When Mr. Webster failed it was a moral failure. His moral character was not equal to his intellectual force. All the errors he ever committed, whether in public or in private life, in political action or in regard to money obligations, came from moral weakness. He was deficient in that intensity of conviction which carries men beyond and above all triumphs of statesmanship, and makes them the embodiment of the great moral forces which move the world. If Mr. Webster’s moral power had equalled his intellectual greatness, he would have had no rival in our history. But this combination and balance are so rare that they are hardly to be found in perfection among the sons of men. The very fact of his greatness made his failings all the more dangerous and unfortunate. To be blinded by the splendor of his fame and the lustre of his achievements and prate about the sin of belittling a great man is the falsest philosophy and the meanest cant. The only thing worth having, in history as in life, is truth; and we do wrong to our past, to ourselves, and to our posterity if we do not strive to render simple justice always. We can forgive the errors and sorrow for the faults of our great ones gone; we cannot afford to hide or forget their shortcomings.
But after all has been said, the question of most interest is, what Mr. Webster represented, what he effected, and what he means in our history. The answer is simple. He stands to-day as the preeminent champion and exponent of nationality. He said once, “there are no Alleghanies in my politics,” and he spoke the exact truth. Mr. Webster was thoroughly national. There is no taint of sectionalism or narrow local prejudice about him. He towers up as an American, a citizen of the United States in the fullest sense of the word. He did not invent the Union, or discover the doctrine of nationality. But he found the great fact and the great principle ready to his hand, and he lifted them up, and preached the gospel of nationality throughout the length and breadth of the land. In his fidelity to this cause he never wavered nor faltered. From the first burst of boyish oratory to the sleepless nights at Marshfield, when, waiting for death, he looked through the window at the light which showed him the national flag fluttering from its staff, his first thought was of a united country. To his large nature the Union appealed powerfully by the mere sense