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

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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 37 of 39)
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floor — who seek to distract the peace and dissolve the bonds of
our federative Government; who would put at hazard, in pursuit
of temporary projects, or to indulge ambitious aspirants, the re-
pose and institutions of the Republic; who contemplate change
and revolution; I beseech such men to extend their forecasting
vision into the future, and to confront posterity. Let them be
warned, by anticipating the judgment of that tribunal. The ex-
citements of the day may be gratified; they may delude them-
selves into the belief that they are laboring to vindicate the
Constitution, or to uphold the principles of human liberty; but if
they recklessly involve the American people in the horrors, un-
certainties, and fatal consequences of civil war, and of violent
disruption, they must be content to receive, as a merited reward,
an immortality of detestation. Their party and paltry pretexts
will be forgotten; their refined discriminations in theory and
their high-wrought declamation will be forgotten; even their vir-
tuous passions will cease to extenuate their offense; and all pos-
terity, struggling in vain to recombine the elements and to rebuild
the edifice of our great and glorious and happy confederacy —
amid the desolation of perpetual conflicts and in the darkness of
sectional bondage — will doom them to loud, deep, and everlast-
ing execration. Let no man, sir, seek elevation or renown, at
the price of the National Union and tranquillity. He will never
find it. Failing, he must rank during life among the few out-
casts whom we have yet engendered; and if he achieve his
country's ruin, when dead, the burning lava of universal hatred
will roll hissing over his grave; and, though like *the aspiring
youth who fired the Ephesian dome,** he should acquire fame, it
will be the fame of bitter and boundless abhon'ence.



^T. Peter Damiani, poet, preacher, reformer, and flagellant,
v,as born at Ravenna, Italy, in 1007. Such of his sermons
as survive have all the characteristics of the Middle Ages
before the Revival of Learning. That on the Last Journey of our
Lord, in which he treats the untying of the ass on which Christ
rode into Jerusalem as a parable, is a type of a class which illus-
trates the influence of the Northern races on oratory and literature.
Damiani is an Italian by birth only, for in his style and modes of
thought he represented the Gothic influences which in overthrowing
Rome overthrew learning also. At the age of twenty-nine he became a
hermit at Fonte Avellano in Umbria. He was noted for asceticism and
self-inflicted scourgings. As a result, he became the head of an or-
der of Flagellants, acquiring great influence which he used to put
down the practice of simony and other abuses. He rose to the dig-
nity of Bishop of Ostia and afterwards to that of Cardinal, with great
influence at Rome. Besides his sermons, he left a number of poems,
biographies of the saints, and other works.

(From the Sermon, «The Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple*)

IT DELIGHTS the heart to celebrate the present, let us take pleas-
ure also in expecting the coming festival. Let that teach us
to render thanks to our Redeemer; let this kindle us to the
love of the celestial country. In that let us learn how much
God suffered for man; in this let us meditate to how great a
height of glory man has ascended by God. In that the only-
begotten Son of (jrod was humbly presented in the Temple; in
this his most blessed servant was elevated in glory to the palace
of heaven. In that his parents carried our Redeemer to Jeru-
salem that they might present him to the Lord; in this the holy
angels carried to the heavenly Jerusalem the soul of this blessed
confessor that they might present it to the presence of the
Divine Majesty. In that the Mediator of God and Man, after




his circumcision, was presented as an infant in the temple; in
this, the confessor, after laying aside the load of his earthly
body, ascended in freedom to heaven. In that he who owed
nothing to the law paid the tribute of the law; in this, he, who
was obnoxious to death, escaped the dominion of death. The
one in his birth from his mother vouchsafed to become mortal;
the other by his death in the flesh merited to become immortal.
God, by coming into the world, took upon himself the form of a
servant; Severus, by departing from the world, was raised to the
dignity of angels. But, unless the one had descended, the other
could in no wise have ascended. Unless God had assumed the
form of man, man could never have attained to the glory of
heaven. Unless God had been humbled beneath himself, man
could never have been exalted above himself. And what more
shall I say ? Unless he, that is God and Man, had been made a
little lower than the angels, he that is mere man could never
have become the equal of the angels. Which equality the Truth
set forth in the Gospel, saying, " In the Resurrection they neither
marry nor are given in marriage, but are like the angels of God
in heaven.* To this height of most happy dignity, if, O man,
thou desirest to be elevated, endeavor with thy whole strength
to be prostrated in the dejection of true humility; if thou desir-
est to be exalted in Christ, be first cast down in thyself; subdue
the pride of the flesh, and raise thyself to the altitude of the
Creator; restrain whatever swells within thyself, and thou shalt
soon be exalted far beyond thyself.

(From the Sermon on «The Last Journey of Our Lord to Jerusalem*)

BUT when I consider thee. Lord Jesus, my admiration and my
compassion increase. Why dost thou go to the Jews who
lie in wait for thy soul ? They are betrayers and mur-
derers; trust not thyself to them for they love thee not; they
will not pity thee ; they will condemn thee to a most base death.
Why dost thou hasten to endure such mocking, such scourging,
such blaspheming ? to be crowned with thorns, to be spit upon,
to have vinegar given to thee to drink, to be pierced with the
spear, to die, and to be laid in the sepulchre ? In this thy reso-
lution, in this thy design ? My soul when I consider it is over-


whelmed. I grieve with thee, Lord Jesus, over the miseries of
thy passion. The advice of Peter, thy friend, is that which I
should have given, who said, ^* Be it far from thee, Lord ; this
shall not happen unto thee. It is not meet that the Son of God
should taste death. ^^ But this differs from thy counsel, who art
determined to undergo thy passion. What then ? Are we to
follow the advice of Peter or Jesus ? of the servant or of the
Lord ? of the disciple or of the Master ? But the servant is not
greater than his Lord, nor is the disciple more learned than his
Master. We must acquiesce, therefore, in the determination of
the Lord and Master who needs no other counsel; lest it be said
to us with Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan; thou savorest not
the things that be of God. For Peter knew not that Christ had
from the beginning foreordained his passion, that by death he
might destroy our death, and by rising again might restore our

That, then, which Divine Wisdom had foreordained he desired
wisely to accomplish. He willed, according to the words of the
prophet, to be humble and poor, to ride upon an ass, and so to
enter into Jerusalem; as the Evangelist relates, saying: *^ When
Jesus drew nigh to Jerusalem and was come to Bethphage and
the Mount of Olives, then sent he two of his Disciples, saying:
Go into the village over against you, and ye shall straightway
find an ass tied and a colt with her; loose them, and bring them
unto me. ^* This village is the world, which rages against the Lord
and his Disciples, not only by persecuting them with reproaches
and injuries, but by inflicting on them a most cruel death.
By the ass and the colt which were tied in the village are sig-
nified the people of the Jews, and that of the Gentiles, both of
them in bondage to the chain of their sins. The ass, accustomed
to the yoke, typifies the Jewish people that were subject to the
yoke of the law. The colt that was wanton and unbridled de-
notes the Gentiles, who walked after the lusts of their own
hearts. The two Disciples sent into the village are the preachers
of the two Testaments, endued with twofold charity, the love of
God and the love of our neighbor; or else Peter and Paul, of
whom one was the Apostle of the Jews, and the other of the
Gentiles. Whence the same Paul : ^^ For he, who worked in Peter
his apostleship, worked also with me among the Gentiles.** These
loosed both people from the error of infidelity, and, by the word
of their preaching, brought them to the faith of Jesus Christ.



[oHN Warwick Danie;!. was born at Lynchburg, Virginia, Sep-
tember 5th, 1842. He was at school when the American
Civil War began, but left his books to enlist as a private in
the Stonewall Brigade. Wounded several times, he came out of the
war a Major and went soon afterwards to the University of Virginia
to complete his education. After studying law at the University, he
was elected to the Virginia Legislature, and in the period between 1869
and 1 88 1 served in both houses of that body, making such a reputation
for oratory and general efficiency that the Democrats nominated him
for Governor against Cameron. The "Readjuster" movement elected
Cameron, but Mr. Daniel was elected to Congress in 1884 and a year
later was chosen as the successor of General Mahone in the United
States Senate. He was a member of that body at his death in 1910
and he had become one of its most famous orators.


(From the Oration Delivered in the Hall of the House of Representatives,

February 21st, 1885)

Mr. President of the United States, Senators, Representatives,
Judges, Mr. Chairman, and My Countrymen: —

ALOND in its grandeur stands forth the character of Washing-
ton in history; alone like some peak that has no fellow in
the mountain range of greatness.
"Washington," says Guizot, "\^4ashington did the two greatest
things which in politics it is permitted to man to attempt. He
maintained by peace the independence of his country, which he
had established by war. He founded a free government in the
name of the principles of order and by re-establishing their
sway." Washington did, indeed, do these things. But he did
more. Out of disconnected fragments he molded a whole, and
made it a country. He achieved his country's independence by
the sword. He maintained that independence by peace as by



war. He finally established both his country and its freedom
in an enduring frame of constitutional government, fashioned
to make liberty and union one and inseparable. These four
things together constitute the unexampled achievement of Wash-

The world has ratified the profound remark of Fisher Ames,
that "he changed mankind's ideas of political greatness.'* It has
approved the opinion of Edward Everett, that he was " the great-
est of good men, and the best of great men.'' It has felt for
him, with Erskine, "an awful reverence." It has attested the
declaration of Brougham that " he was the greatest man of his
own or of any age." .

Conquerors who have stretched your sceptres over boundless
territories; founders of empires who have held your dominions
in the reign of law; reformers who have cried aloud in the
wilderness of oppression; teachers who have striven to cast down
false doctrine, heresy, and schism; statesmen whose brains have
throbbed with mighty plans for the amelioration of human so-
ciety; scar-crowned vikings of the sea, illustrious heroes of the
land, who have borne the standards of siege and battle, come
forth in bright array from your glorious fanes, and would ye be
measured by the measure of his stature ? Behold you not in him
a more illustrious and more venerable presence ? Statesman,
soldier, patriot, sage, reformer of creeds, teacher of truth and jus-
tice, achiever and preserver of liberty, the first of men, founder
and savior of his country, father of his people ^ — this is he, soli-
tary and unapproachable in his grandeur!

Oh, felicitous Providence that gave to America our Washing-

High soars into the sky to-day, higher than the pyramid or
the dome of St. Paul's or St. Peter's — the loftiest and most im-
posing structure that man has ever reared — high soars into the
sky to where —

"Earth highest yearns to meet a star,"

the monument which " We the people of the United States " have
uplifted to his memory. It is a fitting monument, more fitting
than any statue. For his image could only display him in some
one phase of his varied character. So art has fitly typified his
exalted life in yon plain, lofty shaft. Such is his greatness, that
only by a symbol could it be represented. As Justice must be


blind in order to be whole in contemplation, so History must be
silent that by this mighty sign she may disclose the amplitude
of her story. . . .

It has seemed fitting to you, Mr. Chairman and gentlemen of
the commission, that a citizen of the State which was the birth-
place and the home of Washington; whose House of Burgesses,
of which he was a member, made the first burst of opposition
against the Stamp Act, although less pecuniarily interested therein
than their New England brethren, and was the first representa-
tive body to recommend a general congress of the Colonies; of
the State whose Mason drew that Bill of Rights which has been
called the Magna Charta of America; whose Jefferson wrote,
whose Richard Henry Lee moved, the Declaration that those Col-
onies be ^* free and independent States *^ ; whose Henry condensed
the Revolution into the electric sentence, ^^ Liberty or death '* ; of
the State which cemented union with the vast territorial dowry
out of which five States have been carved, having now here some
ninety Representatives; of that State whose Madison was named
*nhe Father of the Constitution,^* and whose Marshall became its
most eminent expounder; of the State which holds within its bo-
som the sacred ashes of Washington, and cherishes not less the
principles which once kindled them with fires of Heaven de-
scended — it has seemicd fitting to you, gentlemen, that a citizen
of that State should also be invited to deliver an address on this

Would with all my heart that a worthier one had been your
choice. Too highly do I esteem the position in which you place
me to feel aught but solemn distrustfulness and apprehension.
And who, indeed, migl^ not shrink from such a theatre when a
Winthrop's eloquence still thrilled all hearts, with Washington the
theme ?

Yet, in Virginia's name I thank you for the honor done her.
She deserved it. Times there are when even hardihood is virtue;
and to such virtue alone do I lay claim in venturing to abide
your choice to be her spokesman. . . .

No sum could now be made of Washington's character that
did not exhaust language of its tributes and repeat virtue by all
her names. No sum could be made of his achievements that did
not unfold the history of his country and its institutions — the
history of his age and its progress — the history of man and his
destiny to be free. But, whether character or achievement be
4 — 25


regarded, the riches before us only expose the poverty of praise.
So clear was he in his great ofiEice that no ideal of the leader or
ruler can be formed that does not shrink by the side of the
reality. And so has he impressed himself upon the minds of men,
that no man can justly aspire to be the chief of a great free
people who does not adopt his principles and emulate his exam-
ple. We look with amazement on such eccentric characters as
Alexander, Caesar, Cromwell, Frederick, and Napoleon, but when
Washington's face rises before us, instinctively mankind exclaims :
** This is the man for nations to trust and reverence, and for rul-
ers to follow.'^

Drawing his sword from patriotic impulse, without ambition
and without malice, he wielded it without vindictiveness and
sheathed it without reproach. All that humanity could conceive
he did to suppress the cruelties of war and soothe its sorrows.
He never struck a coward's blow. To him age, infancy, and
helplessness were ever sacred. He tolerated no extremity unless
to curb the excesses of his enemy, and he never poisoned the
sting of defeat by the exultation of the conqueror.

Peace he welcomed as a heaven-sent herald of friendship; and
no country has given him greater honor than that which he de-
feated; for England has been glad to claim him as the scion of
her blood, and proud, like our sister American States, to divide
with Virginia the honor of producing him.

Fascinated by the perfection of the man, we are loath to
break the mirror of admiration into the fragments of analysis.
But, lo! as we attempt it, every fragment becomes the miniature
of such sublimity and beauty that the destructive hand can only
multiply the forms of immortality.

Grand and manifold as were its phases, there is yet no diffi-
culty in understanding the character of Washington. He was
no Veiled Prophet. He never acted a part. Simple, natural,
and unaffected, his life lies before us — a fair and open manu-
script. He disdained the arts which wrap power in mystery in
order to magnify it. He practiced the profound diplomacy of
truthful speech — the consummate tact of direct attention. Look-
ing over to the All- Wise Disposer of events, he relied on that
Providence which helps men by giving them high hearts and
hopes to help themselves with the means which their Creator
has put at their service. There was no infirmity in his conduct
over which charity must fling its veil; no taint of selfishness


from which purity averts her gaze; no dark recess of intrigue
that must be lit up with colored panegyric; no subterranean pas-
sage to be trod in trembling lest there be stirred the ghost of a
buried crime,

A true son of nature was George Washington — of nature
in her brightest intelligence and noblest mold; and the diffi-
culty, if such there be in comprehending him, is only that of
reviewing from a single standpoint the vast procession of those
civil and military achievements which filled nearly half a century
of his life, and in realizing the magnitude of those qualities
which were requisite to their performance — the difficulty of fash-
ioning in our minds a pedestal broad enough to bear the tower-
ing figure, whose greatness is diminished by nothing but the
perfection of its proportions. If his exterior — in calm, grave,
and resolute repose — ever impressed the casual observer as aus-
tere and cold, it was only because he did not reflect that no
great heart like his could have lived unbroken unless bound by
iron nerves in an iron frame. The Commander of Armies, the
Chief of a People, the Hope of Nations could not wear his heart
upon his sleeve; and yet his sternest will could not conceal its
high and warm pulsations. Under the enemy's guns at Boston
he did not forget to instruct his agent to administer generously
of charity to his needy neighbors at home. The sufferings of
women and children, thrown adrift by war, and of his bleeding
comrades, pierced his soul. And the moist eye and trembling
voice with which he bade farewell to his veterans bespoke the
underlying tenderness of his nature, even as the storm-wind
makes music in its undertones.

Disinterested patriot, he would receive no pay for his military
services. Refusing gifts, he was glad to guide the benefaction
of a grateful State to educate the children of his fallen braves
in the institution at Lexington which yet bears his name. With-
out any of the blemishes that mark the tyrant, he appealed so
loftily to the virtuous elements in man, that he almost created
the qualities of which his country needed the exercise; and yet
he was so magnanimous and forbearing to the weaknesses of
others, that he often obliterated the vices of which he feared the
consequence. But his virtue was more than this. It was of
that daring, intrepid kind that, seizing principle with a giant's
grasp, assumes responsibility at any hazard, suffers sacrifice with-
out pretense of martyrdom, bears calumny without reply, imposes


superior will and understanding on all around it, capitulates to
no unworthy triumph, but must carry all things at the point of
clear and blameless conscience. Scorning all manner of mean-
ness and cowardice, his bursts of wrath at their exhibition
heighten our admiration for the noble passions which were kin-
dled by the aspirations and exigencies of virtue.

Invested with the powers of a Dictator, the country bestowing
them felt no distrust of his integrity; he, receiving them, gave
assurance that, as the sword was the last resort of Liberty, so it
should be the first thing laid aside when Liberty was won. And
keeping the faith in all things, he left mankind bewildered with
the splendid problem whether to admire him most for what he
was or what he would not be. Over and above all his virtues
was the matchless manhood of personal honor, to which Confi-
dence gave in safety the key of every treasure — on which Temp-
tation dared not smile, on which Suspicion never cast a frown.
And why prolong the catalogue ? " If you are presented with
medals of Csesar, of Trajan, or Alexander, on examining their
features you are still led to ask what was their stature and the
forms of their persons; but if you discover in a heap of ruin the
head or the limb of an antique Apollo, be not curious about
the other parts, but rest assured that they were all comformable
to those of a god.** . .

There can, indeed, be no right conception of Washington that
does not accord him a great and extraordinary genius. I will
not say he could have produced a play of Shakespeare or a poem
of Milton; handled with Kant the tangled skin of metaphysics;
probed the secrecies of mind and matter with Bacon; constructed
a railroad or an engine like Stephenson; wooed the electric spark
from heaven to earth with Franklin, or walked with Newton the
pathways of the spheres. But if his genius were of a different
order, it was of as rare and high an order. It dealt with man
in the concrete — with his vast concerns of business stretching
over a continent and projected into the ages; with his seething
passions; with his marvelous exertions of mind, body, and spirit
to be free. He knew the materials he dealt with by intuitive
perception of the heart of man; by experience and observation
of his aspirations and his powers; by reflection upon his complex
relations, rights, and duties as a social being. He knew just
where between men and States to erect the monumental mark to
divide just reverence for authority from just resistance to its


abuse. A poet of social facts, he interpreted by his deeds the
harmonies of justice. . . .

** Rome to America *^ is the eloquent inscription on one stone
of your colossal shaft — taken from the ancient Temple of Peace
that once stood hard by the Palace of the Caesars. Uprisen from
the sea of Revolution, fabricated from the ruins of battered Bas-
tiles, and dismantled palaces of unrighteous, unhallowed power,
stood forth now the Republic of republics, the Nation of nations,
the Constitution of constitutions, to which all lands and times
and tongues had contributed of their wisdom, and the priestess
of Liberty was in her holy temple.

When Marathon had been fought and Greece kept free, each
of the victorious generals voted himself to be first in honor, but
all agreed that Miltiades was second. When the most mem-
orable struggle for the rights of human nature of which time
holds record was thus happily concluded in the muniment of their
preservation, whoever else was second unanimous acclaim declared
that Washington was first. Nor in that struggle alone does he
stand foremost. In the name of the people of the United States,
their President, their Senators, their Representatives, and their
Judges do crown to-day with the grandest crown that venera-
tion has ever lifted to the brow of glory him whom Virginia
gave to America, whom America has given to the world and to
the ages, and whom mankind with universal suffrage has pro-
claimed the foremost of the founders of empire in the first
degree of greatness; whom liberty herself has anointed as the

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 37 of 39)