MVB address on the death of DeWitt Clinton, 19 February 1828
The honorable Martin Van Buren of the Senate addressed the meeting nearly in the following words:
Mr. Chairman: We have met to pay a tribute of respect to the memory of our late Governor and distinguished fellow-citizen, De Witt Clinton. Some of our brethren have been so kind as to ask me to prepare a suitable expression of our feelings: and I have, in pursuance of their wishes, drawn up what has occurred to me, as proper to be said on the occasion. Before I submit it to the consideration of the meeting, I beg leave to be indulged in a few brief remarks.—I can say nothing of the deceased that is not familiar to you all. To all he was personally known, and to many of us intimately and familiarly, from our earliest infancy. The high order of his talents, the untiring zeal and great success with which those talents have, through a series of years, been devoted to the prosecution of plans of great public utility, are also known to you all: and by all I am satisfied duly appreciated. The subject can derive no additional interest or importance from any eulogy of mine. All other considerations out of view, the single fact that the greatest public improvement of the age in which we live was commenced under the guidance of his counsels, and splendidly accomplished under his immediate auspices, is of itself sufficient to fill the ambition of any man, and to give glory to any name. But, as has been justly said, his life and character and conduct have become the property of the historian, and there is no reason to doubt that history will do him justice. The triumph of his talent and patriotism cannot fail to become monuments of high and enduring fame. We cannot indeed but remember that in our own public career, collisions of opinion and action, at once extensive, earnest and enduring, have arisen between the deceased and many of us. For myself, sir, it gives me a deep-felt though melancholy satisfaction, to know, and more so, to be conscious that the deceased also felt and acknowledged, that our political differences have been wholly free from that most venomous and corroding of all poisons—personal hatred. But in other respects it is now immaterial what was the character of those collisions. They have been turned to nothing, and less than nothing, by the event we deplore, and I doubt not that we will, with one voice and one heart, yield to his memory the well deserved tribute of our respect of his name and our warmest gratitude for his great and signal service. For myself, sir, so strong, so sincere, and so engrossing is that feeling, that I, who whilst living, never, no never envied him any thing; now that he has fallen, am greatly tempted to envy him his grave with its honours.
Of this the most afflicting of all bereavements that has fallen upon his wretched and desponding family, what shall I say?—Nothing—their grief is too sacred for description—justice can alone be done to it by those deep and silent, but agonizing feelings which on their account pervade every bosom.
Mr. Van Buren then submitted the following resolution:
The Delegation from the State of New York to the Senate and House of Representatives of the Congress of the United States, having been informed of the sudden death of De Witt Clinton, late Governor of the State, feel it due to the occasion, as well as to their own feelings, to unite with the people they represent, in expressing their deep and sincere sorrow for a dispensation of Providence which has, in the midst of active usefulness, cut off from the service of that State, whose proudest ornament he was, a great man, who has won and richly deserved the reputation of a distinguished public benefactor.
Sensibly impressed with respect for the memory of the illustrious dead, they will wear the usual badge of mourning for thirty days: and they request that a copy of these, their proceedings, be communicated to the family of the deceased, with an assurance of their condolence at the greatest bereavement that could have befallen them on this side the grave.
Editorial Note: Printed in Hosack, Memoir of De Witt Clinton, 528-529; MVB, Autobiography, 166-167; and Holland, Life of MVB, 123-125.