And in truth he never exhibited his logical power and demonstrative skill more superbly than in the plea of the seventh of March for the preservation of the status quo
, for the avoidance of mutual recrimination between North and South, for obedience to the law of the land.
It was his supreme effort to reconcile an irreconcilable situation.
It failed, as we know.
, Theodore Parker
, and indeed most of the voters of New England
, believed that Webster
had bartered his private convictions in the hope of securing the Presidential nomination in 1852.
They assailed him savagely, and Webster
died, a broken man, in the autumn of the Presidential year.
“I have given my life to law and politics,” he wrote to Professor Silliman
. “Law is uncertain and politics are utterly vain.”
The dispassionate judgment of the present hour frees him from the charge of conscious treachery to principle.
He was rather a martyr to his own conception of the obligations imposed by nationality.
When these obligations run counter to human realities, the theories of statesmen must give way. Emerson
could not refute that logic of Webster
's argument for the Fugitive Slave Law
, but he could at least record