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Biography of Daniel Webster


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Webster, Daniel. An illustrious American statesman, jurist, and orator. Born in Salisbury, NH, in 1782, of respectable but comparatively humble parentage. After receiving his rudimentary education at Exeter and Boscawen academies, Webster entered Dartmouth College in 1797 as a freshman and, after graduating in 1801, entered upon the study of the law at Salisbury and Boston, in which latter city he was called to the bar in 1805. In 1807 Webster went into practice at Portsmouth and, after earning a high legal reputation, was elected by the Federal Party to the lower house of Congress in 1812, where he opposed the war with England and at once rose into prominence as an able debater. Reelected in 1815, he shared in the discussion of the United States Bank Charter and specie payment questions. Meanwhile, he had risen to the highest rank in his profession as a constitutional lawyer, and as a consummate leader in criminal causes. In 1820 Daniel Webster served as a member of the Convention met to revise the Constitution of Massachusetts, and in 1822 was reelected to Congress where, as chairman of the Judiciary Committee, he rendered eminent assistance in the entire revision of the United States criminal code. In 1827 he became senator and, in 1830, in opposing the Nullification doctrine advanced by South Carolina statesmen, delivered perhaps the most splendid outburst of patriotic oratory ever heard within the Congress of the American Union. In 1834, Webster became a prominent leader of the Whig Party and, in 1841, was appointed secretary of state under President Harrison, retaining the office during Tyler's presidency and again under Fillmore in 1850. The most remarkable event of his official term was the so-called Ashburton Treaty with England, in the settlement of the northeastern boundary question. Reelected to the senate in 1844, Webster opposed alike the admission of Texas into the Union and the prosecution of the war with Mexico, and supported Henry Clay's "Compromise Measures" of 1850, in relation to the extension of slavery to new territories. He was unsuccessfully nominated for the presidency by the National Whig Convention of 1852. Daniel Webster died October 24, in the latter year.