Memorable Quotations from Daniel Webster

Book Cover

By Jim Dell


Memorable Quotations from Daniel Webster
(Kindle Book at Amazon)

Daniel Webster was born on January 18, 1782, in Salisbury, New Hampshire, and graduated from Dartmouth College. He studied law in Salisbury and Boston and was admitted to the bar in 1805. He formed a law practice in Portsmouth, New Hampshire; he became involved in politics and joined the Federalist Party. Webster detested the prevalence of Virginians in the national government and opposed the War of 1812. From 1813 to 1817 he served in the U.S. House of Representatives and persuasively upheld Federalist doctrines. Webster moved to Boston in 1816, and the next year he resumed the practice of law. Between 1817 and 1823 he won numerous prominent constitutional cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, especially the Dartmouth College Case (1819), which recognized the precedent that no legislature has the right to harm the obligations enforced by a contract, and McCulloch v. Maryland (1819), which refused the right of the states to tax an institution established by the federal government. Subsequently Webster was usually viewed as one of the foremost attorneys in the country. Webster's articulateness as a speaker at civic gatherings and in court launched him as a celebrated orator. Two of his prominent orations are the Plymouth Speech (1820), memorializing the bicentennial of the arrival of the Pilgrims and the Bunker Hill Speech (1825), observing the 50th anniversary of the legendary American Revolution battle. Webster was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Boston in 1822 and to the U.S. Senate from Massachusetts in 1827. He had opposed legislation for a protective tariff in 1816 and did so again in 1824. Under the authority of escalating New England industrial interests, though, Webster stopped his free-trade position. He favored the tariff of 1828 and became a defender of northern industrial interests on other issues as well. In 1830 his renown as an orator attained its peak in his reply to the speech of Robert Young Hayne, senator from South Carolina, on the description of the Union and the states' right of nullification. Webster effectively battled the theory of nullification and adeptly justified the nationalist view of the Union. In the disagreement over the renewal of the charter of the United States Bank, Webster promoted renewal and resisted the financial policy of President Andrew Jackson. Several of the doctrines of sound finance established in his speeches at this time were later integrated in the Federal Reserve System. When the Whig Party was created in 1834, Webster became one of its leaders, getting the electoral vote of Massachusetts for President in 1836. He was appointed secretary of state by President William Henry Harrison in 1841, a position he maintained under President John Tyler. In that position he negotiated the Webster-Ashburton Treaty (1842), which resolved the disagreement with England, over the boundary between the U.S. and Canada. Webster resigned from the cabinet in 1843. Webster reentered the Senate in 1845. He opposed the annexation of Texas and the war with Mexico. Even though he was individually opposed to slavery, Webster believed in the safeguarding of the Union. His final years in the Senate were committed to attempts to preserve peace between the North and South by means of conciliation. His last great speech was delivered on March 7, 1850, in support of the Compromise Measures of 1850. The speech provoked outrage in the North because of its concessions to slavery. Daniel Webster was secretary of state in the cabinet of President Millard Fillmore from 1850 to 1852. The legendary orator died at home in Marshfield, Massachusetts, on October 24, 1852.

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