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“ Doubtless,” he says, “it served its day, and, in a greater or less degree, the end designed by it. Having done that, it has, sunk into the general mass of stale and loathed calumnies. It is the very cast-ofi‘ slough of a polluted and shameless press. Incapable of further mischief, it lies in the sewer, lifeless and despised. It is not now, sir, in the power of the honorable member to give it dignity and decency, by attempting to elevate. it, and to introduce it into the Senate. He cannot change it- ' from what it is, an object of general disgust and scorn. On the contrary, the contact, if he choose to touch it, is more likely to drag him down, down to the place where it lies itself.”
In these observations on some of the characteristics of Mr. Webster, we have not attempted a complete analysis of his mind, or followed him in any of those political and constitutional discussions in which it has been so ably exercised. We have rather taken a general view of his works, with reference to the large mental power and strong points of character they evince, and the elevated station they occupy as literary productions. We have claimed for them some of the highest honors of the intellect. We have considered them as being eminently American in their subjects and principles, and as constituting an important part of our national literature. But We well know how little justice can be done a great man, in thus taking, as it were, his nature to pieces, and examining each portion separately. In the case of an author like Mr. Webster, whose different powers interpenetrate each other, and produce by joint action a barmonious result, it requires a more potent alchemy than we have applied thoroughly to resolve his difi‘erent productions into the elements from whose (ombination they have sprung.
We have likewise run the risk of being charged. with exaggeration, in our estimate of his capacity. The
Perfect clearness of his arrangement, and the straightforward, thorough-going force of his mind, by which he simplifies subjects the most intricate to common understandings, and exhibits them in what Bacon calls “ dry] light,” are not likely to be appreciated by those whojudge obscurity to be a necessary ingredient of the profound. There appears nothing wonderful in the result, for it seems simple and easy of comprehension ; but the wonder is in the process by which the result is obtained. Two or three judicious mysticisms, an arrangement half clear and half confused, a little mingling of assertion, with deduction, a suppression of some facts, a lofty enunciation of a few abstract propositions, and a less comprehensive mode of argumentation, would give him, in the minds of many, a greater reputation as a deep reasoner, than he-could obtain from his rigid severity of method, his penetrating sharpness of analysis, and his massive good sense. There is more likelihood that such an author would be underrated, than that the triumphs of his understanding would elicit exaggerated panegyric. In theUnited States, there is much fanaticism in the opinions—we will not insult reason by calling them judgments—expressed of public men. There are two species of. cant prevailing,—the cant of absurd panegyric, and the cant of absurd invective ; and it has; become almost a custom for men .indiscriminately to denounce certain statesmen, against whom they have no feeling of hatred, and indiscriminately to eulogize others, for wnam they have no feeling of admiration. Praise and blame are thus made independent of the qualities which should call them forth. In the jargon of this political rhetoric, there is no sliding scale of morality or immorality, genius or stupidity; but the
boundaries are fixed, with geometrical precision, at those points where one party comes Face to face with another. On one side are knavery and folly, on the other side are honesty and wisdom. Of course, such a code of criticism admits of no minute distinctions or shades in the delineation of character. A few epithets, of the bitterest gall or the sweetest honey, suflice for the purpose.
We are not so simple as to believe that this mode of deciding upon the character and ability of public men goes any deeper than words. It is merely a. vice of the pen and the tongue, and has no foundation in the heart of the community. We have no apology, therefore, to make for reviewing the works of one who is connected with a great political party, and whose speeches, in some respects, are an exponent of its principles. As so many of our eminent men are engaged in public life, it would 'be folly in neutral literary journals to avoid noticing their productions, for fear of wounding the sensitiveness of one class, and disregarding the wishes of another. In respect to literature and intellectual power, there should be no partisan feeling. We have not considered Daniel Webster as a politician, but as an American. We do not possess great men in such abundance as to be able to spare one from the list. It is clearly our pride and interest to indulge in an honest exultation at any signs of intellectual supremacy in one of our own countrymen. His talents and acquirements are so many arguments for republicanism. They are an answer to the libel, that, under our constitution, and in the midst of our society, large powers of mind and marked individuality of character cannot be developed and nourished. We have in Mr. Webster the example of a man whose youth saw the foundation of our government, and whose maturity has been spent in exercising some of its highest offices who was born on our soil, educated amid our people exposed to all the malign and beneficent influences of 'our society; and who has acquired high station by no sinuous path, by no sacrifice of manliness, principle, or individuality, but by a straight-forward force of character and vigor of intellect. Afame such as he has obtained is worthy of the noblest ambition ; it reflects honor on the whole nation; it is stained by no meanness, or fear, or subserviency; it is the result of a long life of intellectual labor, employed in elucidating the spirit of our laws and government, in defending the principles of our institutions, in disseminating enlarged views of patriotism and duty, and in ennobling, by the most elevated sentiments of freedom and religion, the heroical events of our national history. And we feel assured, when the animosities of party have been stilled at the tomb, and the great men of this generation have passed from the present feverish sphere of excitement into the calm of history, that it will be with feelings of unalloyed pride and admiration, that the scholar, the lawyer, the statesman. the orator, the American, will ponder over the writings of Daniel Webster.
NEAL’S HISTORY OF THE PURITANS.‘
We are pleased to see an American edition of thisvaluable work on political and ecclesiastical history, edited with a care which insures the correctness of its statements, and placed at a price which brings it within the reach of the humblest book-collector. It is reprinted from the text of Dr. Toulmin’s edition, containing his notes, illustrations, and corrections, and thoroughly revised by Mr. Choules, the American editor. It now forms, probably, the most complete, and, in the main, the most correct account of one of the most remarkable bodies of men that ever appeared in the world.
Mr. Choules has executed his task with marked ability. His notes give evidence of the care with which he has scrutinized the text of his author, and the extent of his researches into the- literature and history of the periods he illustrates. He has consulted the most approved works on the subject, especially some which have been published since Dr. Toulmin’s edition appeared; and has rescued from oblivion many a choice sentence and pregnant fact, interred in old and rare
*Ths History of the Puritans, or Protestant Non-conformists, from the Reformation in 1517, to the Revolution in 1688; comprising an Account of their Principles; their Attempts for a further Reformation in the Church; their Sufl‘erings; and the Lives and Characters of their most. considerable Divinss. By Daniel Neal, M.A. Revised, corrected, and enlarged, with Additional Notes, by John O. Choules, MA. New York: Harper & Brothon, 1844. 2 vols. Bvo. —- North American Review, January, l815.