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10, 1852. “This,” he then added, “is the inscription to be placed on my monument.” A few days later, on the 15th, he recurred to the same subject, and revised and corrected with his own hand what he had earlier dictated, so as to make the whole read as follows:—
“Lord, I believe; help thou
When he first dictated this inscription, he said to the friend who wrote it down—“If I get well, and write a book on Christianity, about which we have talked, we can attend more fully to this matter. But if I should be taken away suddenly, I do not wish to leave any duty of this kind unperformed. I want to leave somewhere a declaration of my belief in Christianity. I do not wish to go into any doctrinal distinctions in regard to the person of Jesus but I wish to express my belief in his divine mission;”—solemn and remarkable words, by which it is plain that, having given the deliberate testimony of his life to the truth of Christianity, as a miraculous revelation of God's will to man he desired, though dead, still to bear the same testimony from his
grave to the same great truth. The monument on which he intended this striking inscription should be placed, he has elsewhere directed should be of “exactly the same size and form ” with the modest monuments he had already erected, within the same inclosure, for his children and for their mother.
On Tuesday, the 19th of October, he was too feeble to appear at the dinner-table, and desired that his son might take his place at its head, till he should be able again to go down stairs ; “or," he added, "until I give it up to him altogether.” That evening was the last time his friends had the happiness to see him in his accustomed seat at his own hospital fire-side.
Warned by his increasing debility he had already given some directions concerning a final disposition of his worldly affairs; but he now desired that his will might be immediately drawn up in legal form, and the next day he dictated a considerable portion of it with great precision and a beautiful appropriateness of phraseology. Some of its directions are very striking, not only from their import, but from the simplicity with which their meaning is set forth :
I wish to be buried,” he says, "without the least show or ostentation, but in a manner respectful to my neighbors, whose kindness has contributed so much to the happiness of me and mine, and for whose prosperity I offer sincere prayers to God.”
After this, every thing relating to his personal concerns is wisely and well provided for, and all his immediate kindred tenderly remembered. He then goes on :
My servant, William Johnson, is a free man. 'I bought his freedom not long ago for six hundred dollars. No demand is to be made upon him for any portion of this sum; but, so long as is agreeable, I hope he will remain with the family. Monicha McCarty, Sarah Smith, and Anna Bean, colored persons, now also, and, for a long time, in my service, are all free. They are very well-deserving, and whoever comes after me, must be kind to them.”
And then with the usual legal forms, this remarkable and char. acteristic document is closed.
The day when the preparation of the will was completed— Thursday—was one in which Mr. Webster had attended to much public business, besides giving his usual careful directions about every thing touching his household and his large estate. It was intended, therefore, to postpone the final signing and execution of that paper until the next morning; more especially as his forenoons were uniformly more comfortable than the later portions of the day. But, in the afternoon, his complaint assumed a new and more formidable character. Blood was suddenly ejected from his stomach. The symptom was decisive. He fixed an intensely scrutinizing look upon Dr. Jeffries, his attending physician and personal friend,-and inquired what it was 2 He was answered that it came from the diseased part. “What is it?” he repeated with the same piercing look, and then, without waiting for a reply, added, “That is the enemy;-if you can conquer that ”—he was interrupted by a recurrence of the attack, but his mind, it was obvious, was already made up. He knew that his time must be short, and that whatever he had to do must be done quickly.
He determined, therefore, at once to execute his will. It was made ready and brought to him. He ascertained that its provisions and arrangements were entirely satisfactory to the persons most interested in them, and then, having signed it with a larger boldness and freedom in the signature than was common to him, he folded his hands together and said solemnly, “I thank God for strength to perform a sensible act.” In a full voice, and with a most reverential manner he went on and prayed aloud for some minutes, ending with the Lord's Prayer, and the ascription, “And nowunto God the Father, the Son, and Holy Ghost, be praise forever more. Peace on earth, and good will towards men; ”— after which, clasping his hands together, as at first, he added, with great emphasis, “That is the happiness—the essence—Good will towards men.”
Much exhausted with the effort, he desired all but Dr. Jeffries
and a favorite colored nurse, who had long been in his service, to leave the room, that he might rest. But, before he slept, he said, “Doctor you look sober. You think I shall not be here in the morning. But I shall. I shall greet the morning light.” The next forenoon, he repeated a similar assurance to his kind and faithful physician, who as he thought, again looked sad, though he was only overcome with fatigue and long watching. “Cheer up, Doctor—cheer up—I shall not die to-day. You will get me along to day.” And so he went on through Friday, giving comfort and kind thoughts to all who surrounded him. In the course of the morning, he attended to the public business that needed immediate care, and gave directions for every thing about his farm and household as usual, and, in the evening sent for the person who managed his affairs, and directed him, with more than his customary exactness, concerning all arrangements for the next day. But when the next day—Saturday—came, he felt as he had not felt before. He felt that it was his last day. About eight o'clock in the morning, therefore, he desired that all in the room should leave it, except Doctor Jeffries, who had been his physician for a long period, and who had now been in constant attendance on him, living in the house for above a week. During the night Mr. Webster perceived that he had grown weaker by excessive loss of blood from the stomach. He had just suffered afresh in the same way. But when he was certain that he was alone with his professional adviser, and that no loving ear would be pained by what he should say, he spoke in a perfectly clear and even voice, but with much solemnity, of manner, and said, “Doctor, you have carried me through the night. I think you will get me through the day. I shall die to-night.” The faithful physician, much moved, said, after a pause, “You are right, Sir.” Mr. Webster then went on : —“I wish you, therefore, to send an express to Boston for some younger person to be with you. I shall die to night. You are exhausted, and must be relieved. Who shall it be?” Dr. Jeffries suggested a professional brother, Dr. J. Mason Warren, adding that
he was the son of an old and faithful friend of Mr. Webster. Mr. Webster replied instantly, “Let him be sent for.”
Dr. Jeffries left the room to prepare a note for the purpose, and, on returning, found that Mr. Webster had made all the arrangements necessary for its dispatch, having given minute directions who should go;-what horse and what vehicle he should use;— and what road he should follow;-where he should take a fresh relay —and how he should execute his errand on reaching the city. . He also desired that some provision should be made for summoning some other professional friend, if Dr. Warren could not be found, or could not come; and, on being told that this, too, had been foreseen and cared for, he seemed much gratified, and said emphatically, “Right, right.”
After some repose, he conversed with Mrs. Webster, with his son, and with two or three other of the persons nearest and dearest to him in life, in the most affectionate and tender manner, not concealing from them his view of the approach of death, but consoling them with religious thoughts and assurances, as if support were more needful for their hearts than for his own. On different occasions, in the course of the day, he prayed audibly. Oftener, he seemed to be in silent prayer and meditation. But, at all times, he was quickly attentive to whatever was doing or needed to be done. He gave detailed orders for the adjustment of whatever in his affairs required it, and superintended and arranged everything for his own departure from life, as if it had been that of another person, for whom it was his duty to take the minutest care.
After nightfall, he received at his bed side each member of his family and household, the friends gathered under his roof, and the servants, most of whom having been long in his service had become to him as affectionate and faithful friends. It was a solemn and religious parting, in which, while all around him were overwhelmed with sorrow, he preserved his accustomed equanimity, speaking to each words of appropriate kindness and consolation which they will treasure hereafter among their most precious and life-long possessions.