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A SPECIAL history of the origin and establishment of the Constitution of the United States has not yet found a place in our national literature.
Many years ago, I formed the design of writing such a work, for the purpose of exhibiting the deep causes which at once rendered the Convention of 1787 inevitable, and controlled or directed its course and decisions; the mode in which its great work was accomplished; and the foundations on which our national liberty and prosperity were then deliberately settled by the statesmen to whom the American Revolution gave birth, and on which they have rested ever since.
In the prosecution of this purpose I had, until death terminated his earthly interests, the encouragement and countenance of that illustrious person, whose relation to the Constitution of the United States, during the last forty years, has been not inferior in importance to that of any of its founders during the preceding period.
Mr. Webster had for a long time the intention of writing a work which should display the remarkable state of affairs under whose influence the Constitution was first brought into practical application ; and this design he relinquished only when all the remaining plans of his life were surrendered with the solemn and religious resignation that marked its close. It was known to him that I had begun to labor upon another branch of the same subject. In the spring of 1852 I wrote to him to explain the plan of my work, and to ask him for a copy of some remarks made by his father in the Convention of New Hampshire when the Constitution was ratified by that State. ceived from him the following answer.
“WASHINGTON, March 7th, [1852). “ MY DEAR SIR,
“ I will try to find for you my father's speech, as it was collected from tradition and published some years ago. If I live to see warm weather in Marshfield, I shall be glad to see you beneath its shades, and to talk of your book.
“ You are probably aware that I have meditated the writing of something upon the History of the Constitution and the Administration of Washington. I have the plan of such a work pretty definitely arranged, but whether I shall ever be able to execute it I cannot say: - the wills above be done.' “ Yours most truly,
66 DANL. WEBSTER.”
Regarding this kind and gracious intimation as a wish not to be anticipated in any part of the field which he had marked out for himself, I replied, that if, when I should have the pleasure of seeing him, my work should seem to involve any material part of the subject which he had comprehended within his own plan, I should of course relinquish it at once. When, however, the period of that summer's leisure arrived, and brought with it, to his watchful observation, so many tokens that “the night cometh,” he seemed anxious to impress upon me the importance of the task I had undertaken, and to remove any obstacle to its fulfilment that he might have suggested. Being with him alone, on an occasion when his physician, after a long consultation, had just left him, he said to me, with an earnestness and solemnity that can never be described or forgotten: “You have a future; 1 have none.
You are writing a History of the Constitution. You will write that work; I shall not. Go on, by all means, and you shall have every aid that I can give you.”
The event of which these words were ominous was then only four weeks distant. Many times, during those short remaining weeks, I sought "the shades of Marshfield"; but now it was for the offices and duties, not for the advantages, of friendship; — and no part of my work was ever submitted to him to whose approbation, sympathy, and aid I had so long looked forward, as to its most important stimulus and its most appropriate reward.
But the solemn injunction which I had received became to me an ever-present admonition, and gave me — if I may make such a profession — the needful fidelity to my great subject. Whatever may be thought of the manner in which it has been treated, a consciousness that the impartial spirit of History has guided me will remain, after every ordeal of criticism shall have been passed.
And here, while memories of the earlier as well as of the later lost crowd upon me with my theme, I cannot but think of him, jurist and magistrate, friend of my younger as well as riper years, who was called from all human sympathies before I had conceived the undertaking which I have now