Part 2 out of 3
forty miles below Philadelphia, he had happened to hear about the young
man Franklin who had lately come from Boston.
He sat down at once and wrote a letter to the young man. He told him how
his parents and friends were grieving for him in Boston. He begged him
to go back home, and said that everything would be made right if he
would do so.
When Franklin read this letter he felt very sad to think of the pain and
distress which he had caused.
But he did not want to return to Boston. He felt that he had been badly
treated by his brother, and, therefore, that he was not the only one to
be blamed. He believed that he could do much better in Philadelphia than
So he sat down and wrote an answer to Captain Holmes. He wrote it with
great care, and sent it off to Newcastle by the first boat that was
going that way.
Now it so happened that Sir William Keith, the governor of the province,
was at Newcastle at that very time. He was with Captain Holmes when the
letter came to hand.
When Captain Holmes had read the letter he was so pleased with it that
he showed it to the governor.
Governor Keith read it and was surprised when he learned that its writer
was a lad only seventeen years old.
"He is a young man of great promise," he said; "and he must be
encouraged. The printers in Philadelphia know nothing about their
business. If young Franklin will stay there and set up a press, I will
do a great deal for him."
One day not long after that, when Franklin was at work in Keimer's
printing-office, the governor came to see him. Franklin was very much
The governor offered to set him up in a business of his own. He promised
that he should have all the public printing in the province.
"But you will have to go to England to buy your types and whatever else
you may need."
Franklin agreed to do this. But he must first return to Boston and get
his father's consent and assistance.
The governor gave him a letter to carry to his father. In a few weeks he
was on his way home.
You may believe that Benjamin's father and mother were glad to see him.
He had been gone seven months, and in all that time they had not heard a
word from him.
His brothers and sisters were glad to see him, too--all but the printer,
James, who treated him very unkindly.
His father read the governor's letter, and then shook his head.
"What kind of a man is this Governor Keith?" he asked. "He must have
but little judgment to think of setting up a mere boy in business of
After that he wrote a letter of thanks to the governor. He said that he
was grateful for the kindness he had shown to his son, and for his offer
to help him. But he thought that Benjamin was still too young to be
trusted with so great a business, and therefore he would not consent to
his undertaking it. As for helping him, that he could not do; for he had
but little more money than was needed to carry on his own affairs.
* * * * *
IX.--THE RETURN TO PHILADELPHIA.
Benjamin Franklin felt much disappointed when his father refused to help
send him to England. But he was not discouraged.
In a few weeks he was ready to return to Philadelphia. This time he did
not have to run away from home.
His father blessed him, and his mother gave him many small gifts as
tokens of her love.
"Be diligent," said his father, "attend well to your business, and save
your money carefully, and, perhaps, by the time you are twenty-one years
old, you will be able to set up for yourself without the governor's
All the family, except James the printer, bade him a kind good-bye, as
he went on board the little ship that was to take him as far as New
There was another surprise for him when he reached New York.
The governor of New York had heard that there was a young man from
Boston on board the ship, and that he had a great many books.
There were no large libraries in New York at that time. There were no
bookstores, and but few people who cared for books.
So the governor sent for Franklin to come and see him. He showed him his
own library, and they had a long talk about books and authors.
This was the second governor that had taken notice of Benjamin. For a
poor boy, like him, it was a great honor, and very pleasing.
When he arrived in Philadelphia he gave to Governor Keith the letter
which his father had written.
The governor was not very well pleased. He said:
"Your father is too careful. There is a great difference in persons.
Young men can sometimes be trusted with great undertakings as well as if
they were older."
He then said that he would set Franklin up in business without his
"Give me a list of everything needed in a first-class printing-office. I
will see that you are properly fitted out."
Franklin was delighted. He thought that Governor Keith was one of the
best men in the world.
In a few days he laid before the governor a list of the things needed in
a little printing-office.
The cost of the outfit would be about five hundred dollars.
The governor was pleased with the list. There were no type-foundries in
America at that time. There was no place where printing-presses were
made. Everything had to be bought in England.
The governor said, "Don't you think it would be better if you could go
to England and choose the types for yourself, and see that everything is
just as you would like to have it?"
"Yes, sir," said Franklin, "I think that would be a great advantage."
"Well, then," said the governor, "get yourself ready to go on the next
regular ship to London. It shall be at my expense."
At that time there was only one ship that made regular trips from
Philadelphia to England, and it sailed but once each year.
The name of this ship was the _Annis_. It would not be ready to sail
again for several months.
And so young Franklin, while he was getting ready for the voyage, kept
on working in Mr. Keimer's little printing-office.
He laid up money enough to pay for his passage. He did not want to be
dependent upon Governor Keith for everything; and it was well that he
* * * * *
X.--THE FIRST VISIT TO ENGLAND.
At last the _Annis_ was ready to sail.
Governor Keith had promised to give to young Franklin letters of
introduction to some of his friends in England.
He had also promised to give him money to buy his presses and type.
But when Franklin called at the governor's house to bid him good-bye,
and to get the letters, the governor was too busy to see him. He said
that he would send the letters and the money to him on shipboard.
The ship sailed.
But no letters, nor any word from Governor Keith, had been sent to
When he at last arrived in London he found himself without money and
Governor Keith had given him nothing but promises. He would never give
him anything more. He was a man whose word was not to be depended upon.
Franklin was then just eighteen years old. He must now depend wholly
upon himself. He must make his own way in the world, without aid from
He went out at once to look for work. He found employment in a
printing-office, and there he stayed for nearly a year.
Franklin made many acquaintances with literary people while he was in
He proved himself to be a young man of talent and ingenuity. He was
His companions in the printing-office were beer-drinkers and sots. He
often told them how foolish they were to spend their money and ruin
themselves for drink.
He drank nothing but water. He was strong and active. He could carry
more, and do more work, than any of them.
He persuaded many of them to leave off drinking, and to lead better
Franklin was also a fine swimmer. There was no one in London who could
swim as well. He wrote two essays on swimming, and made some plans for
opening a swimming school.
When he had been in London about a year, he met a Mr. Denham, a merchant
of Philadelphia, and a strong friendship sprang up between them.
Mr. Denham at last persuaded Franklin to return to Philadelphia, and be
a clerk in his dry-goods store.
And so, on the 23rd of the next July, he set sail for home. The ship was
nearly three months in making the voyage, and it was not until October
that he again set foot in Philadelphia.
* * * * *
XI.--A LEADING MAN IN PHILADELPHIA.
When Franklin was twenty-four years old he was married to Miss Deborah
Read, the young lady who had laughed at him when he was walking the
street with his three rolls.
They lived together very happily for a great many years.
Some time before this marriage, Franklin's friend and employer, Mr.
Denham, had died.
The dry-goods store, of which he was the owner, had been sold, and
Franklin's occupation as a salesman, or clerk, was gone. But the young
man had shown himself to be a person of great industry and ability. He
had the confidence of everybody that knew him.
A friend of his, who had money, offered to take him as a partner in the
newspaper business. And so he again became a printer, and the editor of
a paper called the _Pennsylvania Gazette_.
It was not long until Franklin was recognized as one of the leading men
in Philadelphia. His name was known, not only in Pennsylvania, but in
all the colonies.
He was all the time thinking of plans for making the people about him
wiser and better and happier.
He established a subscription and circulating library, the first in
America. This library was the beginning of the present Philadelphia
He wrote papers on education. He founded the University of
Pennsylvania. He organized the American Philosophical Society.
He established the first fire company in Philadelphia, which was also
the first in America.
He invented a copper-plate press, and printed the first paper money of
He also invented the iron fireplace, which is called the Franklin stove,
and is still used where wood is plentiful and cheap.
After an absence of ten years, he paid a visit to his old home in
Boston. Everybody was glad to see him now,--even his brother James, the
When he returned to Philadelphia, he was elected clerk of the colonial
Not long after that, he was chosen to be postmaster of the city. But his
duties in this capacity did not require very much labor in those times.
He did not handle as much mail in a whole year as passes now through the
Philadelphia post-office in a single hour.
[Illustration: BENJAMIN FRANKLIN.]
* * * * *
XII.--FRANKLIN'S RULES OF LIFE.
Here are some of the rules of life which Franklin made for himself when
he was a very young man:
1. To live very frugally till he had paid all that he owed.
2. To speak the truth at all times; to be sincere in word and action.
3. To apply himself earnestly to whatever business he took in hand; and
to shun all foolish projects for becoming suddenly rich. "For industry
and patience," he said, "are the surest means of plenty."
4. To speak ill of no man whatever, not even in a matter of truth; but
to speak all the good he knew of everybody.
When he was twenty-six years old, he published the first number of an
almanac called _Poor Richard's Almanac_.
This almanac was full of wise and witty sayings, and everybody soon
began to talk about it.
Every year, for twenty-five years, a new number of _Poor Richard's
Almanac_ was printed. It was sold in all parts of the country. People
who had no other books would buy and read _Poor Richard's Almanac_. The
library of many a farmer consisted of only the family Bible with one or
more numbers of this famous almanac. Here are a few of Poor Richard's
"A word to the wise is enough."
"God helps them that help themselves."
"Early to bed and early to rise,
Makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise."
"There are no gains without pains."
"Plow deep while sluggards sleep,
And you shall have corn to sell and to keep."
"One to-day is worth two to-morrows."
"Little strokes fell great oaks."
"Keep thy shop and thy shop will keep thee."
"The sleeping fox catches no poultry."
"Diligence is the mother of good luck."
"Constant dropping wears away stones."
"A small leak will sink a great ship."
"Who dainties love shall beggars prove."
"Creditors have better memories than debtors."
"Many a little makes a mickle."
"Fools make feasts and wise men eat them."
"Many have been ruined by buying good pennyworths."
"Rather go to bed supperless than rise in debt."
"For age and want save while you may;
No morning sun lasts the whole day."
It is pleasant to know that Franklin observed the rules of life which he
made. And his wife, Deborah, was as busy and as frugal as himself.
They kept no idle servants. Their furniture was of the cheapest sort.
Their food was plain and simple.
Franklin's breakfast, for many years, was only bread and milk; and he
ate it out of a twopenny earthen bowl with a pewter spoon.
But at last, when he was called one morning to breakfast, he found his
milk in a china bowl; and by the side of the bowl there was a silver
His wife had bought them for him as a surprise. She said that she
thought her husband deserved a silver spoon and china bowl as well as
any of his neighbors.
* * * * *
XIII.--FRANKLIN'S SERVICES TO THE COLONIES.
And so, as you have seen, Benjamin Franklin became in time one of the
foremost men in our country.
In 1753, when he was forty-five years old, he was made deputy
postmaster-general for America.
He was to have a salary of about $3,000 a year, and was to pay his own
People were astonished when he proposed to have the mail carried
regularly once every week between New York and Boston.
Letters starting from Philadelphia on Monday morning would reach Boston
the next Saturday night. This was thought to be a wonderful and almost
impossible feat. But nowadays, letters leaving Philadelphia at midnight
are read at the breakfast table in Boston the next morning.
At that time there were not seventy post-offices in the whole country.
There are now more than seventy thousand.
Benjamin Franklin held the office of deputy postmaster-general for the
American colonies for twenty-one years.
In 1754 there was a meeting of the leading men of all the colonies at
Albany. There were fears of a war with the French and Indians of Canada,
and the colonies had sent these men to plan some means of defence.
Benjamin Franklin was one of the men from Pennsylvania at this meeting.
He presented a plan for the union of the colonies, and it was adopted.
But our English rulers said it was too democratic, and refused to let it
go into operation.
This scheme of Franklin's set the people of the colonies to thinking.
Why should the colonies not unite? Why should they not help one another,
and thus form one great country?
And so, we may truthfully say that it was Benjamin Franklin who first
put into men's minds the idea of the great Union which we now call the
United States of America.
The people of the colonies were not happy under the rule of the
English. One by one, laws were made which they looked upon as oppressive
and burdensome. These laws were not intended to benefit the American
people, but were designed to enrich the merchants and politicians of
In 1757 the people of Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Maryland, and
Georgia, decided to send some one to England to petition against these
In all the colonies there was no man better fitted for this business
than Benjamin Franklin. And so he was the man sent.
The fame of the great American had gone before him. Everybody seemed
anxious to do him honor.
He met many of the leading men of the day, and he at last succeeded in
gaining the object of his mission.
But such business moved slowly in those times. Five years passed before
he was ready to return to America.
He reached Philadelphia in November, 1762, and the colonial assembly of
Pennsylvania thanked him publicly for his great services.
But new troubles soon came up between the colonies and the government in
England. Other laws were passed, more oppressive than before.
It was proposed to tax the colonies, and to force the colonists to buy
stamped paper. This last act was called the Stamp Tax, and the American
people opposed it with all their might.
Scarcely had Franklin been at home two years when he was again sent to
England to plead the cause of his countrymen.
This time he remained abroad for more than ten years; but he was not so
successful as before.
In 1774 he appeared before the King's council to present a petition from
the people of Massachusetts.
He was now a venerable man nearly seventy years of age. He was the most
famous man of America.
His petition was rejected. He himself was shamefully insulted and abused
by one of the members of the council. The next day he was dismissed
from the office of deputy postmaster-general of America.
In May, 1775, he was again at home in Philadelphia.
Two weeks before his arrival the battle of Lexington had been fought,
and the war of the Revolution had been begun.
Franklin had done all that he could to persuade the English king to deal
justly with the American colonies. But the king and his counsellors had
refused to listen to him.
During his ten years abroad he had not stayed all the time in England.
He had traveled in many countries of Europe, and had visited Paris
Many changes had taken place while he was absent.
His wife, Mrs. Deborah Franklin, had died. His parents and fifteen of
his brothers and sisters had also been laid in the grave.
The rest of his days were to be spent in the service of his country, to
which he had already given nearly twenty years of his life.
* * * * *
XIV.--FRANKLIN'S WONDERFUL KITE.
Benjamin Franklin was not only a printer, politician, and statesman, he
was the first scientist of America. In the midst of perplexing cares it
was his delight to study the laws of nature and try to understand some
of the mysteries of creation.
In his time no very great discoveries had yet been made. The steam
engine was unknown. The telegraph had not so much as been dreamed about.
Thousands of comforts which we now enjoy through the discoveries of
science were then unthought of; or if thought of, they were deemed to be
Franklin began to make experiments in electricity when he was about
forty years old.
He was the first person to discover that lightning is caused by
electricity. He had long thought that this was true, but he had no means
of proving it.
He thought that if he could stand on some high tower during a
thunder-storm, he might be able to draw some of the electricity from the
clouds through a pointed iron rod. But there was no high tower in
Philadelphia. There was not even a tall church spire.
At last he thought of making a kite and sending it up to the clouds. A
paper kite, however, would be ruined by the rain and would not fly to
any great height.
So instead of paper he used a light silk handkerchief which he fastened
to two slender but strong cross pieces. At the top of the kite he placed
a pointed iron rod. The string was of hemp, except a short piece at the
lower end, which was of silk. At the end of the hemp string an iron key
"I think that is a queer kind of kite," said Franklin's little boy.
"What are you going to do with it?"
"Wait until the next thunder-storm, and you will see," said Franklin.
"You may go with me and we will send it up to the clouds."
He told no one else about it, for if the experiment should fail, he did
not care to have everybody laugh at him.
At last, one day, a thunder-storm came up, and Franklin, with his son,
went out into a field to fly his kite. There was a steady breeze, and it
was easy to send the kite far up towards the clouds.
Then, holding the silken end of the string, Franklin stood under a
little shed in the field, and watched to see what would happen.
The lightnings flashed, the thunder rolled, but there was no sign of
electricity in the kite. At last, when he was about to give up the
experiment, Franklin saw the loose fibres of his hempen string begin to
He put his knuckles close to the key, and sparks of fire came flying to
his hand. He was wild with delight. The sparks of fire were electricity;
he had drawn them from the clouds.
That experiment, if Franklin had only known it, was a very dangerous
one. It was fortunate for him, and for the world, that he suffered no
harm. More than one person who has since tried to draw electricity from
the clouds has been killed by the lightning that has flashed down the
hempen kite string.
When Franklin's discovery was made known it caused great excitement
among the learned men of Europe. They could not believe it was true
until some of them had proved it by similar experiments.
They could hardly believe that a man in the far-away city of
Philadelphia could make a discovery which they had never thought of as
possible. Indeed, how could an American do anything that was worth
Franklin soon became famous in foreign countries as a philosopher and
man of science. The universities of Oxford and Edinburgh honored him by
conferring upon him their highest degrees. He was now _Doctor_ Benjamin
Franklin. But in America people still thought of him only as a man of
affairs, as a great printer, and as the editor of _Poor Richard's
All this happened before the beginning of his career as ambassador from
the colonies to the king and government of England.
I cannot tell you of all of his discoveries in science. He invented the
lightning-rod, and, by trying many experiments, he learned more about
electricity than the world had ever known before.
He made many curious experiments to discover the laws of heat, light,
and sound. By laying strips of colored cloth on snow, he learned which
colors are the best conductors of heat.
He invented the harmonica, an ingenious musical instrument, in which the
sounds were produced by musical glasses.
During his long stay abroad he did not neglect his scientific studies.
He visited many of the greatest scholars of the time, and was everywhere
received with much honor.
The great scientific societies of Europe, the Royal Academies in Paris
and in Madrid, had already elected him as one of their members. The King
of France wrote him a letter, thanking him for his useful discoveries in
electricity, and for his invention of the lightning-rod.
All this would have made some men very proud. But it was not so with Dr.
Franklin. In a letter which he wrote to a friend at the time when these
honors were beginning to be showered upon him, he said:
"The pride of man is very differently gratified; and had his Majesty
sent me a marshal's staff I think I should scarce have been so proud of
it as I am of your esteem."
* * * * *
XV.--THE LAST YEARS.
In 1776 delegates from all the colonies met in Philadelphia. They formed
what is called the second Continental Congress of America.
It was now more than a year since the war had begun, and the colonists
had made up their minds not to submit to the king of England and his
Many of them were strongly in favor of setting up a new government of
A committee was appointed to draft a declaration of independence, and
Benjamin Franklin was one of that committee.
On the 4th of July, Congress declared the colonies to be free and
independent states. Among the signers of the Declaration of Independence
was Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania.
Soon after this Dr. Franklin was sent to Paris as minister from the
United States. Early in the following year, 1777, he induced the king of
France to acknowledge the independence of this country.
He thus secured aid for the Americans at a time when they were in the
greatest need of it. Had it not been for his services at this time, the
war of the Revolution might have ended very differently, indeed.
It was not until 1785 that he was again able to return to his home.
He was then nearly eighty years old.
He had served his country faithfully for fifty-three years. He would
have been glad if he might retire to private life.
When he reached Philadelphia he was received with joy by thousands of
his countrymen. General Washington was among the first to welcome him,
and to thank him for his great services.
That same year the grateful people of his state elected him President
Two years afterwards, he wrote:
"I am here in my _niche_ in my own house, in the bosom of my family, my
daughter and grandchildren all about me, among my old friends, or the
sons of my friends, who equally respect me.
"In short, I enjoy here every opportunity of doing good, and everything
else I could wish for, except repose; and that I may soon expect, either
by the cessation of my office, which cannot last more than three years,
or by ceasing to live."
The next year he was a delegate to the convention which formed the
present Constitution of the United States.
In a letter written to his friend Washington not long afterwards, he
said: "For my personal ease I should have died two years ago; but though
those years have been spent in pain, I am glad to have lived them, since
I can look upon our present situation."
In April, 1790, he died, and was buried by the side of his wife,
Deborah, in Arch street graveyard in Philadelphia. His age was
eighty-four years and three months.
Many years before his death he had written the following epitaph for
Benjamin Franklin, Printer,
(Like the cover of an old book,
Its contents torn out,
And stripped of its lettering and gilding,)
Lies here food for worms.
Yet the work itself shall not be lost,
For it will (as he believed) appear once more
In a new
And more beautiful Edition,
Corrected and Amended
THE STORY OF
[Illustration: _DANIEL WEBSTER_.]
THE STORY OF DANIEL WEBSTER.
* * * * *
Many years ago there lived in New Hampshire a poor farmer, whose name
was Ebenezer Webster.
His little farm was among the hills, not far from the Merrimac River. It
was a beautiful place to live in; but the ground was poor, and there
were so many rocks that you would wonder how anything could grow among
Ebenezer Webster was known far and wide as a brave, wise man. When any
of his neighbors were in trouble or in doubt about anything, they always
said, "We will ask Captain Webster about it."
They called him Captain because he had fought the French and Indians and
had been a brave soldier in the Revolutionary War. Indeed, he was one
of the first men in New Hampshire to take up arms for his country.
When he heard that the British were sending soldiers to America to force
the people to obey the unjust laws of the king of England, he said, "We
must never submit to this."
So he went among his neighbors and persuaded them to sign a pledge to do
all that they could to defend the country against the British. Then he
raised a company of two hundred men and led them to Boston to join the
The Revolutionary War lasted several years; and during all that time,
Captain Webster was known as one of the bravest of the American
One day, at West Point, he met General Washington. The patriots were in
great trouble at that time, for one of their leaders had turned traitor
and had gone to help the British. The officers and soldiers were much
distressed, for they did not know who might be the next to desert them.
As I have said, Captain Webster met General Washington. The general
took the captain's hand, and said: "I believe that I can trust you,
You may believe that this made Captain Webster feel very happy. When he
went back to his humble home among the New Hampshire hills, he was never
so proud as when telling his neighbors about this meeting with General
If you could have seen Captain Ebenezer Webster in those days, you would
have looked at him more than once. He was a remarkable man. He was very
tall and straight, with dark, glowing eyes, and hair as black as night.
His face was kind, but it showed much firmness and decision.
He had never attended school; but he had tried, as well as he could, to
educate himself. It was on account of his honesty and good judgment that
he was looked up to as the leading man in the neighborhood.
In some way, I do not know how, he had gotten a little knowledge of the
law. And at last, because of this as well as because of his sound
common sense, he was appointed judge of the court in his county.
This was several years after the war was over. He was now no longer
called Captain Webster, but Judge Webster.
It had been very hard for him to make a living for his large family on
the stony farm among the hills. But now his office as judge would bring
him three hundred or four hundred dollars a year. He had never had so
much money in his life.
"Judge Webster," said one of his neighbors, "what are you going to do
with the money that you get from your office? Going to build a new
"Well, no," said the judge. "The old house is small, but we have lived
in it a long time, and it still does very well."
"Then I suppose you are planning to buy more land?" said the neighbor.
"No, indeed, I have as much land now as I can cultivate. But I will tell
you what I am going to do with my money. I am going to try to educate
my boys. I would rather do this than have lands and houses."
* * * * *
II.--THE YOUNGEST SON.
Ebenezer Webster had several sons. But at the time that he was appointed
judge there were only two at home. The older ones were grown up and were
doing for themselves.
It was of the two at home that he was thinking when he said, "I am going
to try to educate my boys."
Of the ten children in the family, the favorite was a black-haired,
dark-skinned little fellow called Daniel. He was the youngest of all the
boys; but there was one girl who was younger than he.
Daniel Webster was born on the 18th of January, 1782.
He was a puny child, very slender and weak; and the neighbors were fond
of telling his mother that he could not live long. Perhaps this was one
of the things that caused him to be favored and petted by his parents.
But there were other reasons why every one was attracted by him. There
were other reasons why his brothers and sisters were always ready to do
him a service.
He was an affectionate, loving child; and he was wonderfully bright and
He was not strong enough to work on the farm like other boys. He spent
much of his time playing in the woods or roaming among the hills.
And when he was not at play he was quite sure to be found in some quiet
corner with a book in his hand. He afterwards said of himself: "In those
boyish days there were two things that I dearly loved--reading and
He could never tell how or when he had learned to read. Perhaps his
mother had taught him when he was but a mere babe.
He was very young when he was first sent to school. The school-house was
two or three miles away, but he did not mind the long walk through the
woods and over the hills.
It was not a great while until he had learned all that his teacher was
able to teach him; for he had a quick understanding, and he remembered
everything that he read.
The people of the neighborhood never tired of talking about "Webster's
boy," as they called him. All agreed that he was a wonderful child.
Some said that so wonderful a child was sure to die young. Others said
that if he lived he would certainly become a very great man.
When the farmers, on their way to market, drove past Judge Webster's
house, they were always glad if they could see the delicate boy, with
his great dark eyes.
If it was near the hour of noon, they would stop their teams under the
shady elms and ask him to come out and read to them. Then, while their
horses rested and ate, they would sit round the boy and listen to his
wonderful tones as he read page after page from the Bible.
There were no children's books in those times. Indeed, there were very
few books to be had of any kind. But young Daniel Webster found nothing
too hard to read.
"I read what I could get to read," he afterwards said; "I went to
school when I could, and when not at school, was a farmer's youngest
boy, not good for much for want of health and strength, but expected to
One day the man who kept the little store in the village, showed him
something that made his heart leap.
It was a cotton handkerchief with the Constitution of the United States
printed on one side of it.
In those days people were talking a great deal about the Constitution,
for it had just then come into force.
Daniel had never read it. When he saw the handkerchief he could not rest
till he had made it his own.
He counted all his pennies, he borrowed a few from his brother Ezekiel.
Then he hurried back to the store and bought the wished-for treasure.
In a short time he knew everything in the Constitution, and could repeat
whole sections of it from memory. We shall learn that, when he
afterwards became one of the great men of this nation, he proved to be
the Constitution's wisest friend and ablest defender.
* * * * *
III.--EZEKIEL AND DANIEL.
Ezekiel Webster was two years older than his brother Daniel. He was a
strong, manly fellow, and was ready at all times to do a kindness to the
lad who had not been gifted with so much health and strength.
But he had not Daniel's quickness of mind, and he always looked to his
younger brother for advice and instruction.
And so there was much love between the two brothers, each helping the
other according to his talents and his ability.
One day they went together to the county fair. Each had a few cents in
his pocket for spending-money, and both expected to have a fine time.
When they came home in the evening Daniel seemed very happy, but Ezekiel
"Well, Daniel," said their mother, "what did you do with your money?"
"I spent it at the fair," said Daniel.
"And what did you do with yours, Ezekiel?"
"I lent it to Daniel," was the answer.
It was this way at all times, and with everybody. Not only Ezekiel, but
others were ever ready to give up their own means of enjoyment if only
it would make Daniel happy.
At another time the brothers were standing together by their father, who
had just come home after several days' absence.
"Ezekiel," said Mr. Webster, "what have you been doing since I went
"Nothing, sir," said Ezekiel.
"You are very frank," said the judge. Then turning to Daniel, he said:
"What have you been doing, Dan?"
"Helping Zeke," said Daniel.
When Judge Webster said to his neighbor, "I am going to try to educate
my boys," he had no thought of ever being able to send both of them to
Ezekiel, he said to himself, was strong and hearty. He could make his
own way in the world without having a finished education.
But Daniel had little strength of body, although he was gifted with
great mental powers. It was he that must be the scholar of the family.
The judge argued with himself that since he would be able to educate
only one of the boys, he must educate that one who gave the greatest
promise of success. And yet, had it not been for his poverty, he would
gladly have given the same opportunities to both.
* * * * *
IV.--PLANS FOR THE FUTURE.
One hot day in summer the judge and his youngest son were at work
together in the hayfield.
"Daniel," said the judge, "I am thinking that this kind of work is
hardly the right thing for you. You must prepare yourself for greater
things than pitching hay."
"What do you mean, father?" asked Daniel.
"I mean that you must have that which I have always felt the need of.
You must have a good education; for without an education a man is always
at a disadvantage. If I had been able to go to school when I was a boy,
I might have done more for my country than I have. But as it is, I can
do nothing but struggle here for the means of living."
"Zeke and I will help you, father," said Daniel; "and now that you are
growing old, you need not work so hard."
"I am not complaining about the work," said the judge. "I live only for
my children. When your older brothers were growing up I was too poor to
give them an education; but I am able now to do something for you, and I
mean to send you to a good school."
"Oh, father, how kind you are!" cried Daniel.
"If you will study hard," said his father--"if you will do your best,
and learn all that you can; you will not have to endure such hardships
as I have endured. And then you will be able to do so much more good in
The boy's heart was touched by the manner in which his father spoke
these words. He dropped his rake; he threw his arms around his father's
neck, and cried for thankfulness and joy.
It was not until the next spring that Judge Webster felt himself able to
carry out his plans to send Daniel to school.
One evening he said, "Daniel, you must be up early in the morning, I am
going with you to Exeter."
"To Exeter?" said the boy.
"Yes, to Exeter. I am going to put you in the academy there."
The academy at Exeter was then, as it still is, a famous place for
preparing boys for college. But Daniel's father did not say anything
about making him ready for college. The judge knew that the expenses
would be heavy, and he was not sure that he would ever be able to give
him a finished education.
It was nearly fifty miles to Exeter, and Daniel and his father were to
ride there on horseback. That was almost the only way of traveling in
The next morning two horses were brought to the door. One was Judge
Webster's horse, the other was a gentle nag, with a lady's side-saddle
on his back.
"Who is going to ride on that nag?" asked Daniel.
"Young Dan Webster," answered the judge.
"But I don't want a side-saddle. I am not a lady."
"Neighbor Johnson is sending the nag to Exeter for the use of a lady who
is to ride back with me. I accommodate him by taking charge of the
animal, and he accommodates me by allowing you to ride on it."
"But won't it look rather funny for me to ride to Exeter on a lady's
"If a lady can ride on it, perhaps Dan Webster can do as much."
And so they set out on their journey to Exeter. The judge rode in
advance, and Daniel, sitting astride of the lady's saddle, followed
It was, no doubt, a funny sight to see them riding thus along the muddy
roads. None of the country people who stopped to gaze at them could have
guessed that the dark-faced lad who rode so awkwardly would some day
become one of the greatest men of the age.
It was thus that Daniel Webster made his first appearance among
* * * * *
V.--AT EXETER ACADEMY.
It was the first time that Daniel Webster had been so far from home. He
was bashful and awkward. His clothes were of home-made stuff, and they
were cut in the quaint style of the back-country districts.
He must have been a funny-looking fellow. No wonder that the boys
laughed when they saw him going up to the principal to be examined for
The principal of the academy at that time was Dr. Benjamin Abbott. He
was a great scholar and a very dignified gentleman.
He looked down at the slender, black-eyed boy and asked:
"What is your age, sir?"
"Fourteen years," said Daniel.
"I will examine you first in reading. Take this Bible, and let me hear
you read some of these verses."
He pointed to the twenty-second chapter of Saint Luke's Gospel.
The boy took the book and began to read. He had read this chapter a
hundred times before. Indeed, there was no part of the Bible that was
not familiar to him.
He read with a clearness and fervor which few men could equal.
The dignified principal was astonished. He stood as though spell-bound,
listening to the rich, mellow tones of the bashful lad from among the
In the case of most boys it was enough if he heard them read a verse or
two. But he allowed Daniel Webster to read on until he had finished the
chapter. Then he said:
"There is no need to examine you further. You are fully qualified to
enter this academy."
Most of the boys at Exeter were gentlemen's sons. They dressed well,
they had been taught fine manners, they had the speech of cultivated
They laughed at the awkward, new boy. They made fun of his homespun
coat; they twitted him on account of his poverty; they annoyed him in a
Daniel felt hurt by this cruel treatment. He grieved bitterly over it in
secret, but he did not resent it.
He studied hard and read much. He was soon at the head of all his
classes. His schoolmates ceased laughing at him; for they saw that, with
all his uncouth ways, he had more ability than any of them.
He had, as I have said, a wonderful memory. He had also a quick insight
and sound judgment.
But he had had so little experience with the world, that he was not sure
of his own powers. He knew that he was awkward; and this made him timid
When it came his turn to declaim before the school, he had not the
courage to do it. Long afterwards, when he had become the greatest
orator of modern times, he told how hard this thing had been for him at
"Many a piece did I commit to memory, and rehearse in my room over and
over again. But when the day came, when the school collected, when my
name was called and I saw all eyes turned upon my seat, I could not
raise myself from it.
"Sometimes the masters frowned, sometimes they smiled. My tutor always
pressed and entreated with the most winning kindness that I would
venture only _once_; but I could not command sufficient resolution, and
when the occasion was over I went home and wept tears of bitter
Daniel stayed nine months at Exeter. In those nine months he did as much
as the other boys of his age could do in two years.
He mastered arithmetic, geography, grammar, and rhetoric. He also began
the study of Latin. Besides this, he was a great reader of all kinds of
books, and he added something every day to his general stock of
His teachers did not oblige him to follow a graded course of study. They
did not hold him back with the duller pupils of his class. They did not
oblige him to wait until the end of the year before he could be promoted
or could begin the study of a new subject.
But they encouraged him to do his best. As soon as he had finished one
subject, he advanced to a more difficult one.
More than fifty years afterwards, Dr. Abbott declared that in all his
long experience he had never known any one whose power of gaining
knowledge was at all equal to that of the bashful country lad from the
New Hampshire hills.
Judge Webster would have been glad to let Daniel stay at Exeter until he
had finished the studies required at the academy. But he could not
afford the expense.
If he should spend all his money to keep the boy at the academy, how
could he afterwards find the means to send him to college where the
expenses would be much greater?
So he thought it best to find a private teacher for the boy. This would
* * * * *
VI.--GETTING READY FOR COLLEGE.
One day in the early winter, Judge Webster asked Daniel to ride with him
to Boscawen. Boscawen was a little town, six miles away, where they
sometimes went for business or for pleasure.
Snow was on the ground. Father and son rode together in a little,
old-fashioned sleigh; and as they rode, they talked about many things.
Just as they were going up the last hill, Judge Webster said:
"Daniel, do you know the Rev. Samuel Wood, here in Boscawen?"
"I have heard of him," said Daniel. "He takes boys into his family, and
gets them ready for college."
"Yes, and he does it cheap, too," said his father. "He charges only a
dollar a week for board and tuition, fuel and lights and everything."
"But they say he is a fine teacher," said Daniel. "His boys never fail
in the college examinations."
"That is what I have heard, too," answered his father. "And now, Dannie,
I may as well tell you a secret. For the last six years I have been
planning to have you take a course in Dartmouth College. I want you to
stay with Dr. Wood this winter, and he will get you ready to enter. We
might as well go and see him now."
This was the first time that Daniel had ever heard his father speak of
sending him to college. His heart was so full that he could not say a
word. But the tears came in his eyes as he looked up into the judge's
stern, kind face.
He knew that if his father carried out this plan, it would cost a great
deal of money; and if this money should be spent for him, then the rest
of the family would have to deny themselves of many comforts which they
might otherwise have.
"Oh, never mind that, Dan," said his brother Ezekiel. "We are never so
happy as when we are doing something for you. And we know that you will
do something for us, some time."
And so the boy spent the winter in Boscawen with Dr. Wood. He learned
everything very easily, but he was not as close a student as he had been
He was very fond of sport. He liked to go fishing. And sometimes, when
the weather was fine, his studies were sadly neglected.
There was a circulating library in Boscawen, and Daniel read every book
that was in it. Sometimes he slighted his Latin for the sake of giving
more time to such reading.
One of the books in the library was _Don Quixote_. Daniel thought it the
most wonderful story in existence. He afterwards said:
"I began to read it, and it is literally true that I never closed my
eyes until I had finished it, so great was the power of this
extraordinary book on my imagination."
But it was so easy for the boy to learn, that he made very rapid
progress in all his studies. In less than a year, Dr. Wood declared that
he was ready for college.
He was then fifteen years old. He had a pretty thorough knowledge of
arithmetic; but he had never studied algebra or geometry. In Latin he
had read four of Cicero's orations, and six books of Virgil's _Aeneid._
He knew something of the elements of Greek grammar, and had read a
portion of the Greek Testament.
Nowadays, a young man could hardly enter even a third-rate college
without a better preparation than that. But colleges are much more
thorough than they were a hundred years ago.
* * * * *
VII.--AT DARTMOUTH COLLEGE.
Dartmouth College is at Hanover, New Hampshire. It is one of the oldest
colleges in America and among its students have been many of the
foremost men of New England.
It was in the fall of 1797, that Daniel Webster entered this college.
He was then a tall, slender youth, with high cheek bones and a swarthy
The professors soon saw that he was no common lad. They said to one
another, "This young Webster will one day be a greater man than any of
And young Webster was well-behaved and studious at college. He was as
fond of sport as any of the students, but he never gave himself up to
He was punctual and regular in all his classes. He was as great a reader
He could learn anything that he tried. No other young man had a broader
knowledge of things than he.
And yet he did not make his mark as a student in the prescribed branches
of study. He could not confine himself to the narrow routine of the
He did not, as at Exeter, push his way quickly to the head of his class.
He won no prizes.
"But he minded his own business," said one of the professors. "As steady
as the sun, he pursued, with intense application, the great object for
which he came to college."
Soon everybody began to appreciate his scholarship. Everybody admired
him for his manliness and good common sense.
"He was looked upon as being so far in advance of any one else, that no
other student of his class was ever spoken of as second to him."
He very soon lost that bashfulness which had troubled him so much at
Exeter. It was no task now for him to stand up and declaim before the
professors and students.
In a short time he became known as the best writer and speaker in the
college. Indeed, he loved to speak; and the other students were always
pleased to listen to him.
One of his classmates tells us how he prepared his speeches. He says:
"It was Webster's custom to arrange his thoughts in his mind while he
was in his room, or while he was walking alone. Then he would put them
upon paper just before the exercise was to be called for.
"If he was to speak at two o'clock, he would often begin to write after
dinner; and when the bell rang he would fold his paper, put it in his
pocket, go in, and speak with great ease.
"In his movements he was slow and deliberate, except when his feelings
were aroused. Then his whole soul would kindle into a flame."
In the year 1800, he was chosen to deliver the Fourth of July address to
the students of the college and the citizens of the town. He was then
eighteen years old.
The speech was a long one. It was full of the love of country. Its tone
throughout was earnest and thoughtful.
But in its style it was overdone; it was full of pretentious
expressions; it lacked the simplicity and good common sense that should
mark all public addresses.
And yet, as the speech of so young a man, it was a very able effort.
People said that it was the promise of much greater things. And they
In the summer of 1801, Daniel graduated. But he took no honors. He was
not even present at the Commencement.
His friends were grieved that he had not been chosen to deliver the
valedictory address. Perhaps he also was disappointed. But the
professors had thought best to give that honor to another student.
* * * * *
VIII.--HOW DANIEL TAUGHT SCHOOL.
While Daniel Webster was taking his course in college, there was one
thing that troubled him very much. It was the thought of his brother
Ezekiel toiling at home on the farm.
He knew that Ezekiel had great abilities. He knew that he was not fond
of the farm, but that he was anxious to become a lawyer.
This brother had given up all his dearest plans in order that Daniel
might be favored; and Daniel knew that this was so.
Once, when Daniel was at home on a vacation, he said, "Zeke, this thing
is all wrong. Father has mortgaged the farm for money to pay my expenses
at school, and you are making a slave of yourself to pay off the
mortgage. It isn't right for me to let you do this."
Ezekiel said, "Daniel, I am stronger than you are, and if one of us has
to stay on the farm, of course I am the one."
"But I want you to go to college," said Daniel. "An education will do
you as much good as me."
"I doubt it," said Ezekiel; "and yet, if father was only able to send us
both. I think that we might pay him back some time."
"I will see father about it this very day," said Daniel.
He did see him.
"I told my father," said Daniel, afterwards, "that I was unhappy at my
brother's prospects. For myself, I saw my way to knowledge,
respectability, and self-protection. But as to Ezekiel, all looked the
other way. I said that I would keep school, and get along as well as I
could, be more than four years in getting through college, if necessary,
provided he also could be sent to study."
The matter was referred to Daniel's mother, and she and his father
talked it over together. They knew that it would take all the property
they had to educate both the boys. They knew that they would have to do
without many comforts, and that they would have a hard struggle to make
a living while the boys were studying.
But the mother said, "I will trust the boys." And it was settled that
Ezekiel, too, should have a chance to make his mark in the world.
He was now a grown-up man. He was tall and strong and ambitious. He
entered college the very year that Daniel graduated.
As for Daniel, he was now ready to choose a profession. What should it
His father wanted him to become a lawyer. And so, to please his parents,
he went home and began to read law in the office of a Mr. Thompson, in
the little village of Salisbury, which adjoined his father's farm.
The summer passed by. It was very pleasant to have nothing to do but to
read. And when the young man grew tired of reading, he could go out
fishing, or could spend a day in hunting among the New Hampshire hills.
It is safe to say that he did not learn very much law during that
But there was not a day that he did not think about his brother. Ezekiel
had done much to help him through college, and now ought he not to help
But what could he do?
He had a good education, and his first thought was that he might teach
school, and thus earn a little money for Ezekiel.
The people of Fryeburg, in Maine, wanted him to take charge of the
academy in their little town. And so, early in the fall, he decided to
take up with their offer.
He was to have three hundred and fifty dollars for the year's work, and
that would help Ezekiel a great deal.
He bade good-bye to Mr. Thompson and his little law office, and made
ready to go to his new field of labor. There were no railroads at that
time, and a journey of even a few miles was a great undertaking.
Daniel had bought a horse for twenty-four dollars. In one end of an
old-fashioned pair of saddle-bags he put his Sunday clothes, and in the
other he packed his books.
He laid the saddle-bags upon the horse, then he mounted and rode off
over the hills toward Fryeburg, sixty miles away.
He was not yet quite twenty years old. He was very slender, and nearly
six feet in height. His face was thin and dark. His eyes were black and
bright and penetrating--no person who once saw them could ever forget
Young as he was, he was very successful as a teacher during that year
which he spent at Fryeburg. The trustees of the academy were so highly
pleased that they wanted him to stay a second year. They promised to
raise his salary to five or six hundred dollars, and to give him a house
and a piece of land.
He was greatly tempted to give up all further thoughts of becoming a
"What shall I do?" he said to himself. "Shall I say, 'Yes, gentlemen,'
and sit down here to spend my days in a kind of comfortable privacy?"
But his father was anxious that he should return to the study of the
law. And so he was not long in making up his mind.
In a letter to one of his friends he said: "I shall make one more trial
of the law in the ensuing autumn.
"If I prosecute the profession, I pray God to fortify me against its
temptations. To be honest, to be capable, to be faithful to my client
and my conscience."
Early the next September, he was again in Mr. Thompson's little law
office. All the money that he had saved, while at Fryeburg, was spent to
help Ezekiel through college.
* * * * *
IX.--DANIEL GOES TO BOSTON.
For a year and a half, young Daniel Webster stayed in the office of Mr.
Thompson. He had now fully made up his mind as to what profession he
would follow; and so he was a much better student than he had been
He read many law books with care. He read _Hume's History of England_,
and spent a good deal of time with the Latin classics.
"At this period of my life," he afterwards said, "I passed a great deal
of time alone.
"My amusements were fishing and shooting and riding, and all these were
without a companion. I loved this solitude then, and have loved it ever
since, and love it still."
The Webster family were still very poor. Judge Webster was now too old
to do much work of any kind. The farm had been mortgaged for all that it
was worth. It was hard to find money enough to keep Daniel at his law
studies and Ezekiel in college.
At last it became necessary for one of the young men to do something
that would help matters along. Ezekiel decided that he would leave
college for a time and try to earn enough money to meet the present
needs of the family. Through some of his friends he obtained a small
private school in Boston.
There were very few pupils in Ezekiel Webster's school. But there were
so many branches to be taught that he could not find time to hear all
the recitations. So, at last, he sent word to Daniel to come down and
help him. If Daniel would teach an hour and a half each day, he should
have enough money to pay his board.
Daniel was pleased with the offer. He had long wanted to study law in
Boston, and here was his opportunity. And so, early in March, 1804, he
joined his brother in that city, and was soon doing what he could to
help him in his little school.
There was in Boston, at that time, a famous lawyer whose name was
Christopher Gore. While Daniel Webster was wondering how he could best
carry on his studies in the city, he heard that Mr. Gore had no clerk in
"How I should like to read law with Mr. Gore!" he said to Ezekiel.
"Yes," said Ezekiel. "You could not want a better tutor."
"I mean to see him to-day and apply for a place in his office," said
It was with many misgivings that the young man went into the presence of
the great lawyer. We will let him tell the story in his own words:
"I was from the country, I said;--had studied law for two years; had
come to Boston to study a year more; had heard that he had no clerk;
thought it possible he would receive one.
"I told him that I came to Boston to work, not to play; was most
desirous, on all accounts, to be his pupil; and all I ventured to ask at
present was, that he would keep a place for me in his office, till I
could write to New Hampshire for proper letters showing me worthy of
Mr. Gore listened to this speech very kindly, and then bade Daniel be
seated while he should have a short talk with him.
When at last the young man rose to go, Mr. Gore said: "My young friend,
you look as if you might be trusted. You say you came to study and not
to waste time. I will take you at your word. You may as well hang up
your hat at once."
And this was the beginning of Daniel Webster's career in Boston.
He must have done well in Mr. Gore's office; for, in a few months, he
was admitted to the practice of law in the Court of Common Pleas in
It was at some time during this same winter that Daniel was offered the
position of clerk in the County Court at home. His father, as you will
remember, was one of the judges in this court, and he was very much
delighted at the thought that his son would be with him.
The salary would be about fifteen hundred dollars a year--and that was a
great sum to Daniel as well as to his father. The mortgage on the farm
could be paid off; Ezekiel could finish his course in college; and life
would be made easier for them all.
At first Daniel was as highly pleased as his father. But after he had
talked with Mr. Gore, he decided not to accept the offered position.
"Your prospects as a lawyer," said Mr. Gore, "are good enough to
encourage you to go on. Go on, and finish your studies. You are poor
enough, but there are greater evils than poverty. Live on no man's
favor. Pursue your profession; make yourself useful to your friends and
a little formidable to your enemies, and you have nothing to fear."
A few days after that, Daniel paid a visit to his father. The judge
received him very kindly, but he was greatly disappointed when the young
man told him that he had made up his mind not to take the place.
With his deep-set, flashing eyes, he looked at his son for a moment as
though in anger. Then he said, very slowly:
"Well, my son, your mother has always said that you would come to
something or nothing--she was not sure which. I think you are now about
settling that doubt for her."
A few weeks after this, Daniel, as I have already told you, was admitted
to the bar in Boston. But he did not think it best to begin his practice
He knew how anxious his father was that he should be near him. He
wanted to do all that he could to cheer and comfort the declining years
of the noble man who had sacrificed everything for him. And so, in the
spring of 1805, he settled in the town of Boscawen, six miles from home,
and put up at his office door this sign:
D. WEBSTER, ATTORNEY.
* * * * *
X.--LAWYER AND CONGRESSMAN.
When Daniel Webster had been in Boscawen nearly two years, his father
died. It was then decided that Ezekiel should come and take charge of
the home farm, and care for their mother.
Ezekiel had not yet graduated from college, but he had read law and was
hoping to be admitted to the bar. He was a man of much natural ability,
and many people believed that he would some day become a very famous
And so, in the autumn of 1807, Daniel gave up to his brother the law
business which he had in Boscawen, and removed to the city of
He was now twenty-five years old. In Portsmouth he would find plenty of
work to do; it would be the very kind of work that he liked. He was now
well started on the road towards greatness.
The very next year, he was married to Miss Grace Fletcher, the daughter
of a minister in Hopkinton. The happy couple began housekeeping in a
small, modest, wooden house, in Portsmouth; and there they lived, very
plainly and without pretension, for several years.
Mr. Webster's office was "a common, ordinary-looking room, with less
furniture and more books than common. He had a small inner room, opening
from the larger, rather an unusual thing."
It was not long until the name of Daniel Webster was known all over New
Hampshire. Those who were acquainted with him said that he was the
smartest young lawyer in Portsmouth. They said that if he kept on in
the way that he had started, there were great things in store for him.
The country people told wonderful stories about him. They said that he
was as black as a coal--but of course they had never seen him. They
believed that he could gain any case in court that he chose to
manage--and in this they were about right.
There was another great lawyer in Portsmouth. His name was Jeremiah
Mason, and he was much older than Mr. Webster. Indeed, he was already a
famous man when Daniel first began the practice of law.
The young lawyer and the older one soon became warm friends; and yet
they were often opposed to each other in the courts. Daniel was always
obliged to do his best when Mr. Mason was against him. This caused him
to be very careful. It no doubt made him become a better lawyer than he
otherwise would have been.
While Webster was thus quietly practicing law in New Hampshire, trouble
was brewing between the United States and England. The English were
doing much to hinder American merchants from trading with foreign
They claimed the right to search American vessels for seamen who had
deserted from the British service. And it is said that American sailors
were often dragged from their own vessels and forced to serve on board
the English ships.
Matters kept getting worse and worse for several years. At last, in
June, 1812, the United States declared war against England.
Daniel Webster was opposed to this war, and he made several speeches
against it. He said that, although we had doubtless suffered many
wrongs, there was more cause for war with France than with England. And
then, the United States had no navy, and hence was not ready to go to
war with any nation.
Webster's influence in New Hampshire was so great that he persuaded many
of the people of that state to think just as he thought on this subject.
They nominated him as their representative in Congress; and when the
time came, they elected him.
It was on the 24th of May, 1813, that he first took his seat in
Congress. He was then thirty-one years old.
In that same Congress there were two other young men who afterwards made
their names famous in the history of their country. One was Henry Clay,
of Kentucky. The other was John C. Calhoun, of South Carolina. Both were
a little older than Webster; both had already made some mark in public
life; and both were in favor of the war.
During his first year in Congress, Mr. Webster made some stirring
speeches in support of his own opinions. In this way, as well by his
skill in debate, he made himself known as a young man of more than
common ability and promise.
Chief Justice Marshall, who was then at the head of the Supreme Court of
the United States, said of him: "I have never seen a man of whose
intellect I had a higher opinion."
In 1814, the war that had been going on so long came to an end. But now
there were other subjects which claimed Mr. Webster's attention in
Then, as now, there were important questions regarding the money of the
nation; and upon these questions there was great difference of opinion.
Daniel Webster's speeches, in favor of a sound currency, did much to
maintain the national credit and to save the country from bankruptcy.
The people of New Hampshire were so well pleased with the record which
he made in Congress that, when his first term expired, they re-elected
him for a second.
* * * * *
XI.--THE DARTMOUTH COLLEGE CASE.
In 1816, before his second term in Congress had expired, Daniel Webster
removed with his family to Boston. He had lived in Portsmouth nine
years, and he now felt that he needed a wider field for the exercise of
He was now no longer the slender, delicate person that he had been in
his boyhood and youth. He was a man of noble mien--a sturdy, dignified
personage, who bore the marks of greatness upon him.
People said, "When Daniel Webster walked the streets of Boston, he made
the buildings look small."
As soon as his term in Congress had expired, he began the practice of
law in Boston.
For nearly seven years he devoted himself strictly to his profession. Of
course, he at once took his place as the leading lawyer of New England.
Indeed, he soon became known as the ablest counsellor and advocate in
The best business of the country now came to him. His income was very
large, amounting to more than $20,000 a year.
And during this time there was no harder worker than he. In fact, his
natural genius could have done but little for him, had it not been for
his untiring industry.
One of his first great victories in law was that which is known as the
Dartmouth College case. The lawmakers of New Hampshire had attempted to
pass a law to alter the charter of the college. By doing this they
would endanger the usefulness and prosperity of that great school, in
order to favor the selfish projects of its enemies.
Daniel Webster undertook to defend the college. The speech which he made
before the Supreme Court of the United States was a masterly effort.
"Sir," he said, "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 light over our land!"
He won the case; and this, more than anything else, helped to gain for
him the reputation of being the ablest lawyer in the United States.
* * * * *
XII.--WEBSTER'S GREAT ORATIONS.
In 1820, when he was thirty-eight years old, Daniel Webster was chosen
to deliver an oration at a great meeting of New Englanders at Plymouth,
Plymouth is the place where the Pilgrims landed in 1620. Just two
hundred years had passed since that time, and this meeting was to
celebrate the memory of the brave men and women who had risked so much
to found new homes in what was then a bleak wilderness.
The speech which Mr. Webster delivered was one of the greatest ever
heard in America. It placed him at once at the head of American orators.
John Adams, the second president of the United States, was then living,
a very old man. He said, "This oration will be read five hundred years
hence with as much rapture as it was heard. It ought to be read at the
end of every century, and, indeed, at the end of every year, forever and
But this was only the first of many great addresses by Mr. Webster. In
1825, he delivered an oration at the laying of the cornerstone of the
Bunker Hill monument. Eighteen years later, when that monument was
finished, he delivered another. Many of Mr. Webster's admirers think
that these two orations are his masterpieces.
On July 4th, 1826, the United States had been independent just fifty
years. On that day there passed away two of the greatest men of the
country--John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.
Both were ex-presidents, and both had been leaders in the councils of
the nation. It was in memory of these two patriots that Daniel Webster
was called to deliver an oration in Faneuil Hall, Boston.
No other funeral oration has ever been delivered in any age or country
that was equal to this in eloquence. Like all his other discourses, it
was full of patriotic feeling.
"This lovely land," he said, "this glorious liberty, these benign
institutions, the dear purchase of our fathers, are ours; ours to enjoy,
ours to preserve, ours to transmit. Generations past and generations to
come hold us responsible for this sacred trust.
"Our fathers, from behind, admonish us with their anxious, paternal
voices; posterity calls out to us from the bosom of the future; the
world turns hither its solicitous eyes; all, all conjure us to act
wisely and faithfully in the relation which we sustain."
Most of his other great speeches were delivered in Congress, and are,
therefore, political in tone and subject.
Great as Daniel Webster was in politics and in law, it is as an orator
and patriot that his name will be longest remembered.
* * * * *
XIII.--MR. WEBSTER IN THE SENATE.
When Daniel Webster was forty years old, the people of Boston elected
him to represent them in Congress. They were so well pleased with all
that he did while there, that they re-elected him twice.
In June, 1827, the legislature of Massachusetts chose him to be United
States senator for a term of six years. He was at that time the most
famous man in Massachusetts, and his name was known and honored in
every state of the Union.
After that he was re-elected to the same place again and again; and for
more than twenty years he continued to be the distinguished senator from
I cannot now tell you of all his public services during the long period
that he sat in Congress. Indeed, there are some things that you would
find hard to understand until you have learned more about the history of
our country. But you will by-and-by read of them in the larger books
which you will study at school; and, no doubt, you will also read some
of his great addresses and orations.
It was in 1830 that he delivered the most famous of all his speeches in
the senate chamber of the United States. This speech is commonly called,
"The Reply to Hayne."
I shall not here try to explain the purport of Mr. Hayne's speeches--for
there were two of them. I shall not try to describe the circumstances
which led Mr. Webster to make his famous reply to them.
But I will quote Mr. Webster's closing sentences. Forty years ago the
school-boys all over the country were accustomed to memorize and declaim
these patriotic utterances.
"When my eyes shall be turned to behold, for the last time, the sun in
heaven, may I not see him shining on the broken and dishonored fragments
of a once glorious Union; on states dissevered, discordant, belligerent,
on a land rent with civil feuds, or drenched, it may be, in fraternal
"Let their last feeble and lingering glance rather behold the gorgeous
ensign of the republic, now known and honored throughout the earth,
still high advanced, its arms and trophies streaming in their original
lustre, not a stripe erased or polluted, not a single star obscured,
bearing for its motto no such miserable interrogatory, 'What is all this
worth?' nor those other words of delusion and folly, 'Liberty first and
Union afterwards;' but everywhere, spread all over in characters of
living light, blazing on all its folds, as they float over the land, and
in every wind under the whole heavens, that other sentiment, dear to
every American heart--Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and
In 1841, Daniel Webster resigned his seat in the senate. He did this in
order to become secretary of state in the cabinet of the newly elected
president, William Henry Harrison.
But President Harrison died on the 5th of April, after having held his
office just one month; and his place was taken by the vice-president,
John Tyler. Mr. Webster now felt that his position in the cabinet would
not be a pleasant one; but he continued to hold it for nearly two years.
His most important act as secretary of state was to conclude a treaty
with England which fixed the northeastern boundary of the United States.
This treaty is known in history as the Ashburton Treaty.
In 1843, Mr. Webster resigned his place in President Tyler's cabinet.
But he was not allowed to remain long in private life. Two years later
he was again elected to the United States senate.
About this time, Texas was annexed to the United States. But Mr. Webster
did not favor this, for he believed that such an act was contrary to the
Constitution of our country.
He did all that he could to keep our government from making war upon
Mexico. But after this war had been begun, he was a firm friend of the
soldiers who took part in it, and he did much to provide for their
safety and comfort.
Among these soldiers was Edward, the second son of Daniel Webster. He
became a major in the main division of the army, and died in the City of
* * * * *
XIV.--MR. WEBSTER IN PRIVATE LIFE.
Let us now go back a little way in our story, and learn something about
Mr. Webster's home and private life.
[Illustration: The Mansion Marshfield]
[Illustration: The Library]
[Illustration: The Tomb]
In 1831, Mr. Webster bought a large farm at Marshfield, in the
southeastern part of Massachusetts, not far from the sea.
He spent a great deal of money in improving this farm; and in the end it
was as fine a country seat as one might see anywhere in New England.
When he became tired with the many cares of his busy life, Mr. Webster
could always find rest and quiet days at Marshfield. He liked to dress
himself as a farmer, and stroll about the fields looking at the cattle
and at the growing crops.
"I had rather be here than in the senate," he would say.
But his life was clouded with many sorrows. Long before going to
Marshfield, his two eldest children were laid in the grave. Their mother
followed them just one year before Mr. Webster's first entry into the
United States senate.
In 1829, his brother Ezekiel died suddenly while speaking in court at
Concord. Ezekiel had never cared much for politics, but as a lawyer in
his native state, he had won many honors. His death came as a great
shock to everybody that knew him. To his brother it brought
When Daniel Webster was nearly forty-eight years old, he married a
second wife. She was the daughter of a New York merchant, and her name
was Caroline Bayard Le Roy. She did much to lighten the disappointments
of his later life, and they lived together happily for more than twenty
In 1839, Mr. and Mrs. Webster made a short visit to England. The fame of
the great orator had gone before him, and he was everywhere received
with honor. The greatest men of the time were proud to meet him.
Henry Hallam, the historian, wrote of him: "Mr. Webster approaches as
nearly to the _beau ideal_ of a republican senator as any man that I
have ever seen in the course of my life."
Even the Queen invited him to dine with her; and she was much pleased
with his dignified ways and noble bearing.
And, indeed, his appearance was such as to win the respect of all who
saw him. When he walked the streets of London, people would stop and
wonder who the noble stranger was; and workingmen whispered to one
another: "There goes a king!"
* * * * *
XV.--THE LAST YEARS.
Many people believed that Daniel Webster would finally be elected
president of the United States. And, indeed, there was no man in all
this country who was better fitted for that high position than he.
But it so happened that inferior men, who were willing to stoop to the
tricks of politics, always stepped in before him.
In the meanwhile the question of slavery was becoming, every day, more
and more important. It was the one subject which claimed everybody's
Should slavery be allowed in the territories?
There was great excitement all over the country. There were many hot
debates in Congress. It seemed as though the Union would be destroyed.
At last, the wiser and cooler-headed leaders in Congress said, "Let
each side give up a little to the other. Let us have a compromise."
On the 7th of March, 1850, Mr. Webster delivered a speech before the
senate. It was a speech in favor of compromise, in favor of
He thought that this was the only way to preserve the Union. And he was
willing to sacrifice everything for the Constitution and the Union.
He declared that all the ends he aimed at were for his country's good.
"I speak to-day for the preservation of the Union," he said. "Hear me
for my cause! I speak to-day out of a solicitous and anxious heart, for
the restoration to the country of that quiet and harmony, which make the
blessings of this Union so rich and so dear to us all."
He then went on to defend the law known as the Fugitive Slave Law. He
declared that this law was in accordance with the Constitution, and
hence it should be enforced according to its true meaning.
The speech was a great disappointment to his friends. They said that he
had deserted them; that he had gone over to their enemies; that he was
no longer a champion of freedom, but of slavery.
Those who had been his warmest supporters, now turned against him.
A few months after this, President Taylor died. The vice-president,
Millard Fillmore, then became president. Mr. Fillmore was in sympathy
with Daniel Webster, and soon gave him a seat in his cabinet as
secretary of state.
This was the second time that Mr. Webster had been called to fill this
high and honorable position. But, under President Fillmore, he did no
very great or important thing.
He was still the leading man in the Whig party; and he hoped, in 1852,
to be nominated for the presidency. But in this he was again
He was now an old man. He had had great successes in life; but he felt
that he had failed at the end of the race. His health was giving way.
He went home to Marshfield for the quiet and rest which he so much
In May, that same year, he was thrown from his carriage and severely
hurt. From this hurt he never recovered. He offered to resign his seat
in the cabinet, but Mr. Fillmore would not listen to this.
In September he became very feeble, and his friends knew that the end
was near. On the 24th of October, 1852, he died. He was nearly
seventy-one years old.
In every part of the land his death was sincerely mourned. Both friends
and enemies felt that a great man had fallen. They felt that this
country had lost its leading statesman, its noblest patriot, its
Rufus Choate, who had succeeded him as the foremost lawyer in New
England, delivered a great oration upon his life and character. He said:
"Look in how manly a sort, in how high a moral tone, Mr. Webster
uniformly dealt with the mind of his country.
"Where do you find him flattering his countrymen, indirectly or
directly, for a vote? On what did he ever place himself but good
counsels and useful service?
"Who ever heard that voice cheering the people on to rapacity, to
injustice, to a vain and guilty glory?
"How anxiously, rather, did he prefer to teach, that by all possible
acquired sobriety of mind, by asking reverently of the past, by
obedience to the law, by habits of patient labor, by the cultivation of
the mind, by the fear and worship of God, we educate ourselves for the
future that is revealing."
THE STORY OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN
[Illustration: _ABRAHAM LINCOLN_.]