and of joy. Sir, before God, I believe the hour is come. My
judgment approves this measure, and my whole heart is in it.
All that I have, and all that I am, and all that I hope, in this
life, I am now ready here to stake upon it; and I leave off as I
begun, that live or die, survive or perish, I am for the declara-
tion. It is my living sentiment, and by the blessing of God it
DANIEL WEBSTER I575I
shall be my dying sentiment, — Independence now, and independ-
And so that day shall be honored, illustrious prophet and
patriot! so that day shall be honored; and as often as it returns,
thy renown shall come along with it; and the glory of thy life,
like the day of thy death, shall not fail from the remembrance
THE CONTINUITY OF THE RACE
From the < Discourse in Commemoration of the First Settlement of New Eng-
land,> delivered at Plymouth on the 22d day of December, 1820
LET US rejoice that we behold this day. Let us be thankful
^ that we have lived to see the bright and happy breaking
of the auspicious morn which commences the third century
of the history of New England. Auspicious indeed! — bringing a
happiness beyond the common allotment of Providence to men;
full of present joy, and gilding with bright beams the prospect
of futurity — is the dawn that awakens us to the commemoration
of the landing of the Pilgrims.
Living at an epoch which naturally marks the progress of the
history of our native land, we have come hither to celebrate the
great event with which that history commenced. Forever hon-
ored be this, the place of our fathers' refuge! Forever remem-
bered the day which saw them, weary and distressed, broken in
everything but spirit, poor in all but faith and courage, at last
secure from the dangers of wintry seas, and impressing this shore
with the first footsteps of civilized man!
It is a noble faculty of our nature which enables us to con-
nect our thoughts, our sympathies, and our happiness, with what
is distant in place or time; and looking before and after, to
hold communion at once with our ancestors and our posterity.
Human and mortal although we are, we are nevertheless not
mere insulated beings, without relation to the past or the future.
Neither the point of time, nor the spot of earth, in which we
physically live, bounds our rational and intellectual enjoyments.
We live in the past by a knowledge of its history; and in the
future by hope and anticipation. By ascending to an association
with our ancestors; by contemplating their example and studying
15752 DANIEL WEBSTER
their character; by partaking their sentiments and imbibing their
spirit; by accompanying them in their toils, by sympathizing in
their sufferings, and rejoicing in their successes and their tri-
umphs, — we mingle our own existence with theirs, and seem to
belong to their age. We become their contemporaries: live the
lives which they lived, endure what they endured, and partake in
the rewards which they enjoyed. And in like manner, by run-
ning along the line of future time, by contemplating the probable
fortunes of those who are coming after us, by attempting some-
thing which may promote their happiness, and leave some not
dishonorable memorial of ourselves for their regard when w^e shall
sleep w4th the fathers, we protract our own earthly being, and
seem to crowd whatever is future, as w^ell as all that is past, into
the narrow compass of our earthly existence. As it is not a vain
and false, but an exalted and religious imagination, which leads
us to raise our thoughts from the orb which, amidst this universe
of worlds, the Creator has given us to inhabit, and to send them
with something of the feeling which nature prompts, and teaches
to be proper among children of the same Eternal Parent, to
the contemplation of the myriads of fellow-beings with which his
goodness has peopled the infinite of space: so neither is it false
or vain to consider ourselves as interested and connected with
our whole race, through all time; allied to our ancestors; allied
to our posterity; closely compacted on all sides with others; our-
selves being but links in the great chain of being which begins
with the origin of our race, runs onward through its successive
generations, binding together the past, the present, and the future,
and terminating at last, with the consummation of all things
earthly, at the throne of God.
There may be, and there often is, indeed, a regard for ances-
try, which nourishes only a weak pride; as there is also a care
for posterity, w^hich only disguises an habitual avarice, or hides
the workings of a low and groveling vanity. But there is also a
moral and philosophical respect for our ancestors, w^hich elevates
the character and improves the heart. Next to the sense of
religious duty and moral feeling, I hardly know what should bear
with stronger obligation on a liberal and enlightened mind, than
a consciousness of alliance with excellence which is departed;
and a consciousness, too, that in its acts and conduct, and even
in its sentiments and thoughts, it may be actively operating on
DANIEL WEBSTER 1 5 753
the happiness of those who come after it. Poetry is found to
have few stronger conceptions, by which it would affect or over-
whelm the mind, than those in which it presents the moving and
speaking image of the departed dead to the senses of the living.
This belongs to poetry, only because it is congenial to our
nature. Poetry is, in this respect, but the handmaid of true
philosophy and morality: it deals with us as human beings,
naturally reverencing those whose visible connection with this
state of existence is severed, and who may yet exercise we know
not what sympathy with ourselves; and when it carries us for-
ward also, and shows us the long-continued result of all the
good we do, in the prosperity of those who follow us, till it bears
us from ourselves, and absorbs us in an intense interest for what
shall happen to the generations after us, — it speaks only in
the language of our nature, and affects us with sentiments which
belong to us as human beings.
Standing in this relation to our ancestors and our posterity,
we are assembled on this memorable spot, to perform the duties
which that relation and the present occasion imposes upon us.
We have come to this Rock, to record here our homage for our
Pilgrim Fathers; our sympathy in their sufferings; our gratitude
for their labors; our admiration of their virtues; our veneration
for their piety; and our attachment to those principles of civil
and religious liberty which they encountered the dangers of the
ocean, the storms of heaven, the violence of savages, disease,
exile, and famine, to enjoy and establish. And we would leave
here also, for the generations which are rising up rapidly to fill
our places, some proof that we have endeavored to transmit the
great inheritance unimpaired; that in our estimate of public
principles and private virtue, in our veneration of religion and
piety, in our devotion to civil and religious liberty, in our regard
for whatever advances human knowledge or improves human hap-
piness, we are not altogether unworthy of our origin.
There is a local feeling connected with this occasion, too
strong to be resisted ; a sort of genius of the place, which inspires
and awes us. We feel that we are on the spot where the first
scene of our history was laid; where the hearths and altars of
New England were first placed; where Christianity, and civiliza-
tion, and letters, made their first lodgment, — in a vast extent of
country, covered with a wilderness and peopled by roving bar-
barians. We are here at the season of the year at which the
irye4 DANIEL WEBSTER
event took place. The imagination irresistibly and rapidly draws
around us the principal features and the leading characters in
the original scene. We cast our eyes abroad on the ocean, and
we see where the little bark, with the interesting group upon its
deck, made its slow progress to the shore. We look around us,
and behold the hills and promontories where the anxious eyes of
our fathers first saw the places of habitation and of rest. We
reel the cold which benumbed, and listen to the winds which
pierced them. Beneath us is the Rock on which New England
received the feet of the Pilgrims. We seem even to behold
them, as they struggle with the elements, and with toilsome
efforts gain the shore. We listen to the chiefs in council; we
see the unexampled exhibition of female fortitude and resigna-
tion; we hear the whisperings of youthful impatience; and we
see, what a painter of our own has also represented by his pen-
cil, chilled and shivering childhood, — ^houseless but for a mother's
arms, couchless but for a mother's breast, — till our own blood
almost freezes. The mild dignity of Carver and of Bradford ; the
decisive and soldier-like air and manner of Standish; the devout
Brewster; the enterprising Allerton: the general firmness and
thoughtfulness of the whole band; their conscious joy for dan-
gers escaped; their deep solicitude about dangers to come; their
trust in Heaven; their high religious faith, full of confidence and
anticipation, — all these seem to belong to this place, and to be
present upon this occasion, to fill us with reverence and admira-
The settlement of New England by the colony which landed
here on the twenty-second of December, sixteen hundred and
twenty, although not the first European establishment in what
now constitutes the United States, was yet so peculiar in its
causes and character, and has been followed and must still be
followed by such consequences, as to give it a high claim to last-
ing commemoration. On these causes and consequences, more
than on its immediately attendant circumstances, its importance
as an historical event depends. Great actions and striking oc-
currences, having excited a temporary admiration, often pass
away and are forgotten, because they leave no lasting results
affecting the prosperity and happiness of communities. Such is
frequently the fortune of the most brilliant military achieve-
ments. Of the ten thousand battles which have been fought, of
all the fields fertilized with carnage, of the banners which "iiave
DANIEL WEBSTER 15755
been bathed in blood, of the warriors who have hoped that they
had risen from the field of conquest to a glory as bright and as
durable as the stars, — how few that continue long to interest
mankind! The victory of yesterday is reversed by the defeat of
to-day; the star of military glory, rising like a meteor, like a
meteor has fallen; disgrace and disaster hang on the heels of
conquest and renown; victor and vanquished presently pass away
to oblivion; and the world goes on in its course, with the loss
only of so many lives and so much treasure.
But if this be frequently, or generally, the fortune of mili-
tary achievements, it is not always so. There are enterprises,
military as well as civil, which sometimes check the current
of events, give a new turn to human affairs, and transmit their
consequences through ages. We see their importance in their
results, and call them great because great things follow. There
have been battles which have fixed the fate of nations. These
come down to us in history with a solid and permanent interest,
not created by a display of glittering armor, the rush of adverse
battalions, the sinking and rising of pennons, the flight, the pur-
suit, and the victory: but by their effect in advancing or retard-
ing human knowledge, in overthrowing or establishing despotism,
in extending or destroying human happiness. When the traveler
pauses on the plain of Marathon, what are the emotions which
most strongly agitate his breast ? What is that glorious recollec-
tion which thrills through his frame and suffuses his eyes ? Not,
I imagine, that Grecian skill and Grecian valor were here most
signally displayed; but that Greece herself was here saved. It is
because to this spot, and to the event which has rendered it
immortal, he refers all the succeeding glories of the republic. It
is because, if that day had gone otherwise, Greece had perished.
It is because he perceives that her philosophers and orators, her
poets and painters, her sculptors and architects, her governments
and free institutions, point backward to Marathon, and that their
future existence seems to have been suspended on the contin-
gency whether the Persian or the Grecian banner should wave
victorious in the beams of that day's setting sun. And as his
imagination kindles at the retrospect, he is transported back to
the interesting moment: he counts the fearful odds of the con-
tending hosts; his interest for the result overwhelms him; he
trembles, as if it were still uncertain, and seems to doubt whether
he may consider Socrates and Plato, Demosthenes, Sophocles, and
Phidias as secure, yet, to himself and to the world.
** If we conquer, '* said the Athenian commander on the morn-
ing of that decisive day, — ** if we conquer, we shall make Ath-
ens the greatest city of Greece. ^^ A prophecy how well fulfilled!
"If God prosper us,*^ might have been the more appropriate
language of our fathers, when they landed upon this Rock, — "if
God prosper us, we shall here begin a work which shall last for
ages: we shall plant here a new society, in the principles of the
fullest liberty and the purest religion; we shall subdue this wil-
derness which is before us; we shall fill this region of the great
continent, which stretches almost from pole to pole, with civil-
ization and Christianity; the temples of the true God shall rise
where now ascends the smoke of idolatrous sacrifice; fields and
gardens, the flowers of summer and the waving and golden har-
vest of autumn, shall extend over a thousand hills, and stretch
along a thousand valleys, never yet, since the creation, reclaimed
to the use of civilized man. We shall whiten this coast with
the canvas of a prosperous commerce; we shall stud the long and
winding shore with a hundred cities. That which we sow in
weakness shall be raised in strength. From our sincere but
houseless worship, there shall spring splendid temples to record
God's goodness; from the simplicity of our social union, there
shall arise wise and politic constitutions of government, full of
the liberty which we ourselves bring and breathe; from our zeal
for learning, institutions shall spring which shall scatter the light
of knowledge throughout the land, and in time, paying back
where they have borrowed, shall contribute their part to the great
aggregate of human knowledge; and our descendants, through
all generations, shall look back to this spot, and to this hour,
with unabated affection and regard. ^^ .
The hours of this day are rapidly flying, and this occasion
will soon be passed. Neither we nor our children can expect to
behold its return. They are in the distant regions of futurity;
they exist only in the all-creating power of God, who shall stand
here a hundred years hence, to trace, through us, their descent
from the Pilgrims, and to survey, as we have now surveyed,
the progress of their country during the lapse of a century. We
would anticipate their concurrence with us in our sentiments of
deep regard for our common ancestors. We would anticipate and
DANIEL WEBSTER 15757
partake the pleasure with which they will then recount the steps
of New England's advancement. On the morning of that day,
although it will not disturb us in our repose, the voice of accla-
mation and gratitude, commencing on the Rock of Plymouth,
shall be transmitted through millions of the sons of the Pilgrims,
till it lose itself in the murmurs of the Pacific seas.
We would leave for the consideration of those who shall then
occupy our places, some proof that we hold the blessings trans-
mitted from our fathers in just estimation; some proof of our
attachment to the cause of good government, and of civil and
religious liberty; some proof of a sincere and ardent desire to
promote everything which may enlarge the understandings and
improve the hearts of men. And when, from the long distance
of a hundred years, they shall look back upon us, they shall
know at least that we possessed affections, which, running back-
ward and warming with gratitude for what our ancestors have
done for our happiness, run forward also to our posterity, and
meet them with cordial salutation, ere yet they have arrived on
the shore of being.
Advance, then, ye future generations! We would hail you, as
you rise in your long succession, to fill the places which we now
fill, and to taste the blessings of existence where we are passing,
and soon shall have passed, our own human duration. We bid
you welcome to this pleasant land of the fathers. We bid you
welcome to the healthful skies and the verdant fields of New
England. We greet your accession to the great inheritance which
we have enjoyed. We welcome you to the blessings of good
government and religious liberty. We welcome you to the treas-
ures of science and the delights of learning. We welcome you
to the transcendent sweets of domestic life, to the happiness of
kindred, and parents, and children. We welcome you to the
immeasurable blessings of rational existence, the immortal hope
of Christianity, and the light of everlasting truth!
(Early in the Seventeenth Century)
iTTLE is known of the life of Shakespeare's greatest pupil in
tragedy, John Webster. He began to write for the stage
about 1601 : between 1601 and 1607 he made certain addi-
tions to Marston's < Malcontent,* and collaborated with Dekker in the
'History of Sir Thomas Wyatt,* < Northward Ho* and < "Westward Ho.'
In 1 61 2 ^Vittoria Corombona,* the most famous of his tragedies, was
published, and in 1623 <The Duchess of Malfi* appeared. Webster's
classical tragedy, ^Appius and Virginia,* was not published until 1654.
Besides these plays he wrote a tragi-comedy entitled ^ The Devil's
Law-Case,* and with Rowley the curious drama of *A Cure for a
Cuckold.* In his introduction to the Mermaid Edition of Webster's
plays, J. A. Symonds points out that there is little internal evidence
of this collaboration, for which the publisher Kirkman's word was the
authority. Mr. Edmund Gosse suggested that the little play within
this play might be the work of Webster; and acting on this sugges-
tion, the Hon. S. E. Spring-Rice detached the minor drama from <A
Cure for a Cuckold,* and under the name of ^Love's Graduate* had
it printed at the private press of Mr. Daniel. For two hundred years
after Webster lived, he was almost forgotten. The keen appreciation
of Charles Lamb rescued him from the strange oblivion which had
rested upon his remarkable if sinister genius. In his < Specimens
from the English Dramatic Poets,* he accords him the highest praise.
In 1830 the Rev. Alexander Dyce collected and edited the works of
Webster; bringing them for the first time within the reach of the
general reader, and securing the preservation of what are acknowl-
edged masterpieces of a certain order of tragedy.
The two Italian dramas, < The Duchess of Malfi* and <Vittoria
Corombona; or The White Devil,* belong to that strange genus, the
« tragedy of blood,** which began with the extravagances of Kyd, a
predecessor of Shakespeare, and received its highest illustration by
the master himself in < Hamlet.* Webster made a less plausible use
of this kind of tragedy than did Shakespeare, although he sometimes
approaches him in dramatic strength. His sinister imagination is
like the lightning of a midnight tempest, revealing the tormented
sky and the black fury of the storm. « No dramatist,** writes Mr.
Symonds, « showed more consummate ability in heightening terrific
JOHN WEBSTER 15759
effects, in laying bare the inner mysteries of crime, remorse, and
pain; ... he was drawn to comprehend and reproduce abnormal
elements of spiritual anguish. >> His men and women go out of life
in a black mist, as they pass through it in a red mist of crime.
Vittoria Corombona, the beautiful evil heroine of the play, cries out
when she is stabbed: —
«My soul, like to a ship in a black storm,
Is driven, I know not whither. »
Her brother, Flamineo, holds to the cynicism of his reckless life
even amid the awful scenes of the last catastrophe.
«We cease to gfrieve, cease to be fortune's slaves, •
Nay, cease to die, by dying. »
Yet the humanity of these men and women of Webster's is not
disguised by their crimes. His insight into human nature is deep
and incisive, but he knew only its night side. He was in love with
agony and abnormal wickedness, and with the tortures of sin-haunted
souls. He found fitting material for his uses in the stories of crime
furnished by the splendid, corrupt Italy of the sixteenth century.
The plots of < Vittoria Corombona' and of the < Duchess of Malfi' are
both taken from this source. Viewed in the light of Italian Renais-
sance history, they cannot be called extravagant; but the sombre
genius of Webster has made the most of their terrors.
In his Roman play of *Appius and Virginia* he has shown that
he could write calmly and dispassionately, and without the effects of
the terrible and the ghastly. It is a stately and quiet composition;
but it lacks *< those sudden flashes of illumination, those profound
and searching glimpses into the bottomless abyss of human misery,
which render the two Italian tragedies unique.'*
Webster's style is singularly well adapted to the spirit in which
he portrays human life. It is cutting, sententious, powerful. He has
the faculty of expressing an entire gamut of human emotions in a
few words, as when Ferdinand in the * Duchess of Malfi* sees the
body of his twin-sister murdered by his orders, and exclaims —
« Cover her face: mine eyes dazzle; she dies young. »
Webster's portions in the collaborated plays are inconsiderable,
and are not in any way characteristic of his peculiar genius.
i^y6o JOHN WEBSTER
FROM <THE DUCHESS OF MALFI >
[The Duchess of Malfi, having secretly married her steward Antonio,
arouses thereby the wrath of her brother, Duke Ferdinand, the heir of her
great fortune had she died childless. She is forced to separate from her hus-
band, and by the order of her brother she and her children and her attendant
Cariola are put to death.]
Scene : Room in the Duchess's Lodging. Enter Duchess and Cariola.
DUCHESS — What hideous noise was that?
Caj'iola — 'Tis the wild consort
Of madmen, lady, which your tyrant brother
Hath placed about your lodging: this tyranny,
I think, was never practiced till this hour.
Duchess — Indeed, I thank him: nothing but noise and folly
Can keep me in my right wits; whereas reason
And silence make me stark mad. Sit down;
Discourse to me some dismal tragedy.
Cariola — Oh, 'twill increase your melancholy.
Duchess — Thou art deceived:
To hear of greater grief would lessen mine.
This is a prison ?
Cariola — Yes, but you shall live
To shake this durance ofif.
Duchess — Thou art a fool:
The robin-redbreast and the nightingale
Never live long in cages.
Cariola — Pray, dry your eyes.
What think you of, madam ?
Duchess — Of nothing;
When I muse thus I sleep.
Cariola — Like a madman, with your eyes open ?
Duchess — Dost thou think we shall know one another
In the other world ?
Cariola — Yes, out of question.
Duchess — Oh that it were possible we might
But hold some two days' conference with the dead!
From them I should learn somewhat, I am sure,
I never shall know here. I'll tell thee a miracle:
I am not mad yet, to my cause of sorrow;
The heaven o'er my head seems made of molten brass,
The earth of flaming sulphur, yet I am not mad.
I am acquainted with sad misery
As the tanned galley-slave is with his oar:
JOHN WEBSTER 15 761
Necessity makes me suffer constantly,
And custom makes it easy. Who do I look like now ?
Cariola — Like to your picture in the gallery, —
A deal of life in show, but none in practice;
Or rather like some reverend monument
Whose ruins are even pitied.
Duchess — Very proper;
And fortune seems only to have her eyesight
To behold my tragedy. — How now!
What noise is that?
Servant — I am come to tell you
Your brother hath intended you some sport.
A great physician, when the Pope was sick
Of a deep melancholy, presented him
With several sorts of madmen, which wild object.