The Great Speeches and Orations of Daniel Webster: With An Essay on Daniel Webster as a Master of English Style

By Edwin P. Whipple; Daniel Webster | Go to book overview

THE CHRISTIAN MINISTRY AND THE RELIGIOUS
INSTRUCTION OF THE YOUNG.

A SPEECH DELIVERED IN THE SUPREME COURT AT WASHINGTON, ON THE 20th OF FEBRUARY, 1844, IN THE GIRARD WILL CASE.

[THE heirs at law of the late Stephen Girard, of Philadelphia, instituted a suit in October, 1836, in the Circuit Court of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, sitting as a court of equity, to try the question of the validity of his will. In April, 1841, the cause came on for hearing in the Circuit Court, and was decided in favor of the will. The case was carried by appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States, at Washington, where it was argued by General Jones and Mr. Webster for the complainants and appellants, and by Messrs. Binney and Sergeant for the validity of the will.

The following speech was made by Mr. Webster in the course of the trial at Washington. A deep impression was produced upon the public mind by those portions of it which enforced the intimate connection of the Christian ministry with the business of instruction, and the necessity of founding education on a religious basis.

This impression resulted in the following correspondence:--

" Washington, February 13, 1844.

"SIR,--Enclosed is a copy of certain proceedings of a meeting held in reference to your argument in the Supreme Court of the case arising out of the late Mr. Girard's will. In communicating to you the request contained in the second resolution, we take leave to express our earnest hope that you may find it convenient to comply with that request.

"We are, Sir, with high consideration, yours, very respectfully,

P.R. FENDALL,
HORACE STRIGFELLOW,
JOSHUA N. DANFORTH,
R.R. GURLEY,
WILLIAM RUGGLES,
JOEL S. BACON
THOMAS SEWALL,
WILLIAM B. EDWARDS,
Committee

"HON. DANIEL WEBSTER."

"At a meeting of a number of citizens, belonging to different religious denominations, of Washington and its vicinity, convened to consider the expediency of procuring the publication of so much of Mr. Webster's argument before the Supreme Court of the United States, in the case of François F. Vidalet al., Appellants, v. The Mayor, Aldermen, and Citizens of Philadelphia, and Stephen Girard's Executors, as relates to that part of Mr. Girard's will which excludes ministers of religion from any station or duty in the college directed by the testator to be founded, and denies to them the right of visiting said college; the object of the meeting having been stated by Professor Sewall in a few appropriate remarks, the Hon. Henry L. Ellsworth was elected chairman, and the Rev. Isaac S. Tinsley secretary.

"Whereupon it was, on motion, unanimously resolved,

"1st. That, in the opinion of this meeting, the powerful and eloquent argument of Mr Webster, on the before-mentioned clause of Mr. Girard's will, demonstrates the vital importance of Christianity to the success of our free institutions, and its necessity as the basis of all useful moral education; and that the general diffusion of that argument among the people of the United States is a matter of deep public interest.

"2d. That a committee of eight persons, of the several Christian denominations represented in this meeting, be appointed to wait on Mr. Webster, and, in the name and on behalf of this meeting, to request him to prepare for the press the portion referred to of his argument in the Girard case; and, should he consent to do so, to cause it to be speedily published and extensively disseminated.

"The following gentlemen were appointed the committee under the second resolution. Philip R Fendall, Esq., Rev. Horace String; fellow, Rev. Joshua N. Danforth, Rev. R. Randolph Gurley, Professor William Ruggles, Rev. President J. S. Bacon, Doctor Thomas Sewall, Rev. William B. Edwards.

"The meeting then adjourned.

" H. L. ELLSWORTH, Chairman.

" ISAAC S. TINSLEY, Secretary."

-505-

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