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On honorable terms or else retire,
Whose powers shed round him in the common strife,
He who, though thus indued as with a sense
'Tis, finally, the man who, lifted high,
Who, whether praise of him must walk the earth
LXXXIII.- WEBSTER DEFENDING HIS ALMA MATER.
1. Mr. Webster went on for more than four hours with a statement so luminous, and a chain of reasoning so easy to be understood, and yet approaching so nearly
to absolute demonstration, that he seemed to carry with him every man of his audience without the slightest effort or uneasiness on either side. A single circumstance will show you the clearness and absorbing power of his argument.
2. I observed that Judge Story, at the opening of the case, had prepared himself, pen in hand, as if to take copious minutes. Hour after hour I saw him fixed in the same attitude, but, so far as I could perceive, with not a note on his paper. The argument closed, and I could not discover that he had taken a single note. Others around me remarked the same thing; and it was among the on dits of Washington, that a friend spoke to him of the fact with surprise, when the Judge remarked, “Everything was so clear, and so easy to remember, that not a note seemed necessary, and, in fact, I thought little or nothing about my
notes." 3. The argument ended, Mr. Webster stood for some moments silent before the court, while every eye was fixed intently upon him. At length, addressing the Justice, he proceeded thus :
“ This, Sir, is my case. It is the case, not merely of that humble institution, it is the case of every college in the land.
It is more.
It is the case of every eleemosynary institution throughout our country,of all those great charities founded by the piety of our ancestors, to alleviate human misery, and scatter blessings along the pathway of life. It is more! It is, in some sense, the case of every man among us who has property of which he may be stripped; for the ques
tion is simply this: Shall our State Legislatures be allowed to take that which is not their own, to turn it from its original use, and apply it to such ends or purposes as they in their discretion shall see fit?
4. “Sir, you may destroy this little institution ; it is weak; it is in your hands! I know it is one of the lesser lights in the literary horizon of our country. You may put it out. But, if you do so, you must carry through your work! You must extinguish, one after another, all those greater lights of science which, for more than a century, have thrown their radiance over our land!
5. “ It is, Sir, as I have said, a small college. And yet there are those who love it ” —
Here, the feelings, which he had thus far succeeded in keeping down, broke forth. His lips quivered; his firm cheeks trembled with emotion ; his eyes were filled with tears, his voice choked, and he seemed struggling to the utmost simply to gain that mastery over himself which might save him from an unmanly burst of feeling. I will not attempt to give you the few broken words of tenderness in which he went on to speak of his attachment to the college. The whole seemed to be mingled throughout with the recollections of father, mother, brother, and all the privations and trials through which he had made his way into life. Every one saw that it was wholly unpremeditated, a pressure on his heart, which sought relief in words and tears.
6. The court-room during these two or three minutes presented an extraordinary spectacle. Chief-Justice
Marshall, with his tall and gaunt figure bent over, as if to catch the slightest whisper, the deep furrows of his cheek expanded with emotion, and his eyes suffused with tears; Mr. Justice Washington at his side, - with his small and emaciated frame, and countenance more like marble than I ever saw on any other human being, - leaning forward with an eager, troubled look; and the remainder of the court, at the two extremities, pressing, as it were, towards a single point, while the audience below were wrapping themselves round in closer folds beneath the bench, to catch each look and every movement of the speaker.
7. If a painter could give us the scene on canvas, — those forms and countenances, and Daniel Webster as he there stood in the midst, — it would be one of the most touching pictures in the history of eloquence. One thing it taught me, that the Pathetic depends not merely on the words uttered, but still more on the estimate we put upon him who utters them. There was not one among the strong-minded men of that assembly, who could think it unmanly to weep, when he saw standing before him the man, who had made such an argument, melted into the tenderness of a child.
8. Mr. Webster had now recovered his composure, and, fixing his keen eye on the Chief-Justice, said, in that deep tone with which he sometimes thrilled the heart of an audience, —
“Sir, I know not how others may feel” (glancing at the opponents of the college before him), “but, for myself, when I see my Alma Mater surrounded, like