previous next

[101] extricate them from the limbo of forgotten speeches, they might sound as well as Webster's words. But listen to them again, read them, and it will be found that Webster's sentences have a quality which all the others lack. Literature is interwoven with Webster's rhetoric, and it is this that preserves what he said from the forgetfulness which has overwhelmed others who in public speech have said the same things but just a little differently and without the magic literary touch.

Let us take one more example from his early days. In 1826, speaking in the House upon the Monroe Doctrine, Webster said:

I look on the message of December, 1823, as forming a bright page in our history. I will neither help to erase it or tear it out; nor shall it be by any act of mine blurred or blotted. It did honor to the sagacity of the government and I will not diminish that honor. It elevated the hopes and gratified the patriotism of the people. Over those hopes I will not bring a mildew; nor will I put that gratified patriotism to shame.

Rhetorically this passage is all that could be desired. The sentences are short, effective, possessing both balance and precision. But when we come to the last we find the literary touch. It is only one word, ‘mildew,’ but that single word is imaginative and strikes us at once. Leave it out and change the sentence slightly; the rhetoric remains excellent as before, but the whole effect is altered.

Let us take one or two other familiar passages from the later speeches when the style was perfected and when the literary quality had become a second nature. As Webster stood one summer morning on the ramparts of Quebec, and heard the sound of drums and saw the English troops on parade, the thought of England's vast world empire came strongly to his mind. The thought was very natural under the circumstances, not at all remarkable nor in the least original. Some years later, in a speech in the Senate, he put his thought into words, and this, as everyone knows, is the way he did it:

A power which has dotted over the surface of the whole globe with her possessions and military posts, whose morning drumbeat, following the sun and keeping company with the hours, circles the

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Quebec (Canada) (1)

Visualize the most frequently mentioned Pleiades ancient places in this text.

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Noah Webster (5)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
1826 AD (1)
December, 1823 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: