The Story of Daniel Webster

by James Baldwin

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Chapter XII:

In 1820, when he was thirty-eight years old, Daniel Webster was chosen to deliver an oration at a great meeting of New Englanders at Plymouth, Massachusetts.

Plymouth is the place where the Pilgrims landed in 1620. Just two hundred years had passed since that time, and this meeting was to celebrate the memory of the brave men and women who had risked so much to found new homes in what was then a bleak wilderness.

The speech which Mr. Webster delivered was one of the greatest ever heard in America. It placed him at once at the head of American orators.

John Adams, the second president of the United States, was then living, a very old man. He said, "This oration will be read five hundred years hence with as much rapture as it was heard. It ought to be read at the end of every century, and, indeed, at the end of every year, forever and ever."

But this was only the first of many great addresses by Mr. Webster. In 1825, he delivered an oration at the laying of the cornerstone of the Bunker Hill monument. Eighteen years later, when that monument was finished, he delivered another. Many of Mr. Webster's admirers think that these two orations are his masterpieces.

On July 4th, 1826, the United States had been independent just fifty years. On that day there passed away two of the greatest men of the country—John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.

Both were ex-presidents, and both had been leaders in the councils of the nation. It was in memory of these two patriots that Daniel Webster was called to deliver an oration in Faneuil Hall, Boston.

No other funeral oration has ever been delivered in any age or country that was equal to this in eloquence. Like all his other discourses, it was full of patriotic feeling.

"This lovely land," he said, "this glorious liberty, these benign institutions, the dear purchase of our fathers, are ours; ours to enjoy, ours to preserve, ours to transmit. Generations past and generations to come hold us responsible for this sacred trust.

"Our fathers, from behind, admonish us with their anxious, paternal voices; posterity calls out to us from the bosom of the future; the world turns hither its solicitous eyes; all, all conjure us to act wisely and faithfully in the relation which we sustain."

Most of his other great speeches were delivered in Congress, and are, therefore, political in tone and subject.

Great as Daniel Webster was in politics and in law, it is as an orator and patriot that his name will be longest remembered.


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