Daniel Webster's First Bunker Hill Monument Oration

Daniel Webster's First Bunker Hill Monument Oration:
Introduction by William Trufant Foster

This introduction to Webster's First Bunker Hill Monument Oration is adapted from The Riverside Literature Series, Number 190, Washington's Farewell Address to the People of the United States, Webster's First Bunker Hill Oration, an Lincoln's Address at Gettysburg: Edited with Introduction and Notes by William Trufant Foster, Formerly Professor of English and Argumentation at Bowdoin College, copyright, 1909, by Houghton Mifflin Company, The Riverside Press, Cambridge, Mass

I. The Bunker Hill Monument

As early as 1776, steps were taken toward the commemoration of the battle of Bunker Hill and the heroic death of Dr. Joseph Warren, who was buried upon the hill the day after the action. At the time of the battle, Warren was a major-general in the Continental Army. The Massachusetts Lodge of Masons, over which Warren had presided, applied to the provisional government of Massachusetts for permission to take up his remains and to bury them with the usual solemnities. The Council granted this request, on condition that the government of the Colony might have an opportunity to erect a monument to his memory. A eulogy on General Warren was delivered, but no measures were taken toward building a monument.

A resolution was adopted by the Congress of the United States on the 8th of April, 1777, directing that monuments should be erected to the memory of General Warren, in Boston, and of General Mercer, at Fredericksburg; but this resolution has remained unexecuted.

On the 11th of November, 1794, a committee was appointed by King Solomon's Lodge, at Charlestown, /1/ to take measures for the erection of a monument to the memory of General Joseph Warren at the expense of the Lodge. This resolution was promptly carried into effect. The land for this purpose was presented to the Lodge by the Hon. James Russell, of Charlestown, and it was dedicated with appropriate ceremonies in 1794. It was a wooden pillar of the Tuscan order, eighteen feet in height, raised on a pedestal eight feet square, and of an elevation of ten feet from the ground. The pillar was surmounted by a gilt urn.

In February, 1818, a committee of the legislature of Massachusetts was appointed to consider the expediency of building a monument of American marble to the memory of General Warren, but this proposal was not carried into effect.

As the half-century from the date of the battle drew toward a close, a stronger feeling of the duty of commemorating it awakened in the community. Among those who from the first manifested the greatest interest in the subject was William Tudor. He expressed the wish, in a letter still preserved, to see upon the battleground “the noblest monument in the world,” and he was ardent and persevering in urging the project. The steps taken, from the earliest private conferences, are accurately recorded by Richard Frothingham, Jr., in his valuable History of the Siege of Boston. All the material facts contained in this note are derived from his chapter on the Bunker Hill Monument. After giving an account of the organization of the society, the measures adopted for the collection of funds, and the deliberations on the form of the monument, Mr. Frothingham says:—

It was at this stage of the enterprise that the directors proposed to lay the corner-stone of the monument, and ground was broken (June 7th) for this purpose. As a mark of respect to the liberality and patriotism of King Solomon's Lodge, they invited the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts to perform the ceremony. They also invited General Lafayette to accompany the President of the Association, Hon. Daniel Webster, and assist in it.

II. The Ceremony at the Laying of the Corner-Stone

(Account taken from the History of the Siege of Boston, by Richard Frothingham, page 344.)

This celebration was unequalled in magnificence by any thing of the kind that had been seen in New England. The morning proved propitious. The air was cool, the sky was clear, and timely showers the previous day had brightened the vesture of nature into its loveliest hue. Delighted thousands flocked into Boston to bear a part in the proceedings, or to witness the spectacle. At about ten o'clock a procession moved from the State House towards Bunker Hill. The military, in their fine uniforms, formed the van. About two hundred veterans of the Revolution, of whom forty were survivors of the battle, rode in barouches next to the escort. These venerable men, the relics of a past generation, with emaciated frames, tottering limbs, and trembling voices, constituted a touching spectacle. Some wore, as honorable decorations, their old fighting equipments, and some bore the scars of still more honorable wounds. Glistening eyes constituted their answer to the enthusiastic cheers of the grateful multitudes who lined their pathway and cheered their progress. To this patriot band succeeded the Bunker Hill Monument Association. Then the Masonic fraternity, in their splendid regalia, thousands in number. Then Lafayette, continually welcomed by tokens of love and gratitude. . . . It was a splendid procession, and of such length that the front nearly reached Charlestown Bridge ere the rear had left Boston Common. It proceeded to Breed's Hill, where the Grand Master of the Freemasons, the President of the Monument Association, and General Lafayette, performed the ceremony of laying the corner-stone, in the presence of a vast concourse of people. The procession then moved to a spacious amphitheatre on the northern declivity of the hill, where Hon. Daniel Webster delivered an address. It was at the close of a dedicatory passage on the monument that he uttered the words, "Let it rise till it meet the sun in its coming; let the earliest light of the morning gild it, and parting day linger and play on its summit."

Description by an Eye-witness

George Ticknor Curtis, in his Life of Daniel Webster (vol. i, p. 248) says: "Among the reminiscences furnished my by Mr. Ticknor, I find the following:—

"June 17, 1825. We arrived in good season on the hill, where more than twenty thousand people were collected. The platform from which Mr. Webster spoke was at the bottom, and temporary seats for several thousand persons were arranged on the rising hillside, while, near the brow above, stood a dense black mass, most of whom could hear what was said. His voice was very clear and full, and his manner very commanding. . . .

"The passage about the rising of the monument and the address to the survivors of the battle were the most effective parts of the oration. The shouts at the first were prolonged until it seemed as if they would not stop : the address brought tears into the eyes of many, and bowed down the heads of the veterans themselves to conceal their emotion"

Another interesting contemporary account is found in the United States Literary Gazette for August 1, 1825 (II : 327).

As no definite plan for the monument had been agreed upon, it was 1827 before the work of construction began. The architect was Solomon Willard and the builder was James Savage. After many difficulties and delays, the needed money was all secured and the capstone put in place on July 23, 1842.

Monument Square, covering nearly six acres, embraces the whole site of the redoubt, and a part of the site of the breastwork. The obelisk is thirty feet in diameter at the base, about fifteen at the top, and two hundred and twenty-one feet high. Within the shaft is a hollow cone, with a winding staircase of two hundred and ninety-four steps to the summit.

III. Account of the Battle of Bunker Hill

(From The American Revolution, by John Fiske.)

While these things [the proceedings of the Continental Congress] were going on at Philadelphia, the army of New England men about Boston was busily pressing, to the best of its limited ability, the siege of that town. The army extended in a great semicircle of sixteen miles,—averaging about a thousand men to the mile,—all the way from Jamaica Plain to Charlestown Neck. The headquarters were at Cambridge, where some of the university buildings were used for barracks, and the chief command had been entrusted to General Artemas Ward, under the direction of the committee of safety. Dr. Warren had succeeded Hancock as president of the provincial congress, which was in session at Watertown. The army was excellent in spirit, but poorly equipped and extremely deficient in discipline. Its military object was to compel the British troops to evacuate Boston and take to their ships; for as there was no American fleet, anything like the destruction or capture of the British force was manifestly impossible. The only way in which Boston could be made untenable for the British was by seizing and fortifying some of the neighbouring hills which commanded the town, of which the most important were those in Charlestown on the north and in Dorchester on the southeast. To secure these hills was indispensable to Gage, if he was to keep his foothold in Boston; and as soon as Howe, Clinton, and Burgoyne arrived, on the 25th of May, with reinforcements which raised the British force to 10,000 men, a plan was laid for extending the lines so as to cover both Charlestown and Dorchester. Feeling now confident of victory, Gage issued a proclamation on June 12th, offering free pardon to all rebels who should lay down their arms and return to their allegiance, saving only those ringleaders, John Hancock and Samuel Adams, whose crimes had been "too flagitious to be condoned." AT the same time, all who should be taken in arms were threatened with the gallows. In reply to this manifesto the committee of safety, having received intelligence of Gage's scheme, ordered out a force of 1200 men to forestall the governor, and take possession of Bunker Hill in Charlestown. At sunset of the 16th this brigade was paraded on Cambridge Common, and after prayers had been offered by Dr. Langdon, president of the University, they set out on their enterprise, under command of Colonel Prescott of Pepperell, a veteran of the French war, grandfather of one of the most eminent of American historians. On reaching the grounds, a consultation was held, and it was decided, in accordance with the general purpose, if not in strict conformity to the letter of the order, to push on farther and fortify the eminence known as Breed's Hill, which was connected by a ridge with Bunker Hill, and might be regarded as part of the same locality. The position of Breed's Hill was admirably fitted for annoying the town and the ships in the harbour, and it was believed that, should the Americans succeed in planting batteries there, the British would be obliged to retire from Boston. There can be little doubt, however, that in thus departing from the strict letter of his orders Prescott made a mistake, which might have proved fatal, had not the enemy blundered still more seriously. The advance position of Breed's Hill was not only exposed to attacks in the rear from an enemy who commanded the water, but the line of retreat was ill secured, and, by seizing upon Charlestown Neck, it would have been easy for the British, with little or no loss, to have compelled Prescott to surrender. From such a disaster the Americans were saved by the stupid contempt which the enemy felt for them.

Reaching Breed's Hill about midnight, Colonel Prescott's men began throwing up entrenchments. At daybreak they were discovered by the sailors in the harbour, and a lively cannonade was kept up through the forenoon by the enemy's ships; but it produced little effect, and the strength of the American works increased visibly hour by hour. It was a beautiful summer day, bathed in brightest sunshine, and through the clear dry air every movement of the spadesmen on the hill-top and sailors on their decks could be distinctly seen from a great distance. The roar of the cannon had called out everybody, far and near, to see what was going on, and the windows and housetops in Boston were crowded with anxious spectators. During the night General Putnam had come upon the scene, and turned his attention to fortifying the crest of Bunker Hill, in order to secure the line of retreat across Charlestown Neck. In the course of the forenoon Colonel Stark arrived with reinforcements, which were posted behind the rail fence on the extreme left, to ward off any attempt of the British to turn their flank by a direct attack. At the same time Dr. Warren, now chief executive office of Massachusetts, and just appointed major-general, hastened to the battlefield; replying to the prudent and affectionate remonstrance of his friend Elbridge Gerry, "Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori." Arriving at the redoubt, he refused the command expressly tendered him, saying that he should be only too glad to serve as volunteer aid, and learn his first lesson under so well tried a soldier as Prescott. This modest heroism was typical of that memorable day, to the events of which one may well apply the Frenchman's dictum, "C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas la guerre!" A glorious day it was in history, but characterized, on both the British and the American side, by heroism rather than by military skill or prudence.

During the forenoon Gage was earnestly discussion with the three new generals the best means of ousting the Americans from their position on Breed's Hill. There was one sure and obvious method,—to go around by sea and take possession of Charlestown Neck, thereby cutting off the Americans from the mainland and starving them out. But it was thought that time was too precious to admit of so slow a method. Should the Americans succeed, in the course of the afternoon, in planting a battery of siege guns on Breed's Hill, the British position in Boston would be endangered. A direct assault was preferred, as likely to be more speedily effective. It was unanimously agreed that these "peasants" could not withstand the charge of 3000 veteran soldiers, and it was gravely doubted if they would stay and fight at all. Gage accordingly watched the proceeding, buoyant with hope. In a few hours the disgrace of Lexington would be wiped out, and this wicked rebellion would be ended. At noonday the troops began crossing the river in boats, and at three o'clock they prepared to storm the entrenchments. They advance in two parties, General Howe toward the rail fence, and General Pigott toward the redoubt, and the same fate awaited both. The Americans reserved fire until the enemy had come within fifty yards, when all at once they poured forth such a deadly volley that the whole front rank of the British was mowed as if by the sudden sweep of a scythe. For a few minutes the gallant veterans held their ground and returned the fire; but presently an indescribable shudder ran through the line, and they gave way and retreated down the hillside in disorder, while the Americans raised an exultant shout, and were with difficulty restrained by their officers from leaping over the breastworks and pursuing.

A pause now ensued, during which the village of Charlestown was set on fire by shells from the fleet, and soon its hour hundred wooden houses were in a roaring blaze, while charred timbers strewed the lawns and flower-beds, and the sky was blackened with huge clouds of smoke. If the purpose of this wholesale destruction of property was, as some have thought, to screen the second British advance, the object was not attained, for a light breeze drove the smoke the wrong way. As the bridge red coats, such excellent targets for trained marksmen, were seen the second time coming up the slope, the Americans, now cool and confident, withheld their fire until the distance was less than thirty yards. Then, with a quick succession of murderous discharges, such havoc was wrought in the British lines as soon to prove unendurable. After a short but obstinate struggle the lines were broken, and the gallant troops retreated hastily, leaving the hillside covered with their dead and wounded. All this time the Americans, in their sheltered position, had suffered by little.

So long a time now elapsed that many persons began to doubt if the British would renew the assault. Had the organization of the American army been better, such reinforcements of men and ammunition might by this time have arrive from Cambridge that any further attack upon the hill would be sure to prove fruitless. But all was confusion at headquarters. General Ward was ill furnished with staff officers, and wrong information was brought, while order were misunderstood. And besides, in his ignorance of the extent of Gage's plans, General Ward was nervously afraid of weakening the centre at Cambridge. Three regiments were sent over too late to be of any use, and meanwhile Prescott, to his dismay, found that his stock of powder was nearly exhausted. While he was making ready for a hand-to-hand fight, the British officers were holding a council of war, and many declared that to renew the attack would be simply useless butchery. On the other hand, General Howe observed, "To be forced to give up Boston would, gentlemen, be very disagreeable to us all." The case was not ready so desperate as this, for the alternative of an attack upon Charlestown Neck still remained open, and every consideration of sound generalship now prescribed that it should be tried. But Howe could not bear to acknowledge the defeat of his attempts to storm, and accordingly, at five o'clock, with genuine British persistency, a third attack was ordered. For a moment the advancing columns were again shaken by the American fire, but the last cartridges were soon spent, and by resolute bayonet charges and irregular volleys that could not be returned, the Americans were slowly driven from their works and forced to retreat over Charlestown Neck, while the whole disputed ground, including the summit of Bunker Hill, passed into the hands of the British.

In this battle, in which no more than one hour was spent in actual fighting, the British loss in killed and wounded was 1054, or more than one third of the whole force engaged, including an unusually large proportion of officers. The American loss, mainly incurred at the rail fence and during the final hand-to-hand struggle at the redoubt, was 449, probably about one fourth of the whole force engaged. On the British side, one company of grenadiers came out of the battle with only five of its number unhurt. Every officer on General Howe's staff was cut down, and only one survived his wounds. The gallant Pitcairn, who had fired the first shot of the war, fell while entering the redoubt, and a few moments later the Americans met will an irreparable loss in the death of General Warren, who was shot in the forehead as he lingered with rash obstinacy on the scene, loath to join in the inevitable retreat. Another volunteer aid, not less illustrious than Warren, fought on Bunker Hill that day, and came away scatheless. Since the brutal beating which he had received at the coffee-house nearly six years before, the great intellect of James Otis had suffered well-nigh total wreck. He was living, harmlessly insane, at the house of his sister, Mercy Warren, at Watertown, when he witnesses the excitement and listened to the rumour of battle on the morning of the 17th of June. With touching eagerness to strike a blow for the cause in which he had already suffered so dreadful a martyrdom, Otis stole away from home, borrowed a musket at some roadside farmhouse, and hastened to the battlefield, where he fought manfully, and after all was over made his way home, weary and faint, a little before midnight.

Though small in its dimensions, if compared with great European battles, or with the giant contests of our own civil war, the struggle at Bunker Hill is memorable and instructive, even from a purely military point of view. Considering the numbers engages and the short duration of the fight, the destruction of life was enormous. Of all the hardest-fought fields of modern times, there have been very few indeed in which the number of killed and wounded has exceeded one fourth of the whole force engaged. In its bloodiness and in the physical conditions of the struggle, the battle of Bunker Hill resembles in miniature the tremendous battles of Fredericksburg and Cold Harbor. To ascend a rising ground and storm well-manned entrenchments has in all ages been a difficult task; at the present day, with the range and precision of our modern weapons, it has come to be almost impossible. It has become a maxim of modern warfare that only the most extraordinary necessity can justify a commander in resorting to so desperate a measure. He must manoeuvre against such positions, cut them off by the rear, or deprive them of their value by some flanking march; but he must not, save as a forlorn hope, waste precious human lives in an effort to storm them that is almost sure to prove fruitless. For our means of destroying life have become so powerful and so accurate that, when skillfully wielded from commanding positions, no human gallantry can hope to withstand them. As civilization advances, warfare becomes less and less a question of mere personal bravery, and more and more a question of the application of resistless physical forces at the proper points; that is to say, it becomes more and more a purely scientific problem of dynamics. Now at Bunker Hill, though the Americans had not our modern weapons of precision, yet a similar effect was wrought by the remarkable accuracy of their aim, due to the fact that they were all trained marksmen, who waited coolly till they could fire at short range, and then wasted no shots in random firing. Most of the British soldiers who fell in the two disastrous charges of that day were doubtless picked off as partridges are picked off by old sportsmen, and thus is explained the unprecedented slaughter of officers. Probably nothing quite like this had yet been seen in the history of war, though the principle had been similar in those wonderful trials of the long-bow in such mediæval battles as Crécy and Dupplin Moor. Against such odds even British pluck and endurance could not possibly prevail. Under these circumstances, had the Americans been properly supplied with powder, Howe could no more have taken Bunker Hill by storm than Burnside could take the heights of Fredericksburg.

The moral effect of the battle of Bunker Hill, both in America and Europe, was remarkable. It was for the British a decided and important victory, inasmuch as they not only gained the ground for which the battle was fought, but by so doing they succeeded in keeping their hold upon Boston for nine months longer. Nevertheless, the moral advantage was felt to be entirely on the side of the Americans. It was they who were elated by the day's work, while it was the British who were dispirited. The belief that Americans could not fight was that day dispelled forever. British officers who remembered Fontenoy and Minden declared that the firing at Bunker Hill was the hottest they had ever known, and, with an exaggeration which was pardonable as a reaction from their ill-judged contempt, it was asserted that the regulars of France were less formidable foes than the militia of New England. It was keenly felt that if a conquest of a single strategic position had encountered such stubborn resistance, the task of subjugating the United Colonies was likely to prove a hard one. "I wish we could sell them another hill at the same price," said General Greene. Vergennes, the French minister of foreign affairs, exclaimed that with two more such victories England would have no army left in America. Washington said there could now be no doubt that the liberties of the people were secure. While Franklin, taking extreme ground, declared that England had lost her colonies forever.

IV. Judgments Concerning the First Bunker Hill Oration

"The oration, with its historical picturequesness, its richness of thought and reasoning, its broad sweep of contemplation, and the noble and magnificent simplicity of its eloquence, was in itself an event. No literary production of the period in America received greater renown." Carl Schurz.

In a contemporary review of the Bunker Hill Oration, found in the United States Literary Gazette for August 1, 1825, the writer says: "Mr. Webster, as an orator, is decidedly of the Demosthenian school; and we have more than once, in other places, designated him as the Demosthenes of American. . . . If the structure and arrangement of Mr. Webster's sentences were equal to the beauty and grandeur of his conception, he would be, in our times, facile princep, clearly the first. We have heard most of the celebrated orators of this generation, and we have no hesitation in saying, that in native vigor and concentration, in that majestic movement of spirit, which bears onward the reason and the feelings of the hearer, he is without a rival on either side of the Atlantic."

The address on occasion of the foundation of the Bunker Hill Monument, and the Eulogies on Adams and Jefferson, and Washington, are of the same general class. They belong to a species of oratory neither forensic, parliamentary, nor academical; and which might perhaps conveniently enough be designated as the patriotic style. They are strongly distinguished from the forensic and parliamentary class of speeches, in being, from the necessity of the case, more elaborately prepared. The public taste, in a highly cultivated community, would not admit, in a performance of this character, those marks of extemporaneous execution which it not only tolerates, but admires, in the unpremeditated eloquence of the bar and the senate." (From Everett's review of Webster's speeches, in the North American Review for July, 1835. This is a valuable analysis of Webster's oratory.)

As Webster tells us in his Autobiography, he was accustomed to prepare formal speeches in the quiet of the woods and fields. The splendid passage addressed to the surviving veterans of Bunker Hill was first delivered to the trout in Marshpee Brook, on the southeast coast of Massachusetts. Mr. Fletcher Webster tell about this occasion with amusing details (In the Life of Webster, by Curtis, vol. i, p. 250.)

George Ticknor says in his reminiscences: "Mr. Webster often talked with me of the work, and seemed quite anxious about it, especially after it was decided that General Lafayette could be present. A few days before he delivered it, he read it over to me. The magnificent opening gave him much concern; so did the address to Lafayette; but about that to the Revolutionary soldiers, and the survivors of the Battle, he said that he felt as if he knew how to talk to such men, for that his father, and many of his father's friends, whom he had known, had been among them. He said he had known General Stark, and that the last time he saw him,—he said, 'Daniel, your face is pretty black, but it isn't so black as your father's was with gunpowder at the Bennington fight.'"

Edward Everett (in the North American Review, July 1, 1835) declares that one of the most eloquent passages that ever dropped from the lips of man, is the address to the survivors of the Battle of Bunker Hill, and the apostrophe to Warren. "These were topics, of course, too obvious and essential . . . to have been omitted in the orator's notes. But the man who supposes that the apostrophe to Warren was elaborated in the closet, and committed to memory, may know a great deal about contingent remainders, but his heart must be a dry and hard as a remainder biscuit . . . In the slight grammatical inaccuracy, produced by passing from the third person to the second in the same sentence, we perceive at once one of the most natural consequences and a most unequivocal proof of the want of premeditation. When the sentence commenced, 'But,—ah, —him,' it was evidently in the mind of the orator to close it by saying, 'how shall I commemorate him?' But in the progress of the sentence, —forgetful,—unconscious of the words, but glowing and melting with the thought; beholding, as he stood near the spot where the hero fell, his beloved and beautiful image rising up from beneath the sod, 'with the rose of heaven upon his check and the fire of liberty in his eye,—the blood of his gallant heart still pouring from his wound.'—he no longer can speak of him; he must speak to him."

V. Webster's Prose Style

Concerning Webster's extreme care in the choice of words and phrases, consult George Ticknor's anecdote about the writing of the First Bunker Hill Oration. (In the Life of Webster, by Curtis, vol. i, p. 250.)

Mr. Curtis himself says: "With these formal orations, which he regarded as coming within the domain of scholarship, and on which he was conscious that his fame as an orator was, in part, to rest with present and future generations, he was extremely careful, as they were passing through the press. He would correct then with a severity of taste that was far more rigorous than any standard that the public was likely to apply to them; and, when he failed to satisfy himself, he would resort to the aid of others . . . One great secret of the directness with which he reached the minds of men lay in the simplicity and purity of his style; a simplicity that was the result of the clearness and vigor of his thought, and a purity that was the result of a highly-cultivated and disciplined taste."

"When speaking extemporaneously, he seldom would make use of a word or words which did not altogether satisfy him; when that did happen, he would strike from his remarks, by a short pause, the word he had first used, and substitute another. It that did not altogether please him, he would employ still another, and so on, until he had obtained just the word he wanted, and that would be uttered with such emphasis as he alone could give to language." Harper's Magazine, December, 1852.

"Webster has not much imagination and he seldom appealed to feeling. He reasons with irresistible force and in language plain but well-chosen, terse, and thoroughly effective. His sentences have been compared to the strokes of a trip hammer. Like the strokes of a trip hammer they are in the sureness and aim and in the force with which they shatter the arguments on the other side, but not in monotony, for their construction and connection are sufficiently varied." Goldwin Smith, in Nineteenth Century, August, 1888.

VI. Webster's Conception of Eloquence

Webster gave his own definition of true oratory in a discourse in commemoration of the lives and services of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, delivered in Faneuil Hall, Boston, in 1826. While speaking of the eloquences of Adams, Webster said:—

"When public bodies are to be addresses on momentous occasions, when great interests are at stake, and strong passions excited, nothing is valuable in speech farther than as it is connected with high intellectual and moral endowments. Clearness, force, and earnestness are the qualities which produce conviction. True eloquence, indeed, does not consist in speech. It cannot be brought from far. Labor and learning may toil for it, but they toil in vain. Words and phrases may be marshalled in every way, but they cannot compass it. It must exist in the man, in the subject, and in the occasion. Affected passion, intense expression, the pomp of declamation, all may aspire to it; they cannot reach it. It comes, it comes at all, life the outbreaking of a fountain from the earth, or the bursting forth of volcanic fires, with spontaneous, original, native force. The graces taught in the schools, the costly ornaments and studied contrivances of speech, shock and disgust men, when their own lives, and the fate of their wives, their children, and their country hang on the decision of the hour. Then words have lost their power, rhetoric is vain, and all elaborate oratory contemptible. Even genius itself then feels rebuked and subdued, as in the presence of higher qualities. Then patriotism is eloquent; then self-devotion is eloquent. The clear conception, outrunning the deductions of logic, the high purpose, the firm resolve, the dauntless spirit, speaking of the tongue, beaming from the eye, informing every feature, and urging the whole man onward, right onward to his object,— this, this is eloquence; or rather it is something greater and higher than all eloquence, it is action, noble, sublime godlike actions."

VII. Webster's Power in Oratory

"He won peculiar lustre through his memorable argument in the famous Dartmouth College case before the Federal Supreme Court, which fascinated John Marshall on the bench, and moved to tears the thronged audience in the court-room. It left Webster with no superior and with few rivals at the American bar. It may be questioned whether he was a great lawyer in the highest sense. There were others whose knowledge was larger and more thorough, and whose legal opinion carried greater authority. But hardly any of these surpassed him in the faculty of seizing, with instinctive sureness of grasp, the vital point of a cause, of endowing mere statement with the power of demonstration, of marshalling facts and arguments in massive array for concentric attacks on the decisive point, of moving the feeling together with the understanding by appeals of singular magic." Carl Schurz.

"I was present (then a boy) at the laying of the corner-stone, in the outskirts of that vast audience, and well remember that, when order was restored, . . . Mr. Webster's clarion voice, in public speaking, was a very peculiar one. Whether speaking in the open air, or under a roof, he could make himself heard to a great distance, apparently without much effort, and without being unpleasantly loud to those who were near him. This was partly due to the quality of his voice, which was naturally pitched at a high key, but which was tempered by such a richness of tone that it was never in the smallest way shrill. It was due also to what might be called the quantity of his voice. He had an unusual capacity of chest and vocal organs, and hence his voice was one of extraordinary volume. It was, moreover, so entirely under his control, when his vocal organs were in full play, that it never broke, however high it might rise in the scale of its natural compass, or whatever might be the state of his emotions" George Ticknor Curtis (Life of Webster, vol. i, p. 249).

"In his character as an orator, he occupied the three great fields of eloquence, the popular, the forensic, and the parliamentary. And if the questions were asked, by whom, in our own age and country, the appropriate excellence of each of these kinds has been in the highest degree illustrated, it could not be better answered, than by pointing for the first to Mr. Webster's addresses at Plymouth and Bunker Hill; for the second to his pleas in the case of the Knapps, and of Dartmouth College; for the third, to his replies to Hayne and Calhoun in the debates in the Senate on Nullification.

"In some particular excellences of oratory, it may readily be allowed that he was surpassed by some others;—in overpowering vehemence perhaps by Demosthenes, in ornate and copious diction by Cicero, in the exuberant gush of moral sentiment and enthusiasm by Burke, in sparkling wit and felicitous point by Sheridan, in subtle dialects by Calhoun, in the graces of elocution and power to move the passions by Henry Clay; but in the harmonious combination of opposite excellences, in the blending of reason and of passion, of argument and illustration, of learning and imagination, of logic and rhetoric, of strength and beauty; in the whole impression thus produced; in that central power of commanding attention and securing conviction and persuasion; he was nearly equalled and perhaps never surpassed." Leonard Woods, President of Bowdoin College. (Eulogy delivered in 1852.)

VIII. Webster's Personality

"At an early age, he commanded attention by a singular charm of presence, to which his great dark eyes contributed not a little; and notwithstanding his high animal spirits, by a striking dignity of carriage and demeanor,—traits which gradually matured into that singularly imposing personality, the effect of which is described by his contemporaries in language almost extravagant, borrowing its similes from kings, cathedrals and mountain peaks." Carl Schulz.

"When he rose and came down to the edge of the platform, with a small roll of manuscript in his hand at the celebration of the completion of the Bunker Hill Monument, and cast a glance at the sea of two hundred thousand faces turns up to his from the amphitheatre below, and the looked up to the monument towering above him into the bright, clear air, he looked the orator, if ever earthly mortal bespoke it." Harper's Magazine, vi, 89.

IX. Important Events in the Life of Daniel Webster

1782.January 18. Born at Salisbury, N.H.
1794.Entered Exeter Academy.
1797.Entered Dartmouth College, Hanover, N.H.
1800.July 4. Delivered, before the citizens of Hanover, N.H., his first public oration.
1801.Graduated from Dartmouth College.
Taught at Fryeburg Academy, Fryeburn, Me.
1804.July. Enter a law office in Boston.
1805.March. Admitted to the bar at Boston.
1806.His father died.
1807.Transferred his law business to his brother, Ezekiel, and moved to Portsmouth, N.H.
1808.Married Grace Fletcher, of Salisbury.
Published a speech against the Embargo of 1807.
1812.July 4. Delivered an address before the Washington Benevolent Society at Portsmouth.
Fall. Elected to the Thirteenth Congress of the United States, as a Representative from New Hampshire.
1813.Appointed on the Committee on Foreign Relations.
Admitted to the bar of the Supreme Court.
1816.Moved to Boston from Portsmouth.
1817.First argument in the Dartmouth College Case in New Hampshire.
1818.Final argument in the Dartmouth College Case before the Supreme Court at Washington.
1820.Dec. 22. Delivered the Plymouth Oration.
1823.Became Member of Congress from the Boston district.
1824.Delivered a speech against the Tariff of 1824.
1825.June 17. Delivered the First Bunker Hill Oration at Charlestown, Mass. (Boston.)
1826.Delivered his Eulogy on Adams and Jefferson.
1827.Elected United States Senator from Massachusetts.
1828.His wife died.
Delivered a speech on the Tariff of 1828.
1829.Married Caroline Le Roy, of New York.
1830.January 20. First Reply to Hayne.
January 26. Second Reply to Hayne.
1832.February 22. Delivered address on The Character of Washington at the Centennial Celebration.
1833.Answered Calhoun's nullification argument with the contention that "The Constitution is not a Compact between Sovereign States."
1836.Supported only by Massachusetts in his candidacy for President of the United States.
1839.Reëlected to the United States Senate.
Visited England.
1841Resigned his seat in the Senate.
Became Secretary of State
1843Resigned his seat in the Cabinet
June 17. Second Bunker Hill Oration
1844Elected Senator from Massachusetts to take the place of Rufus Choate
1850Delivered the famous "Seventh of March" speech.
Resigned his seat in the Senate and again became Secretary of State.
1852Thrown from his carriage near Marshfield, Mass., and seriously injured
Again unsuccessful as a candidate for the Presidency of the United States.
October 24. Died at Marshfield.

X. References on the Life of Webster

—George Ticknor Curtis, Life of Daniel Webster, 2 volumes. New York, 1870. D. Appleton & Co. This is the standard Webster biography.

—Henry Cabot Lodge, Daniel Webster (in the American Statesman Series). Boston, 1883. Houghton Mifflin Company. This is the best single-volume life of Webster.

—Norman Hapgood, Daniel Webster (in the Beacon Biographies). Boston, 1899. Small, Maynard & Co.

—Charles Lanman, The Private Life of Daniel Webster. New York, 1852. Harper & Brothers.

—Peter Harvey, Reminiscences and Anecdotes of Daniel Webster. Boston, 1877. Little, Brown & Co. Interesting but not wholly trustworthy.

—S.P. Lyman, Life and Memorials of Daniel Webster. New York, 1853. D. Appleton & Co. These memorials were first published in the New York Times.

—Henry N. Hudson, A Discourse Delivered on the Hundredth Anniversary of the Birth of Daniel Webster. Boston, 1882. Ginn & Co.

—Carl Schurz, Daniel Webster, in Library of the World's Best Literature, page 15,725. An excellent, short, impartial account of Webster's career as an orator and statesman.

—Rufus Choate, A Discourse Commemorative of Daniel Webster. Boston, 1853. James Monroe & Co. Delivered at Dartmouth College, July 27, 1853.

—E.P. Whipple, The Great Speeches and Debates of Daniel Webster. Boston, 1879. Little, Brown & Co. Contains an essay on Daniel Webster as a Master of English Prose Style.

—George S. Hilliard (Editor), A Memorial of Daniel Webster from the City of Boston. Boston, 1853. Little, Brown & Co.

—George Ticknor Curtis, The Last Years of Daniel Webster. New York, 1878. D. Appleton & Co. Contains "Webster: an Ode," by W.C. Wilkinson.

—T.H. Cummings (Editor), The Webster Centennial. Boston, 1883. Published by the Webster Historical Society. Contains the proceedings of the Webster Historical Society at Marshfield, Mass., October 12, 1882, with an account of the other celebrations on the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of Webster.

—John Bach McMaster, Daniel Webster. New York, 1902. the Century Co.

—Everett P. Wheeler, Daniel Webster: the Expounder of the Constitution. New York, 1905. G.P. Putnam's Sons.

—Charles F. Richardson, Daniel Webster for Young Americans, with essay by E.P. Whipple on Daniel Webster as a Master of English Prose Style.

Magazine Articles

Harper's, VI:85 (illustrated); LXIV:428; North American Review, XLI:231 (Everett on Webster's Style of Oratory); LIX:44 (E.P. Whipple on Webster as an Author); CIV:65 (by James Parton); American Quarterly Review, IX:420 (by George Ticknor); XXIV:709 (by Mellen Chamberlain); Nineteenth Century, XXIV:262 (by Goldwin Smith); U.S. Literary Gazette, 2:327 (August 1, 1825. Review of the Bunker Hill Oration); Southern Literary Messenger, IX:749, X:25. (Both articles are on the Bunker Hill Oration.)

XI. Editions of Webster's Works

Works, 6 vols. Boston, 1851. Little, Brown & Co. The first volume contains a Biographical Memoir of Daniel Webster, by Edward Everett. The text of the oration is this volume is taken, by the courteous permission of Little, Brown & Co., from the six-volume edition.

Writings and Speeches. National Edition. 18 vols. (Illustrated with portraits and plates.) Boston, 1903. Little, Brown & Co.


/1/ General Warren, at the time of his decease, was Grand Master of the Masonic Lodges in America.