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PUTNAM'S · MONTHLY.
A Magazine of Literatnre, Science, and
VOL. IX.--MARCH, 1857.—NO. LI.
WEBSTER'S PRIVATE CORRESPONDENCE.*
E hardly know of two volumes of the laudable curiosity which prompts us to
same size as thesc, and creating the compare his domestic character and desame expectations, which we have read portient with his general reputation. with so little profit. As a matter of There is eren more than curiosity in the professional duty, we have conscienti- impulse; there is a genuine love of what ously gone through them both, and we is noble and great in it—we admire a regret at least one-half the time spent person's abilities or his actions, and wo upon thein as so much time lost. Other think that all his life must be of a pieco readers, of different tastes and sympa- mrith these; and we seek to know him thies, will, probably, have other feelings more familiarly, that our appreciation in regard to them. In the carlier parts of excellenco inay be gratified and of the first volume, those which relato raised. The disposition to penetrate to Mr. Webster's ancestors and his into the interior life and relations of disyouth, we found ourselves much inter- tinguished men is a part of that heroested, but with cach succeeding leaf worship, in fact, which Mr. Carlyle has after that, the interest gradually flag- justly celebrated as one of the finest and ged, and it was with something of an best of human characteristics. It may effort that the attention was kept to the degenerate, it is true, into flunkeyisn. page. Now and then, a letter from and often does, and nowhere more extensome woman, gushing with sweetness sively than in the political circles of the and affection, as the letters of true wo- United States; but in itself it is commen always do, or a letter with a dis- mendable, and a sign of the profound tinguished name at the hicad of it, like sympathy which nien have for man that of Lafayette, or Chancellor Kent, everywhere. or one of Jr. Webster's own letters to Wo find no fault, therefore, in the the managers of his farms, remarkable attempt to gather the private memorials for their practical good sense, arrests of Mr. Webster into some enduring the mind for a longer time, but, on the form. llo was not only a man of suffiwhole, the collection is not a very at- cient eminence, both as to talent and tractive onc.
position, to justify such a proceeding, In one sense only is it attractive; but he had been so long and so largely cverybody wishes to see what a man, connected with our political history as who has figured conspicuously in public to render such a proceeding imperative. affairs, has to say to his intimate friends His executors or his friends were bound and to his family. It is a natural and to indulge public curiosity so far as tu
* The Private Correspondence of Daniel Webster. Edited by FLETCHER WESTER. 2 vols. Little, Brown & Co., Loston, 1857.
lift the veil from his seclusion. For been lost; and yet his editor does not nearly half a century Mr. Webster had complain of any want of materials ; for, been a conspicuous man ; liko Erskine after speaking of the great labor which and Brougham, he attained a first rank he and several of his friends had underat the bar almost as soon as he had ap- gone in arranging them, he adds that peared there; during the first term of " the chief difficulty has arisen from the liis service in Congress, he was singled necessity of exercising a severe judgout by the sagacity of Marshall and mont in making selections.” It must others, as giving promise of future also be acknowledged that his professtatesmanship; he took part in our most sional and public labors exacted a great iinportant constitutional discussions and deal of his time; but, as he found time political controversies; his name is in- to hunt a good deal, and to fish a good delibly connected with our diplomatic dcal, we have a right to imagine that affairs; tho six volumes of his collected the comparative sterility of his correworks are among the monuments of our spondence did not arise from any exliterature ; while, whatever he was, ho haustion of his powers in other ways. had made himself— for his carly means The cause of this deficiency we were scanty-and the only patronage may have occasion to advert to bythat he ever enjoyed he won by his own and-by; but, at present, let us proceed exertions. It is incvitable that such a to give a more detailed account of man and such a career should kindle the contents of this book. Four the most cager desire to know all that
years ago, just after the demise of it is proper to make known of his pri- Mr. Webster, his literary executors vate condition and experionce,
made application, by public notice and We are glad, consequently, to pos- private address, to liis correspondents sess these voluines, and yet, 110w that wo in this country and in Europe, for codo possess them, we are obliged to con- pies of his letters, which application fess to a considerable disappointment in was generally responded to, and the them. They are by no means equal collection before us is the result of that to the prestige of the naine they bear, proceeding. llis son, Mr. Fletcher From one who had occupied so high and Webster, has taken the part of editor continued an elevation, who had mingled in the work, but he appears to havo in so many important events, who had been assiduously helped by Mr. Georgo
so many remarkable persons, Ticknor, Mr. Edward Everett, Profeswhose intellectual powers were so un- sor Sanborn, Mr. William T. Harris, questionable, we expected more edify Mrs. Buckminster Lec, and others. ing and more entertaining letters than The first contribution to the volumes is most of these. We had supposed that an autobiography of Mr. Webster, of out of the fifty years' observation of about twenty-six pages, prepared some ihings, and the fifty years' intercourse years since for the private use of with men, of the leading statesman, the Mrs. Lee, and relating principally to his leading lawyer, the leading orator, and childhood and youth. It is a pleasant almost the leading citizen of his country, bit of reminiscence, written with modesty many rare, beautiful, and instructive and taste, and in a style of remarkremarks or incidents would be extracted. ablo sinplicity. In our estimation, it is We called to mind what we had recent the most agrecablo part of the whole ly read in the correspondence of a sim- work, partly on account of the charm ple and comparatively unknown German which always attaches to the younger book seller, named Perthes ; we called years of famous men, and partly boto mind what we read a year or two cause of the excellent English of the ago, in the correspondence of an Eng- words. We extract from it what Mr. lish school-tencher, Dr. Arnold, and, Webster says of the foundations of his though we did not anticipate the education : samo kind of pleasure in the corresponde:ice of Nr. Webster, who was
"I do not remember when or by whom I was
taught to read; because I camiot and never so different a man from either, we
could recoilect a time when I could not read did anticipate, froin the superiority of the Bible. I suppose I was taught by iny inohis position and of his opportunities, ther, or by my elder sisters. My father seemed something far inore valuable than we
to liave no higher object in the world, than to
educato his children, to the full extent of his have received. It cannot be doubted that
very limited ability. No means were within many of Ir. Webster's letters have
his reach, generally speaking, but the small
town-echools. These were kept by teachers, ance, in youth or manhood. He quotes, sufficiently indifferent, in the several neigh. borhoods of the township, oach & small part
in respect to them, what the Roman of the year. To these I was sent, with the
poet said of himself and his friend : other children. “When the school was in our neighborhood,
“Fraternis animis quidquid negat alter et it was easy to attend; when it removed to á alter, more distant district, I followed it, still living Animis pariter vetuli notique columbi." at home. While yet quite young, and in win. ter, I was sent daily two and a half or three Almost every page of their long and miles to the school. When it removed still frequent correspondence presents them further, my father sometimes boarded me out, in a neighboring family, so that I could still the relations of life, both public and
as mutual helpers and advisers, in all be in the school. A good deal of this was an extra care, more than had been bestowed on private. The younger brother, because my elder brothers, and originating in a con- his slender frame could not bear the foviction of the slenderness and frailty of my tigues of a farmer's life, was consecrated constitution, which was thought not likely ever to allow me to pursue robust occupation.
to study, but the other was no less eager “In these schools nothing was taught bat of collegiate opportunities. One day, reading and writing; and, as to these, the during a vacation of the former, they first I generally could perform better than the teacher, and the last a good master could being
educated, on the slender
had talked over the possibility of both hardly instruct me in ; writing was so labori. ous, irksome, and repulsive an occupation to their parents, and proposed the subject me always. My masters used to tell
me, that in a family council. The mother's reply they feared, after all, my fingers were destined for the plough-tail.
came fresh from a true mother's heart: "I must do myself the justice to say that, in
“I have lived long in the world and been those boyish days, there were two things I did happy in my children. If Daniel and dearly love, viz.: reading and playing ; pas. Ezekiel will promise to take care of me, sions which did not cease to struggle when boyhood was over (bave they yet altogether?),
in my old age, I will consent to the sale and in regard to which neither the cita mors
of all our property at once, and they nor the victoria lata could be said of either. may enjoy the benefit of what remains
“At a very early day, owing, I believe, after our debts are paid.” By hook and mainly to the exertions of Mr. Thompson, the lawyer, the clergymau, and my father, a very
by crook, however, they both managed to small circulating library had been bought. get through college without this extreme These institutions, I believo, about that time resort, but not without experiencing a received an impulse, among other causes, from the cfforts of Dr. Belknap, our New
good many severe drains on the locker. Hampshire historian. I obtained some of
Even while they were studying law, and these books, and read them. I remember tho alternately teaching school to get the Spectator among them; and I remember, too, wherewithal, the financial deficit appears that I turned over the leaves of Addison's to have continued. "Dan" writes to criticism on Chevy Chase, for the sake of reading connectedly the song, the verses of
“Zeke" from Salisbury, in a letter of which he quotes, from time to time, as subjects November 4th, 1802: “Now, Zeke, of remark. It was, as Dr. Johnson said in you will not read half a sentence, no, another case, the poet that was read and the critic was neglected. I could not understand
not one syllable, before you have thowby it was pecessary that the author of the roughly searched this sheet for scrip; Spectator should take such great pains to but, my word for it, you will find no prove that Chevy Chase was a good story; scrip here. We held a sanhedrim this thet was the last thing I doubted.
"I was fond of poetry. By far the greater morning on the subject of cash ; could part of Dr. Watts's Psalms and Hymns i not hit upon any way to get you any; could repeat memoriter, at ten or twelve just before we went away to hang ouryears of age. I am sure that no other sacred
selves through disappointment, it came poetry will ever appear to me so affecting and devout."
into our heads that next week might do.
The truth is, father had an execution This is followed by a sketch of an against Hubbard of N. Chester, for elder brother of Mr. Webster, Ezekiel, about one hundred dollars; the money to whom he was strongly attached, and was collecting and just ready to drop whu, if he had lived, would have reach. into the hands of the creditors, when ed an eminence scarcely inferior to that Hubbard suddenly died." *** "I have • of Daniel. Professor Sanborn, who now by me two cents in lawful federal furnishes the sketch, says that there currency ; next week I will send them, if existed between these brothers a re- they be all; they will buy a pipo; with markable unity of opinion, sentiment, a pipe you can smoke; smoking inspires and reflection. They were never known wisdom; wisdoin is allied to fortitude ; to disagree, upon any matter of import from fortitude it is but one step to
stoicism ; and stoicism never pants for of Europe leaguod together for our destruc:
tion. No, Bingham, intestine feuds alone I
fear. The French faction, though quelled, is cents, by this process, may put you not eradicatod. The southern states in comquite at ease about cash." This aerial motion; a democrat the head of the execuphilosophy, however, did not seem to tive in Virginia; a whole country in arms relieve Ezekiel's necessities; for, ten
against the government of McKcan, in Penn
sylvania; Washington, the great political ce. days after, we find him writing: “Money, ment, dead, and Adams almost worn down Daniel, money! As I was walking down with years and the weight of cares. These to the office after a letter, I happened cousiderations, operating on a mind naturally to find one cent, which is the only timorous, excite unpleasant emotions. In my money I have had since the second day calamities. I already sce, in my imagination, I camo on. It is a fact, Dan, that I was the time when the banner of civil war shall be called on for a dollar where I owed it, unfurled; when discord's hydra form shall set and borrowed it, and have borrowed
up her bideous yell, and from her bundred
mouths shall howl destruction through our four times since, to pay those I borrow. empire; and when American blood shall bo ed of."
made to flow in rivers, by American swords ! Next to the sketch of Ezekiel Web- But propitious Hoaven prevent such dread. ster, we have personal reminiscences of
ful calamitics! Internally secure, we have
nothing to fear. Let Europe pourher embat. Daniel's college life, by several of his tled millions around us, let her thronged coquondam companions. They show that horts cover our shores, from St. Lawrence to he stood well as a scholar; that his con- St. Marie's, yet, United Columbia sball stand duct was exemplary; that he was a ca
uomoved; the inanes of her deceased Washing
ton shall guard the liberties of his country,
We have no doubt that friend Harvey,
very fine ; but both of them must have
was the poetry, which Mr. Webster in
dited about that period, a wbit better. belles-lettres line, at that tiine, if we
As a specimen, we take a few lines from may judge from some of the specimens
a longer poem, from “ Mr. Webster to
" Since, fricnd Habijah, you aro thus distrest,
Since loves ficrce tortures thus influme
And lier fair form before you always seems,
A little poetry, perhaps, might roll
Love's boiling torrent from your troubled
May sootho my pains, but not the pains of
love; These events are attended with such
For those blest fields, where love's gay
No longer on those verdant bauks I tread,
No louger wunder o'er the flowery mcud;
Those fragrant lawns of love, which you
Come, then, together let us beat the field,
Where art and science their best laurels
his prose was somewhat modeled after
dallied with the muse, and only on a estness, in the mouth of a young man, single occasion was tempted into rhyme. in the very heyday of enthusiasm, seems
But I must disclose the cause, " he to us to display a remarkable want of says, in a playful letter to a friend, sensibility or perception. The experi“of such a daring effort. On the after- ence, we believe, of a majority of the noon preceding the evening of a ball, a young men who seriously engage in the lady of my acquaintance trod upon some study of the law, is, that Blackstone is sharp tool, and cut her foot. On this, one of the most charming of books, out iny muse, who had slept some years, of the range of poetry or fiction. E conbroke out like an Irish rebellion,' when tra, however, Dugald Stewart says, “that nobody expected it, and produced the those who have risen to the greatest following, which, in point of sentiment eminence in the profession of the law, and language, I know you will think have been, in general, such as had at equal to anything in Homer.”
first an aversion to the study.” But * Rust ecize the are, the lioc, or spade,
we do not believe that Stewart's theory Which in your foot this zaslı has made, could be maintained by the actual hisWhich cui thro' kid, and silk, and skin, tory of great lawyers. If our memory To spill the blood that was within : By which you're forced to creep and crawl,
serves, the greatest of them have shown Nor frisk ånd frolic at the ball!
an early and persistent avidity for the
law, not only as a science but as a "But Clara, Clara! tere thy heart
practice. Blackstone himself made some As tender as thy pedul part, From thy sweet lips did love but flow
doggerel verses against it, as Canning Switt as ihe blood gushcd from thy toe,
did afterwards—but that was rather in So many beaux would not complain, jest than earnest; whilo Mansfield, That all their bows and voivs arc vain."
Hale, Thurlow and others have paid Yet, though he deserted poetry for the most magnificent compliments to tho lair, what strikes us as somewhat their profession. Indeed, some of the singular in one who afterwards attained greatest lawyers have been so enamored so high a reputation as a lawyer, Mr. of it from the beginning, as to be almost Webster did not like the pursuit-at unwilling to yield a moment to any other leitst, he did not like the study of it in pursuit. Believing—thougli erroneouscarly life. In more than one place, lic ly, as we think—in the old proverb, which speaks in great disparagement of lart, says, that " Lady Law must lie alone,” both as a study and as a practice. they have scarcely allowed of any conWriting to a young friend (Mr. Cook), current attachments in her votaries. in 1803, when lic was twenty-two years Not only in the law, but in politics of age,
: “I am not informed and in his general views of life, Mr. what profession you are determined to Webster began with less generous senstudy; but if it be law, permit me to timents than one ordinarily expects from tell you a little what you must expect. a young man. Writing to his friend My esperience in the study is, indeed, Bingham, in 1803, he says: “It is very short; but I have learnt a little about strange, Bingham, and very true, that it. First, then, you must bid adicu to men do, as often as otherwise, choose all hopes of meeting with a single author the most ignorantof mankind to instruct, who pretends to elegance of style or and the most wicked to govern. Can sweetness of observation (sic). The you lielp, can I help, can anybody of language of the law is dry, hard, and sense help despising mankind, and destubborn as an old maid. Murdered spising himself for belonging to manLatin bleeds through every page; and kind, if, in every instance, vice and if Tully and Virgil could rise from their folly laugh virtue and wisdom out of graves, they would soon be at fisticuffs countenance ?" There are other paswith Coke, Hale, and Blackstone for sages to the same effect, showing that, massacreing their language. As to the while young Webster may have been practice, I believe it is a settled matter possessed of great intellectual vigor, that the business of an office is con- Liis affections were not correspondingly ducted with the very refuse and reinnant warm. Hc expresses great attachment of mankind." Mr. Webster, doubtless, to his friends and relatives, and loved acquired juster notions of his profession some of them, particularly his father as he became more acquainted with it; and brother, with ardor ; but, though but such language, which is not put living in an age of the profoundest es. forth as banter, but in downright carn- citement and significance, wo discover