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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Daniel Webster
By Rufus Choate (1799–1859)
 
From Eulogy delivered at Dartmouth College, 1853

SOMETIMES it has seemed to me that to enable one to appreciate with accuracy, as a psychological speculation, the intrinsic and absolute volume and texture of that brain,—the real rate and measure of those abilities,—it was better not to see or hear him, unless you could see or hear him frequently, and in various modes of exhibition; for undoubtedly there was something in his countenance and bearing so expressive of command,—something even in his conversational language when saying “Parva summisse et modica temperate,” so exquisitely plausible, embodying the likeness at least of a rich truth, the forms at least of a large generalization, in an epithet,—an antithesis,—a pointed phrase,—a broad and peremptory thesis,—and something in his grander forthputting, when roused by a great subject or occasion exciting his reason and touching his moral sentiments and his heart, so difficult to be resisted, approaching so near, going so far beyond, the higher style of man, that although it left you a very good witness of his power of influencing others, you were not in the best condition immediately to pronounce on the quality or the source of the influence. You saw the flash and heard the peal, and felt the admiration and fear; but from what region it was launched, and by what divinity, and from what Olympian seat, you could not certainly yet tell. To do that you must, if you saw him at all, see him many times; compare him with himself and with others; follow his dazzling career from his father’s house; observe from what competitors he won those laurels; study his discourses,—study them by the side of those of other great men of this country and time, and of other countries and times, conspicuous in the same fields of mental achievement,—look through the crystal water of the style down to the golden sands of the thought; analyze and contrast intellectual power somewhat; consider what kind and what quantity of it has been held by students of mind needful in order to great eminence in the higher mathematics, or metaphysics, or reason of the law; what capacity to analyze, through and through, to the primordial elements of the truths of that science; yet what wisdom and sobriety, in order to control the wantonness and shun the absurdities of a mere scholastic logic, by systematizing ideas, and combining them, and repressing one by another, thus producing, not a collection of intense and conflicting paradoxes, but a code, scientifically coherent and practically useful,—consider what description and what quantity of mind have been held needful by students of mind in order to conspicuous eminence—long maintained—in statesmanship; that great practical science, that great philosophical art, whose ends are the existence, happiness, and honor of a nation; whose truths are to be drawn from the widest survey of man,—of social man,—of the particular race and particular community for which a government is to be made or kept, or a policy to be provided; “philosophy in action,” demanding at once or affording place for the highest speculative genius and the most skillful conduct of men and of affairs; and finally consider what degree and kind of mental power has been found to be required in order to influence the reason of an audience and a nation by speech,—not magnetizing the mere nervous or emotional nature by an effort of that nature, but operating on reason by reason—a great reputation in forensic and deliberative eloquence, maintained and advancing for a lifetime,—it is thus that we come to be sure that his intellectual power was as real and as uniform as its very happiest particular display had been imposing and remarkable.  1
 
 
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