Biography of Daniel Webster


DANIEL WEBSTER, American statesman and jurist, was born at Salisbury, New Hampshire, January 18th 1782, the second son of Ebenezer Webster, a small farmer, and justice of the county court. He entered Dartmouth College in 1797, and taught school in winter to pay his expenses, and aid his brother, Ezekiel, who became a distinguished lawyer,in fitting for college. On graduating in 1801, he commenced to study law, but was induced by the offer of a salary of three hundred and fifty dollars a year, to become the preceptor of an academy at Fryburg, Maine, paying his board by copying deeds. In 1804, he went to Boston, and entered the law office of Mr. Gore, refusing an appointment of clerk of the court of which his father was a judge, at $1,500 dollars a year. In 1805, having been admitted to the Boston bar, he established himself at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, married in 1808, and having engaged in politics as a member of the Federalist party, was elected to Congress, where he immediately took rank with the foremost men of the country. His speech on the Berlin and Milan Decrees, and his mastery of the questions of currency and finance, gave him a high position; but he determined, in 1816, to remove to Boston, where, leaving politics; he engaged for several years in legal practice of the most extensive and varied character. In 1822, he was a member of the Massachusetts Constitutional Convention, and December 22nd, 1822, he pronounced at Plymouth, on the anniversary of the landing of the Pilgrims, the first of that remarkable series of discourses or orations, which gave him the first rank among American orators. In 1825, he gave an oration at the laying of the cornerstone of the Bunker Hill monument, and in 1843, on its completion. In 1826, he pronounced the eulogy of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, who died on the semi-centenary anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, and in 1851, a patriotic discourse on the laying of the cornerstone for the extension of the Capitol at Washington. In 1822, he was elected to Congress from Boston, and was distinguished by his speeches on the Holy Alliance and the Greek revolution, and his labors in the revision of the criminal laws of the United States. In 1826, he was chosen senator, and in 1830, rose to the height of his forensic renown, in a speech of two days, in the debate with Mr. Hayne, of South Carolina, on the right of "nullification." Webster and Clay were the leaders of the opposition during the administrations of Jackson and Van Buren. In 1839, he visited England, Scotland and France; and in 1841, accepted the post of Secretary of State in the cabinet of General Harrison, and remained in that of Mr. Tyler, who, as Vice-President, succeeded on the death of the President, until 1843. In 1844, he aspired to the presidency, but the choice ot the party fell upon Mr. Clay, whom he supported, but unsuccessfully. He was chosen senator for Massachusetts, and again, in 1840, was disappointed of the presidential nomination by the popular enthusiasm for the victor of Buena Vista, General Taylor.

His senatorial efforts at this period were directed to the preservation of the union by the advocacy of compromises on the slavery question, and he gave offence to the Abolitionists by defending the Fugitive Slave Law. In 1850, he became again Secretary of State in the cabinet of Mr. Fillmore; and in 1852 was once more and no doubt grievously disappointed at not receiving the nomination to the presidency, which was given to Gen. Scott. He died after a brief illness at his residence at Marshfield, Massachusetts, October 24th, 1852. Mr.Webster was a man of striking appearance, large, swarthy, with deep-set eyes, a deep and powerful voice, and a solemn and earnest manner.