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or argument of this eloquent oration ; but we like its frank and manly tone, its independent and earnest spirit, and we accept without reserve the leading doctrine it was designed to set forth. We are also grateful to Mr. Webster for having had the moral courage to assert great truths in a community where they can win little applause, and to administer a well merited rebuke to certain dangerous ultraisms when and where it was not uncalled for. He has proved that he is not unworthy to be reckoned a freeman and a patriot, and he deserves and will receive the approbation of all who can distinguish between words and things, and prefer sound sense and solid wisdom to inad fanaticism and hollow cant. It is cheering to find our young men rising above the tendencies of the age and country, and manifesting some respect for the wisdom and virtue of their ancestors, and indicating that they have some suspicion that all that is wise and just was not born with the new generation and possibly may not die with it. It permits us to hope things may not have gone quite so badly with us as we had feared; that the people are less unsound at the core than we had dared besieve; that, after all, there is a redeeming spirit at work among them; and that our noble experiment in behalf of popular institutions may not be destined to a speedy failure.
Our great danger lies in the radical tendency which has become so wide, deep, and active in the American people. We have, to a great extent, ceased to regard any thing as sacred or venerable; we spurn what is old ; war against what is fixed; and labor to set all religious, domestic, and social institutions afloat on the wild and tumultuous sea of speculation and experiment. Nothing has hitherto gone right; nothing has been achieved that is worth retaining; and man and Providence have thus far done nothing but commit one continued series of blunders. All things are to be reconstructed; the world is to be recast, and by our own wisdom and strength. We must borrow no light from the past, adopt none of its maxims, and take no data from its experience. Even language itself, which only embodies the thoughts, convictious, sentiments, hopes, affections, and aspirations of the race, cannot serve as a mediun of intercourse between man and man. It is not safe to affirm that black is black, for the word black only names an idea which the past entertained, and most likely a false idea. With such a tendency, wide and deep, strong and active, we can
not but apprehend the most serious dangers. With it there can be no permanent institutions, no government, no society, no virtue, no well-being.
There is much to strengthen this radical tendency. It is natural to the inexperienced, the conceited, and the vain ; and it can hardly fail to be powerful in a community where these have facilities for occupying prominent and commanding positions. Young enthusiasts, taught to “remember, when they are old, not to forget the dreams of their youth, that is, not to profit by experience, and not doubting that what they were ignorant of yesterday was known by no one, and that they must needs be as far in advance of all the world as they are of their own infancy, bring benevolent affection, disinterested zeal, and conscientiousness to its aid; political aspirants, reckless of principle and greedy of place, appeal to it as their most facile means of success; and the mass of the people, finding their passions flattered, and their prejudices undisturbed, are thrown off their guard, presume all is right, and cherish unconsciously the enemy that is to destroy them. A factitious public opinion grows up, becomes supreme, to which whoever wishes for some consideration in the community in which he lives, must offer incense, and which he must presume on no occasion to contradict. The majority of the people, indeed, may not be represented by this opinion,-may, it is true, not approve it; but they are isolated one from another, minding each their own affairs, and ignorant of their numbers and strength ; while the few, by their union, mutual acquaintance, concert, and clamor, are able to silence any single voice not raised in adulation of their idol. Political parties conspire to the same end. One party to-day, ambitious of success, courts this factitious public opinion as a useful auxiliary, and succeeds; the other must do so to-morrow, or abandon all hopes of succeeding. Then follows a strife of parties, which shall bid highest, and outradical the other. The radical tendency is thus daily exaggerated by those who in reality disapprove it, and in their feelings have no sympathy with it. Hence, the evil goes ever from bad to worse. Unhappily, this is no fancy sketch. We have seen it, and we see it daily pass under our own eyes, and not, we confess, without lively alarm for our beloved country and her popular institutions.
It is, therefore, with more than ordinary pleasure that we see among our young men, in whose hands are the destinies
of our country, whose views and passions and interests must be consulted by any party aspiring to power and place, some symptoms of an opposing tendency. Right glad are we that the young “sovereigns" show some signs of beginning to take sounder and more practical views, and to cherish a reaction against the ultraisms of the day. This oration, and some other indications, which have not escaped our notice, prove to us that there is a returning respect for the wisdom of experience, and that the reign of the Garrisons, the Parkers, the Sumners, the O'Sullivans, the Channings, the Abby Folsoms, et id omne genus, approaches its termination, and that henceforth practical sense and wise experience will at least dispute the throne with fanatic zeal, blind enthusiasm, and bloated conceit.
In preparing this oration, Mr. Webster must have been conscious that he was running athwart the views of many whom most of us have been accustomed to hold in high esteem, and that, in venturing to assert the lawfulness of war and the obligation of the citizen to obey the government, he would be attacking every class of 'fanatics in the land, and could not fail to incur the unmitigated wrath and hostility of the whole modern “ Peace” party. Yet his courage did not fail him. He does not appear to have had any misgivings before even the awful shade of the late Noah Worcester, founder of the American Peace Society, and he has dared consult his relations as a man and a citizen, and to lay it down as his rule of action, that he is responsible, not to the self-created associations of the day, to the reigning cant of the time and place, but solely to his God and his country. For this, however much he may demned by fanatical reformers, we honor him, and for this every right-minded man will honor him ; for in this he has asserted his independence, and set an example worthy of imitation.
The main topic of this oration is the lawfulness of war, and the duty of the citizen to obey the government,--a topic at all times interesting and important, and especially so at this time, when we are actually engaged in a war with a neighboring republic, the necessity of which is questioned by many of our citizens; and when there is widely prevalent a notion that the citizen is under no moral obligation to obey the law, if it does not chance to coincide with his own private convictions of justice and expediency. We agree in the main with the view of this topic which the author
takes, and gladly avail ourselves of the occasion to make some additional remarks of our own, which may tend to illustrate and confirm it, though the readers of the oration may, perhaps, consider them quite superfluous.
The war of 1812, declared by this country against Great Britain, as is well known, was exceedingly unpopular in the New England states,-not, indeed, in consequence of any especial partiality for Great Britain herself, nor because they were less patriotic than the other inembers of the confederacy, but because the chief burdens of the war fell upon them, in the ruin it brought to their commerce and its dependent interests, then their principal interests. It is not for us to pronounce any opinion on the justice or expediency of that war; but we cannot censure with extreme severity the New England people for being strongly opposed to it. Yet there can be no question, that, in the madness of the moment, the opposition was carried to wholly un. justifiable lengths, and, though we willingly acquit it of all treasonable intentions, it in reality stopped only this side of treason. Some weak-minded but well disposed New Eng
. land ministers, incapable of taking comprehensive views and of seeking to remedy an evil by attacking it in its principle, seeing the danger to the Union, to the stability of our institutions, occasioned by the opposition to war, which they never thought of censuring or attempting to moderate, lamenting the very serious evils suffered by their friends and neighbors, and taking it for granted that the war was wholly unnecessary and unjust, made the grand discovery in moral theology that war is malum in se, is always unnecessary, and can never be lawful. They without much delay proceeded, more suo, to form an association against war, and to preach, lecture, and issue tracts in favor of universal peace. They appealed to the prejudices against the actual war, and to general philanthropy. New Englanders, especially Bostonians, are rarely insensible to the appeal to philanthropy. Since the softening down of some of the asperities of their primitive Puritanism, which took place in the latter half of the last century, they have been justly remarkable for their philanthropy,-no people in the world more so. Industrious, frugal, economical, they certainly are ; but mean, sordid, miserly, they are not, and are incapable of being: They are, in truth, open, frank, generous, and liberal, with a sort of passion for world reform, which is one of their foibles. The unpopularity of the war of 1812, and the popularity of the appeal to philanthropy, gave to the peace movement a speedy and strong support, till peace became a sort of cant among ns, and it was hazardous to one's reputation to intimate that war, terrible as may be its evils, is nevertheless sometimes just and necessary.
But the genuine Yankee is never satisfied with doing only one thing at a time. He is really in his glory only when he has some dozen or more irons all in the fire at once. The simple question of peace could by no means absorb his superabundant zeal and philanthropy, so he invented and set on foot anti-slavery and various other movements, all of which adopted the peace principle;" for the chief actors
“ in one were, for the most part, prominent actors in all. By means of agitation, froth and foam, declamation and rant, of conventions, agents, tracts, lectures, sermons, periodicals, a new code of morals has been gradually framed among us; all that was once regarded as settled is now called in question; what was approved by the generations which preceded us is now pronounced low, earthly, sensual, devilish ; the fairest reputations are blackened ; our own patriots and heroes are calumniated, and even Washington himself has been publicly branded as an “ inhuman butcher.” We are cast completely adrift. There was no true morality in the world before these modern societies sprung from the womb of night, and we are required to look to a few canting ministers, strolling spinsters, and beardless youths, as the sole authoritative expounders of the precepts of the divine law. We are unable to determine what it is safe to eat or to drink, when to rise up or sit down, unless some of these self-constituted guides condescend to inform us. Sin and death hover everywhere; poison lurks in every thing, even in the bread made from the finest wheat, and in the purest water from the fountain ; and there seems to be no possible means of living but to go naked and cease to eat or drink. It is a wonder how the world has contrived, for six thousand years, to get on, how men and women have contrived to be born, to live, to grow, and to persuade themselves that they enjoy a tolerable share of health and vigor, both of mind and body.
The joke, in fact, becomes serious. Many of the rising generation are beginning to take it, not as a dull jest, but as downright earnest. It interferes quite too much with the social and domestic business of life, and, if continued much longer, will reduce the great mass of us to mere automata.