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The Works of Daniel Webster

Brownson's Quarterly Review, July 1852

Art. III.— The Works of Daniel Webster.  Boston: Little and Brown.    1851.    6 vols.    8vo.

This is a much more complete edition of Mr. Webster's works than has heretofore appeared, but it does not embrace the entire series of his writings. " Such a series," the editor tells us, " would have required a larger number of volumes than was deemed advisable with reference to the general circulation of the work. A few juvenile performances have accordingly been omitted, as not of suffi-eient importance or maturity to be included in the collection. Of the earlier speeches in Congress, some were either not reported at all, or in a manner too imperfect to be preserved without doing injustice to the author. No attempt has been made to collect from the contemporaneous newspapers or Congressional registers the short conversational speeches and remarks made by Mr. Webster, as by other prominent members of Congress, in the progress of debate, and sometimes exercising greater influence on the result than the set speeches. Of the addresses to public meetings it has been found impossible to embrace more than a selection, without swelling the work to an unreasonable size. It is believed, however, that the contents of these volumes furnish a fair specimen of Mr. Webster's opinions and sentiments on all the subjects treated, and of his manner of discussing them. The responsibility of deciding what should be omitted and what included has been left by Mr. Webster to the friends having the charge of the publication, and his own opinion on details of this kind has rarely been taken." The volumes before us should, therefore, be entitled A Selection from the Works of Daniel Webster; although it is but simple justice to the editor to say, that the selection has been made with taste and judgment, and we are aware of no omission that any of Mr. Webster's friends will seriously regret, unless it be some of his earlier speeches in Congress, especially the speech on the Conscription Bill. The speeches, addresses, law arguments, and diplomatic and state papers, on which his fame must rest, and which exhibit his character as a scholar, orator, lawyer, statesman, and diplomatist, are all included.

The editor, himself one of our most distinguished scholars and an eminent publicist, has preceded the collection by an admirable Biographical Memoir of the author, written with great judgment and delicacy. It is no easy task to write the life of an eminent man while he is still living, and yet the editor has done it in a manner to satisfy the partialities of friendship, without offending the modesty of the illustrious subject or the fidelity of history. The tone of the Memoir is of course laudatory, but it is subdued, and probably says no more in praise than posterity will ratify. Some few shades may be necessary to render the portrait a perfect likeness, but the judgments passed upon the talents, opinions, and services of the author are, in general, solid and just, such as time will confirm, not reverse.

Mr. Webster is of Scottish extraction, and was born in Salisbury, New Hampshire, January 18th, 1782. He pursued his preparatory studies at Phillips Academy, Exeter, and graduated, August, 1801, at Dartmouth College, in his native State. He immediately entered the office of Mr. Thompson, the next-door neighbor of his father, as a student of law, and subsequently studied awhile in the office of the Hon. Christopher Gore in this city. He was admitted to the practice of the law for the Court of Common Pleas of the County of Suffolk, Boston, in 1805, and as an attorney and counsellor of the Superior Court of New Hampshire in 1807, when he removed to Portsmouth, where he appears to have been immediately and eminently successful in his profession. In 1812 he was elected a member of Congress, and again in 1815. In 1816 he removed from Portsmouth to Boston, which has continued to be his home ever since, although, when not called away by his official duties, he for a few years past has usually resided on his farm in Marshfield, in the Old Colony. In 1820 he was chosen a member of the Convention called to revise the Constitution of this Commonwealth, and in the autumn of 1822 was elected a member of the Eighteenth Congress, from Boston. Since then, with scarcely an interval, he has been connected with the general government, as Representative, Senator, or Secretary of State, and has, during the whole period of nearly forty years, been identified with the public history of his country, and exerted a large share of influence on our public policy.

It is not our purpose, in the few remarks we propose to offer on the occasion of a new edition of Mr. Webster's works, to speak at much length of his character as a lawyer or as a statesman. As a statesman, we have often spoken of him, and perhaps enough has been said. He has proved himself one of the very few American statesmen who are able to compare favorably with the higher class of European statesmen, and his views are such as may be honestly commended, with very slight exceptions, for their patriotism, comprehensiveness, and practical wisdom. It is rare that we should now, whatever may have been the case formerly, dissent from his domestic policy; but his foreign policy, although more in accordance with the general sentiment of the great body of his countrymen than the one we should approve, appears to us, in some respects, narrow and illiberal, wrong in principle and dangerous in tendency. In his judgment of the Continental monarchical states he is still a disciple of the eighteenth century, a believer, substantially, in the contrat social, and what is called a Liberal. He is not, intentionally, a Jacobin, or a Red Republican, and would, most likely, had he been old enough at the time, have sided with Burke in his denunciation of the old French Revolution; but he would, nevertheless, have denounced it in its excesses, rather than in its principle. He and the Jacobin have the same point of departure, and differ only in this, — that the Jacobin will carry out the principle common to them both logically to its last consequence, while Mr. Webster, restrained by his good sense and practical wisdom, shrinks from going so far, and attempts to stop short of the proper logical extreme, apparently not perceiving that a principle that will not bear being pushed to its last logical conclusion is false, and ought not to be admitted at all.

Mr. Webster is, perhaps, not vehemently opposed to what may be called a parliamentary or representative monarchy, — we say not, as he would, constitutional monarchy, for every monarchy that governs by laws is a constitutional, even a limited monarchy; — but he evidently understands by a constitutional monarchy a representative or parliamentary monarchy, and recognizes the strict legality of no monarchical government unless it is, to use the expression of Lafayette, a monarchy surrounded by republican institutions, or a monarchy compelled to govern in conjunction with a parliament, in one or both of its branches chosen by popular suffrage. No government that does not recognize in some form the democratic element, or rather the sovereignty of the people, in the Jacobinical sense, is, in his view, a strictly legal or legitimate government. Hence, without sympathizing with the socialistic tendencies of the age in their developments, and without wishing in the least to weaken the foundations of law and of order, he is the determined enemy of all the monarchical governments of Europe which are not based on popular sovereignty, and do not rule by means of parliaments qy representative assemblies; and he holds it the duty of our government to exert all the influence it can on and through public opinion in encouragement and aid of the party, in all monarchical countries, exerting themselves to revolutionize them, and establish popular institutions in their place.

Mr. Webster evidently adopts the Canning policy, adopted and pursued with such disastrous success during the last twenty years by Mr. Canning's pupil, Lord Palm-erston, late Foreign Secretary of the British government,— the policy of intervention, if not by armed force, at least by diplomacy and public opinion, by exertions to create and foster a public opinion everywhere hostile to strictly monarchical governments, and by encouraging the subjects of such governments to make illegal efforts to subvert them. Mr. Canning and Lord Palmerston adopted and pursued this policy for the sake of introducing into every European Continental state the parliamentary system of Great Britain ; Mr. Webster, perhaps, would have little choice whether that system or our own were introduced, but one or the other he insists upon, as we may collect from his speech in Congress on the affairs of Greece in 1823, and his remarkable letter to Chevalier Hiilsemann, in December, 1850, in defence of General Taylor's administration for sending Mr. Dudley Mann to treat, if he had a chance, with the rebellious Hungarians, then in arms against their sovereign. We need not say that we regard this policy as, repugnant to the laws of nations, and as founded upon a false theory of the origin and principles of government. The sovereignty of the people, in the Jacobinical sense, is not a truth, and can be consistently asserted by no man who does not deny the existence of God. Its assertion is the assertion of atheism in politics, and hence every system of policy which presupposes it must be condemned by every one who believes in God and understands himself.

When Mr. Webster speaks as a lawyer, according to the principles and maxims of the Common Law, what he says is remarkable for its good sense, its profound truth, and its practical wisdom; for then he speaks in accordance with the teachings of our holy religion, which forms the basis of that law; but when he leaves that and undertakes to discuss cpiestions which lie further back, he is the disciple of Hampden, Sydney, Locke, and Rousseau, and proceeds from principles which he did not learn from the law, and which are utterly repugnant to it. This is not a peculiarity of Mr. Webster; it was equally the case with the elder Adams, and, indeed, with the whole of the old Federal party; and it was this that prostrated them, notwithstanding their personal respectability and practical wisdom, before their less scrupulous, but more logical and self-consistent rivals, headed by Thomas Jefferson. They were via media men, adopting two contradictory sets of principles, and laboring to reconcile them by stopping half way with each ; while their rivals had but one set of principles, which they were prepared to follow whithersoever they should lead. Hence Federalism, inferior in a logical, but far superior in a practical point of view, or in practical wisdom and common sense, was obliged to succumb to virtual Jacobinism, greatly to the permanent injury, perhaps to the ultimate ruin, of the country, — certainly much to the regret of every intelligent and true-hearted American.

We own that we admire the English constitution as it originally existed, but we do not admire it in its present state. In the original constitution of England the democratic element in the modern sense, or rather the Jacobinical element, had no place, and the sovereign people were simply the King and Parliament. The excellence of the system consisted in its being a government of estates. The House of Commons did not represent the people of England, but the Commons Estate, with a negative on each of the other estates. The positive power was in the crown, which had the initiative of all measures, and the power of the Lords and Commons was, properly, only a negative power, or the veto which each could place on those measures of the positive power,—the Lords by refusing to advise them or to assent to them, and the Commons by refusing to vote the supplies. Thus the unity and efficiency of the government were preserved, while ample security against its power to oppress either the nobility or the commonalty was provided. But Parliament has now virtually usurped the positive power of government, and indeed formally; for, if we mistake not, the initiative of measures is no longer the exclusive prerogative of the crown, and since the Reform Bill of 1832, the House of Commons has very nearly become a representative assembly in the democratic sense, — representing not simply an estate, but the people of England. It may not do this perfectly as yet, but the clamor and agitation for reform will be continued till it does, and then, when the House of Commons represents, not the Commons Estate; but the English people, the king and peers will be found to be mere excrescences on the body politic; they will then be lopped off", and Great Britain will become a pure democracy, and thence a pure anarchy. The tendency to a pure democracy is now fearfully strong, and a democratic revolution in that country is not an improbable, perhaps not a distant event. Mr. Canning's policy, so steadily pursued by Lord Palmerston, of encouraging democratic revolutions abroad, has reacted and is reacting with terrible force upon England herself, and can hardly fail to produce there the evils it has produced in such abundance on the Continent, especially in the Spanish and Italian peninsulas.

Wc sympathize fully with Mr. Webster in his love of liberty, and perhaps we should be found, in case of trial, a more unflinching enemy than he of despotism of every kind ; but we think he falls into the common mistake of identifying liberty with popular institutions. It is a narrow and un-statesmanlike view to suppose that liberty is possible only where the people are represented in parliament, or have a positive power in enacting the laws under which they are to live. Liberty, we grant, is not possible under a despotism, that is, a government of mere will; but it is possible under any and every government that is a government of laws, where the sovereign governs only by a fixed code, or in accordance with laws previously enacted and promulgated, as is the case with every Christian or nominally Christian government in Europe, even with that of Russia. Laws prejudicial to individual liberty may, no doubt, be enacted and promulgated by governments constituted like the Prussian, the Russian, or the Austrian, and so they may be under governments constituted like the English, or even our own, as we may see in the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill enacted by the British Parliament, and in the " Maine Liquor Law," recently enacted by several of the States of the Union, and among the rest by the free and liberty-loving Massachusetts; for you shall in vain search the archives of the most despotic states of Europe to find enactments more repugnant, at least in principle, to the liberty of the subject, or more really arbitrary in their nature. Parliamentary governments with a king, as, in Great Britain, or without a king, as with us, are a clumsy and a very expensive sort of government, and it is perhaps chiefly prejudice on our part that makes us regard them as necessarily superior, in themselves considered, to all other governments. Whether the state of our country and the habits of our people, which unquestionably demand such government and render every other unwise and impracticable for us, be a real advantage, or in fact only a disadvantage, is a question on which something may be said on both sides.   Perhaps the fact that none but a republican government, resting for its basis on universal suffrage, is practicable or to be thought of for our country, is not, after all, any conclusive proof in itself that we are so much in advance of other nations as we commonly suppose.    We are not certain that France, if she were prepared for a republic like ours, as she evidently is not, could be said to be farther advanced in civilization than she now is, or than she was under Louis the Fourteenth or Louis the Ninth. A nation's rank in the scale of civilization is determined, not by the mere form of its government, but by the wisdom and justice of its laws, and the alacrity and fidelity with which they are obeyed.    In encouraging the subjects of the   European   Continental states to rebel against  their sovereigns, for the purpose  of introducing parliamentary or representative governments, whether in the English or American form, it is far from being certain that we are encouraging them to effect a change for the better.    God, in his providence, gives to each people the political constitution that is best adapted to its character and wants, and experience as well as philosophy makes it pretty certain that every fundamental change in that constitution invariably becomes  a   prolific  source of evil.     Mr. Webster's policy, that our government should take its stand on the side of modern  Liberalism, and exert itself officially to create, throughout the world, and in monarchical states, a public opinion hostile to monarchy, and through that public opinion to cherish movements for popular institutions, is not, in our judgment, a policy likely to serve either the cause of good government or that of* true liberty.

Mr. Webster is a lawyer, and we are surprised that he should attribute the freedom and prosperity of our citizens to our political institutions, instead of attributing them, as should be done, to the Common Law, or the system of jurisprudence brought here by our fathers, and inherited from the England that was before the Reformation. It is the Common Law, with the independent judiciary under it, which Mr. Webster has on more occasions than one so nobly and so powerfully defended, that constitutes the real ground and support of our liberties. Take away the Common Law, either by substituting a written code for it, or by suffering its principles to be tampered with by the legislatures of the several States, as has been done in those that have adopted the  Maine Liquor Law, for instance, and destroy the independence of the judiciary by rendering the judges elective for a brief term of office, and reeligible, and you will soon find that your political forms are impotent to preserve the freedom and prosperity of the citizen. Yet an independent judiciary is discovered to be antidemocratic, and the tendency is now everywhere to sweep it away; public opinion is setting in with a strong tide against the Common Law, and it is discovered to be democratic to abolish it, and substitute for it an inflexible written code, with new and inept systems of practice, which, while they increase litigation, render justice generally unattainable, except by mere chance.

But be all this as it may, the policy which Mr. Webster has adopted from Mr. Canning is in our judgment unjust, and repugnant to the laws of nations. It assumes for us a sort of dictatorship, or at least supervisorship, over other nations, wholly incompatible with their dignity and independence. We will not say that the government is not free to express officially its opinion, whatever it may be, on a fact accomplished in a foreign independent nation, but it has no right to express an official opinion for the purpose of bringing about a violent change in its form of government, except in those cases in which, if it deemed it expedient, it would have the right to support its opinion by an armed force, or a declaration of war. A government may express its opinion on a revolution in a foreign state when once really effected, and, unless bound by treaty to do otherwise, may treat the revolutionary government, or government de facto, as the legitimate government of the state; but it has no right to express any official opinion for the purpose of effecting, or causing to be effected, a revolution. There is no difference in principle between effecting a revolution by expressly creating a public opinion that brings it about, and effecting it by direct intervention with armed force. The means by which you effect a revolution cannot justify your effecting it, unless you have the sovereign right to effect it; and if you have the sovereign right to effect it, you may effect it by armed force, if you choose. It is an admitted principle in international law, that every independent nation has the right to choose its own form of government, and to determine its own domestic institutions, without the dictation or interference of its neighbors; and also, that nations exist to each other only in their supreme government, or political sovereign. There can be no right, then, on the part of one independent nation, to intervene in any way in the domestic affairs of another, for the purpose of revolutionizing or changing its government. It has no right officially to address the people of a foreign state, or to hold any official communication with them, save through its sovereign, and it gives just cause of complaint whenever it attempts to do so.

This rule is founded in natural justice, and is necessary for the peace and happiness of mankind. It is as much for our interest to observe this rule, as it is for that of any other nation. We cannot assert the right of rebellion, and encourage the subjects of other states to conspire against their sovereign, without weakening the loyalty of our own citizens, and paving the way for a revolution at home, that is, such a revolution as is possible with us. A rebellion against the constituted authorities, except in certain localities and for a brief moment, is not possible in this country, because the power is already in the hands of the people, and the government is subject to their will. A revolution here must necessarily assume the form of removing the restrictions imposed by the law of the land on the exercise of the popular will, or, in other words, of destroying the independence of the judiciary, and abolishing the Common Law. The Common Law, which we have inherited from our English ancestors, is the law of the land, and the law that regulates the relations not only between individual and individual, but to some extent between the citizen and the state. It is our rule of justice, and as no constitution or legislative enactment has, or can have, the force of law, if contrary to justice, it follows that any constitutional provision or legislative enactment repugnant to the principles of the Common Law is ipso facto null and void, and may be declared so and set aside by the Common Law courts. This Mr. Webster has himself proved, if we understand him, in a most triumphant manner, in his masterly argument in the Supreme Court of the United States in the Dartmouth College case, — an argument which does him the highest honor, and which ought to be read and meditated at least once a year by every American citizen. The revolution we have to dread is not a revolution avowedly for the purpose of overthrowing the government, or changing its form, but a revolution which abolishes the Common Law, and leaves us no restraints on lawless power, and no standard of justice but the will or caprice of the majority for the time being. This revolution has commenced and is in process amongst us, and every word we utter in encouragement of revolutions abroad becomes a still greater encouragement to this silent, and as yet bloodless, revolution going on here at home. Liberty here no more than anywhere else is possible without the sacredness of law, and that sacredness is struck here whenever we strike it abroad. A false principle, asserted for the accomplishment of a foreign purpose deemed desirable, is sure, sooner or later, to return and effect a domestic purpose not desirable. There is a moral order in the government of the world, and nations no more than individuals can transgress it with impunity, and nations, as individuals, will find that they are generally punished in that wherein they have sinned, or that their sins prove to be their punishment.

We have dwelt the longer on this point, because it is almost the only thing in Mr. Webster's course as a statesman that we find to disapprove. In almost every other respect we can admire and honor his public life. It is the only instance in which we have found his general policy unjust or dangerous in principle, however we might dissent from it in some of its details. It is the only stain we are aware of on his public character. Yet we ought in justice to say, that in this he has but followed the public sentiment of his country, and of a powerful party in Great Britain. We ourselves once applauded him for it, and we still remember the exultation with which we read, in 1823, his speech in Congress on the affairs of Greece, At that time nobody in the country, to our knowledge, questioned the justice of the policy, however some might doubt its expediency. Under Mr. Monroe's administration the whole country seemed carried away with a spirit of pro pagan d-ism, and, though the wild democracy against which we have such frequent occasion to warn our readers was then far from being fully developed, as it is now, the youth of that day boiled over with a patriotism and a love of liberty, as they understood or misunderstood the terms, of which we can now hardly form a conception. The movement for constitutional, that is representative government, was going on all over Europe, supported by the mighty influenee of England, which she had so extended by the wars growing out of the French Revolution. A constitutional government was set up in Naples, and another in Spain; the Spanish American colonies declared themselves independent of the mother country, and introduced the republican form of government; and hope was high that it was all over with monarchy except in the English sense, and that republicanism would make the circuit of the globe. Our government and that of England acknowledged the independence of the Spanish American colonies, and President Monroe declared that this continent was closed to European colonization, and virtually that we assumed the championship throughout the world of every party struggling for representative government against monarchy. The writer of this was young then, and has outgrown the wild enthusiasm with which he was then carried away ; Mr. Webster was older, and has remained unchanged. All we can say of him is, that in this respect he has not shown his ordinary superiority over the great body of his countrymen, and has followed instead of leading public opinion.

We need not say that Mr. Webster is a great man, for that every body concedes or asserts; but his greatness does not lie in the original apprehension or discovery of first principles. He takes his principles as he finds them in the common sense of his age and country, and where that errs he errs. His mind is English, and practical rather than speculative. His reading has been principally in the ancient Roman and the modern English classics, while his chief study has been history and the Common Law, with the ordinary writers on government. His views have, perhaps, been formed more by the principles of the Common Law than by any other study, and hence are in general sound, and remarkable for their practical wisdom. But in a large class of questions, not immediately solved by these principles, he has taken the principles ordinarily adopted by the old English Republicans, and the modern English Whigs; and consequently, along with the principles that are excellent, true for all times and countries, he has another class of principles, borrowed from modern innovators, which are invariably unsound, and such as he himself would be as ready to condemn as we are, if he were to subject them to the independent action of his own powerful mind, in the light of those principles along with which he has received them, and which he so firmly holds and so frequently appeals to. The modern English mind, therefore modern English literature, is compounded of the traditional wisdom inherited by Englishmen from their ancestors, and of the innovations of modern reformers. The two elements exist side by side, but they will not coalesce. Consequently, the Englishman lacks unity of moral and intellectual life. When he speaks according to the traditional wisdom of his country, no man speaks with more truth, justice, or practical wisdom; when he leaves this traditional wisdom, — the good sense of his countrymen, for which no people are more remarkable, — and speaks according to the principles of modern innovators, he becomes false, impracticable, and absurd. It is somewhat the same with Mr. Webster. Ordinarily he speaks from the wisdom of our ancestors, for ordinarily the topics he treats are such as lie within the range of that portion of tradition which has been generally retained by Englishmen and Americans; but now and then he neglects it, and takes his principles from the modern innovators, or, what is the same thing, from ancient gentilism, and thus falls into the errors so rife and so dangerous in our times, — errors which in principle warrant the most extravagant conclusions of the Jacobin or the Red Republican. And yet, unless he had a sure means of ascertaining tradition in its purity and integrity, as he has, to some extent, in the case of the Common Law, we see not well how he could do otherwise.

Of Mr. Webster's rank as a lawyer, compared with the more eminent members of the legal profession in Great Britain and the United States, we have no occasion to speak, and, not being a lawyer by profession, we shall not attempt to speak. He is generally considered as haying long stood at the head of the legal profession in his own country. But of his professional labors devoted to what is termed Constitutional Law, or the application of the Common Law to the constitutionality of legislative enactments, we must say a word or two. This department of law had, when he entered upon his professional career, been but imperfectly cultivated. " It fell to his lot," says his accomplished biographer, " to perform a prominent part in unfolding a most important class of constitutional doctrines, which, either because occasion had not drawn them forth, or the jurists of a former period had failed to deduce and apply them, had not yet grown into a system. It was reserved for Mr. Webster to distinguish himself before most, if not all, of his contemporaries, in this branch of his profession."    (Vol. I. p. xlviii.)

The first occasion on which Mr. Webster laid down what he took to be the principle of the Common Law, as applicable to the constitutionality of legislative enactments, was in the celebrated case of Dartmouth College, already referred to. " In the months of June and December, 1816, the legislature of New Hampshire passed acts altering the charter of Dartmouth College (of which the name was changed to Dartmouth University), enlarging the number of the trustees, and generally reorganizing the corporation. These acts, although passed without the consent and against the protest of the trustees of the College, went into operation. The newly created body took possession of the corporate property, and assumed the administration of the institution. The old board were all named as members of the new corporation, but declined acting as such, and brought an action against the treasurer of the new board for the books of record, the original charter, the common seal, and other corporate property of the College." This action was decided in the Superior Court of New Hampshire in favor of the validity of the State laws, and was carried up by writ of error to the Supreme Court of the United States, where, on the 10th of March, 1818, it came, on for argument before all the judges, who, in the term of the court holden the next February, declared, with only one dissenting voice, the acts of the legislature unconstitutional and invalid, and reversed the opinion of the court below.

The question for the Supreme Court to decide was, no doubt, whether the acts of New Hampshire did or did not contravene the Constitution of the United States; but Mr. Webster, in his argument for the plaintiffs in error, in order to facilitate the decision of that question by determining the real character of those acts, opened up the whole question of Common Law involved, and contended that the acts were invalid because against common right and the constitution of New Hampshire. He showed that the College was a private corporation, and that the legislature has no power to divest a private corporation, without its consent, of any of its corporate rights, maintaining that those rights can be taken away only in case of abuse or forfeiture, of which the court, not the legislature, is the judge. The principle on which his argument rests, if we have rightly seized it, is, that all chartered eleemosynary institutions, under which head are included all educational institutions founded and endowed by private liberality, are private corporations; and that all the rights of private corporations, or rather that all private rights, whether of persons or of things, or rights of private individuals, whether personal or corporate, are determined or defined by the Common Law, and are inviolable, so that any legislative enactment which infringes them is for that reason alone unconstitutional and invalid. This is certainly a most important principle, and if sound, — and that it is, it would be temerity on our part to doubt, — it proves that we do really live under a government of laws, and not a government of mere will, and that ours is really a free government, or rather a government that recognizes and guaranties freedom. Deny this principle, maintain that private rights, whether of persons or things, are creatures of the political power, and subject to the will of the legislature, and you convert the government at once into an arbitrary government, a government of mere will, under which there is no real liberty, no solid security, for either person or property ; and this just as much where the will that obtains is the will of the majority, as where it is the will of only one man,—just as much where the form of the government is democratic as where it is monarchical.

The real excellence or glory of our institutions, we take it, lies in this principle; not, as is too often assumed, in the form of our political organization. If we have not misapprehended Mr. Webster, the Common Law in its principles, maxims, and definitions is with us both logically and historically anterior to our political constitutions, as well as the legislative bodies instituted under them, and is to be regarded as common right, or, in a word, as law for the convention in framing what we call the Constitution, and for the legislature in its enactments. It is for us really and truly the " higher law," and in the temporal order the most authoritative expression, which we as a people have, of the Divine law, from which all human laws derive their legality.    It is the supreme civil law of the land, and although the legislature may undoubtedly modify or abrogate such of its special provisions as are temporary or local in their nature, or depend on time and circumstance for their wisdom and justice, or utility, and therefore such as are not essential to it as a system of law, yet no special enactment, whether by the convention or the ordinary legislature, that is repugnant to any one of its essential principles, is or can be law for an American citizen.    All such enactments are unconstitutional, and the courts have the right, and are bound, to set them aside as null.    The Common Lav/ is the fundamental constitution of the country, older than the political constitutions, and able to survive them. The political constitutions presuppose it, must conform to it, and be interpreted by it; for what we call our political constitutions are in their essence only a part — the more fundamental part if you will—of our written  law, not that which creates and sustains us as a living people.   They are the source of our political rights or franchises, but all our other rights, what we call our natural rights, both the rights of persons and the rights of things, are prior to and independent of them, and exist and are determined by the Common Law.    They cannot be touched by the political power without usurpation, tyranny, and oppression, from which the Common Law courts, if suffered to remain in their legitimate independence, are competent to relieve us. Thus Mr. Webster contends that the courts of New Hampshire ought of themselves to have declared the law essentially modifying the original charter of Dartmouth College invalid, unconstitutional, as violating common right and the well-settled principles of the Common Law in the case of eleemosynary institutions.     It would follow from his doctrine, too, that no  State in our Union would have the right to pass a law impairing the obligation of contracts, even if not forbidden to do so by the Constitution of the United States.    It is enough that such laws are repugnant to the Common Law.   The courts of this State may then, unquestionably, set aside the recent enactment of our legislature in regard to the sale of spirituous liquors, as infringing the rights of property as denned by the Common Law, which is law for the legislature as well as for the courts.

Such we understand to be the principle of law in all the States of the Union in which the Common Law obtains, and it is only in this principle, administered by an independent judiciary, that there is under our system of government, any more than under the most despotic governments of* the Old World, any reliable support for the rights of person or property. Mr. Webster has labored long and earnestly to bring out and establish this doctrine, and the services in this respect which he has rendered the country deserve even a far higher appreciation than they have yet received, and entitle him to the warmest gratitude of his countrymen. Their importance may be judged of by the efforts of all our radicals and experimenters in politics and law to get rid of the Common Law, and to destroy the independence of the judiciary. These men follow their instincts, which are all in favor of anarchy on the one hand, and despotism on the other. And the simple fact that they are hostile to an independent judiciary and to the Common Law proves of itself that these are essential alike to the maintenance of order and of liberty.

The distinguishing excellence of the Common Law system is, that it is lex nun scripta, unwritten law, that is, a living tradition, in the reason, the conscience, the sentiments, the habits, the manners, and the customs of the people, and therefore in some sense independent of mere political organizations, and capable of surviving even their most violent changes, and of preserving a degree of order and justice among individuals, when the political authority is for the moment suspended or subverted. It is probably owing chiefly to the fact that the Common Law is an unwritten law, a living tradition preserved by the people themselves, and administered by an independent judiciary, that political revolutions in England and in this country preserve a character of sobriety and reserve in comparison with those of the Continent of Europe. The Continental nations have inherited the Civil Law, the old Roman Law, which is a system of written law, and theoretically in the keeping of the prince, beginning and ending with the political sovereign. Under this system of law the sovereign is the fountain of justice, as he must be under every system of mere written law; the people are trained for the sovereign, and have no established law to guide or regulate their conduct where he fails to express in a formal manner his will. The state everywhere takes the initiative, and the people without it are incapable of any orderly or regulated civil activity.    Hence, whenever the political power receives a shock, all law is suspended, and the judiciary can perform legitimately none of its functions. Consequently, political revolutions in the Continental nations throw the whole of society into disorder, and subvert all social as well as political relations. The people receiving the law immediately from the sovereign, or written codes promulgated by the sovereign, and not having it in their own life, living in their own traditions, in their own habits, manners, and customs, are without law, and destitute of those habits of thought and action which would restrain them within moderate limits, and consequently are left liable to run into every imaginable excess.

But the Common Law, being an unwritten law, and living in the habits and manners of the people, gives them a sort of self-subsistency independent in a degree of the mere political power, and operates to restrain and regulate their social conduct, even when that power is temporarily overthrown or suspended. As long as the people remain in any sense a living people, the law survives, and survives as law, and preserves among them, in the midst of the most violent political convulsions, the elements of liberty and social order. England has gone through many changes, religious and political, but we have never seen English society wholly dissolved, or the main current of private and domestic life wholly interrupted, or even turned far aside from its ordinary channel. She has survived all her changes, and amid them all she has preserved her private and domestic life, social as distinguished from political order, but slightly impaired. She preserved a certain degree of individual freedom, to some extent the rights of persons and things, even under the Tudors, and something of social order under the Commonwealth, which she has continued to do even under the modern Whig rule and a Reformed Parliament. Much the same may be said of this country during what we call our Revolution. There was a time when our political constitutions were suspended, when the political authority was, as we may say, in abeyance, latent, undeveloped, potential, not actual; yet we did not fall into complete social disorder. Irregularity there certainly was, but the courts and the Common Law remained, and justice still continued to be administered, in the way and in the sense with which our people were familiar, and to which from time immemorial they had been accustomed. In France and other Continental countries, the case has usually been different.. The subversion of political power there subverts society itself, save so far as it may be preserved by religious institutions, and the people seem destitute of all recuperative energy, or power in themselves to reestablish order; and if they do it at all, it is either through a military chieftain, or by a restoration. These different results, we think, are owing, not to difference of race or blood, or to different degrees of intelligence or moral virtue, as some in our time pretend, but mainly, if not solely, to the difference there is between a system of written and a system of unwritten law.

The great disadvantage of the European Continental nations is in the fact that they have no Common Law, and no Civil Law but written law. These nations are the heirs of the Roman empire, and their Civil Law is substantially the old Roman Law, and like all law embodied in codes is inflexible, and depends for its operation entirely on the political sovereign, who is supposed to prescribe and to administer it, either in person or by his ministers. It has no power to adapt itself to unforeseen emergencies, and to operate regularly in the midst of disorder. Between the written Civil Law and the unwritten Common Law, or between the Roman and the English systems, there is a fundamental difference. The Roman Law extends only to cases foreseen and provided for, the Common Law to all cases not taken out of its jurisdiction; the former is of gentile origin, simply modified by the Christian Emperors so as not to exclude Christian faith and worship; the latter is of Christian origin, and grew up among the Anglo-Saxons as they were converted from paganism and entered under the guidance of the Church upon the career of Christian civilization. The Common Law starts from the principle that society and the state are for man, and it seeks primarily the protection of private rights, the rights of persons and of things ; the Roman Law starts from the heathen principle that man is for society, and society for the state, and it seeks primarily the protection of public rights, or the rights of the prince. The former abhors despotism, the latter abhors anarchy; the one makes the state absolute, supreme, omnipresent, the other presupposes a power above the state, limits the political power of the state, and asserts a law to which the state itself owes obedience, which subsists, and can, when need is, operate without the express sanction of the political sovereign. The Roman Law knows no people but the state, the Common Law recognizes the people, so to speak, as a power distinct from, and capable of surviving, the state. A nation that has been trained under the Common Law system may become an orderly republic; a nation trained under the Roman Law system can never be other than monarchical in effect, whatever it may be in name and pretension, or at farthest a close aristocracy. These are some of the characteristic differences between the two systems, and they sufficiently explain the different results of English or American revolutions from those of Continental Europe.

The essential difference between the two systems does not consist in the mere difference between their respective special provisions, which could easily be made the same in both, but in their general principles, the one as the written law of the prince, and the other as the living traditional law of the people, originating and living in their very life as a people. That the advantages are all on the side of the latter, or the English system, we think must be obvious to every lawyer and every well-informed statesman. It is therefore with pain that we find our politicians ascribing what is excellent in our institutions, what constitutes the chief protection of liberty and order among us, to our mere political organization, and overlooking the merits of the Common Law, the immense superiority of an unwritten over a written law, and seeking to abolish it, and to substitute a written code in its place. The Common Law, as an essentially unwritten law, living in the traditional life of a people, can never be introduced into a nation whose character is already formed. It must be born and grow up with the nation. Consequently, when once eliminated from the life of the people, it can never be replaced. Once gone, it is gone for ever. It was born with the birth of England as a Christian nation, and grew up with it as the civil part of its Christian life. It became the public reason, the English common sense, and to it must we attribute the marked superiority of England and her institutions in the Middle Ages, and even in modern times, over the Continent of Europe. Happily England, in casting off, in the sixteenth century, the religion which gave her the Common Law, did not cast off the Common Law itself.

She preserved it; slightly marred, no doubt, in its beauty and symmetry, yet she preserved it in Us substance ; and from her we have inherited it, and it should be our study, as we detest anarchy and love liberty, to transmit it unimpaired, in its purity and integrity, to our latest posterity. A. richer legacy, aside from the Christianity which gave it birth, we could not even wish to bequeathe to future generations.

But we had no intention, on setting out, to enlarge as we have on either of the topics we have taken up. It was not our intention to speak of Mr. Webster either as a statesman or as a lawyer, for his merits in both respects have been dwelt upon till the public, perhaps, are growing tired of hearing them extolled, and some may be beginning to feel with ty'ic poor Athenian who would ostracize Aristides because tired of hearing him always called the Just. As a statesman we do not think that Mr. Webster has upon the whole been overrated. He was educated in the school of Washington and Adams, the old Federalist school, which, though not without its defects, was the only respectable political school we have ever had in New England. Its error was in copying from the English Whig, instead of the English — we say not the Irish — Tory, and acceding to the Jacobinical definition of popular sovereignty. It had too great a sympathy with the urban system of government, or government resting for its main support on the commercial and manufacturing classes, and did not sufficiently recognize the importance of a permanent class of landed proprietors to the stability and permanence of government. But, except in the planting States, its errors were all shared, and in an exaggerated form, by the rival or Democratic school, or if not, were opposed by worse errors, and the worst of all errors, — by that of giving to the government a proletarian basis, whether urban or rustic. In the main Mr. Webster has remained faithful to his school, although he seems, as he has grown older, to have departed from some of its best principles, and approached the party it opposed. He seems latterly to have become almost a democrat. Whether from conviction, or because the country is so hopelessly wedded to democracy, that he considers it the part of wisdom to accept democracy and endeavor to regulate it, we cannot say. However this may be, few who know Mr. Webster will question the elevation or honesty of his views, or suspect him of being capable of adopting any line of policy which he does not believe for the time and under the circumstances wise and just.

No man can question Mr. Webster's attachment to the Union, or his ardent love of country. His patriotic addresses prove this, no less than the general character of the measures to which he has always given his support during his connection with the general government, lie is warmly attached to the political institutions of his country, — no man more so, — and this attachment sometimes, perhaps, blinds him to the danger of certain popular tendencies amongst us. In his masterly speech on the basis of representation, in the convention called for amending the constitution of this State in 1820, and in his address at Plymouth, December 22 of the same year, in commemoration of the landing of the Pilgrims and the first settlement of New England, he discusses at great length and with rare sagacity the importance, in a political point of view, of laws regulating the descent and distribution of property, and shows that, with our laws on the subject, monarchy becomes an impossibility. But it does not appear to have occurred to him to ask, if, with such laws, — laws which distribute property in minute parcels, which prevent its accumulation in any considerable masses, and thus render impossible the growth and preservation of families, — even a well-ordered republic can long survive, and if the only government that will ultimately be practicable is not mere military despotism. Family with us is destroyed, and the man who can boast a grandfather may think himself fortunate. Family influence there is none, family ties are broken, and we have only a mighty mass of isolated individuals. It may not be long before nothing but military force under a military chieftain will be able to keep them in order.

But leaving the field of politics, it may not be unpleasant to meet Mr. Webster in the department of literature. It was mainly of his works in a literary point of view that we intended to speak when we set out, and probably we should have done so, only we have lost, if ever we possessed, the faculty of treating any man's works as mere literary productions. We are forced to admit to ourselves, which by the by we will not do to the public, that we have ourselves very little of what is called literary taste or literary culture. We do not mean to say that we have not read the chief literary works of modern, if not of ancient times ; but we cannot understand literature for its own sake, or say much of the form of a literary work without reference to its contents. This is no disqualification for writing essays, but it is, very likely, a serious disqualification for writing literary reviews, that will pass for such with our contemporaries, and hence we seldom have much to say of books, except as to their principles. The principles of literature, or which should govern the literary man in the production of literature, we can understand ; we can appreciate the principles of art; we can even admire a work of art, whether a poem, a symphony, a picture, a statue, a temple, or an oration; but we could never describe a work of art, or even our raptures on beholding it. We can enjoy it, take in its full effect, and thank God for the genius and talent that has created it; perhaps we could in a homely way tell what it is in it that we enjoy, and in some instances why we enjoy or ought to enjoy it; but we cannot tell it so as to reproduce in our hearers our own emotions, or rather, so as to make them fancy they feel very much as they would on beholding it, which is, if we understand it, the great aim of the modern critic on art. We have not enough of German subjectivity for that, and we always find it difficult to express what we do not distinctly apprehend as objective, and independent of our own subjective state. We cannot pass off our own emotions for criticism, nor for the object criticized, and consequently are unable to aspire to a rank among our modern approved literary critics.

The form of artistic productions, of course, is not a matter of indifference, but it has little separate value, and is seldom worth dwelling on, except in a school for learners, as detached from the merits of its contents. We like to see a man well dressed, but wo cannot value the man for the dress, or the dress without the man. We do not undervalue purely literary taste or culture, but we never esteem work's merely for the literary taste and culture they display. As merely literary works, having no end, answering no moral purpose, beyond that of gratifying the literary tastes of the reader, no works are worth the labor of criticism. The orator must always have some end beyond that of producing a beautiful oration, the poet beyond that of producing a poem according to the rules of poetic art, and the logician beyond that of producing an argument, and the first thing in one or another of these to be considered by the critic is the end the author has had in view. "We utterly protest against the doctrine that excludes morality from art, or the German doctrine of aesthetics, that art itself is moral, nay, religious, and that the chief merit of the artist is to work instinctively, with no distinct consciousness of the end for which he works, as the bee builds her cell, or the blackbird sings her song. We cannot say with Goethe,—
" Ich singe wicder Vogcl singt Der in dem Zweigen wohnot, Das Lied das aus der Kehle springt, 1st Lohn der roichlich lohnet."

Art may be used for purposes either good or bad ; genius may prostitute itself, and display its charms but to corrupt, as any one may see in reopened Pompeii, or in many a modern gallery, — as any one knows who has read Don Juan and Chi/de Harold, by Byron, or The Loves of the Angels and Lalla liookh, by Thomas Moore, to say nothing of works transmitted to us from ancient classic authors. Art, restricted in its application to exterior forms, or to the reproduction of exterior beauty, is indifferent to good or evil, and is as readily employed in the service of the one as of the other. Moreover, nothing is moral, save as it is done for the sake of an end. Morality is predicable not of the procession of existences from God, for in that procession God is the sole actor, and existences are created and simply prepared to be actors; it is predicable alone of the return of existences to God, as their final cause, and even here only of such existences as are endowed with free will, and capable of voluntarily choosing God as their ultimate end. If even these merely act instinctively, without apprehension and choice of the end, that is, without acting for the sake of the end, they are not in such actions moral, and their productions have no moral character. The German doctrine of the essential morality of all art is therefore inadmissible. Art must be for an end, and for a good end, or else it either has no moral character, or is immoral.

Our nature, again, is fallen, and, except so far as restored by grace, is the slave of concupiscence and corrupt propensions. It has been turned away from God as the true Final Cause of all creatures, and instead of instinctively returning to him as the Supreme Good, it instinctively tends from him, towards the creature, and through the creature, which has being only in God, towards death and nullity. Consequently, when man foregoes reason, which demands a final no less than a first cause, and simply follows his instincts or his perverted inclinations, he necessarily produces that which is bad, immoral, corrupt, and corrupting. The song of the blackbird which she sings instinctively is not immoral, nor of an immoral tendency, because it does not spring from a perverted or corrupt instinct. External nature is indeed cursed for our sake, but not in itself, for it has never transgressed the law of its Maker, and the curse is to us, in the use we make of it, and in the power which our sin gives it to afflict us. In itself it has no moral character, for it has no free will, and is subjected to a physical and not a moral law. Its beauty and harmony, the song of birds, the flowers of the fields, the silent groves, the dark forests, the lofty mountains, the majestic rivers, the laughing rills, the broad lakes and vast oceans, may all be to us occasions of virtuous affection or of sinful passion. All depends on ourselves and the use we make of them. To the pure all things are pure, to the corrupt all things are corrupt. The saint finds in all nature incentives to virtuous action, inducements to love and praise the glorious Maker of all; the sinner finds in all nature occasions of evil, or incentives to sin.

The artist, whether orator or poet, painter or sculptor, musician or architect, must have, then, an end in whatever he does beyond the mere doing, and also a good end, an end which lies in the moral order, and is referable to God, the Supreme Good and ultimate End of all things. When we have ascertained the end of a literary production, and ascertained it to be one which a wise and just man can approve, we may proceed to consider the literary taste and beauty with which the author has sought to accomplish it. As detached from its end, the work is no proper subject of criticism. As referred to its end, even its adaptation to that end, its form, its style, its diction, are proper and not unimportant considerations for the critic; for whatever is worth doing at all, is worth doing well. We are not purely intellectual beings, and it is not enough that he who writes for us should have the truth, and be able to state it in a strictly logical form. We have will as well as intellect; we have imagination, affections, passions, and emotions,— a perception of the beautiful as well as of the true and the good, — and we can be pleased as well as instructed, and generally we refuse the instruction if not presented in a form that pleases, or at least in one that does not displease. Now, we are far from considering this form under which we present the true or the good to be a matter of mere indifference. A correct literary taste, a lively sensibility to the fit and the beautiful, the command of an easy and noble style, of appropriate, expressive, and graceful diction, are matters of great importance, and which no man who writes at all is at liberty entirely to neglect. Here we prize literary taste and culture, as highly as any one can, for here they are not for themselves, but for a legitimate purpose beyond themselves, and are prized as means to an end.

Tried by the standard implied, if not distinctly exhibited, in these remarks, we shall look in vain in the whole range of American secular literature for works that can rival these six volumes before us. In general, the end is just and noble, and, with fewer exceptions than we could reasonably expect, the doctrines set forth are sound and important. No man has written amongst us who has given utterance to sounder maxims on politics and law, and no one has done more to elevate political and legal topics to the dignity of science, to embellish them with the charms of a rich and chaste imagination, and to enrich them with the wealth accumulated from the successful cultivation of the classics of ancient and modern times. The author has received from nature a mind of the highest order, and he has cultivated it with care and success. We see in every page, every sentence, of his writings, vast intellectual power, quick sensibility, deep and tender affection, and a rich and fervid imagination; but we see also the hard student, the traces of long and painful discipline under the tutelage of the most eminent ancient and modern masters. Nature has been bountiful, but art has added its full share, in making the author what he is, and the combination of the two has enabled him to produce works which in their line are certainly unrivalled in this country, and we know not where to look for any thing in our language of the kind really superior to them. As an orator Mr. Webster has all the terseness of Demosthenes, the grace and fulness of Cicero, the fire and energy of Chatham, and a dignity and repose peculiarly his own.

In these times a man is to be commended for the faults he avoids, as well as for the positive excellence to which he attains. Mr. Webster is free from the ordinary faults of even the more distinguished of the literary men of his country. American literary taste is in general very low and corrupt. Washington Irving and Hawthorne have good taste, are unaffected, # natural, simple, easy, and graceful, but deficient in dignity and strength; they are pleasant authors for the boudoir, or to read while resting one's self on the sofa after dinner. No man who has any self-respect will read either of them in the morning. Prescott is gentlemanly, but monotonous, and occasionally jejune. Bancroft is gorgeous, glowing, but always straining after effect, always on stilts, never at his ease, never natural, never composed, never graceful or dignified. He has intellect, fancy, scholarship, all of a high order, but no taste, no literary good-breeding. He gesticulates furiously, and speaks always from the top of his voice. In general we may say of American literature that it is provincial, and its authors are uncertain of themselves, laboring, but laboring in vain, to catch the tone and manner of a distant metropolis. They have tolerable natural parts, often respectable scholarship, but they lack ease, dignity, repose. They do not speak as masters, but as forward pupils* They take too high a key for their voice, and are obliged in order to get through to sing in falsetto. You are never quite at your ease in listening to them ; you are afraid they will break down, and that the lofty flights of oratory they promise you will turn out to be only specimens of the bathos. They fail to give one confidence in their strength, for they are always striving to be strong, and laboring to be intense. From all faults of this kind Mr. Webster is free. He inspires you, whether you are listening to his words as they fall from his lips, or read them as reproduced by the reporter, with full confidence in his ability to get through without any break-down, and he seldom disappoints you. He appears always greater than his subject, always to have the full mastery over it, and never to be mastered or carried away by it.    In him you see no labor to be strong or intense, no violent contortions, or unnatural efforts to escape being thought weak, tame, or commonplace. He is always himself, collected, calm, and perfectly at his ease. He is so, not only because he really is a strong man, and has thoroughly mastered his subject, but because he is also a modest man, and is not disturbed by a constant recurrence of his thoughts to himself. He has through his natural modesty, which is one of the most striking traits in his character, and through cultivation, the power of forgetting himself, and of not thinking of the impression he is making on others with regard to himself, and consequently is able to employ the whole force of his intellect, imagination, and learning in stating, illustrating, and embellishing his subject. Being at his ease, having all his powers at his command whenever he rises to speak, and naturally a delicate taste, chastened and re lined by the assiduous study of the best models, ancient and modern, he without difficulty avoids the ordinary faults of the orators of his country, and reassures, pleases, instructs, and carries along with him his whole audience.

We know not how Mr. Webster compares as an orator with the great orators of other times or other countries, for mere descriptions of oratory are rarely reliable ; but he comes up more nearly to our ideal of the finished orator for the bar, the senate, the popular assembly, or a patriotic celebration, than any other to whom our country has given us an opportunity of listening. His elocution and diction harmonize admirably with his person and voice, and both strike you at once as fitted to each other. His majestic person, his strong, athletic frame, and his deep, rich, sonorous voice, set off with double effect his massive thoughts, his weighty sentences, his chaste, dignified, and harmonious periods. Whatever we may say of the elocution, the rhetoric is always equal to it. Mr. Webster is perhaps the best rhetorician in the country. No man better appreciates the choice of words or the construction and collocation of sentences, so as to seize at once the understanding, soothe the passions, charm the imagination, and captivate the affections. He is always classical. His words are pure English, and the proper words for the occasion, the best in the language; and his sentences are simply constructed, never involved, never violently inverted, but  straightforward,  honest,   sincere,  and   free   from   all modern trickery. We know in the language no models better fitted than the orations and speeches in these volumes for the assiduous study of the young literary aspirant who would become a perfect rhetorician, or master a style at once free and natural, instructive and pleasing, pure and correct, graceful and elevated, dignified and noble. Mr. Webster's artistic skill is consummate, and evidently has been acquired only by great labor and pains; but you must study his works long and carefully before you will detect it. Such writing as we have here comes not by nature, and no genius, however great, can match it without years of hard labor in preparatory discipline.
The casual reader may be apt to underrate Mr. Webster's merits as a logician, and we recollect hearing a distinguished Senator, who ought to have known him well, characterize him one day as " a magnificent declaimer, but no reasoner." He is not of a speculative turn of mind, nor does he appear to have devoted much time to the study of the speculative sciences, though he evidently has not wholly neglected them, — and he seldom reasons, as we say, in form ; but he gives full evidence, after all, of possessing the logical element in as eminent a degree as he does any other element of the human mind. His style of expression and habits of thought are strictly logical, and his conclusions always follow from his premises. The only thing to be said is, that very often one of his premises is understood and not expressed, and sometimes rests on the prejudice, conviction, or actual common sense of his countrymen, not on a true ontological principle. His defect is not a defect of logic, but a defect of original apprehension, resulting from the neglect to go back from the common sense of his countrymen to first principles. In consequence of this, his conclusions are sometimes unsound, not because they do not follow from his premises expressed or understood, but because one or the other of his premises is unsound. This is more or less necessarily the case with all Englishmen and Americans, who follow what is called common sense; for the common sense of Englishmen and Americans, as we have already remarked, is made up from modern innovations, as well as from the traditions of our ancestors, and is therefore on one side untrue. But where his principles are sound, as in his law arguments, and in the greater part of his speeches in Congress, and in several of his diplomatic letters, his logic is sound and invincible, although it is presented in a popular form, the most suitable for his purpose. Ordinarily he strikes us as comprehensive rather than acute, but he can be as acute, as nice in his analyses and distinctions, as need be, as we may know from his argument to the court and jury in the trial of the Knapps for the murder of Captain White of Salem, which upon the whole is one of the most finished of his performances, as they stand in the volumes before us.

Some readers, again, will regard Mr. Webster as chiefly remarkable for his pure intellectual power; and be disposed to deny him much power of imagination. But this would be in the highest degree unjust. He possesses an uncommonly strong and vivid imagination. Take up any one of his speeches, if but tolerably reported, on any subject, no matter how dry or uninteresting in itself, and you find that he at once informs it with life, elevates it, and invests it with a deep interest. This no man destitute of imagination can ever do. The test of imagination is not a florid style, abounding in tropes and metaphors. Such a style indicates fancy, not imagination, and, in fact, it is the general tendency of our countrymen, nay, of our age, to mistake fancy for imagination. Washington Irving and Hawthorne have imagination, though not of the highest order; Bancroft has fancy, a rich and exuberant fancy, but very little imagination. To test the question whether a man has imagination or not, let him take up a dry and difficult subject, and if he can treat it so that without weariness, and even with interest, you can follow him through his discussion of it, although he uses always the language appropriate to it, and seems to employ only the pure intellect in developing it, you may be sure that he has a strong and fervid imagination, so strong and active as to impart life and motion to whatever he touches. Mr. Webster has an exceedingly rich and active imagination, but he does not suffer it to predominate; he makes it subservient to his reason, and so blends it in with the pure intellect, that you feel its effect without being aware of its presence. No matter how apparently dry and technical the subject he has in hand, the moment he begins to unfold it, and to indicate its connections with other subjects, and through these its high social or moral relations, his hearer's or reader's attention is arrested, fixed, and held till he closes. He no sooner speaks, than the dry bones of his subject assume flesh, move, and stand up, living and breathing, in proper human shape, well formed and duly proportioned, not misshapen monsters, that frighten by their hideous or disgust by their grotesque appearance.
What we most admire in the style of Mr. Webster is its simplicity, strength, and repose. The majority of our writers who study to be simple in their maimer'are plain, dry, or silly. They are simple in a sense in which simplicity is not a compliment. Those who wish to escape this charge become inflated, bombastic, and unable to say any thing in an easy and natural manner. They select high-sounding words, pile up adjective upon adjective, and send their fancy over all nature, and through all its departments, animal, vegetable, and mineral, over all nations, among the English, the French, the Italian, the Dutch, the Russian, the Tartars, the Chinese, the Japanese, the Hindoos, the Egyptians, the Abyssinians, the Negroes, the Malays, the savages of Oceanica and of North and South America, and through all times, from the entrance of Satan into the garden of Eden to seduce our great-grandmother Eve, down to the battle of Buena Vista, in which General Taylor flogged General Santa Ana, or the last Baltimore Convention for nominating a Whig or a Democratic President, to cull flowers and collect images to adorn and illustrate some poor, commonplace thought, or some puny conceit, that might have proved stillborn without in the least affecting the flux and reflux of the ocean tides, interrupting the course of nature, or changing the general current of historical events. Mr. Webster avoids both extremes, and speaks always in accordance .with the genius of his native idiom, and in his natural key. Take, for instance, the opening paragraph of his speech on the completion of the Bunker Hill Monument.

" A duty has been performed. A work of gratitude and patriotism is completed. This structure, having its foundations in soil which drank deep of early Revolutionary blood, has at length reached its destined height, and now lifts its summit to the skies." — Vol. I. p. 83.

Or this from the same speech : —

" The   Bunker   Hill   Monument is  finished.     Here  it  stands.
Fortunate in the high natural eminence on which it is placed, higher, infinitely higher in its objects and purpose, it rises over the land and over the sea ; and, visible, at their homes, to three hundred thousand of the people of Massachusetts, it stands a memorial of the last, and a monitor to the present and to all succeeding generations. I have spoken of the loftiness of its purpose. If it had been without any other design than the creation of a work of art, the granite of which it is composed would have slept in its native bed. It has a purpose, and that purpose gives it its character. That purpose enrobes it with dignity and moral grandeur. That well-known purpose it is which causes us to look up to it with a feeling of awe. It is itself the orator of this occasion. It is not from my lips, it could not be from any human lips, that that strain of eloquence is this day to flow most competent to move and excite the vast multitudes around me. The powerful speaker stands motionless before us. It is a plain shaft. It hears no inscriptions, fronting to the rising sun, from which the future antiquary shall wipe the dust. Nor does the rising sun cause tones of music to issue from its summit. But at the rising of the sun, and at the setting of the sun; in the blaze of noonday, and beneath the milder effulgence of lunar light; it looks, it speaks, it acts, to the full comprehension of every American mind, and the awakening of glowing enthusiasm in every American heart.11 — p. 8G.

With the exception of the phrase " the milder effulgence of lunar light," which we cannot much admire, this is simply and naturally said, and yet it is in the highest strain of genuine oratory, and we shall not easily forget the emotion with which we heard Mr. Webster, standing in front of the monument, pronounce it, or the deep and prolonged applause it received from the some two hundred thousand of our citizens assembled in honor of the occasion. All true greatness is simple and sedate. It affects no display, for it is satisfied with what it is. It speaks and it is done, commands and it stands fast. Take another passage, of a different description indeed, but illustrating the same simplicity of style and expression. The extract is from the opening of his speech on the trial of the Knapps for the murder of Captain Joseph White of Salem.

" I am little accustomed, Gentlemen, to the part which I am now attempting to perform. Hardly more than once or twice has it happened to me to be concerned on the side of the government in any criminal prosecution whatever; and never, until the present occasion, in any case affecting life.

" But I very much regret that it should have been thought necessary to suggest to you that I am brought here to ' hurry you against the law and beyond the evidence.' I hope 1 have too much regard for justice, and too much respect for my own character, to attempt either ; and were I to make such attempt, 1 am sure that in this court nothing can be carried against the law, and that gentlemen, intelligent and just as you are, are not, by any power, to be hurried beyond the evidence. Though I could well have wished to shun this occasion, I have not felt at liberty to withhold my professional assistance, when it is supposed that I may be in some degree useful in investigating and discovering the truth respecting this most extraordinary murder. It has seemed to be a duty incumbent on me, as on every other citizen, to do my best and my utmost to bring to light the perpetrators of this crime. Against the prisoner at the bar, as an individual, I cannot have the slightest prejudice. I would not do him the smallest injury or injustice. But I do not affect to be indifferent to the discovery and the punishment of this deep guilt. I cheerfully share in the opprobrium, how great soever it may be, which is cast on those who feel and manifest an anxious concern that all who had a part in planning, or a hand in executing, this deed of midnight assassination, may be brought to answer for their enormous crime at the bar of public justice.
" Gentlemen, it is a most extraordinary case. In some respects, it has hardly a precedent anywhere; certainly none in our New England history. This bloody drama exhibited no suddenly excited, ungovernable rage. The actors in it were not surprised by any lion-like temptation springing upon their virtue, and overcoming it, before resistance could begin. Nor did they do the deed to glut savage vengeance, or satiate long-settled and deadly hate. It was a cool, calculating, money-making murder. It was all ' hire and salary, not revenge.' It was the weighing of money against life ; the counting out of so many pieces of silver against so many ounces of blood.

"An aged man, without an enemy in the world, in his own house, and in his own bed, is made the victim of a butcherly murder, for mere pay. Truly, here is a new lesson for painters and poets. Whoever shall hereafter draw the portrait of murder, if he will show it as it has been exhibited, where such example was last to have been looked for, in the very bosom of our New England society, let him not give it the grim visage of Moloch, the brow knitted by revenge, the face black with settled hate, and the blood-shot eye emitting livid fires of malice. Let him draw, rather, a decorous, smooth-faced, bloodless demon ; a picture in, rather than in action ; not so much an example of human nature in its depravity, and in its paroxysms of crime, as an infernal being, a fiend, in the ordinary display and development of his character.

" The deed was executed with a degree of self-possession and steadiness equal to the wickedness with which it was planned.   The circumstances now clearly in evidence spread out the whole scene before us.   Deep sleep had fallen on the destined victim, and on all beneath his roof.    A healthful old man, to whom sleep was sweet, the first sound slumbers of the night held him in their soft but strong embrace.   The assassin enters, through the window already prepared, into an unoccupied apartment.    With noiseless foot he paces the lonely hall, half lighted by the moon ; he winds up the ascent of the stairs, and reaches the door of the chamber.    Of this, he moves the lock, by soft and continued pressure, till it turns on its hinges without noise ; and he enters, and beholds his victim before him.    The room is uncommonly open  to the admission  of light.    The face of the innocent sleeper is turned from the murderer, and the beams of the moon, resting on the gray locks of his aged temple, show him where to strike.    The fatal blow is given ! and the victim passes, without a struggle or a motion, from the repose of sleep to the repose of death !    It is the assassin's purpose to make sure work ; and he plies the dagger, though it is obvious that life has been destroyed by the blow of the bludgeon.   He even raises the aged arm, that he may not fail in his aim at the heart, and replaces it again over the wounds of the poniard!    To finish the picture, he explores the wrist for the pulse !    lie feels for^ it, and ascertains that it beats no longer !    It is accomplished.    The deed is done.   He retreats, retraces his steps to the window, passes out through it as he came in, and escapes.     He has done  the murder.    No eye has seen him, no ear has heard him.    The secret is his own, and it is safe !

" Ah ! Gentlemen, that was a dreadful mistake. Such a secret can be safe nowhere. The whole creation of God has neither nook nor corner where the guilty can bestow it, and say it is safe. Not to speak of that eye which pierces through all disguises, and beholds every thing as in the splendor of noon, such^ secrets of guilt are never safe from detection, even by men. True it is, generally speaking, that ' murder will out.' True it is, that Providence hath so ordained, and doth so govern things, that those who break the great law of Heaven by shedding man's blood seldom succeed in avoiding discovery. Especially, in a case exciting so much attention as this, discovery must come, and will come, sooner or later. A thousand eyes turn at once to explore every man, every thing, every circumstance, connected with the time and place; a thousand ears catch every whisper; a thousand excited minds intensely dwell on the scene, shedding all their light, and ready to kindle the slightest circumstance into a blaze of discovery. Meantime the guilty soul cannot keep its own secret. It is false to itself; or rather it feels an irresistible impulse of conscience to be true to itself. It labors under its guilty possession, and knows not what to do with it. The human heart was not made for the residence of such an inhabitant. It finds itself preyed on by a torment, which it dares not acknowledge to God or man. A vulture is devouring it, and it can ask no sympathy or assistance, either from heaven or earth. The secret which the murderer possesses soon comes to possess him ; and, like the evil spirits of which we read, it overcomes him, and leads him whithersoever it will. He feels it beating at his heart, rising to his throat, and demanding disclosure. He thinks the whole world sees it in his face, reads it in his eyes, and almost hears its workings in the very silence of his thoughts. It has become his master. It betrays his discretion, it breaks down his courage, it conquers his prudence. When suspicions from without begin to embarrass him, and the net of circumstance to entangle him, the fatal secret struggles with still greater violence to burst forth. It must be confessed, it will be confessed ; there is no refuge from confession but suicide, and suicide is confession." — Vol. VI. pp. 51 - 54.

We continue the extract from this same speech, for the sake, not only of the style, but of the sentiment it expresses with regard to the detection of crime, and the merited rebuke it quietly gives to our romantic philanthropists, whose sympathies are all for the criminal, and who would deem it very low and illiberal to make any account of the sufferings of the innocent which his crimes inevitably occasion. The community in which we live is coming to a strange pass. Crimes are daily and hourly multiplying in our midst, both in frequency and magnitude, and yet the great study is to mitigate punishment, and to convert the criminal into a hero. Virtue goes unhonored, and we are doing our best to have crime go unpunished.

" Much has been said, on this occasion, of the excitement which has existed, and still exists, and of the extraordinary measures taken to discover and punish the guiity. No doubt there has been, and is, much excitement, and strange indeed it would be had it been otherwise. Should not all the peaceable and well-disposed naturally feel concerned, and naturally exert themselves to bring to punishment the authors of this secret assassination ? Was it a thing to be slept upon or forgotten ? Did you, Gentlemen, sleep quite as quietly in your beds after this murder as before ? VVas it not a case for rewards, for meetings, for committees, for the united efforts of all the good, to find out a band of murderous conspirators, of midnight ruffians, and to bring them to the bar of justice and law ? If this be excitement, is it an unnatural or an improper excitement ?

" It seems to me, Gentlemen, that there are appearances of another feeling, of a very different nature and character ; not very extensive, I would hope, but still there is too  much  evidence of its existence.    Such is human nature, that some persons lose their abhorrence of crime in their admiration of its magnificent exhibitions.    Ordinary vice is reprobated  by them, but extraordinary guilt, exquisite wickedness, the high  flights and poetry of crime, seize on the imagination, and lead them to forget the depths of the guilt, in admiration of the excellence of the performance, or the unequalled atrocity of the purpose.    There are those in our day who have made great use of this infirmity of our nature, and by means of it done infinite injury to the cause of good morals.   They have affected not only the taste, but I fear also the principles, of the young, the heedless, and the imaginative, by the exhibition of interesting and beautiful  monsters.    They render depravity attractive, sometimes by the polish of its manners, and sometimes by its very extravagance ; and study to show off crime under all the advantages of cleverness and dexterity.    Gentlemen, this is an extraordinary murder, but it is still a murder.    We are not to lose ourselves in wonder at its origin, or in gazing on its cool and skilful execution.    We are to detect and to punish it; and while we proceed with caution against the  prisoner, and  are to be sure that we do not visit on his head the offences of others, we are yet to consider that we are dealing with a case of most atrocious crime, which has not the slightest circumstance about it to soften its enormity.    It is murder; deliberate, concerted, malicious murder.1' — pp. 54, 55.

Other extracts in abundance we might make, full of interest in themselves, and illustrating the several features of Mr. Webster's style and manner which we have indicated; but we must refer our readers to their own recollections, or, where these fail, to the volumes themselves. The extracts we have made will serve to illustrate, not only the simplicity of his language, but the strength of his expressions, and the repose of his manner. The quiet majesty of his style in the more felicitous moments of the orator, or when the reporter has been the more competent to his task of reporting his speeches word for word as delivered, has seldom been surpassed, if equalled, by any American, or even English writer. Burke is the English writer with whom we most naturally compare him. As an orator he is far superior to Burke, as a profound and comprehensive thinker, perhaps, he falls below him ; as a writer he is as classical in his style, as cultivated, and as refined in his tastes, and simpler and more vigorous in his expression.   In many-respects Burke has been his model, and it is not difficult to detect in his pages traces of his intimate communion with the great English, or rather Irish statesman, who, perhaps, taken all in  all, is the  most eminent  among the distinguished statesmen who have written or spoken in our language.    "We have  no   thought of  placing   Mr.   Webster above him; but he surpasses him in his oratory, for Burke was an uninteresting speaker, and in the simple majesty and repose of his style and manner.    Burke is full, but his fancy is sometimes too exuberant for his imagination, and his periods are too  gorgeous  and too overloaded.    Now and then he all but approaches the inflated, and is simply not bombastic.    His work on the French Revolution is a splendid work, a vast treasure-house of historical lore, of sound political doctrines and wise maxims for the statesman, but it frequently lacks simplicity, and is sometimes a little overstrained in its manner.     The effort of the author to sustain himself at the height from which he sets out is now and then visible, and his voice, in executing some of the higher notes of his piece, wellnigh breaks into falsetto. His strength, though sufficient to carry him through, is not sufficient to carry him through with ease.    Our countryman appears to us to possess naturally  a stronger and more vigorous mental constitution, and to carry himself more  quietly, and  more at  his natural ease.    The only modern writers, as far as our limited reading extends, who in this respect equal or surpass Mr. Webster, are the great Bossuet and  the Gorman  Goethe, though  we  must exclude Goethe's earlier writings from the comparison.    The simple^ natural majesty of Bossuet is perhaps unrivalled in any author, ancient or modern, and in his  hands the French language loses its ordinary character, and in dignity, grandeur, and strength becomes able to compete successfully with any of the languages of Modern Europe. Goethe is the only German we have ever read who could write German prose with taste, grace, and elegance, and there is in his writings a quiet strength and a majestic repose which are surpassed only by the very best of Greek or Roman classics.    Mr. Webster may not surpass, in the respect named, either of these great writers, but he belongs to their order.
We have dwelt the longer on these features of Mr. Webster's style, because they are precisely those which our authors and orators most lack. The American people have no simplicity, no natural ease, no repose. A pebble is a " rock," a leg or arm is a " limb," breeches or trousers are " unnamabies," a petticoat is a "skirt," a shift is a chemise, the sun is the " solar orb," the moon the " lunar light." Nothing can be called simply by its proper name in our genuine old Anglo-Saxon tongue. We are always striving to be great, sublime; and simple natural expressions are counted tame, commonplace, or vulgar. We must be inflated, grandiloquent, or eccentric. Even in our business habits, we strive after the strange, the singular, or the wonderful, and are never contented with old fashions, quiet and sure ways of prospering. We must make or lose a fortune at a dash. We have no repose, are always, from the moment we are breeched till wrapped in our grave-clothes, in a state of unnatural excitement, hurrying to and fro, without asking or being able to say why or wherefore. We have no homesteads, no family, no fixtures, no sacred ties which bind us, no hearths or altars around which our affections cling and linger. We arc all afloat upon a tumultuous ocean, and seem incapable of enjoying ourselves save amid the wildness and fury of the storm. Our authors and orators, as was to be expected, partake of our national character, and reproduce it in their works. The best thing we can do is to give our days and nights to the study of the volumes before us, which present us admirable models of what we are not, but of what we might and should be.

It is very evident from Mr. Webster's writings that his reading has not been confined to Blackstone and Coke upon Littleton, nor to Harrington, Sydney, and Locke,— that he has made frequent excursions from the line of his professional or official studies among the poets and in the fields of polite literature, and that literary or artistic cultivation has been with him a matter of no inconsiderable moment. He is perfectly familiar with the British classics, whether prose or poetry, and well read, if not in the Greek, at least in the ancient Roman literature. His style is to no inconsiderable extent formed after those very different writers, Cicero and Tacitus; but perhaps it owes still more of its peculiar richness and beauty to his diligent reading, — whether for devotion or literary purposes we know not, — of the English Protestant version of the Holy Scriptures. This version is of no value to the theologian, for it has been made from an impure Hebrew and Greek text, and is full of false and corrupt renderings, but in a literary point of view it has many and rare merits. As an accurate rendering of the sacred text it cannot as a whole compare with our Douay Bible, but its language and style are more truly English, or at least present the English with more idiomatic grace, and greater purity and richness. The Douay Bible borrows terms from the Latin, which, though more precise, are less familiar, and less expressive to the ordinary English reader ; at least, so it seems to us, who first studied the Scriptures through the medium of the Protestant version. The English language had reached its fullest and richest development in the sixteenth century, and the men who made the Protestant version of the Scriptures, whatever they were as theologians, were among its most accomplished masters. Hence their version has become the first of English classics, and perhaps we have no work in the language that can be so advantageously studied by the orator or the poet, so far as relates to pure English taste, to the formation of style, and richness, aptness, and beauty of idiomatic expression, though we think there is at present a tendency among some of our Catholic scholars to underrate the literary merits of the Douay Bible, and we find ourselves appreciating them much higher in proportion as we become better acquainted with them.

But we have exhausted our space, and must bring our remarks to a close. We have intended to be fair and just towards Mr. Webster, and our readers will readily perceive that we have written on the principle of saying the best we can., and not the worst, without violating the truth. We have done so, because we have never been one of Mr. Webster's partisans, and have on more occasions than one expressed in strong language our dissent from his particular measures, or the line of policy he has recommended. We have also done so, because Mr. Webster is really a great man, and our country is not so rich in great men as to permit us to overlook or to deal harshly with one so eminent as he unquestionably is. He is one of the few survivors of a generation of distinguished men, who are passing away without leaving any successors.    Lowndes, Hayne, Calhoun, are gone, Clay is dying, and may be dead before this sees the light, and of the great men who commenced public life with him, and who might claim to be his peers, Mr. Webster alone survives, and at farthest can survive but a few years longer. We could not well forget his merits, and remember only his faults ; in doing so, we should have shown little patriotism and less Christianity. There are so few of our authors, orators, and statesmen that we can honor at all, that we are disposed to honor fully every one who does not strike us as being wholly unworthy.
Our great men are dying, and who is to take their place ? The tendency with us is downward. The generation to which Mr. Webster belonged was inferior to the generation of great men who achieved our independence and founded our national government, and he is perhaps the only man born since the Declaration who could compare favorably with the Washingtons, the Adamses, the Ham-iltons, the Madisons, and others of the same class, and in many respects not even he can do it. The generation next in time, and the one to which we ourselves belong, is of a yet lower grade of intellect and still more superficial attainments, and the best thing, perhaps, that can be said in our favor is that some of us feel and lament our inferiority. The generation that follows gives no promise of not falling still lower in the scale. Thus we go on, falling lower and lower in the intellectual and moral order with each new generation, and to what depths we shall ultimately sink, it is impossible to foresee. The democratic order is exceedingly unfavorable to either intellectual or moral greatness. If it has a tendency to bring up a degree or two the very low, which may be questioned, it has a still stronger tendency to bring all down to a low and common level. There is no use in quarrelling with this statement, for it is a fact so plain that even the blind may see it. If, then, a man amongst us rises superior to the unfavorable circumstances created by the political order of his country, and places himself on a level with the great men of other times and other countries, let us cherish him, and yield him ungrudgingly all merited honor.
We have written without any reference to the fact that Mr. Webster is or may be a candidate for the Presidency of the United States.    Who will be the candidate of either of the great parties of the country, it is impossible to say at the time we are writing, though the question will be settled before our Review issues from the press. In questions of domestic policy Mr. Webster is anti-sectional and conservative, and is unobjectionable to us and our friends; but his foreign policy has been such as we cannot approve. Ostensibly directed against foreign despotism, it has been really directed against our Church, and the liberty and peace of Continental Europe. The sympathy and support Mr. Kossuth obtained here were obtained on the supposition that he represented the Protestant cause, and that he was in league with Mazzini and others, not only for the overthrow of monarchy, but also of the Catholic Church. Hence it is that our Catholic population have almost to a man refused all sympathy with the eloquent Magyarized Sclave. But Kossuth is Mr. Webster's prolegd; Mr. Webster liberated him from prison and brought him here, and Mr. Webster is the man who in his behalf has insulted Austria, and compelled her representative to retire from the country. It were suicidal in any Catholic to vote to raise him to the Presidency of the United States. He would in so doing, if left to the choice of a better man in this respect, be false to his religion and to his country.

We love our country and delight to honor her really great men ; but our God before our country, and our country before men, however great or distinguished. What we have censured in Mr. Webster he owes to his age and country, what we have commended he owes to himself and the traditional wisdom of our ancestors, and we honor him all the more that he is one of the very few of our countrymen who respect that wisdom, and do not believe that whatever is novel is true, and whatever is a change is an improvement. We have read his writings from time to time and as here collected, we would fain hope not without profit, for which we owe and would willingly pay him a debt of gratitude. If not all that we could wish, they are among the best things which our country has given us. The author has done something, more than any other man in our day, to sustain and enhance the true glory of the American name, and while we live we shall cheerfully honor him, and we shall delight to see him honored by his countrymen.    We would willingly see the laurel that binds his brows remain green and fresh, for the honor it bestows is identified with our common country, and is a patrimony to be inherited by our children.