Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

ions has since been printed, the latest of which -y Mr. J. W. Croker. Anecdotes and recollecsohnson were also published by Mrs. Piozzi, Sir dawkins, Malone, Miss Reynolds, &c. Boswell had akened public curiosity, and shown how much wit, wisdom, and sagacity, joined to real worth and benevolence, were concealed under the personal oddities and ungainly exterior of Johnson.

4. Never was there so complete a portraiture of any single individual. The whole time spent by Boswell in the society of his illustrious friend did not amount to more than nine months; yet so diligent was he in writing and inquiring, -so thoroughly did he devote himself to his subject, - that, notwithstanding his limited opportunities, and his mediocre* abilities, he was able to produce what all mankind have agreed in considering the best biography in existence.

5. Though vain, shallow, and conceited, Boswell had taste enough to discern the racy vigor and richness of Johnson's conversation, and he was observant enough to trace the peculiarities of his character and temperament. He forced himself into society, and neglected his family and his profession, to meet his friend; and he was content to be ridiculed and slighted, so that he could thereby add one page to his journal, or one scrap of writing to his collection.

6. He sometimes sat up three nights in a week to fulfill his task, and hence there is a freshness and truth in his notes and impressions which attest their fidelity. His work introduces us to a great variety of living characters, who speak, walk, and think, as it were, in our presence; and besides furnishing us with useful, affecting, and ennobling lessons of morality, live over again the past, for the delight and entertainment of countless generations of readers.

LESSON CXXXIV.
Extract from a Speech in the United States Senate.

DANIEL WEBSTER. 1. MR. PRESIDENT, When the mariner has been tossed, for many days, in thick weather and on an unknown sea, he naturally avails himself of the first pause in the storm, the earliest glance of the sun, to take his latitude, and ascertain how far the elements have driven him from his true course. Let us imitate this prudence, and, before we float further on the waves of this debate, refer to the point from which we departed, that we may at least be able to conjecture where we now are. I ask for the reading of the resolution. *

* Moderate.

* 2. We have thus heard, sir, what the resolution is, which is actually before us for consideration; and it will readily occur to every one that it is almost the only subject about which something has not been said, in the speech, running through two days, by which the senate has been now entertained by the gentleman from South Carolina.

3. Every topic in the wide range of our public affairs, whether past or present, - everything general or local, whether belonging to national politics or party politics,- seems to have attracted more or less of the honorable member's attention, save only the resolution before the senate. He has spoken of everything but the public lands. They have escaped his notice. To that subject, in all his excursions, he has not paid even the cold respect of a passing glance.

4. When this debate, sir, was to be resumed, on Thursday morning, it so happened that it would have been convenient for me to be elsewhere. The honorable member, however, did not incline to put off the discussion to another day. He had a shot, he said, to return, and he wished to discharge it. That shot, sir, which it was kind thus to inform us was coming, that we might stand out of the way, or prepare ourselves to fall before it, and die with decency,

has now been received.

5. Under all advantages, and with expectation awakened by the tone which preceded it, it has been discharged, and has spent its force. It may become me to say no more of its effect, than that, if nobody is found, after all, either killed or wounded by it, it is not the first time, in the history of human affairs, that the vigor and success of the war have not quite come up to the lofty and sounding phrase of the manifesto.

6. The gentleman, sir, in declining to postpone the debate, told the senate, with the emphasis of his hand upon his heart, that there was something rankling here, which he wished to relieve. [Mr. H. here rose, and disclaimed having used the word rankling.] It would not, Mr. President, be

At any

safe for the honorable member to appeal to those around him, upon the question, whether he did, in fact, make use of that word.

7. But he may have been unconscious of it. rate, it is enough that he disclaims it. But still, with or without the use of that particular word, he had yet something here, he said, of which he wished to rid himself by an immediate reply. In this respect, sir, I have a great advantage over the honorable gentleman. There is nothing here, sir, which gives me the slightest uneasiness; neither fear, nor anger, nor that which is sometimes more troublesome than either, the consciousness of having been in the wrong, There is nothing, either originating here, or now received here by the gentleman's shot.

8. Nothing original, for I had not the slightest feeling of disrespect or unkindness towards the honorable member. Some passages, it is true, had occurred, since our acquaintance in this body, which I could have wished might have been otherwise ; but I had used philosophy, and forgotten them.

9. When the honorable member rose, in his first speech, I paid him the respect of attentive listening; and when he sat down, though surprised, and I must say even astonished, at some of his opinions, nothing was further from my intention than to commence any personal warfare; and through the whole of the few remarks I made in answer, I avoided studiously and carefully everything which I thought possible to be construed into disrespect.

10. And, sir, while there is thus nothing originating here, which I wished at any time, or now wish, to discharge, I must repeat, also, that nothing has been received here, which rankles, or in any way gives me annoyance. I will not accuse the honorable member of violating the rules of civil

I will not say, that he poisoned his arrows. 11. But whether his shafts were, or were not, dipped in that which would have caused rankling, if they had reached, there was not, as it happened, quite strength enough in the bow to bring them to their mark. If he wishes now to gather up those hafts, he must look for them elsewhere; they will not be found fixed and quivering in the object at which they were aimed.

12. The honorable member complained that I had slept on his speech. I must have slept on it, or not slept at all. The moment the honorable member sat down, his friend from

ized war,

Missouri rose, and with much honeyed commendation of the speech, suggested that the impressions which it had produced were too charming and delightful to be disturbed by other sentiments or other sounds, and proposed that the senate should adjourn.

13. Would it have been quite amiable in me, sir, to interrupt this excellent good feeling? Must I not have been absolutely malicious, if I could have thrust myself forward, to destroy sensations thus pleasing? Was it not much better and kinder, both to sleep upon them myself, and to allow others, also, the pleasure of sleeping upon them?

14. But if it be meant, by sleeping upon his speech, that I took time to prepare a reply to it, it is quite a mistake; owing to other engagements, I could not employ even the interval between the adjournment of the senate and its meeting the next morning, in attention to the subject of this debate. Nevertheless, sir, the mere matter of fact is undoubtedly true — I did sleep on the gentleman's speech ; and slept soundly.

15. And I slept equally well on his speech of yesterday, to which I am now replying. It is quite possible that in this respect, also, I possess some advantage over the honorable member, attributable, doubtless, to a cooler temperament on my part; for, in truth, I slept upon his speeches remarkably well.

16. But the gentleman inquires why he was made the object of such a reply? Why was he singled out? If an attack has been made on the East, he, he assures us, did not begin it; it was the gentleman from Missouri. answered the gentleman's speech because I happened to hear it; and because, also, I chose to give an answer to that speech, which, if unanswered, I thought most likely to produce injurious impressions.

17. I did not stop to inquire who was the original drawer of the bill. I found a responsible endorser before me, and it was my purpose to hold him liable, and to bring him to his just responsibility, without delay. But, sir, this interrogatory of the honorable member was only introductory to another.

Sir, I

18. He proceeded to ask me whether I had turned upon him, in this debate, from the consciousness that I should find an overmatch, if I ventured on a contest with his friend from Missouri. If, sir, the honorable member, ex gratia modestice *

* For the sake of modesty.

had chosen thus to defer to his friend, and to pay him a compliment, without intentional disparagement to others, it would have been quite according to the friendly courtesies of debate, and not at all ungrateful to my own feelings.

19. I am not one of those, sir, who esteem any tribute of regard, whether light and occasional, or more serious and deliberate, which may be bestowed on others, as so much unjustly withholden from themselves. But the tone and manner of the gentleman's question forbid me that I tnus interpret it. I am not at liberty to consider it as nothing more than a civility to his friend.

20." It had an air of taunt and disparagement, something of the loftiness of asserted superiority, which does not allow me to pass it over without notice. It was put as a question for me to answer, and so put as if it were difficult for me to answer, Whether I deemed the member from Missouri an overmatch for myself, in debate here. It seems to me, sir, that this is extraordinary language, and an extraordinary tone, for the discussions of this body.

21. Matches and overmatches ! Those terms are more applicable elsewhere than here, and fitter for other assemblies than this. Sir, the gentleman seems to forget where and what we are. This is a senate; a senate of equals; of men of individual honor and personal character, and of absolute independence.

22. We know no masters; we acknowledge no dictators. This is a hall for mutual consultation and discussion; not an arena for the exhibition of champions. I offer myself, sir, as a match for no man; I throw the challenge of debate at no man's feet.

23. But then, sir, since the honorable member has put the question in a manner that calls for an answer, I will give him an answer; and I tell him, that, holding myself to be the humblest of the members here, I yet know nothing in the arm of his friend from Missouri, either alone, or when aided by the arm of his friend from South Carolina, that need deter even me from espousing whatever opinions I may choose to espouse, from debating whenever I may choose to debate, or from speaking whatever I may see fit to say, on the floor of the senate.

24. Sir, when uttered as matter of commendation or com pliment, I should dissent from nothing which the honorable member might say of his friend. Still less do I put forth any pretensions of my own. But, when put to me as matter

« AnteriorContinuar »