David J. (David Josiah) Brewer.

Crowned masterpieces of eloquence, representing the advance of civilization, as collected in The world's best orations, from the earliest period to the present time (Volume 4) online

. (page 21 of 39)
Online LibraryDavid J. (David Josiah) BrewerCrowned masterpieces of eloquence, representing the advance of civilization, as collected in The world's best orations, from the earliest period to the present time (Volume 4) → online text (page 21 of 39)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

that Prince of Peace, whose other advent was chanted 'oy the
angelic choir!

In conclusion, sir, let me say that, in comparison with this
celestial code, by which we should live and die, how little seem
all the contests here about armies, appropriations, riders, and co-
ercion, which so exasperate and threaten ! Let our legislation be
inspired by the lofty thought from that Judean mountain, and
God will care for us. In our imperfections here as legislatoii,,


let US look aloft, and then ^' His greatness will flow around our
incompleteness, and round our restlessness, his rest!*- Then,
measures which make for forgiveness, tranquillity and love, like
the abolition of hateful oaths and other reminders of our sad
and bloody strife, will rise in supernal dignity above the party
passions of the day; and that party which vindicates right against
might, freedom against force, popular will against Federal power,
rest against unrest, and God's goodness and mercy, around and
above all, will, in that sign, conquer. [Applause.]

To those in our midst who have the spirit of violence, hate,
and unforgiveness, and who delight in pains, penalties, test oaths,
bayonets, and force, and who would not replace these instruments
of turbulence with love, gentleness, and forgiveness, my only
curse upon such is, that God Almighty, in his abundant and in-
finite mercy may forgive them, for *they know not what they
do.^' [Long-continued applause.]

(From a Speech in the House of Representatives, July gth, 1861)

SCARCELY with any of our public men can Douglas be com-
pared. The people like to compare him to Jackson, for his
energy and honesty. He was like the great triumvirate, —
Clay, Webster, and Calhoun, — but ^Mike in difference.* Like
them in his gift of political foresight, still he had a power over
the masses not possessed by them. Like Clay, in his charm to
make and hold friends and to lead his party; like Webster, in
the massive substance of his thought, clothed in apt political
words; like Calhoun, in the tenacity of his purpose and the sub-
tilty of his dialectics; he yet surpassed them all in the homely
sense, the sturdy strength, and indomitable persistence with which
he wielded the masses and electrified the Senate.

In the onslaught of debate he was ever foremost; his crest
high and his falchion keen. Whether his antagonists numbered
two or ten, whether the whole of the Senate were against him,
he could ^* take a raking fire at the whole group. * Like the
shrouded Junius, he dared Commons, Lords, and King, to the
encounter; but unlike that terrible Shadow, he sought no craven
covert, but fought in the open lists, with a muscular and mental


might which defied the unreasoning cries of the mob and rolled
back the thunders of the Executive anathema!

Douglas was no scholar, in the pedantic sense of the term.
His reading was neither classical nor varied. Neither was he a
sciolist. His researches were ever in the line of his duty, but
therein they were thorough. His library was never clear from
dust. His favorite volume was the book of human nature, which
he consulted without much regard to the binding. He was
skilled in the contests of the bar; but he was more than a law-
yer — he easily separated the rubbish of the law from its essence.
As a jurist, his decisions were not essays; they had in them
something decisive, after the manner of the best English judges.
As a legislator, his practicalness cut away the entanglements of
theoretic learning and ancient precedent, and brought his mind
into the presence of the thing to be done or undone. Hence he
never criticized a wrong for which he did not provide a rem-
edy. He never discussed a question that he did not propose a

His style was of that plain and tough fibre which needed no
ornament. He had a felicity in the use of political language
never equaled by any public man. He had the right word for
the right place. His interrogative method, and his ready and fit
replies, gave dramatic vivacity to his debates. Hence the news-
papers readily copied them and the people retentively remem-
bered them. Gleams of humor were not infrequent in his
speeches, as in his conversation. His logic had the reach of the
rifled cannon, which annihilated while they silenced the batteries
of his opponents.

Douglas was a partisan, but he never wore his party uniform
when his country was in danger. His zeal, like all excess, may
have had its defect; but to him who observes the symmetry and
magnanimity of his life, it will appear .that he always strove to
make his party conservative of his country.

The tenacity with which he clung to his theory of territorial
government, and the extension of suffrage, on local questions, from
State to Territory, and the absolute nonintervention by Congress
for the sake of peace and union, while it made him enemies, in-
creased the admiration of his friends. His nature shines out
with its loftiest grace and courage in his debates on these
themes, so nearly connected as he thought them with the stabil-
ity of the Republic.


If it be that every true man is himself a cause, a country, or
an age; if the height of a nation is the altitude of its best men,
then, indeed, are these enlarged liberalities, which are now fixed
as American institutions, but the lengthened shadow of Stephen
A. Douglas. This is the cause — self-government in State and
Territory — with which he would love most to be identified in
his country's history. He was ready to follow it to any logical
conclusion, having faith in it as a principle of repose, justice, and

Placed at the head of the Territorial Committee, it was his
hand which, on this basis, fashioned Territory after Territory,
and led State after State into the Union. The latest constella-
tion formed by California, Iowa, Oregon, Wisconsin, Minnesota,
and I may add Kansas, received their charter to shine and re-
volve under his hand. These States, faithful to his fostering,
will ever remain as monuments of his greatness!

His comprehensive forecast was exhibited in his speech on the
Clayton and Bulwer treaty, on the fourth of March, 1853, wherein
he enforced a continental policy suitable and honorable to the
New World and its destiny, now so unhappily obscured. That
speech was regarded by Judge Douglas as among the most valu-
able, as I think it the most finished and cogent speech of his
life. His philippic against England, which to-day has its vindi-
cation in her selfish conduct towards us, will remind the scholar
of Demosthenes, while his enlarged philosophy has the sweep
and dignity of Edmund Burke. It was this speech which gave
to Douglas the heart of Young America. He refused to pre-
scribe limits to the area over which Democratic principles might
safely spread. ^* I know not what our destiny may be. *^ ^^ But, **
he continued, ^* I try to keep up with the spirit of the age ; to
keep in view the history of the country; see what we have done,
whither we are going, and with what velocity we are moving, in
order to be prepared for those events which it is not in the
power of man to thwart.^* He would not then see the limits of
this giant Republic fettered by treaty; neither would he in 1861
see them curtailed by treachery. If he were alive to-day he
would repeat with new emphasis his warning against England
and her unforgiving spite, wounded pride, and selfish policy.
When, in 1847, he advocated the policy of terminating her joint
occupation with us of Oregon, he was ready to back it by mili-
tary force; and if war should result, ^*we might drive Great Brit-


ain and the last vestiges of royal authority from the continent of
North America, and make the United States an ocean-bound Re-
public ! *

With ready tact and good sense, he brought to the fiscal and
commercial problems of the country views suitable to this age of
free interchange and scientific advancement.

His position on the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Senate
gave him a scope of view abroad, which was enriched by Euro-
pean travel and historic research, and which he ever used for
the advancement of our flag and honor among the nations. His
knowledge of our domestic troubles, with their hidden rocks and
horrid breakers, and the measures he proposed to remove them,
show that he was a statesman of the highest rank, fit for calm
or storm.

Some have lamented his death now as untimely and unfortu-
nate for his own fame, since it has happened just at the moment
when the politician was lost in the patriot, and when he had a
chance to atone for past error by new devotion.

Mr. Speaker, men do not change their natures so easily. The
Douglas of 1861 was the Douglas of 1850, 1854, and 1858. The
patriot who denounced this great rebellion was the patriot in
every fold and lineament of his character. There is not a page
of his history that we can afford to blot. The words which
escaped him in the delirium of his last days — when he heard
the ^< battle afar off, the thunder of the captains, and the shout-
ing*^ — were the keynote to a harmonious life.

Observant of the insidious processes North and South which
have led us to this civil war, he ever strove, by adjustment, to
avoid their disastrous effects. History will be false to her trust
if she does not write that Stephen A. Douglas was a patriot of
matchless purity, and a statesman who, foreseeing and warning,
tried his utmost to avert the dangers which are now so hard to
repress. Nor will she permit those who now praise his last great
effort for the Union to qualify it, by sinister reflections upon his
former conduct; for thus they tarnish the lustre of a life devoted,
in peace and war, to the preservation of the Union. His fame
never had eclipse. Its disk has been ever bright to the eye of
history. It sank below the horizon, like the sun of the Morea,
full-orbed, and in the full blaze of its splendor.



^ERHAPS in all English history there is nowhere else so strik-
ing an example of the sublimity of which human nature
is capable in its utmost and most shameful weakness as
that given by Cranmer in his speech at the stake. As a statesman
he had vacillated and hesitated, sacrificing principle repeatedly for
the sake of public policy or his own safety and immediate advantage.
But it is hard to imagine a nobler death than his. In the full con-
sciousness of his weakness, having put away completely his regard
for public opinion, as well as what is generally considered self-
respect, he used his last moments to exhort Englishmen who would
survive him not to hate and hurt each other, and to entreat those
who had "great substance and riches of this world, '^ to have mercy
on the weak. Then when no longer allowed to speak, and when the
fire had been lighted, he gave the memorable exhibition of self-
mastery, which redeemed him from surviving in history as a mere
weakling, and made him one of the great heroic figures of the Eng-
lish race. The scene after he was silenced is thus described by his
biographer, John Strype, writing in 1693 on the authority of eye-
witnesses : —

«And here, being admonished of his recantation and dissembling, he said,
<Alas, my Lord, I have been a man that all my life loved plainness, and never
dissembled till now against the truth; which I am most sorry for.> He added
thereunto, that, for the sacrament, he believed as he had taught in his book
against the Bishop of Winchester. And here he was suffered to speak no

«So that his speech contained chiefly three points: love to God, love to the
King, love to the neighbor. In the which talk he held men in very suspense,
which all depended upon the conclusion; where he so far deceived all men's
expectations, that, at the hearing thereof, they were much amazed ; and let
him go on awhile, till my Lord Williams bade him play the Christen man,
and remember himself. To whom he answered that he so did; for now he
spake truth.

«Then he was carried away; and a great number, that did run to see him
go so wickedly to his death, ran after him, exhorting him while time was to
remember himself. And one Friar John, a godly and well-learned man, all
the way traveled with him to reduce him. But it would not be. What they
said in particular I cannot tell, but the effect appeared in the end; for at the



Photogravure after a P7iotograph made for the Werner Company. Copyright

'by the Werner Company.

Jxole; Park, near Sevenoaks, in Kent, has been occupied not only
by Cranmer, but b}' many other historic personages. Henry
VIII and other kings used it as a royal residence. It is said
that Cranmer bought the place for only four hundred marks. A rare col-
lection of relics is now exhibited to visitors in the quaint rooms of the
old mansion.



stake he professed that he died in all such opinions as he had taught, and oft
repented him of his recantation.

« Coming to the stake with a cheerful countenance and willing mind, he
put oflf his garments with haste, and stood upright in his shirt; and a bachelor
of divinity, named Elye, of Brazen-nose College, labored to convert him to his
former recantation, with the two Spanish friars. But when the friars saw his
constancy, they said in Latin one to another, < Let us go from him ; we ought
not to be nigh him; for the Devil is with him.> But the bachelor of divinity
was more earnest with him; unto whom he answered, that, as concerning his
recaatation, he repented it right sore, because he knew it was against the
truth; with other words more. Whereupon the Lord Williams cried, <Make
short, make short.* Then the Bishop took certain of his friends by the hand.
But the bachelor of divinity refused to take him by the hand, and blamed
all others that so did, and said he was sorry that ever he came in his com-
pany. And yet again he required him to agree to his former recantation.
And the Bishop answered (shewing his hand), <This is the hand that wrote
it, and therefore shall it suffer first punishment.*

« Fire being now put to him, he stretched out his right hand, and thrust it
into the flame, and held it there a good space, before the fire came to any
other part of his body; where his hand was seen of every man sensibly burn-
ing, crying with a loud voice, <This hand hath offended.* As soon as the
fire got up, he was very soon dead, never stirring or crying all the while.** —
(From < Memorials of Thomas Cranmer,* by John Strype, M. A. 1693.)

Three centuries after the best and greatest man of any period
has done his work, the world can look back upon it and see that it
is not given to any man to be << eternally right ** in anything what-
ever except in such renunciation and self-sacrifice as Cranmer, the
martyr, showed at the last in his condemnation of Cranmer, the
statesman, Cranmer the prelate, and Cranmer the politician.

He was born in Nottinghamshire, July 2d, 1489, and died at Ox-
ford, March 21st, 1556. Educated at Cambridge, he became one of
the most learned men of his day, and when, in 1529, he used his
learning to enable Henry VHI. to divorce Catharine of Aragon, he
came at once into high favor at court. Appointed the King's chap-
lain, he was sent in 1532 on a mission to Germany and in 1533 was
appointed Archbishop of Canterbury. He used that position, as was
expected, against the rights of Queen Catharine. Under Edward VL,
in 1553, he was induced to sign a patent excluding Mary and Eliza-
beth from the succession in favor of Lady Jane Grey, and as a re-
sult, on the accession of Mary, daughter of Catharine of Aragon, he
was sent to the tower for treason, and, subsequently, to the stake, on
a charge of heresy; though, of course, as generally happened in such
cases during that period, the motive back of the charge of spiritual
error was purely one of politics. Cranmer had pledged himself to
respect the will of Henry VHL, by which the succession devolved
upon Mary, and his breach of faith in violating this pledge has been


called perjury, as his frequent shifting of position from the beginning
of his political career up to the time when he collected all his facul-
ties in his supreme effort at the stake has been called cowardice and
lack of moral character. Macaulay denies, as others have done, his
right to be called a martyr, but even if his life had been that of
a coward in the last stages of moral infirmity up to the time when
" with his hand seen by every one to be sensibly burning, he cried
with a loud voice, *■ This hand hath offended, ^ *> and so died, his
death would remain nevertheless one of the most admirable in his-
tory, so remarkable by reason of its very contrast with his life,
that we can hardly imagine such strength possible for humanity,
except as an antithesis to the extreme weakness, in repenting which
Cranmer glorified himself and that common humanity of which his
weaknesses were characteristic.

(As Reported in <The Memorials, > by John Strype, 1693)

GOOD people, I had intended indeed to desire you to pray for
me; which because Mr. Doctor hath desired, and you have
done already, I thank you most heartily for it. And now
will I pray for myself, as I could best devise for mine own
comfort and say the prayer, word for word, as I have here
written it.

[And he read it standing; and afterwards kneeled down and said the
Lord's Prayer, and all the people on their knees devoutedly praying with him.
His prayer was thus : ] —

O Father of heaven; O Son of God, redeemer of the world;

Holy Ghost, proceeding from them both, three perse '^ and
one God, have mercy upon me, most wretched caitiff and miser-
able sinner. I, who have offended both heaven and earlh, and
more grievously than any tongue can express, whither then may

1 go, or whither should I fly for succor ? To heaven I may be
ashamed to lift up mine eyes; and in earth I find no refuge.
What shall I then do ? shall I despair ? God forbid. O good
God, thou art merciful, and refusest none that come unto thee
for succor. To thee, therefore, do I run. To thee do I humble
myself saying, O Lord God, my sins be great; but yet have
mercy upon me for t^y great mercy. O God the Son, thou wast
not made man, this great mystery was not wrought for few or
small offenses. Nor thou didst not give thy Son unto death, O



God the Father, for our little and small sins only, but for all
the greatest sins of the world, so that the sinner return unto
thee with a penitent heart, as I do here at this present. Where-
fore have mercy upon me, O Lord, whose property is always to
have mercy. For although my sins be great, yet thy mercy is
greater. I crave nothing, O Lord, for mine own merits, but for
thy Name's sake, that it may be glorified thereby, and for thy
dear Son, Jesus Christ's sake.

[Then rising, he said:] All men desire, good people, at
the time of their deaths, to give some good exhortation that
others may remember after their deaths, and be the better
thereby. So I beseech God grant me grace that I may speak
something, at this my departing, whereby God may be glori-
fied and you edified.

First, it is an heavy case to see that many folks be so much
doted upon the love of this false world, and so careful for it,
that for the love of God, or the love of the world to come, they
seem to care very little or nothing therefor. This shall be my
first exhortation. That you set not overmuch by this false gloz-
ing world, but upon God and the world to come; and learn to
know what this lesson meaneth, which St. John teacheth, that
the love of this world is hatred against God.

The second exhortation is that next unto God you obey your
King and Queen willingly and gladly, without murmur and
grudging, and not for fear of them only, but much more for the
fear of God, knowing that they be God's ministers, appointed by
God to rule and govern you. And therefore whoso resisteth
them, resisteth God's ordinance.

The third exhortation is, That you love altogether like breth-
ren and sisters. For, alas! pity it is to see what contention and
hatred one Christian man hath toward another; not taking each
other as sisters and brothers, but rather as strangers and mortal
enemies. But I pray you learn and bear well away this one
lesson. To do good to all men as much as in you lieth, and to
hurt no man, no more than you would hurt your own natural
and loving brother or sister. For this you may be sure of, that
whosoever hateth any person, and goeth about maliciously to hinder
or hurt him, surely, and without all doubt, God is not with that
man, although he think himself never so much in God's favor.

The fourth exhortation shall be to them that have great sub-
stance and riches of this world, that they will well consider and


weigh those sayings of the Scripture. One is of our Savior
Christ himself, who sayeth, It is hard for a rich man to enter
into heaven; a sore saying, and yet spoken by him that knew the
truth. The second is of St. John, whose saying is this, He that
hath the substance of this world and seeth his brother in neces-
sity, and shutteth up his mercy from him, how can he say he
loveth God ? Much more might I speak of every part ; but time
sufficeth not. I do but put you in remembrance of these things.
Let all them that be rich ponder well those sentences; for if
ever they had any occasion to show their charity they have now
at this present, the poor people being so many, and victuals so
dear. For though I have been long in prison, yet I have heard
of the great penury of the poor. Consider that which is given
to the poor is given to God; whom we have not otherwise pres-
ent corporally with us, but in the poor.

And now, for so much as I am come to the last end of my
life, whereupon hangeth all my life passed and my life to come,
either to live with my Savior Christ in heaven in joy, or else
to be in pain ever with wicked devils in hell; and I see before
mine eyes presently either heaven ready to receive me, or hell
ready to swallow me up; I shall therefore declare unto you my
very faith, how I believe, without color or dissimulation; for now
is no time to dissemble, whatsoever I have written in times

First, I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven
and earth, and every article of the catholic faith, every word and
sentence taught by our Savior Christ, his Apostles and Prophets,
in the Old and New Testaments.

And now I come to the great thing that troubleth my con-
science, more than any other thing that ever I said or did in
my life; and that is, the setting abroad of writings contrary to
the truth. Which here now I renounce and refuse, as things
written with my hand, contrary to the truth which I thought in
my heart, and writ for fear of death, and to save my life, if it
might be; and that is, all such bills, which I have written or
signed with mine own hand since my degradation, wherein I
have written many things untrue. And forasmuch as my hand
offended in writing contrary to my heart, therefore my hand shall
be punished; for if I may come to the fire it shall be first burned.
And as for the Pope, I refuse him as Christ's enemy and Anti-
christ with all his false doctrine.


(From a Sermon preserved in Strype's < Memorials')

IF DEATH of the body were to be feared, then them which have
power to kill the body should we fear, lest they do their ex-
ercise over us, as they may at their pleasure. But our Sav-
ior forbids us to fear them, because when they have killed the
body, then they can do no more to us. Wherefore it is plain
that our Saviour would not that we should fear death. To die,
saith St. John Chrysostom, is to put off our old garments, and
death is a pilgrimage of the spirit from the body. (He means,
for a time.) And a sleep, somewhat longer than the old custom.
The fear of it, saith he, is nothing else than the fear of bugs,
and a childish fear of that thing cannot harm thee. Remember
holy St. Ambrose's saying, which St. Augustine, lying on his
death-bed, ever had in his mouth, ** I do not fear to die ; for we
have a good and merciful Lord and Master.* Lactantius, the great
learned man, confirms the saying of Cicero to be true, which
said, *^ that no man can be right wise, which feareth death, pain,
banishment, or poverty: and that he is the honest and virtuous

Online LibraryDavid J. (David Josiah) BrewerCrowned masterpieces of eloquence, representing the advance of civilization, as collected in The world's best orations, from the earliest period to the present time (Volume 4) → online text (page 21 of 39)