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WILLIAM WIRT was born at Bladensburg, in Maryland, Noven ber Sth, 1772, and died in Baltimore, February 18th, 1834. He was brought up in the family of an uncle; both of his parents being dead before he had passed his eighth year. He received a moderate amount of educational training, both English and Classical; after which he studied law, and practiced with success in several places in Virginia, whither he had removed, till the year 1803, when he first appeared as an author by publishing, in the “Richmond Argus," his celebrated letters, under the name of “The British Spy.” In 1806 he took up his abode in Richmond, where the next year he gained a splendid reputation for forensic eloquence by the part he took in the famous trial of Aaron Burr. From the speech made on that occasion, which occupied four hours in its delivery, we take the fine retort which forms the present Exercise. The residue of Mr. Wirt's life was spent in professional pursuits both in and out of public office, varied by occasional literary labors. Besides “The British Spy,” he is the author of a work entitled the “old Bachelor,” “ Life of Patrick Henry," and several minor publications.
A FINE RETORT.
WILLIAM WIRT. 1. In proceeding to answer the argument of the gentleman, I will treat him with candor. If I misrepresent him, it will not be intentionally. I will not follow the example which he has set me, on a very recent occasion. I will endeavor to meet the gentleman's propositions in their full force, and to answer them fairly.
2. I will not, as I am advancing towards them, with my mind's eye, measure the hight, breadth, and power of the proposition; if I find it beyond my strength, halve it; if still beyond my strength, quarter it; if still necessary, subdivide it into eighths; and when, by this process, I have reduced it to the proper standard, take one of these sections and toss it with an air of elephantine strength and superiority. If I find myself capable of conducting, by a fair course of reasoning, any one of his propositions to an absurd conclusion, I will not begin by stating that absurd conclusion as the proposition itself which I am going to encounter.
3. I will not, in commenting on the gentleman's authorities, thank the gentleman, with sarcastic politeness, for introducing them, declare that they conclude directly against him, read just 80 much of the authority as serves the purpose of that declaration, omitting that which contains the true point of the case, which makes against me; nor, if forced by a direct call to read that part, also, will I content myself by running over it as rapidly and inarticulately as I can, throw down the book with a theatrical air, and exclaim,- Just as I said !” when I know it is just as I had not said.
4. I know that, by adopting these arts, I might raise a 'augh at the gentleman's expense; but I should be very little pleased with myself, if I were capable of enjoying a laugh procured by such means. I know, too, that by adopting such arts, there will always be those standing around us, who have not comprehended the whole merits of the legal discussion, with whom I might shake the character of the gentleman's science and judgment, as a lawyer. I hope I shall never be capable of such a wish; and I had hoped that the gentleman himself felt so strongly that proud, that high, aspiring, and ennobling magnanimity, which I had been told conscious talents rarely fail to inspire, that he would have disdained a poor and fleeting triumph, gained by means like these.
JOHN QUINCY ADAMS, whose father, John Adams, was the second Presiden of the United States, was born in Braintree, Massachusetts, July 11th, 1767, and died in Washington, February 23d, 1848. His early education was obtained mainly in schools abroad, while he was with his father on his several public missions. In 1786, however, he returned to Massachusetts, and entered Harvard College. After his college course, he studied and practiced law. In the intervals of professional duty, however, he made himself known as an effective writer: having published a variety of papers on various subjects of public interest. In 1794 he was made minister to the Hague by President Washington. Under his father's administration, having, in the meantime, been married to the daughter of Joshua Johnson, the American consul at London, he became minister to Berlin. His public career thenceforward, till and after, he reached the Presidency himself, was one of distinguished ability and success. He was a man of almost universal culture, perfectly upright in character, and most eloquent in speech. He died under the circumstances se briefly, but vividly stated by Mr. Seward, in the next Exercise.
THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE.
JOHN QUINCY ADAMS.
1. THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE! The interest which, in that paper, has survived the occasion upon which it was issued, the interest which is of every age and every clime, -the interest which quickens with the lapse of years, spreads as it grows old, and brightens as it recedes,-is in the principles whick it proclaims. It was the first solemn declaration, by a pation, of the only legitimate foundation of civil government. It was the corner-stone of a new fabric, destined to cover the surface of the globe. It demolished, at a stroke, the lawfulness of all governments founded upon conquest. It swept away all the rubbish of accumulated centuries of servitude. It announced, in practical form, to the world, the transcendent truth of the inalienable sovereignty of the people. It proved that the social compact was no figment of the imagination, but a real, solid, and sacred bond of the social union.
2. From the day of this declaration, the people of North America were no longer the fragment of a distant empire, imploring justice and mercy from an inexorable master, in another hemisphere. They were no longer children, appealing in vain to the sympathies of a heartless mother; no longer subjects, leaning upon the shattered columns of royal promises, and invoking the faith of parchment to secure their rights. They were a nation, asserting as of right, and maintaining by war, its own existence. A nation was born in a day.
“How many ages hence
3. It will be “acted o'er,” fellow-citizens, but it can never be repeated. It stands, and must forever stand, alone; a beacon on the summit of the mountain, to which all the inhabitants of the earth may turn eyes, for a genial and saving light, till time shall be lost in eternity, and this globe itself dissolve, nor leave a wreck behind. It stands forever, a light of admonition to the rulers of men, a light of salvation and redemption to the oppressed. So long as this planet shall be inhabited by human beings, so loug as man shall be of a social nature, so long as government shall be necessary to the great moral purposes of society, so long as it shall be abused to the purposes of oppression-so long shall this Declaration hold out, to the sovereign and to the subject, the extent and the boundaries of their respective rights and duties, founded in the laws of nature and of nature's God.
WILLIAM HENRY SEWARD, a distinguished American statesman, was born in Orange county, New York, May 16th, 1801. In 1822 he was admitted to the bar, and soon after acquired a great reputation for forensic eloquence. He has held many important public offices, and now (1862) occupies the chief place in the cabinet at Washington : being Secretary of State. His papers and speeches, which are numerous, all show scholarly taste and large attainment. The following brief description is one of his happiest efforts. .
LAST WORDS OF JOHN QUINCY ADAMS.
WILLIAM H. SEWARD. 1. What means, then, this abrupt and fearful silence? What unlooked-for calamity has quelled the debates of the Senate, and calmed the excitement of the people ? An old man, whose tongue once, indeed, was eloquent, but now, through age, had wellnigh lost its cunning, has fallen into the swoon of death. He was not an actor in the drama of conquest, nor had his feeble voice yet mingled in the lofty argument :
“A gray-haired sire, whose eye intent
2. In the very act of rising to debate, he fell into the arms of Conscript Fathers * of the Republic. A long lethargy supervened and oppressed his senses. Nature rallied the wasting powers, on the verge of the grave, for a brief space. But it was long enough for him. The rekindled eye showed that the
* The old Roman designation of the Senators.
re-collected mind was clear, calm, and vigorous. His weering family, and his sorrowing compeers, were there. He surveyed the scene, and knew at once its fatal import. He had left no duty unperformed; he had no wish unsatisfied; no ambition unattained no regret, no sorrow, no fear, no remorse. He could not shake off the dews of death, that gathered on his brow He could not pierce the thick shades that rose up before him.
3 But he knew that eternity lay close by the shores of time. He knew that his Redeemer lived.• Eloquence, even in that hour, inspired him with his ancient sublimity of utterance. “ Tuis,” said the dying man, “THIS IS THE END OF EARTH.” He paused for a moment, and then added, "I AM CONTENT.” Angels might well draw aside the curtains of the skies to look down on such a scene,-a scene that approximated even to that scene of unapproachable sublimity, not to be recalled without reverence, when in mortal agony, One who spake as never man spake, said, "IT IS FINISHED !”
GOD AND HEAVEN.
The silver cord in twain is snapped,
The golden bowl is broken,
The words funereal spoken;
Or delved is the grassy clod,
0, what is left—but God!
The tears are shed that mourned the dead,
The flowers they wore, are faded;