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

ADDRESS TO THE LADIES OF RICHMOND.
.

REMARKS AT A PUBLIC RECEPTION BY THE LADIES OF RICHMOND, VIRGINIA, ON THE 5TH OF OCTOBER, 1840

[THE visit of Mr. Webster to Richmond was short, and his public engagements so numerous, as to put it out of his power to return the calls of his friends, or to pay his respects to their families. It was accordingly proposed that the ladies who might desire to do so should assemble in the "Log Cabin," and that he should there pay his respects to them collectively. The meeting was large, and the building quite full. On being introduced to them in a few appropriate remarks, by Mr. Lyons, Mr. Webster addressed them in the following speech.]

LADIES,--I am very sure I owe the pleasure I now enjoy to your kind disposition, which has given me the opportunity to present my thanks and my respects to you thus collectively, since the shortness of my stay in the city does not allow me the happiness of calling upon those, severally and individually, from members of whose families I have received kindness and notice. And, in the first place, I wish to express to you my deep and hearty thanks, as I have endeavored to do to your fathers, your husbands, and your brothers, for the unbounded hospitality I have received ever since I came among you. This is registered, I assure you, in a grateful heart, in characters of an enduring nature. Tire rough contests of the political world are not suited to the dignity and the delicacy of your sex; but you possess the intelligence to know how much of that happiness which you are entitled to hope for, both for yourselves and for your children, depends on the right administration of government, and a proper tone of public morals. That is a subject on which the moral perceptions of woman are both quicker and juster than those of the other sex. I do not speak of that administration of government whose object is merely the protection of industry, the preservation of civil liberty, and the securing to enterprise of its due reward. I speak of government in a somewhat higher point of view; I speak of it in regard to its influence on the morals and sentiments of the community. We live in an age distinguished for great benevolent exertion, in which the affluent are consecrating the means they possess to the endowment of colleges and academies, to the building of churches, to the support of religion and religious worship, to the encouragement of schools, lyceums, and atheneums, and other means of general popular instruction. This is all well; it is admirable; it augurs well for the prospects of ensuing generations. But I have sometimes thought, that, amidst all this activity and zeal of the good and the benevolent, the influence of government on the morals and on the religious feelings of the community is apt to be overlooked or underrated. I speak, of course, of its indirect influence, of the power of its example, and the general tone which it inspires.

A popular government, in all these respects, is a most powerful institution; more powerful, as it has sometimes apreared to me, than the influence of most

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