where he could expect
I have recorded this anecdote, partly to show the tenacity of Mr. Webster’s memory, which, after a lapse of years, enabled him so exactly to repeat the authorities he had relied upon in an old case; partly, also, to show how thoroughly he was wont to prepare himself, even in cases where he could expect but a small fee. In this case, not only did he subsequently turn his knowledge to profitable account, but he lost nothing by the kindness of heart which prompted him to place his best powers at the service of an humble client. My young readers will find that knowledge never comes amiss, but, in the course of a long and sometimes of a short life, we are generally able to employ it for our advantage Cruises from Hong Kong
I come back to Daniel Webster’s entrance upon Congressional duties.
He had reached the age of thirty-one, while Henry Clay, who occupied the Speaker’s chair, was five years older. Mr. Clay came forward much earlier in public life than his great rival. Though but thirty-six, he had twice been a member of the United States Senate, being in each case elected to serve the balance of an unexpired term. He had been a member of the Legislature of Kentucky, and Speaker of that body, and now he was serving, not for the first time, as Speaker of the U. S. House of Representatives. John C. Calhoun was the leading member of the House, and he as well as Mr. Clay favored the policy of the administration, both being supporters of the war. Other distinguished members there were, among them John McLean, of Ohio; Charles J. Ingersoll, of Pennsylvania; William Gaston, of North Carolina, and Felix Grundy, of Tennessee travel newsletter
Though Mr. Webster was a new member he was placed upon the Committee on Foreign Relations, at that time of course the most important position which could have been assigned him. This may be inferred from the names of his fellow members. He found himself associated with Calhoun, Grundy, Jackson, Fish and Ingersoll. He was, as I have stated, not in favor of the war, but since it had been inaugurated he took the ground that it should be vigorously prosecuted. He did not long remain silent, but took his stand both in the committee and in the House as one who thought the war inexpedient.
It does not fall within the scope of this volume to detail the steps which the young member took in order to impress his views upon his fellow members; but, as a specimen of his oratory at that time, and because it will explain them sufficiently, I quote from a speech made by him in the regular session during the year 1814 hong kong day tour
“The humble aid which it would be in my power to render to measures of Government shall be given cheerfully, if Government will pursue measures which I can conscientiously support. Badly as I think of the original grounds of the war, as well as of the manner in which it has hitherto been conducted, if even now, failing in an honest and sincere attempt to procure just and honorable peace, it will return to measures of defence and protection such as reason and common sense and the public opinion all call for, my vote shall not be withholden from the means. Give up your futile object of invasion. Extinguish the fires that blaze on your inland frontier. Establish perfect safety and defense there by adequate force. Let every man that sleeps on your soil sleep in security. Stop the blood that flows from the veins of unarmed yeomanry and women and children. Give to the living time to bury and lament their dead in the quietness of private sorrow.
“Having performed this work of beneficence and mercy on your inland border, turn and look with the eye of justice and compassion on your vast population along the coast. Unclinch the iron grasp of your Embargo. Take measures for that end before another sun sets upon you. With all the war of the enemy on your commerce, if you would cease to war on it yourselves you would still have some commerce. Apply that revenue to the augmentation of your navy. That navy will in turn protect your commerce. Let it no longer be said that not one ship of force, built by your hands, yet floats upon the ocean.
“Turn the current of your efforts into the channel which national sentiment has already worn broad and deep to receive it. A naval force, competent to defend your coast against considerable armaments, to convoy your trade, and perhaps raise the blockade of your rivers, is not a chimera. It may be realized. If, then, the war must be continued, go to the ocean. If you are seriously contending for maritime rights, go to the theater where alone those rights can be defended. Thither every indication of your fortune points you. There the united wishes and exertions of the nation will go with you. Even our party divisions, acrimonious as they are, cease at the water’s edge. They are lost in attachment to national character on the element where that character is made respectable. In protecting naval interests by naval means, you will arm yourselves with the whole power of national sentiment, and may command the whole abundance of the national resources. In time you may enable yourselves to redress injuries in the place where they may be offered, and, if need be, to accompany your own flag throughout the world with the protection of your own cannon.”