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[224] energies. But he was soon to be called to play a distinguished part in public affairs.

In 1836, he was elected to the Senate of Virginia as a Democrat. He always had firmest faith in the integrity, the patrotism and the ultimate wisdom of the great body of people. He thought the people equal to the task of self-government, and therefore placed the strictest construction upon governmental powers by which their freedom of action and of choice are to be fettered and restrained; in other words, he thought with Jefferson, that the least governed were in the main the best governed communities, and that the voters, when a question of expediency or policy is discussed before them, were quite capable of a wise and just decision. As this opinion was honestly cherished and consistently maintained, and as he reposed his trust in the people, he was in turn loved and trusted by them with a passionate devotion which knew no variableness nor shadow of turning. To vouch all this I have only to turn to the inscription, which records in bare outline the many positions of honor and trust he was called to fill.

What a busy life it was; time would fail me were I merely to catalogue the more striking incidents of a career so crowded with varied experiences! That inscription tells you with the highest eloquence, because with truth and simplicity, the places he filled with so much honor to himself and such advantage to his country that not a moment of private life was permitted to him. It tells you the principles and sentiments by which he was guided and controlled, the great central idea of which was, ‘Virginia's inherent sovereignty,’ which in time of peace he maintained with ‘fearless and impassioned eloquence;’ and that when ‘the storm of war burst, his voice was in the sword.’

For the men of the generation which is rapidly passing away, the war is and must be the one great overshadowing fact. It looms up in the memory in such vast proportions that all else which happened before and since seems trivial and of little worth. More especially is this true of this day of all days, when North and South, all over the land, there is an outpouring of the people to honor themselves by paying a loving tribute to the memory of our glorious, our happy dead—happy, because nothing can harm them further, while the memory of their heroic deeds, of their lives offered as a willing sacrifice upon the altar of duty, is sweeter and more fragrant far than the flowers with which we bestrew their honored graves.

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1836 AD (1)
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