Abbildungen der Seite

some faint conception of his overpowering influence, when in the full tide of argument and feeling he pours forth that irresistible volume of words, which, by many, has been said to rival, and by some, to excel, the torrent of Demosthenes. His English, pure, and bold, and massive, is moulded by severe and classic taste, to convey the conceptions of a mind of vast proportions. In the knowledge and comprehension of all subjects connected with the sciences of Law and Government, he is a master, and has attained the distinguished appellation of “expounder of the Constitution.” Instinctively perceiving at a glance the bearings of a doctrine, the results of a principle, the future power of a precedent, nay, even the value of a word, a syllable, a letter, Mr. Webster, like the watch-dog, is ever awake, and listening for the sounds of trespass; he observes, with scrutinizing eye, the perpetual variations and their effects which inevitably spring up in the progressive developement of a youthful government, the forms of which are, as yet, experimental, though the elements are fixed and incapable of change. The examination of the existing powers and limits of

the Constitution of the Republic, and of the future influences of these powers and limits upon extended territory and increased population, does now, and must continue to form, a highly important subject of inquiry. To enlarge and adapt according to the successive requirements of the country, the original model so admirably propounded by the Founders of the Republic, is a study demanding the prophetic wisdom of Ulysses; and in this great purpose the mighty energies of Webster find their appointed mission. Eminently conservative, (if the Senator will permit this English epithet,) it is his most earnest wish to prevent, on the side of power, any infraction of rational liberty, and on the side of the people, any advance beyond that modified restraint which results in the benefit of all. I have sometimes reflected with regret, that Mr. Webster has not a seat on the Supreme Bench; but the Bar would thus lose one of its most popular advocates, and the Senate one of her noblest pillars.

The abilities of Mr. Webster, as a Statesman, are highly estimated by the English, by his Party, and by the State of Massachusetts, of whose policy

he has ever been the strenuous, though not uncandid, defender. His wishes on the Oregon Question were those of Peace, and he threw into the scale all the weight of his great name. His celebrated speech at Boston touched the heart of every Englishman. With regard to the North Eastern Boundary, I have heard all Americans say, that America had the worst of it, and all Englishmen say precisely the same thing of England, consequently, there can be no reasonable doubt that it was the most just and even handed Treaty that could be made, equally creditable to the Commissioners on either side.

Mr. Webster is the son of an Estatesman, or Farmer, in New Hampshire; he has fulfilled many public offices with zeal and ability, and may justly be called a chief in that band of illustrious statesmen whose lives are given to their country, and whose highest hope is her applause.

The admirable head, and powerful form of Mr. Webster, make him every where conspicuous ; the brow is ample; the eye deep sunk, and dark, and seated immediately below the strongly marked, and shaggy eyebrow; the features and contour

denote, most expressively, the strength of every mental faculty, reflection, judgment, memory, analysis, all are there; the countenance, in repose, sometimes becomes absent and thoughtful, and has the expression of an inward employment of the reasoning powers, independent of all external objects, and for the time wholly forgetful of their presence, and then, as if the mental exercise had resulted in the most undoubted conviction, the whole face becomes radiant with intelligence and animation. The contrast and transition of expression are very fine. The busts of Mr. Webster, to my taste, represent him more truly than his portraits; there is a marble head in the Athenæum, at Boston, which is magnificent. He is always prepared, his mind is full charged with knowledge, and his information is always at hand.

On one occasion, I was struck with the admiration he evinced for a brother advocate. The scene was imposing. Rufus Choat, of Boston, was pleading against a sister state for Massachusetts. Rhode Island contested her Boundary Line, and each state sent forth her ablest champions to defend her rights. For two successive days Mr.

Choat vindicated the claims of Massachusetts in the Supreme Court of the United States. I have no words to describe the extraordinary effort of this remarkable man. The fluency, rapidity, and beauty of his language, his earnest manner, his excited action, and his whole being, conflicting with the most intense emotion; he was all nerve, each sense, each faculty was absorbed in the great duty of the day; and sometimes it seemed that tears alone could relieve the uncontrollable agitation which thrilled through his frame, and quivered on his lip, and trembled in his voice; the strong nerve of a man alone enabled him to command his struggling feelings; for an instant he paused, and then again gushed forth his words clothed in each form of argument and persuasion, that the reach of mind and knowledge can suggest or use.

His memory supplied quotations, learned and to the point; his imagination called each poetic fancy quick to his aid; and his voice of music attuned itself to all the varied tones of his discourse, awakening in every breast the sentiments and impressions of his own. He is the Proteus of Eloquence. Nor are his legal knowledge and

« ZurückWeiter »