Author Webster Daniel

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Daniel Webster (January 18, 1782 – October 24, 1852) was a leading American statesman during the nation's Antebellum Period. He first rose to regional prominence through his defense of New England shipping interests. His increasingly nationalistic views and the effectiveness with which he articulated them led Webster to become one of the most famous orators and influential Whig leaders of the Second Party System. Daniel Webster was an attorney, and served as legal counsel in several cases that established important constitutional precedents that bolstered the authority of the Federal government. As Secretary of State, he negotiated the Webster-Ashburton Treaty that established the definitive eastern border between the United States and Canada. Primarily recognized for his Senate tenure, Webster was a key figure in the institution's "Golden days". So well-known was his skill as a Senator throughout this period that Webster became the northern member of a trio known as the "Great Triumvi


rate", with his colleagues Henry Clay from the west and John C. Calhoun from the south. His "Reply to Hayne" in 1830 was generally regarded as "the most eloquent speech ever delivered in Congress."[2] As with Henry Clay, Webster's desire to see the Union preserved and conflict averted led him to search out compromises designed to stave off the sectionalism that threatened war between the North and South. Webster tried three times to achieve the Presidency; all three bids failed, the final one in part because of his compromises. Similarly, Webster's efforts to steer the nation away from civil war toward a definite peace ultimately proved futile. Despite this, Webster came to be esteemed for these efforts and was officially named by the U.S. Senate in 1957 as one of its five most outstanding members.[3] Daniel was born on January 18, 1782, to Ebenezer and Abigail Webster (née Eastman) in Salisbury, New Hampshire, now part of the City of Franklin. There he and his nine siblings were raised on his parents' farm, a small parcel of land granted to his father. Daniel Webster's great-great-grandfather was Thomas Webster[4] (1631–1715), who was born in Ormesby St. Margaret, Norfolk, England and settled in New Hampshire. As Daniel was a “sickly” child, his family indulged him, exempting him from the harsh rigors of 18th-century New England farm life.[5] Webster attended Phillips Exeter Academy, a preparatory school in Exeter, New Hampshire, before attending Dartmouth College. After he graduated from Dartmouth (Phi Beta Kappa), Webster was apprenticed to the lawyer Thomas W. Thompson. When his older brother's own quest for education put a financial strain on the family that consequently required Webster's support, Webster was forced to resign and become a schoolmaster — as young men often did then, when public education consisted largely of subsidies to local schoolmasters. In 1802 he served as the headmaster of the Fryeburg Academy, Maine, for the period of one year.[6] When his brother's education could no longer be sustained, Webster returned to his apprenticeship. He left New Hampshire and got employment in Boston under the prominent attorney Christopher Gore in 1804. Clerking for Gore — who was involved in international, national, and state politics — Webster educated himself on various political subjects and met New England politicians.[7] In 1805 Webster was accepted into the bar and returned to New Hampshire to set up a practice in Boscawen, in part to be near his ailing father. During this time, Webster took a more active interest in politics. Raised by an ardently Federalist father and taught by a predominantly Federalist-leaning faculty at Dartmouth, Webster, like many New Englanders, supported Federalism. Accordingly, he accepted a number of minor local speaking engagements in support of Federalist causes and candidates.[8] After his father's death in 1806, Webster handed over his practice to his older brother Ezekiel, who had by this time finished his schooling and been admitted to the bar. Webster then moved to the larger town of Portsmouth in 1807, and opened a practice there.[9] During this time the Napoleonic Wars began to affect Americans, as Britain began to forcibly impress American sailors into their Navy. President Thomas Jefferson retaliated with the Embargo Act of 1807, ceasing all trade to both Britain and France. New England was heavily reliant upon commerce with the two nations and the region vehemently opposed Jefferson's attempt at "peaceable coercion." Webster wrote an anonymous pamphlet attacking it.[10] Eventually the trouble with England escalated into the War of 1812. That same year, Daniel Webster gave an address to the Washington Benevolent Society, an oration that proved critical to his career. The speech decried the war and the violation of New England's shipping rights that preceded it, but it also strongly denounced the extremism of those more radical among the unhappy New Englanders who were beginning to call for the region's secession from the Union. The Washington oration was widely circulated and read throughout New Hampshire, and it led to Webster's 1812 selection to the Rockingham Convention, an assembly that sought to formally declare the state's grievances with President James Madison and the federal government. He was a member of the drafting committee and was chosen to compose the Rockingham Memorial to be sent to Madison. The report included much of the same tone and opinions held in the Washington Society address, except that, uncharacteristically for its chief architect, it alluded to the threat of secession saying, "If a separation of the states shall ever take place, it will be, on some occasion, when one portion of the country undertakes to control, to regulate, and to sacrifice the interest of another."[9] Webster's efforts on behalf of New England Federalism, shipping interests, and war opposition resulted in his election to the House of Representatives in 1812, where he served two terms ending March 1817. He was an outspoken critic of the Madison administration and its wartime policies, denouncing its efforts at financing the war through paper money and opposing Secretary of War James Monroe's conscription proposal. Notable in his second term was his support of the reestablishment of a stable specie-based national bank; but he opposed the tariff of 1816 (which sought to protect the nation's manufacturing interests) and House Speaker Henry Clay's American System. This opposition was in accordance with a number of his professed beliefs (and the majority of his constituents') including free trade, that the tariff's "great object was to raise revenue, not to foster manufacture," and that it was against "the true spirit of the Constitution" to give "excessive bounties or encouragements to one [industry] over another."[11][12] After his second term, Webster did not seek a third, choosing his law practice instead. In an attempt to secure greater financial success for himself and his family (he had married Grace Fletcher in 1808, with whom he had four children), he moved his practice from Portsmouth to Boston. Webster had been highly regarded in New Hampshire since his days in Boscawen, and had been respected throughout the House during his service there. He came to national prominence, however, as counsel in a number of important Supreme Court cases.[5] These cases remain major precedents in the Constitutional jurisprudence of the United States. In 1816, Webster was retained by the Federalist trustees of his alma mater, Dartmouth College, to represent them in their case against the newly elected New Hampshire Democratic-Republican state legislature. The legislature had passed new laws converting Dartmouth into a state institution, by changing the size of the college's trustee body and adding a further board of overseers, which they put into the hands of the state senate.[13] New Hampshire argued that they, as successor in sovereignty to George III, who had chartered Dartmouth, had the right to revise the charter. "This, sir, is my case. It is the case not merely of that humble institution, it is the case of every college in our land... Sir, you may destroy this little institution; it is weak; it is in your hands! I know it is one of the lesser lights in the literary horizon of our country. You may put it out. But if you do so you must carry through your work! You must extinguish, one after another, all those greater lights of science which for more than a century have thrown their radiance over our land. It is, sir, as I have said, a small college. And yet there are those who love it!" Webster argued Dartmouth College v. Woodward to the Supreme Court (with significant aid from Jeremiah Mason and Jeremiah Smith), invoking Article I, section 10 of the Constitution (the Contract Clause) against the State. The Marshall court, continuing with its history of limiting states' rights and reaffirming the supremacy of the Constitutional protection of contract, ruled in favor of Webster and Dartmouth 3–1. This decided that corporations did not, as many then held, have to justify their privileges by acting in the public interest, but were independent of the states.[14] Other notable appearances by Webster before the Supreme Court include his representation of James McCulloch in McCulloch v. Maryland (1819), the Cohens in Cohens v. Virginia (1821), and Thomas Gibbons in Gibbons v. Ogden (1824), cases similar to Dartmouth in the court's application of a broad interpretation of the Constitution and strengthening of the federal courts' power to constrain the states, which have since been used to justify wide powers for the federal government. Webster's handling of these cases made him one of the era's foremost constitutional lawyers, as well as one of the most highly paid.[15] Webster's growing prominence as a constitutional lawyer led to his election as a delegate to the 1820 Massachusetts Constitutional Convention. There he spoke in opposition to universal suffrage (for men), on the Federalist grounds that power naturally follows property, and the vote should be limited accordingly; but the constitution was amended against his advice.[16] He also supported the (existing) districting of the State Senate so that each seat represented an equal amount of property.[17]


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