such a character and of such services ! They have sunk deep in our hearts; they will sink deeper still in the hearts of the unborn millions who are to people this vast continent; and when he and we sleep with our fathers, his name will reverberate from the Atlantic to the Pacific, as the defender of the Constitution and of his country.
“Gentlemen, I give you a sentiment which I think will be drunk in bumpers and standing. The whole assembly rose at once with accla. mation.]
- The Constitution of the United States and Daniel Webster: inseparable now, and inseparable in the records of time and eternity."
Mr. Webster rose to respond, when the whole company started from their seats, and greeted him with three times three cheers. Mr. Webster spoke as follows:
I know, Gentlemen, very well, how much of the undeserved compliment, or I may say eulogy, which you have heard from my honorable friend at the head of the table, is due to a personal and political friendship which has now continued for many years. Of course, I cannot but most profoundly thank him for the manner in which he has expressed himself. Gentlemen, what shall I say? What shall I say to this outpouring of kindness? I am overwhelmed. I have no words. I cannot acknowledge the truth of what has been said, yet I hardly could find it in my heart to deny it. It is overstated. It is overstated. But that I love the Constitution of the country; that I have a passion for it, the only political passion that ever entered into
my breast; that I cherish it day and night; that I live on its healthful, saving influences, and that I trust never, never, never to cease to heed it till I go to the grave of my fathers, is as true (turning to Mr. Spencer) as that you sit here. I do not suppose I am born to any considerable destiny, but my destiny, whatever it may be, attaches me to the Constitution of the country. I desire not to outlive it. I desire to render it some service. And, on the modest stone that shall mark my grave, whether within my native New Hampshire or my adopted Massachusetts, I wish no other epitaph than this: While he lived, he did what he could to support the Constitution of his country. I confess to you that as to mere questions of politics, of expediency, I have taken my share in them, as they have gone along, in the course of my public life, which is now fast running through. But I have felt no anxiety, no excitement; nothing has made me lie awake at night, when it is said honest men sleep, except what has concerned the preservation of the Union.
The Constitution of the United States! What is there on the whole earth; what is there that so fills the imaginations of men under heaven; what is there that the civilized, liberalized, liberty-loving people of the world can look at, and do look at, so much as that great and glorious instrument held up to their contemplation, blazing over this western hemisphere, and darting its rays throughout the world, the Constitution of the United States of America! In Massachusetts, in New York, in Washington, its ample folds are athwart the whole heavens. Are they not seen in all America, on all the continent of Europe, gazed at and honored in Russia, in Turkey, in the Indian seas, in all the countries of the Oriental world? What is it that makes you and me here, to-day, so proud as we are of the name of America ? What is it? It is almost a miracle; the achievement of half a century, by wise men under propitious circumstances, acting from patriotic motives; a miracle achieved on earth and in view of all nations; the establishment of a government, taking hold on a great continent; covering ample space for fisty other governments; having twenty-five milli ns of people, intelligent, prosperous, brave, able to defend themselves against united mankind, and to bid defiance to the whole of them; a noble monument of republican honor and power, and of republican success, that throws a shade, and sometimes a deep and black shade, over