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root in the hearts of men, and on occasion disclosed itself with the strength and nobility of a heroic passion. True, a new rift was appearing, in the doctrine of nullification and the question of slavery, but this evoked at times a more militant and again a more appealing aspect in the sentiment of union. Jackson seemed to rise from the rough frontiersman to the guardian of the nation when he gave the word, "The Federal Union-it must be preserved!" Clay found the noblest exercise of his eloquence and his diplomacy in evoking the national spirit and in harmonizing the differences which threatened it. But the most stirring voice and effective leadership was that of Daniel Webster.
As Webster is judged in the retrospect, we see that he was not so much a statesman, still less a moral idealist, as an advocate. His lucidity of statement and emotional power were not matched by constructive ability. His name is associated with no great measure of administration, no large and definite policy. He was luminous in statement rather than sagacious in judgment, an advocate rather than a judge. On the platform or in the Senate he was still preeminently the lawyer, in that, like a lawyer, he was the representative and exponent of established interests,-not the projector of new social adjustments. Civil law represents a vast accumulated experience and tradition of mankind; it has been slowly wrought out, as a regulation and adjustment of existing interests; with an effort toward equity, as understood by the best intelligence of each period, but always with immense regard for precedent and previous usage. It was in this spirit, highly conservative of what has already been secured, and extremely cautious toward radical change, that Webster habitually dealt with political institutions. It was characteristic of him that in the Massachusetts constitutional convention in 1820 he pleaded strongly for the retention of the property qualification of
voters for State senators. But when the tide moved irresistibly toward manhood suffrage, he acquiesced.
But conservative as he was by nature, he was in profound sympathy with a sentiment which while rooted in the past was yet in the '20s and '30s a young, plastic, growing idea, -the idea of American Union, indissoluble, perpetual. No voice was so powerful as Webster's to fill the minds and hearts of man with this lofty passion. His orations at Plymouth Rock, at Bunker Hill, and upon the simultaneous deaths of Adams and Jefferson, his vindication of the national idea against the localism of Hayne and Calhoun,were organ-voices of patriotism. They thrilled the souls of those who listened; they went over the country and printed themselves on the minds of men; school-boys declaimed passages from them; they became part of the gospel of the American people.
We may quote a single passage from the address inspired by that dramatic circumstance, the death at once of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, on the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence: "It cannot be denied, but by those who would dispute against the sun, that with America and in America a new era commences in human affairs. This era is distinguished by free representative governments, by entire religious liberty, by improved systems of national intercourse, by a newly awakened and an unconquerable spirit of free inquiry, and by a diffusion of knowledge through the community, such as has been before altogether unknown and unheard of. America, America, our country, fellow-countrymen, our own dear and native land, is inseparably connected, fast bound up, in fortune and by fate, with these great interests. If they fall, we fall with them; if they stand, it will be because we have maintained them. . . . If we cherish the virtues and the principles of our fathers, heaven will assist us to carry on the work of
human liberty and human happiness. Auspicious omens cheer us. Great examples are before us. Our own firmament now shines brightly upon our paths. Washington is in the upper sky. These other stars have now joined the American constellation; they circle round their center, and the heavens beam with new light. Beneath this illumination let us walk the course of life, and at its close devoutly commend our beloved country, the common parent of us all, to the Divine Benignity."
THE UNDERLYING FORCES
Two master passions strove for leadership in the mind and heart of America. One was love of the united nation and ardor to maintain its union. The other was the aspiration to purify the nation, by removing the wrong of slavery. Unionist and Abolitionist stood face to face. After many years they were to stand shoulder to shoulder, in a common cause. In a larger sense than he gave the words, Webster's utterance became the final watchword: "Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable."
In the retrospect of history, our attention naturally fastens on the conspicuous and heroic figures. But we must not forget the underlying and often determining forces,— the interests, beliefs, and passions, of the mass of the community. And, while listening intently to the articulate voices, the impressive utterances, we are to remember that the life of the community as of the individual is shaped oftenest by the inarticulate, unavowed, half-unconscious sentiments:
Below the surface stream, shallow and light,
The underlying human force in the slavery question was the primitive instinct in man to keep all he has got; the instinct of the man who lives at another's expense to keep
on doing so. That underlay all the fine theories about differences of race, all the theological deductions from Noah's curse upon Canaan. Another great and constant factor was the absorption of men and communities, not personally concerned in a social wrong, in pursuits and interests of their own which shut out all outlook beyond. In our day we hear much about the crowding rush of material interests, but that crowd and rush was felt almost as much in the earlier generations, when hardly less than the most strident tones of the agitator could pierce the absorption of the street and market-place. There was the inertia of custom; there were the commercial interests closely interwoven of the Southern planter and the Northern manufacturer; there was the prejudice of color and race; and all these influences, open or latent, told powerfully for keeping slavery as it was.
The great default, the fatal failure, was the omission of the Southern whites, especially their leaders by education and by popular recognition, to take deliberate and systematic measures for the removal of slavery. Difficult? Yes, very. Impossible? Why, almost every other country of North and South America,—including the Spanish-Americans on whom the English-Americans look down with such superiority, these all got rid of slavery without violence or revolution. Whatever the case required,-of preparation, compensation, new industrial arrangement,-the Southern whites had the whole business in their hands, to deal with as they pleased. Whatever cries might be raised by a few for instant and unconditional emancipation, there never was a day when the vast mass of the American people, of all sections, were not avowedly and unmistakably committed to letting the Southern States treat slavery as their own. matter, and deal with it as they pleased, provided only they kept it at home. Excuses for non-action there were, of