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which, by extending your reputation, have given credit and fame to your country.
"None cherish with more interest these, the lasting memorials that you have given of your patriotism and devotion to the welfare of your fellow-citizens, than those who now tender this token of their esteem. "We have the honor to be, with the highest respect, "Your friends and fellow-citizens,
"ALFRED L. ELWYN. HENRY WHITE,
CHARLES W. CHURCHMAN, JACOB M. THOMAS,
DAVID S. BROWN, GEORGE McCLELLAND,
JOHN S. RIDDLE. ISAAC R. DAVIS.
FREDERICK FRALEY, WILLIAM D. LEWIS,
JOHN ASHHURST. JOHN RICE,
ALEXANDER H. FREEMAN, WILLIAM E. WHELAN.
JOSEPH B. MYERS. JOHN H. MARTIN,
SINGLETON A. MERCER, JOHN McCANDLESS,
THOMAS CHAMBERS, THOMAS SMITH.
SAMPSON TAMS. WILLIAM STRUTHERS."
To this letter Mr. Webster made the following reply in acceptance of the invitation: —
"Washington, May 1, 1846.
"Gentlemen, — I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your communication of the 27th of April, inviting me to a public dinner in Philadelphia.
"The character of this invitation, as well as the friendly manner in which it is expressed, give it a peculiar claim on my regard, and render it indeed, on my part, not easy to be declined.
"You describe those whom you represent, or who join you in this mark of respect, as 'men of business, removed from the party strifes of the country, though deeply affected and interested in all their relations by the action and agitation of party movements.'
"I deem it a high honor, Gentlemen, to be requested by such men to accept a mark of their esteem; and when my public duties shall allow, I will gladly meet you and your friends on such day as may suit your convenience.
"We are in the midst of all the business of one of the most important sessions of Congress which have been held under the Constitution. During its continuance I shall hardly be able to leave the duties of my place, even for a few days; but after its conclusion, if you will allow me, I will confer with you upon the time for carrying your very respectful purpose into effect.
"I am, Gentlemen, with entire regard,
"Your obedient servant,
"To Messrs. A. L. Elwyn, C. W. Churchman, D. S. Brown, and other Gentlemen of the Committee."
Mr. Webster's duties at Washington prevented this invitation from taking immediate effect, and other causes of delay occurring, the dinner was postponed till the 2d of December, when it took place in the great saloon of the Museum Building. Every arrangement was made to give the most imposing and agreeable effect to the festival. Preparation was made for the reception of a very large company, consisting of the subscribers to the dinner, and of guests particularly invited from the principal neighboring cities of the Union. The entertainment was of the most liberal description. The hall and the tables were richly and tastefully decorated. Wreaths, banners, arches, vases, and flowers, skilfully disposed, met the eye in every direction; and before the speaking commenced, the galleries were filled with ladies.
The Hon. Samuel Breck presided at the table, and, after one or two patriotic sentiments, addressed the company as follows: —
"Gentlemen,— I rise to propose a toast, expressive of the great esteem and honor in which we hold the illustrious guest whom we are assembled to welcome. It is cause for felicitation to have this opportunity to receive him, and to meet him at our festive board.
"In Philadelphia, we have long been accustomed to follow him, with earnest attention, in his high vocations in the legislative hall and in the Cabinet; and have always seen him there exercising his great talents for the true interests of our wide-spread republic. And we, in common with the American people, have felt the influence of his wisdom and patriotism. In seasons of danger, he has been to us a living comforter; and more than once has restored this nation to serenity, security, and prosperity.
"In a career of more than thirty years of political agitation, he, with courageous constancy, unwavering integrity, and eminent ability, has carried out, as far as his agency could prevail, the true principles of the American system of government.
"For his numerous public services we owe him much, and we open our grateful hearts to him in thanks; we say to him, with feelings of profound respect and warm affection, that we are rejoiced at his presence here, amid his Philadelphia friends, —his faithful Philadelphia friends and admirers.
"I offer you the health of
"Daniel Webster, — the faithful representative, the able negotiator, the fearless statesman, the eloquent Defender of the Constitution. His patriotic services demand our gratitude, his untarnished honor is the nation's property."
Mr. Breck, while making these remarks, was frequently interrupted by the cheers of the audience; and when at the close he introduced their distinguished guest, the most enthusiastic acclamations burst forth from the whole company. A considerable time elapsed before the excited feelings of the occasion were sufficiently subdued, to allow the voice of the orator to be heard in reply. When silence was at length restored, Mr. Webster delivered the following speech.
It seems proper to state, that, owing to the length of this speech, and the eagerness of the public to possess it without delay, it appears to have been written off from the reporter's notes with haste, and to have received very little, if any, revision from the author. It is evident that portions of it are presented in a fragmentary form.
PUBLIC DINNER AT PHILADELPHIA.*
Mr. Chairman, — It is my duty, in the first place, to express the uncommon emotions which I feel in rising to discuss important subjects in a presence like this. It has not been my fortune, heretofore, to enter upon such a duty as is now before me, while galleries like these have been filled by an assemblage of the worth and beauty of the sex. Gentlemen, I come among you to address you as men of business of the city of Philadelphia, men engaged in the honorable pursuits of private life, and having no other interest in the political events and occurrences of the day, than as the course and acts of government affect life and liberty, property and industry. You are merchants, you are therefore deeply concerned in the peace of the country, and in whatever respects its commercial prosperity. You are manufacturers, mechanics, artisans; you have an interest, therefore, in all those wise laws which protect capital and labor thus employed, all those laws which shed their benign influence over the industrial pursuits of human life. You are holders of city property, many of you are landholders in the country, many of you are occupiers and cultivators of your own land in the neighborhood of the city. Finally, I know you are all Americans, you are all members of this great and glorious republic, bound to its destiny, partaking of all the happiness which its government is calculated to afford, and interested in every thing that respects its present prospects and its future renown.
I am honored, Gentlemen, by an invitation to address such an assemblage of my fellow-citizens. I will say that it is always agreeable to me to speak, and to think, upon great questions respecting our political institutions, their progress and their results, in this city of Philadelphia. With no habits of public life but such as have connected me with the Constitution of the United States, accustomed somewhat to study its history and its principles, and called upon now, for some years, to take a part in its administration, so far as the action of Congress is concerned, it is natural that I should look back to the origin of that independence from which the Constitution sprung, and to the Constitution itself, out of which the government now established over us arose. These reflections bring with them agreeable local associations. The independence of our country was declared in yonder hall, the Constitution was framed, also, within the same venerable walls; and when one to whom that Declaration of Independence and that Constitution are objects of the highest human regard enters that hall, it is natural that he should gather around him, in imagination, the great men, the illustrious sages, who filled it on those successive occasions. They are all gone to their graves. But they have left their works behind them, as imperishable memorials of their wisdom.
* A Speech delivered at a Great Public Dinner, given to Mr. Webster at Philadelphia, on the 2d of December, 1846, Hon. Samuel Breck in the Chair.
The city of Philadelphia is, in all respects, much connected with the history of our country. She is, in all respects, interested in what affects the weal or woe of the republic. Her position along the line of the coast is central and important, her population is large, the occupations of her people are various; she is the capital of the great State of Pennsylvania, not improperly called the "keystone" of the arch of this Union.
Gentlemen, some years ago, in addressing a public meeting in the neighborhood of this city, I said, what I believed and now believe, that, with the exception of England, perhaps there is no spot upon the globe so abounding in natural riches as the State of Pennsylvania. She enjoys a mild and delightful climate, a rich and exuberant soil, certainly one of the best in the world, with mineral wealth beyond calculation. I know no portion of the globe that can go beyond her in any just statement of natural advantages, and of productive power. Pennsylvania, too, Gentlemen, is concerned in every interest that belongs to the country. On her eastern boundary she touches the tide-waters of the Atlantic, on her western border she reaches to the greal