given a disastrous importance to the defects

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Senior Member
Hi there,

"The history of this country has given a disastrous importance to the defects of this great man’s mind. Whether evil influences and the corruption of politics, or whether original infirmity, it was the misfortune of his country that with this large understanding he had not what is better than intellect, and the source of its health. It is a law of our nature that great thoughts come from the heart."

VII. The Fugitive Slave Law--Lecture at New York. Ralph Waldo Emerson. 1904. The Complete Works (The Fugitive Slave Law by Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Does the underlined part mean "the history of the US has overemphasized the defects of Mr. Webster's moral sense"? It does not make much sense to me. Although in the previous text, Mr. Webster was hailed for his eloquence and manners, he was in the following text censured for his lack of moral discernment. So how am I supposed to understand the underlined part? ("The great man", Mr. Webster, helped pass the infamous the Fugitive Slave Law, and, as a result, was denounced as such by Emerson.")


  • Glasguensis

    Signal Modulation
    English - Scotland
    I believe he means that these defects have had a disastrously negative impact on the nation’s history. The implication is that had it not been for these defects the war between the states may not have occurred.
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