網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

in his favor. I have hitherto lived much with the enemies and political opponents of Webster, and have heard him attacked and keenly criticised in many ways. now convinced that he may be perfectly honest in his convictions, and I will believe that he is so. He spoke for Clay's Compromise Bill, gave in his full adherence to it, declaring that he considered it, at the present moment, as furnishing the necessary terms of reconciliation between the contending states, and that he considered this reconeiliation necessary to the stability and the future welfare of the Union.

He said, “I have faith in a wise mediatrix, in a heal. ing vitality in the nation as well as in private individuals, and that, whatever may be the faults and short-comings with which we are now chargeable, yet that we shall all the sooner rid ourselves of these, if we only hold together in a high-minded spirit of forbearance, instead of rending asunder our band in blind over-haste.”

“As to Utah,” said Webster, “ let her sit upon her salt plain, on the shores of her salt lake, for yet a few years,

if it is necessary,” which called forth a general smile. He then summed up in strong, short sentences, each sentence a picture, the record of what each different state, the Pilgrim as well as the Palmetto State, had been to each other during their war of Independence; what they had suffered, how they had striven together for the general good, and ended by admonishing them to turn their regards from private interests to the common weal, to maintain the Constitution which their fathers had founded, and to practice more than ordinary virtue! “As far as myself am concerned,” said he, “I will stand by the Union and all who stand by it. I propose to stand firmly by the Constitution, and need no other platform. I will do justice to the whole nation ; I will recognize only our country; let the consequences to myself be whatever they may, I trouble not myself about that. No man can suffer too much, or

fall too soon, if he suffer and if he fall in defense of his country's freedom and Constitution !"

Webster had begun his speech calmly, heavily, and without apparent life. Toward the end of the speech his cheek had acquired the glow of youth, his figure became more erect, he seemed slender and full of vivacity; and as he spoke the last concluding words, he stood in full manly, almost Apollo-like beauty, in the midst of that fascinated, listening assembly, stood, still calm, without any apparent design, but as if reposing himself, happy and free, in the quiet grandeur of the song which he had sung. Ah! that he had but sung one still more beautiful—a yet nobler song, all then had been perfect-a victory for the light as for himself! But while he spoke for the freedom of California, he spoke also for the recapturing of the fugitive slave, even upon that formerly free soil, and no spot of American soil may ever again be said to be the home of freedom. The unhappy circumstances of the time, political necessity compelled him to this step; he could not do otherwise-so I believe; and I believe also in his confession of faith, "I believe in a healing vitality in the people,” &c.; and believe that it will show itself prophetically true.

I will, however, now tell you the impression produced by this speech. I never witnessed any thing which more took hold upon the attention, or had a more electrifying effect. Amid the profound silence with which he was listened to, nay, as if the whole assembly held its breath, burst forth again and again thunders of applause; again and again was the speaker, the senator from Alabama, obliged to remind, and finally very severely to remind, the audience in the galleries that it was forbidden thus to give expression to their applause. With every new lightningflash of Webster's eloquence burst forth anew the thunder of applause, which was only silenced by the desire to listen yet again to the speaker. From this fairly enchanted

audience I turned my glance to one countenance which beamed with joy so warm, so pure, that I could not do otherwise than sympathize in the liveliest manner, for this countenance was that of Webster's wife. I have heard it said that when she first heard her husband speak in public she fainted; yet she looks like a strong, and by no means a nervous woman.

No one can, even in the effect which it produces, form too high an idea of Webster's power as a speaker; of the classical beauty and strength of his language, or the pow. er and deep intensity of voice with which he utters that to which he desires to give strong effect. If this is not an unusually great natural power—for it has the appear. ance of being altogether simple and natural—then it is very great art. Our Archbishop Wallin is the only speaker whom I have heard who in this respect resembles Webster, and who was possessed of an equal power over his hearers.

In general, the speakers in this country scream too much; they are too violent, and shout and roar out their words as if they would be very powerful. Henry Clay is free from this fault, but he is evidently more impulsive and has less control over himself than Webster. Although the Compromise Bill has now both these great statesmen on its side, yet it is the general opinion that it will not be carried, at least in its present omnibus character-nay, that it is lost already. Henry Clay, who has battled for it these seven months, fights for it still, almost liko a dying gladiator, and it really quite distresses me to see him, excited and violent, almost like a youth, with trembling, death-like hands, so thin and pallid are the fingers, push back the white locks from the lofty brow over which they are continually thrown by the violent movements of his head while he is speaking or replying to attacks made upon him in the Senate. Webster is more beautiful, and calmer in his whole demeanor. Nevertheless, I see in

Clay the patriotic hero, who will conduct his native land and his countrymen onward along the path of freedom; while Webster, with all his beauty and his power as an orator, is to me merely like a great national watchman, who keeps watch that the Constitution does not take fire in any of her old corners. Webster is a mediator; a man of the Union. He is a pacificator, but not a regenerator.

July 20th. I am never able to write to you when I wish; my time is so much occupied. The great question yet remains undecided in Congress, and statesmen fight for it to the death. Since I have seen the personal contests here, nothing appears to me more natural than the enthusiasm of the Americans for their statesmen, because heroic virtue and heroic courage is required in this intellectual combat, and that of a much higher quality than is called forth in bloody war.

Yet neither is this war bloodless, although blood may not be seen to flow; the best blood of the human heart wells up and is consumed here amid the keen conflict of words.

I was yesterday witness of a single combat between the lion of Kentucky and the hawk of Missouri, which made my blood boil with indignation. Colonel Benton had, the day before, made a violent attack on Clay's Compromise Bill, during which he said, “The bill is caught in the fact -flagrante delictoI have caught it by the neck, and here hold it up to shame and opprobrium before the public gaze" (and with this Mr. Benton held the bill rolled up aloft in his hand), “caught it just as it was about to perpetrato its crime, just as it was about to," &c., &c. Of a truth, for three whole hours did Benton labor, with a real lust of murder, to crush and annihilate this "monster," as he called Clay's bill—to attack even Clay himself with all kinds of weapons, endeavoring to hold him up also to public disapprobation and public derision in a manner which betrayed hatred and low malice. This attack occupied nearly the whole of the day.

VOL. I.--X

Yesterday Clay rose to reply, and called upon the Sen. ate to disapprove of expressions such as those that I have given; but by this he only irritated the wild beast of Missouri to a still more personal attack, and I felt an abhor. rence of that evidently cold blooded delight with which he, when he had discovered a weak place in Clay's position, seemed to gripe him in his claws and regularly dig into his flesh and blood. Pardon me, my child, for using so coarse an expression, but I only paint, and that in wa. ter-colors, the character of the transaction. Among other things, I remember the following:

Benton mentioned some points in the bill regarding which, he said, he had noticed Clay to be sensitive. “I see,” said he, “that the senator of Kentucky is particularly impatient about that passage. I shall, therefore, at once dissect it, I shall at once apply the knife to its quivering nerves !" and with this he turned up his coat-sleeves perhaps unconsciously—as if preparing himself for an operation which he should perform with gusto. I saw before me the cold blooded duellist, perhaps turning up thus his sleeves that he might have his wrists at liberty slowly to take aim, and finally to shoot his adversary. How I abhorred that man and his ignoble mode of combat! A strong, noble anger is a refreshing sight to witness; but this beast of prey's lust of torture--shame!

That the lion of Kentucky felt the claws and the beak of the hawk, I could see by the glow on his cheek, and by his hasty, feverish movements when he rose once or twice in self-defense. Yet all the more did I admire his not allowing himself to go into any personality, nor yet to retort in any other way than by remaining silent during a great part of his adversary's tedious operation, and by his continuing to be a gentleman vis-à-vis a beast of prey, who gave himself

up to the coarse instincts of his nature. But I could not help being surprised that, during the long time that this quarrel lasted, no high-minded sentiment

« 上一頁繼續 »