“He was in the perfection of manly beauty and strength; his form filled out to its finest proportions, and his bearing, as he stood before the vast multitude, that of absolute dignity and power. His manner of speaking was deliberate and commanding. I never heard him when his manner was so grand and appropriate; ... when he ended the minds of men were wrought up to an uncontrollable excitement, and then followed three tremendous cheers, inappropriate indeed, but as inevitable as any other great movement of nature.”
He had held the vast audience mute for over two hours, as John Quincy Adams said in his diary, and finally their excited feelings found vent in cheers. He spoke greatly because he felt greatly. His emotions, his imagination, his entire oratorical temperament were then full of quick sensibility. When he finished writing the imaginary speech of John Adams in the quiet of his library and the silence of the morning hour, his eyes were wet with tears.
A year passed by after this splendid display of eloquence, and then the second congressional period, which had been so full of work and intellectual activity and well-earned distinction, closed, and he entered upon that broader field which opened to him in the Senate of the United States, where his greatest triumphs were still to be achieved.
THE TARIFF OF 1828 AND THE REPLY TO HAYNE.
The new dignity conferred on Mr. Webster by the people of Massachusetts had hardly been assumed when he was called upon to encounter a trial which must have made all his honors seem poor indeed. He had scarcely taken his seat when he was obliged to return to New York, where failing health had arrested Mrs. Webster’s journey to the capital, and where, after much suffering, she died, January 21, 1828. The blow fell with terrible severity upon her husband. He had many sorrows to bear during his life, but this surpassed all others. His wife was the love of his youth, the mother of his children, a lovely woman whose strong but gentle influence for good was now lost to him irreparably. In his last days his thoughts reverted to her, and as he followed her body to the grave, on foot in the wet and cold, and leading his children by the hand, it must indeed have seemed as if the wine of life had been drunk and only the lees remained. He was excessively pale, and to those who looked upon him seemed crushed and heart-broken.
The only relief was to return to his work and to the excitement of public affairs; but the cloud hung over him long after he was once more in his place in the Senate. Death had made a wound in his life which time healed but of which the scar remained. Whatever were Mr. Webster’s faults, his affection for those nearest to him, and especially for the wife of his youth, was deep and strong.