From “The Hall of Fame.” Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons, New York, 1901.
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THE CHARACTER OF WASHINGTON
BY DANIEL WEBSTER
A Speech Delivered at a Public Dinner, Washington, February 22, 1832
The Power of the Name of Washington
We are met to testify our regard for him whose name is intimately blended with whatever belongs most essentially to the prosperity, the liberty, the free institutions, and the renown of our country;. That name was of power to rally a nation, in the hour of thick-thronging public disasters and calamities; that name shone, amid the storm of war, a beacon light, to cheer and guide the country’s friends; it flamed, too, like a meteor, to repel her foes. That name, in the days of peace, was a lodestone, attracting to itself a whole people’s confidence, a whole people’s love, and the whole world’s respect. That name, descending with all time, spreading over the whole earth, and uttered in all the languages belonging to the tribes and races of men, will forever be pronounced with affectionate gratitude by everyone in whose breast there shall arise an aspiration for human rights and human liberty.
We perform this grateful duty, Gentlemen, at the expiration of a hundred years from his birth, near the place so cherished and beloved by him, where his dust now reposes, and in the capital which bears his own immortal name.
All experience evinces that human sentiments are strongly influenced by association. The recurrence of anniversaries, or of longer periods of time, naturally freshens the recollection, and deepens the impression, of events with which they are historically connected. Renowned places, also, have a power to awaken feeling, which all acknowledge. No American can pass by the fields of Bunker Hill, Monmouth, and Camden, as if they were ordinary spots on the earth’s surface. Whoever visits them feels the sentiment of love of country kindling anew, as if the spirit that belonged to the transactions which have rendered these places distinguished still hovered round, with power to move and excite all who in future time may approach them.
Washington’s Great Moral Example to the Youth of America
But neither of these sources of emotion equals the power with which great moral examples affect the mind. When sublime virtues cease to be abstractions, when they become embodied in human character, and exemplified in human conduct, we should be false to our own nature if we did not indulge in the spontaneous effusions of our gratitude and our admiration. A true lover of the virtue of patriotism delights to contemplate its purest models; and that love of country may be well suspected which affects to soar so high into the regions of sentiment as to be lost and absorbed