« PreviousContinue »
that we are chiefly indebted for whatever makes us most proud of our country. That Union we reached 1 only by the discipline of our virtues in the severe school of adversity. It had its origin? in the necessities of disordered finance, prostrate commerce, and ruined credit. Under its benign influences, these great interests immediately awoke, as from the dead, and sprang forth with newness of life. Every year of its duration has teemed with fresh proofs of its utility and its blessings; and although our territory has stretched out wider and wider, and our population spread further and further, they have not outrun its protection or its benefits. It has been to us all a copious fountain of national, social, and personal happiness.
I have not 3 allowed myself, sir, to look beyond the Union, to see what might lie hidden in the dark recess · behind. I have not coolly weighed the chances of preserving liberty when the bonds that unite us together shall be broken asunder. I have not accustomed myself to hang over the precipice of disunion, to see whether, with my short sight, I can fathom the depth of the abyss below; nor could I regard him as a safe counselor in the affairs of this government whose thoughts should be mainly bent on considering, not how the Union
may be best preserved, but how tolerable 4 might be the condition of the people when it shall be broken up and destroyed.
1 Union we reached. Direct or 3 I have not, etc.
How many rhetorical order?
sentences in this paragraph ? Gram2 It had its origin, etc. What matical type of each? period in our history is referred to? 4 tolerable. Give a synonym.
While the Union lasts, we have high, exciting, gratifying prospects spread out before us, for us and our children. Beyond that I seek not to penetrate the veil. God grant that in my day, at least, that curtain may not rise! God grant that on my vision never may be opened what lies behind!
When my eyes shall be turned to behold, for the last time, the sun in heaven, may I not see him shining on the broken and dishonored fragments of a once glorious Union; on States dissevered, discordant, belligerent; on a land rent with civil feuds, or drenched, it may be, in fraternal blood! Let their last feeble and lingering glance rather behold the gorgeous ensign of the Republic, now known and honored throughout the earth, still full high advanced, its arms and trophies 3 streaming in their original luster, not a stripe erased or polluted, nor a single star obscured; bearing for its motto no such miserable interrogatory as “What is all this worth ?” nor those other words of delusion and folly, "Liberty first, and Union afterwards;” but everywhere, spread all over in characters of living light, blazing on all its ample folds, as they float over the sea and over the land, and in every wind under the whole heavens, that other sentiment, dear to every true American heart, — Liberty and Union, now and for ever, one and inseparable !
1 When my eyes, etc. Analyze plain, and point out how the details this sentence.
are afterwards amplified. 2 the gorgeous ensign, etc. Ex 3 trophies. See Webster.
3.- THE MURDER OF MR. WHITE.
[The argument from which this famous passage is taken was made to the jury (August, 1830) at a special session of the Supreme Court of Massachusetts, held in Salem, for the trial of John F. and Joseph J. Knapp, charged with participating in the murder of Captain Joseph White. The murder was actually committed by one Richard Crowninshield, who had been hired by the Knapps to do it for $1,000. While Crowninshield and the Knapps were in prison awaiting trial, J. J. Knapp, under a pledge of indemnity, made a full confession of the whóle affair; and Crowninshield, having heard of this confession, soon after committed suicide in the prison. Knapp thereupon withdrew his confession, and refused to testify in the trial. This released the other party from the pledge; and then J. F. Knapp was indicted as principal in the murder, and his brother as an accessory. Both of the Knapps were convicted of the crime, and executed. Webster was engaged by the prosecuting officers of the State to aid them in the case.]
I Am little accustomed, gentlemen, to the part which I am now attempting to perform. Hardly more than once or twice has it happened to me to be concerned on the side of the government in any criminal prosecution whatever; and never, until the present occasion, in any case affecting life.
But I very much regret that it should have been thought necessary to suggest to you, that I am brought liere to “hurry you against the law and beyond the evidence."3 I hope I have too much regard for justice, and too much respect for my own character, to attempt
1 the part :
perform. Ex-l of the counsel for the prisoner (Mr. plain.
Dexter, an eminent lawyer) com2 on the side ... government. plained that Webster had been The last sentence of the introduc- brought there “to hurry the jury tory note explains this.
against the law and beyond the 3 hurry you ... evidence. One levidence."
either; and, were I to make such attempt, I am sure that in this court nothing can be carried against the law, and that gentlemen, intelligent and just as you are, are not, by any power, to be hurried beyond the evidence. Though I could well have wished to shun this occasion, I have not felt at liberty to withhold my professional assistance, when it is supposed that I may be in some degree useful in investigating and discovering the truth respecting this most extraordinary murder. It has seemed to be a duty incumbent on me, as on every other citizen, to do my best and my utmost to bring to light the perpetrators of this crime.
Against the prisoner at the bar, as an individual, I can not have the slightest. prejudice. I would not do him the smallest injury or injustice. But I do not affect 2 to be indifferent to the discovery and the punishment of this deep guilt. I cheerfully share in the opprobrium, how much soever it may be, which is cast on those who feel and manifest an anxious concern that all who had a part in planning or a hand in executing this deed of midnight assassination may be brought to answer for their enormous crime at the bar of public justice.
This is a most extraordinary case. In some respects it has hardly a precedent anywhere, certainly none in our New-England history. This bloody drama exhibited no suddenly excited, ungovernable rage. The actors in it were not surprised by any lion-like temptation springing upon their virtue, and overcoming it before resistance could begin. Nor did they do the deed to glut savage vengeance, or satiate long-settled and deadly hate. It was a cool, calculating, moneymaking murder. It was all “hire and salary, not revenge.” It was the weighing of money against life; the counting out of so many pieces of silver 2 against so many ounces of blood.
1 Against... prejudice. Change into the direct order of words.
2 affcct, pretend.
An aged man, without an enemy in the world, in his own house, and in his own bed, is made the victim of a butcherly murder for mere pay. Truly, here is a new lesson for painters and poets.
Whoever shall hereafter draw the portrait of murder, if he will show it as it has been exhibited in an example, where such example was last to have been looked for, in the very bosom of our New-England society, let him not give it the grim visage of Moloch, the brow knitted by revenge, the face black with settled hate, and the bloodshot eye emitting livid fires of malice. Let him draw, rather, a decorous, smooth-faced, bloodless demon; a picture in repose, rather than in action ; not so much an example of human nature in its depravity, and in its paroxysms 4 of crime, as an infernal nature, a fiend 5 in the ordinary display and development of his character.
The deed was executed with a degree of self-possession and steadiness equal to the wickedness with which
1 The actors ... begin. Point | monites, to whom human sacriout a vivid expression in this sen- fices were offered in the valley of tence.
Tophet. 2 pieces of silver. What is the
paroxysms, violent exhibi. reference ?
tions. 8 Moloch, the deity of the Am- 5 fiend. See Glossary.