C. M. (Clement Moore) Butler.

Addresses and lectures on public men and public affairs delivered in Washington City, D.C. online

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Online LibraryC. M. (Clement Moore) ButlerAddresses and lectures on public men and public affairs delivered in Washington City, D.C. → online text (page 1 of 18)
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Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1855, by

11. W. DERBY,

in the Clerk's office of the District Court for the Southern

District of Ohio.




Most of the following discourses have appeared
in print. The author having been frequently
applied to for copies of some of those which were
delivered on occasions of great and melancholy
public interest, and having been unable to furnish
them, is induced to present them, together with a
few others of kindred character, in a collected
form, with the full knowledge that they have
little value other than that which they possess as
memorials of great National events.

Cincinnati, 1855.




Address on the occasion of the funeral of the Hon. A. P. Upshur,
S. W. Gilmer, and others, who lost their lives on board the Princeton,
February 28, 1844. Delivered at the President's Mansion, March 2,


Magistrates God's Ministers ; Rom. xiii. 4 : A discourse delivered
in Trinity Church, Washington, D. C, on the death of the Hon. John
Qulncy Adams.


A Discourse delivered in the Senate Chamber, April 2, 1850, at
the funeral of the Hon. John C. Calhoun, Senator of the United States
from South Carolina.


Life, a tale that is told : A discourse delivered in St. John's
Church', Washington, D. C, Sunday, July 14th, on the death of
Zachart Taylor, late President of the United States.


The strong Staff broken and the beautiful Rod: A discourse
delivered in the Senate Chamber of the United States, July 1, 1852,
on occasion of the funeral of the Hon. Henry Clay.


The Life and Character of Henry Clay : A Lecture.


A wise man is strong : A discourse on the death of Daniel
Webster, delivered in Trinity Church, Washington, D.C., Nov. 7, 1852.



Our Union, God's Gift : A discourse delivered in Trinity Church,
Washington, D. C, on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 28, 1850.


Our Country and our Washington: A discourse delivered on
Sunday morning, February 22, 1852, the birth-day of Washington, in
the Hall of the House of Representatives.


Distinguishing National Blessings: A Thanksgiving discourse
delivered in Trinity Church, Washington, D. C, Nov. 23, 1853.



The Relations of Christianity to the State : A Lecture.


The low value attached to Human Life in the United States : A

Moral Laws applied to Associated Action : A discourse delivered
in the Hall of the House of Representatives, February, 1850.







MARCH 2, 1844.




TTEVER has it been my lot to rise in a place of
Jj| mourning under so intense and profound a convic-
tion of the inefficacy of words to add any thing of im-
pressiveness to that which the scene itself presents, as
upon this occasion. Upon ordinary occasions of mortal-
ity, it not unfrequently happens, that the words of the
speaker appear to be needed to convince us, even in the
presence of the dead, that we must die ; and to make us
realize the uncertainty of life, even when we stand before
the most convincing evidence of the truth. But I do not
feel that it is so here and now. In this instance, the fact
of death, as known to all, itself speaks with awful and
appalling eloquence. The dreadful • catastrophe which
produced the death of the distinguished individuals whose
obsequies we celebrate, lives in the ineffaceable colors of
horror, in the hearts of its paralyzed spectators, and of
those who have listened to their recital. So sudden, so
terrific, so like the lightning execution of a word spoken by
the Almighty, was the dread catastrophe, that we stand be-
fore it, pale and quivering, and confess that " the Lord —
the Lord, he is God!" The speaker's task is already


done for him. There is the solemn argument and the
touching appeal — there is the awful fact and its impressive
lesson ! It is briefly and simply this : "We must die ;
let us prepare for it." I know, my friends, that in this
presence of the honored dead, you confess the cogency of
the argument, and feel the subduing pathos of the appeal.
There is not one of us, who is not, for the time at least,
made wise and thoughtful by this awful dispensation. By
it, youth has been forced into the wisdom of experienced
age. By it, a strong arresting hand has been laid upon
the- thoughtless, compelling them to think. By it, the gay
have been made grave. The statesman, arrested amid his
high cares, has bent over the lifeless forms of those who
were his associates but as yesterday, and as he dropped
over them the tear of friendship, has felt and confessed
the nothingness of renown. The Senator has paused in
the responsible duties of his country's legislation, awed
and solemnized by this sudden stroke of death. Giving
to patriotism the hallowed spirit and accents of religion, he
has uttered, in words of persuasive and lofty eloquence,
lessons of the truest and purest — because of Heavenly —
wisdom.* For the time at least, we all are wise, we all
are thoughtful. God grant that we may be wise unto
salvation !

The first circumstance in this fearful catastrophe which
arrests our attention, is the elevated station of all its vic-
tims. I know that the true worth of a soul, in the eye

*See the speech of the Hon. Mr. Rives, in the Senate of the United States, on the
daj- succeeding the catastrophe upon the Princeton.


of reason and of God, depends not at all upon its outward
environment, but upon its moral characteristics. Never-
theless, constituted as we are, it does more powerfully
impress us to see daring Death climb to the summit
of life, and at one fell stroke bring down the loftiest
cedars of Lebanon, than it does to see him pass his inex-
orable scythe under the lilies of the valley. As they are
precipitated from their high elevation, the noise of their
fall wakes a startling echo in the heart, and scatters
around wide spread ruin. In our human weakness, we
are apt to say, « if the lofty must thus fall, then how sure-
ly must the humble." Though there be no force of logic
in the deduction, because all alike are mortal, there is
yet a salutary impression for the heart in such natural
reflection. But though such an event may add nothing to
the proof that we must die, which does not exist in the
case of the humblest child of mortality, it does most strik-
ingly enforce this lesson, that " the glory of man is as
the flower of grass, and that the fashion of this world
passeth away." There are before us the lifeless remains
of those of whom affection does not speak more fondly
here at home, than fame speaks loudly and proudly of
them abroad. One, who has held two elevated offices
under the present administration with honor, and dis-
charged their duties with high reputation and ^success,
was crowned with every civic and social virtue.* f An-
other, a citizen of the same State, called but recently to
the high office which he occupied at the period of his

♦Hon. Mr, Upshur. tHon. Mr. Gilmer,


sudden death, has been distinguished in the general coun-
cil of the nation, and the political history of his native
State. *Of him who sleeps by his side, we may say,
that none knew him but to love him — so pleasingly were
blended in him, the characteristic excellences of his pro-
fession, with those which were peculiarly and strikingly
his own. f Another victim of this awful calamity, a guest
here, is well known in the councils of his native State.
J And yet another, not forgotten because his remains, in
obedience to the wishes of widowed love, aro not here,
has not only distinguished himself by his able services for
his country at a foreign court, but has made for himself,
by his singularly amiable and attractive character, a large
and warm place in the hearts of his fellow-citizens at
home. And now, of all this station, talent, and renown,
this is the end — this the all ! Oh, may I not say, must
I not say, to the illustrious assemblage here gathered
about the dead, with the respect which is due to their
exalted station, yet with the fidelity which becomes the
humblest minister of God, that if, forgetful of their respon-
sibilities to Almighty God, forgetful of the necessity of
preparation for existence beyond the tomb, they are in
pursuit of fame or honor, as an end, as a substantial good,
as a satisfying enjoyment, as the enough of their exist-
ence ; must I not say to them, as the impressive lesson
of this dark day, that they are in pursuit of a shining,
illusive shadow, which lures them on to disappointment
and to ruin ! It is the child's chase after the rainbow —

* Captain Kennon. tCol Gardiner jHon Mr, Maxcy.


and when you shall fall panting and exhausted on the hill-
top, where its base seemed to rest, the glory, to your eye,
will have receded as far from you as ever, though you
may seem to those below you in the distance, to be wrap-
ped in its glittering radiance, as in a robe of glory.
From yonder palls there comes to the men of station and
renown this impressive lesson, " This world's glory is, at
the best, but a poor distorted shadow of that which is real
and substantial ; and he whose heart is supremely and
exclusively fixed upon the shadow, loses the reality.
Seek ye the glory and the bliss of heaven."

Another circumstance of this calamity, which has not
failed to arrest the attention of us all, is the awful sud-
denness of the stroke, and the appalling contrast exhib-
ited between the mirth and happiness of one moment, and
the terror and agony of the next. A few evenings
since, this hall was lighted up and adorned with the flower
of the capital and country — its rank, its talent, its re-
nown, its youth, and grace, and beauty. The illustrious
deceased were all here, with hearts beating with the
pulses of health and of enjoyment, and with their well
won honors clustering upon them. Now, they are here,
and so ! The next day saw them embarked with a large
and gay assemblage in that wondrous ship, which seems
to possess a conscious vitality, and to move over the waters
at the pleasure of its own wizard will. In that vessel,
freighted with rank, fashion, and beauty, consecrated
for the time to purposes of festivity, as it glides over
the sunny waters, with Death crouching in his awful den,


ready to spring on those who dreamed not of his presence,
I seem to see an affecting emblem of the life of pleasure,
on which so many thoughtless ones embark, unconscious, as
they glide over life's glancing waters, of approaching
doom. And now, "all is merry as a marriage bell," as
the festive bark speeds on — "youth at the prow, and
pleasure at the helm." While some linger at the ban-
quet, and some are listening to the song, these fated ones
walk, smiling and unconscious, into the jaws of death.
In the twinkling of an eye, on wings of flame, their
souls rush into the presence of the thrice-holy, heart
searching God ! My friends, I desire not to harrow up
your minds by an attempt to recall the horrors that suc-
ceeded that dreadful and fatal explosion. I wash but to
urge the lesson taught by that fearful transition from mer-
riment to woe — from the light laugh of hilarity to the
wail of agonized and bereaved love. Is it wise, is it
right, in a world where such things can be and are, to
live as if they could not be and are not ? Had you — I
speak to those, especially, who were present, and to all
who hear me — had you been thus suddenly summoned
into the presence of a holy God, do you suppose you
would have been ready to meet him ? The question is
not, as the heart's sophistry will endeavor to persuade
some it is, — " was it, abstractly considered, right or wrong
to be there ?" It is a question far higher and more mo-
mentous. The question is this — Is the temper of your
soul such, is its condition in the sight of God such, is the
tenor of your life such, is your manifested regard to God's


law such, as fits you to stand up without warning and
without preparation before Him, who is of purer eves than
to behold iniquity ? It is a fearful question. I know not
what you are in the sight of God, but I know what aw-
ful sayings the word of my God contains. I remember
that it asks this question, and gives this answer : " Those
eighteen upon whom the tower in Siloam fell and slew
them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that
dwelt in Jerusalem, because they suffered such things ?
I tell you, nay ; but except ye repent, ye shall all like-
wise perish. " I remember the question : "How shall ye
escape, if ye neglect so great salvation ?" I hear coming
from this dispensation, for many a careless one, this fear-
ful declaration: " She that liveth in pleasure is dead while
she liveth." Will any satisfy their minds by the resolu-
tion not again to place themselves in a scene of danger !
Alas, my friends, we know not when we are in danger.
We walk over slumbering mines. We dance on the brow
of the precipice. There is never but a step between us
and death. It is only because a forgotten God upholds
us, that we draw our present breath. It is altogether of
his mercies that we are not consumed.

An earthquake may be bid to spare
The man that's strangled by a hair !

A wiser and more solemn determination than to avoid
supposed danger, is demanded of us all by this dispensa-
tion. Oh ! may all here present, for whom the world has
an absorbing charm, which makes them forget their God,
listen to the awful lesson, delivered in thunder and flame,


and blood and death, and woe and wailing, which God has
addressed to this, alas ! too gay, too giddy Capital !

Another circumstance in this catastrophe, which arrests
all minds and moves all hearts, is the sorrow of the
stricken and bereaved relatives and friends. It is, indeed,
such a woe as a stranger intermeddleth not with. We
would not rudely penetrate into the sacred sanctuary of
their sorrowing hearts. But we would — and find it the
dictate of our hearts to do it — obey the scripture injunc-
tion which directs us to weep with those that weep. But
that we know "Earth hath no sorrow which Heaven can
not cure," it would seem that their affliction is more than
they can bear. If, at this dark hour, sympathy is sooth-
ing to their hearts, we can assure them that is poured
forth in full and flowing tides from the heart of this com-
munity — nay from the national heart. If at such a mo-
ment, earthly honors had any balm for wounded hearts,
that balm would not be wanting. If — and here we speak
without peradventure — if the prayer of pious hearts pre-
vail with God — if the blessed influence of that Spirit
whose dear name is Comforter — have a soothing ministry
for the stricken soul, they shall not be left uncom-
forted — they shall see " the bright light in the cloud."
And as we think of the sufferers by this calamity, let us
not forget the commander of the fated ship. It is a
prayer in which I am sure every heart here unites, that
that gallant and accomplished officer may soon again be
restored to his country's service, and that he may be


spared the unavailing bitterness of a too long, too deeply
cherished, sorrow and regret.

And now, in conclusion, let us bear with us to the
tomb another solemn lesson which this dispensation
teaches us. It is a truth broadly and brightly written in
God's word, that, for national transgressions, God visits
a nation's offenses with a rod, and their sins with
scourges. Sometimes he sends disaster and gloom over
the people, and sometimes he strikes down their choicest
rulers. In either case, it becomes a people, and a
people's legislators and rulers, to humble themselves
before God, that his wrath may be turned away from
them, and that his hand be not stretched out still. Now,
by this dispensation, from the highest officer of the Gov-
ernment, from the bereaved ruler of the nation, who, at
one stroke, has lost his trustiest counselors and his choic-
est friends, through many intervening circles, to the hal-
lowed one of home, there is weeping, lamentation, and
woe. I altogether read amiss the design of this dispen-
sation if it be not to bring the people to a humble con-
fession and abandonment of their sins ; to teach our
judges counsel and our senators wisdom. Salutary, indeed,
would be the effect of this dispensation if here and now —
and what place so fit, what scene so appropriate, what
" hour " so " accepted," as this place and scene and
hour? — salutary, indeed, would this dispensation prove
if here and now, in the hearts of this embodied repre-
sentation of the people of this country, there were breath-
ed by all the silent vow to Heaven that they would exert


their personal and official influence to secure honor to
God's supreme authority, obedience to God's paramount
law. If the resolution here be taken to promote, by
influence and example, the observance of God's holy day,
to check licentiousness and dissipation, and all the na-
tional crimes which cry out to Heaven against us, then
would we see light springing out of the darkness of this
dispensation. Then it would be seen how righteousness
exalteth a nation. Then would God be the shield of this
people's help, and its excellency. Then would it ride
upon the high places of the world's renown. Then we
would have no need to fear, for the Lord of Hosts would
be with us — the God of Jacob would be our refuge.

I will delay the last melancholy duties to the dead no
longer. My prayer is that we may pluck the plants of
heavenly wisdom which will spring out of the graves of
these illustrious men, and apply them to our health and
healing, as individuals and as a people. And may God
grant that this awful dispensation may accomplish that
whereunto he sent it !








For he is the Minister op God :— Rom. xiii. 4.

The Scriptures always call the cjvil ruler " the minister
of God." We, on the contrary, are in the habit of regard-
ing him, and calling him, and treating him, as the creature
and the minister of man. As if he were clay in our
hands, and we the potter, we mould and make and break
him. We acknowledge in him no authority but what we
give. We receive from him no benefit which we do not
first empower him to bestow. It sounds strangely to us,
the only source, as we call ourselves, of political power —
this declaration of the Apostle that our rulers are the
ministers of Grod, and not our ministers.

The language of Scripture and our common accredited
and applauded language on this subject, can hardly be
reconciled. We speak of our rulers as ordained of us.
" The powers that be," says the Bible, " are ordained of
God." " There is no power in rulers," say we, " but
what is entrusted to them by the people." " There is no
power," says the Scripture, " but of God" " Look to
us," we say to our rulers, " and give account to us of your
use of our delegated power." " Look to me, your God,"


says the Almighty in his holy word : " to me whose min-
ister you are, attending continually on this very thing,
exercising my power for good to him that doeth well, and
bearing my sword, not in vain, against him that doeth

This is not an apparent discrepancy only ; it is real.
There is a difference between the popular idea of a civil
ruler, and that conveyed to us in the word of God. We
shall be well occupied, we think, this morning, in opening
this truth of Scripture, that our rulers are God's minis-
ters, coming to us with authority from him, and responsi-
ble to him for the mode in which that authority is exerted
over us. We shall thus render honor to whom honor is
due. We shall show respect to God's institution. We
shall look upon our rulers not as our servants, but as
the ministers of God. We shall be made to feel the
dignity of their delegated rule, as the viceroyalty of
heaven, and the solemnity of our responsibility to " be
subject unto the higher powers." And I may, with the
more hope of a favorable hearing, broach this neglected
and forgotten truth, while there remains upon your memo-
ries and hearts the vivid impression of that just departed
and venerable patriot and ruler, whose character and
history you recognize as that of one who felt himself to be
not man's poor puppet, but God's great minister to man
for good. Bear in mind, while I speak, his constant
reference to duty, his tireless toil, ever " as in the great
taskmaster's eye ;" his inflexible adherence to the right
and true, which rested as if they were God's own shadow,


solemnly on his soul ; his devotion to the welfare of his
country and the world ; his indifference to human censure
and applause, when conscience spoke out with a clear
voice of approval and of cheer ; bear in mind this exam-
ple, and then, however in theory you may contest the
truth of the Apostle, you will be compelled to confess that
in practice you have seen one who bore himself as " the
minister of God," and who was the minister of God
to us " for good."

The theme then of our discourse is this : The Civil
Ruler, in whatever department of government he
may rule, is the minister of god.

In what sense are our civil rulers the ministers of God ?
Are they so in any higher sense than that in which every
man may be called God's minister, who, in whatever
department of life he serves or rules, is called upon to do
all to the glory of God ; all as unto God, and not as unto
men, and may, therefore, properly receive this designation?
In a higher sense than this, we conceive it to be, that he
wears this august and lofty style.

He is God's minister because the State is G-ooVs institu-
tion. Such is the clear purport of the passage to which
we have referred. God has established three divine insti-
tutions in the world : the State, the Family, and the Church,
All are God's institutions, and all intended, by various
measures and in various degrees, to discipline man as in
preparatory schools, for the higher school of heaven. We
all recognize at once that the Church is God's institution,
and not man's. We recognize almost as readily that the


family organization is divine. We feel that there is a
sacredness in it, that God speaks in the laws which govern
it, that parental authority is wielded by delegation from on
high, and filial obedience rendered in deference to a law
of which the weak parent is but the proclaimer and the
administrator ; that when its purity is invaded an inroad
is made into a consecrated enclosure, fenced all around
by God's own law, and awful with the venerableness
of God's own presence. Or, if we lose the truth that
the family is divine, and call it human in its organi-
zation and its sanctions, then we begin to undermine all
private virtue ; then the marriage tie has no more sacred-
ness than the bond of a commercial partnership ; then
schemes are formed for destroying the family relation and
turning human households into herds, whose law shall be
caprice and whose liberty shall be that cruelest despotism,
dominant and peremptory passion ! All but the Deist and
the Libertine confess that the family is divine.

But that the State is divine all are not so ready to
acknowledge. Yet, as we have seen, the Scriptures assure
us that the powers that be are ordained of God ; that
whosoever resisteth the power resisteth the ordinance of
God ; that there is no power but of God ; that by him
kings reign and princes decree justice. In harmony with

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Online LibraryC. M. (Clement Moore) ButlerAddresses and lectures on public men and public affairs delivered in Washington City, D.C. → online text (page 1 of 18)