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

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

THE ADDITION TO THE CAPITOL.
1

AN ADDRESS DELIVERED AT THE LAYING OF THE CORNER-STONE OF THE ADDITION TO THE CAPITOL, ON THE 4TH OF JULY, 1851.

FELLOW-CITIZENS,--I greet you well; I give you joy, on the return of this anniversary; and I felicitate you, also, on the more particular purpose of which this ever-memorable day has been chosen to witness the fulfilment. Hail! all hail! I see before and around me a mass of faces, glowing with cheerfulness and patriotic pride. I see thousands of eyes turned towards other eyes, all sparkling with gratification and delight. This is the New World! This is America! This is Washington! and this the Capitol of the United States! And where else, among the nations, can the seat of government be surrounded, on any day of any year, by those who have more reason to rejoice in the blessings which they possess? Nowhere, fellow-citizens! assuredly, nowhere! Let us, then, meet this rising sun with joy and thanksgiving!

This is that day of the year which announced to mankind the great fact of American Independence. This fresh and brilliant morning blesses our vision with another beholding of the birthday of our nation; and we see that nation, of recent origin, now among the most considerable and powerful, and spreading over the continent from sea to sea.

Among the first colonists from Europe to this part of America, there were some, doubtless, who contemplated the distant consequences of their undertaking, and who saw a great futurity. But, in general, their hopes were limited to the enjoyment of a safe asylum from tyranny, religious and civil, and to respectable subsistence, by industry and toil. A thick veil hid our times from their view. But the progress of America, however slow, could not but at length awaken genius, and attract the attention of mankind.

In the early part of the second century of our history, Bishop Berkeley, who, it will be remembered, had resided for some time in Newport, in Rhode Island, wrote his well-known "Verses on the Prospect of Planting ARTS and LEARNING in AMERICA." The last stanza of this little poem seems to have been produced by a high poetical inspiration:--

"Westward the course of empire takes its way;
The four first acts already past,
A fifth shall close the drama with the day:
Time's noblest offspring is the last."

This extraordinary prophecy may be considered only as the result of long foresight and uncommon sagacity; of a foresight and sagacity stimulated, nevertheless, by excited feeling and high enthusiasm. So clear a vision of what America would become was not founded on square miles, or on existing numbers, or on any common laws of statistics. It was an intuitive glance into futurity; it was a grand conception, strong, ardent, glowing, embracing all

____________________
1
The following motto stands upon the titlepage of the original pamphlet edition:--
"Stet Capitolium Fulgens; late nomen in ultimas Extendat oras."

-639-

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