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[210] Compromise of 1820 as a measure for national safety; and he had plead generously for the young South American republics and for struggling Greece. He had become the perpetual candidate of his party for the Presidency, and had gone down again and again in unforeseen and heart-rending defeat. Yet he could say honorably: “If any one desires to know the leading and paramount object of my public life, the preservation of this union will furnish him the key.” One could wish that the speeches of this fascinating American were more readable today. They seem thin, facile, full of phrases — such adroit phrases as would catch the ear of a listening, applauding audience. Straight, hard thinking was not the road to political preferment in Clay's day. Calhoun had that power, as Lincoln had it. Webster had the capacity for it, although he was too indolent to employ his great gifts steadily. Yet it was Webster who analyzed kindly and a little sadly, for he was talking during Clay's last illness and just before his own, his old rival's defect in literary quality: “He was never a man of books. ... I could never imagine him sitting comfortably in his library and reading quietly out of the great books of the past. He has been too fond of excitement — he has lived upon it; ”

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