F.C.V. reads Daniel Webster – from “The Second Reply to Hayne” (1830)


I have not allowed myself, Sir, to look beyond
the Union, to see what might lie hidden in the dark recess behind. I have not coolly
weighed the chances of preserving liberty when the bonds that unite us together shall
be broken asunder. I have not accustomed myself to hang over the precipice of disunion, to
see whether, with my short sight, I can fathom the depth of the abyss below; nor could I
regard him as a safe counsellor in the affairs of this government, whose thoughts should
be mainly bent on considering, not how the Union may be best preserved, but how tolerable
might be the condition of the people when it should be broken up and destroyed. While
the Union lasts, we have high, exciting, gratifiying prospects spread out before us and our children.
Beyond that I seek not to penetrate the veil. God grant that in my day, at least, that curtain
may not rise! God grant that on my vision never may be opened what lies behind! When
my eyes shall be turned to behold for the last time the sun in heaven, may I not see
him shine on the broken and dishonored fragments of a once glorious Union; on States dissevered,
discordant, belligerent; on a land rent with civil feuds, or drenched, it may be, in fraternal
blood! Let their last feeble and lingering glance rather behold the gorgeous ensign of
the republic, now known and honored throughout the earth, still full high advanced, its arms
and trophies streaming in their original lustre, not a stripe erased or polluteddd, not a single
star obscured, bearing for its motto, no such miserable interrogatory as “What is all this
worth?” nor those other words of delusion and folly, “Liberty first and Union afterwards”;
but everywhere, spread all over in characters of living light, blazing on all its ample
folds, as they float over the sea and over the land, and in every wind under the whole
heavens, that other sentiment, dear to every true American heart, – Liberty and Union,
now and for ever, one and inseperable!