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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 Nation’s Orator

By Rufus Choate (1799–1859)

[From Eulogy on Daniel Webster. Pronounced at Dartmouth College, 1853.—From Addresses and Orations of Rufus Choate. 1878.]

LET the downward age of America find its orators and poets and artists to erect its spirit, or grace and soothe its dying; be it ours to go up with Webster to the rock, the monument, the capitol, and bid “the distant generations hail!”

In this connection remark, somewhat more generally, to how extraordinary an extent he had by his acts, words, thoughts, or the events of his life, associated himself forever in the memory of all of us, with every historical incident, or at least with every historical epoch; with every policy; with every glory; with every great name and fundamental institution, and grand or beautiful image, which are peculiarly and properly American. Look backwards to the planting of Plymouth and Jamestown; to the various scenes of colonial life in peace and war; to the opening and march and close of the revolutionary drama,—to the age of the Constitution; to Washington and Franklin and Adams and Jefferson; to the whole train of causes from the Reformation downwards, which prepared us to be Republicans; to that other train of causes which led us to be Unionists,—look round on field, workshop, and deck, and hear the music of labor rewarded, fed, and protected,—look on the bright sisterhood of the States, each singing as a seraph in her motion, yet blending in a common beam and swelling a common harmony,—and there is nothing which does not bring him by some tie to the memory of America.

We seem to see his form and hear his deep grave speech everywhere. By some felicity of his personal life; by some wise, deep, or beautiful word spoken or written; by some service of his own, or some commemoration of the services of others, it has come to pass that “our granite hills, our inland seas and prairies, and fresh, unbounded, magnificent wilderness;” our encircling ocean; the resting-place of the Pilgrims; our new-born sister of the Pacific; our popular assemblies; our free schools; all our cherished doctrines of education, and of the influence of religion, and material policy and law, and the Constitution, give us back his name. What American landscape will you look on; what subject of American interest will you study; what source of hope or of anxiety, as an American, will you acknowledge that it does not recall him?