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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

The Defection of Daniel Webster

By Thaddeus Stevens (1792–1868)

[Born in Danville, Caledonia Co., Vt., 1792. Died in Washington, D.C., 1868. From a Speech on the Admission of California, U. S. H. of R., 10 June, 1850.]

SIR, so long as man is vain and fallible, so long as great men have like passions with others, and, as in republics, are surrounded with stronger temptations, it were better for themselves if their fame acquired no inordinate height until the grave had precluded error. The errors of obscure men die with them, and cast no shame on their posterity. How different with the great! How much better had it been for Lord Bacon, that greatest of human intellects, had he never, during his life, acquired glory, and risen to high honors in the state, than to be degraded from them by the judgment of his peers. How much better for him and his, had he lived and died unknown, than to be branded through all future time as the
  • “Wisest, brightest, meanest of mankind.”
  • So now, in this crisis of the fate of liberty, if any of the renowned men of this nation should betray her cause, it were better that they had been unknown to fame. It need not be hoped that the brightness of their past glory will dazzle the eyes of posterity, or illumine the pages of impartial history. A few of its rays may linger on a fading sky, but they will soon be whelmed in the blackness of darkness. For, unless progressive civilization, and the increasing love of freedom throughout the Christian and civilized world are fallacious, the Sun of Liberty, of universal liberty is already above the horizon, and fast coursing to his meridian splendor, when no advocate of slavery, no apologist of slavery, can look upon his face and live.