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Daniel Webster by Henry Cabot Lodge

Part 4 out of 5

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This is directed against the African slave-trade, the most hideous feature,
perhaps, in the system. But there was no real distinction between slavers
plying from one American port to another and those which crossed the ocean
for the same purpose. There was no essential difference between slaves
raised for the market in Virginia--whence they were exported and sold--and
those kidnapped for the same object on the Guinea coast. The physical
suffering of a land journey might be less than that of a long sea-voyage,
but the anguish of separation between mother and child was the same in all
cases. The chains which clanked on the limbs of the wretched creatures,
driven from the auction block along the road which passed beneath the
national capitol, and the fetters of the captured fugitive were no softer
or lighter than those forged for the cargo of the slave-ships. Yet the man
who so magnificently denounced the one in 1820, found no cause to repeat
the denunciation in 1850, when only domestic traffic was in question. The
memorial of 1819 and the oration of 1820 place the African slave-trade and
the domestic branch of the business on precisely the same ground of infamy
and cruelty. In 1850 Mr. Webster seems to have discovered that there was a
wide gulf fixed between them, for the latter wholly failed to excite the
stern condemnation poured forth by the memorialist of 1819 and the orator
of 1820. The Fugitive Slave Law, more inhuman than either of the forms of
traffic, was defended in 1850 on good constitutional grounds; but the
eloquent invective of the early days against an evil which constitutions
might necessitate but could not alter or justify, does not go hand in hand
with the legal argument.

The next occasion after the Missouri Compromise, on which slavery made its
influence strongly felt at Washington, was when Mr. Adams's scheme of the
Panama mission aroused such bitter and unexpected resistance in Congress.
Mr. Webster defended the policy of the President with great ability, but he
confined himself to the international and constitutional questions which it
involved, and did not discuss the underlying motive and true source of the
opposition. The debate on Foote's resolution in 1830, in the wide range
which it took, of course included slavery, and Mr. Hayne had a good deal to
say on that subject, which lay at the bottom of the tariff agitation, as it
did at that of every Southern movement of any real importance. In his
reply, Mr. Webster said that he had made no attack upon this sensitive
institution, that he had simply stated that the Northwest had been greatly
benefited by the exclusion of slavery, and that it would have been better
for Kentucky if she had come within the scope of the ordinance of 1787. The
weight of his remarks was directed to showing that the complaint of
Northern attacks on slavery as existing in the Southern States, or of
Northern schemes to compel the abolition of slavery, was utterly groundless
and fallacious. At the same time he pointed out the way in which slavery
was continually used to unite the South against the North.

"This feeling," he said, "always carefully kept alive, and
maintained at too intense a heat to admit discrimination or
reflection, is a lever of great power in our political machine.
There is not and never has been a disposition in the North to
interfere with these interests of the South. Such interference has
never been supposed to be within the power of government; nor has
it been in any way attempted. The slavery of the South has always
been regarded as a matter of domestic policy left with the States
themselves, and with which the Federal government had nothing to
do. Certainly, sir, I am and ever have been of that opinion. The
gentleman, indeed, argues that slavery, in the abstract, is no
evil. Most assuredly, I need not say I differ with him altogether
and most widely on that point. I regard domestic slavery as one of
the greatest evils, both moral and political."

His position is here clearly defined. He admits fully that slavery within
the States cannot be interfered with by the general government, under the
Constitution. But he also insists that it is a great evil, and the obvious
conclusion is, that its extension, over which the government does have
control, must and should be checked. This is the attitude of the memorial
and the oration. Nothing has yet changed. There is less fervor in the
denunciation of slavery, but that may be fairly attributed to circumstances
which made the maintenance of the general government and the enforcement of
the revenue laws the main points in issue.

In 1836 the anti-slavery movement, destined to grow to such vast
proportions, began to show itself in the Senate. The first contest came on
the reception of petitions for the abolition of slavery in the District of
Columbia. Mr. Calhoun moved that these petitions should not be received,
but his motion was rejected by a large majority. The question then came on
the petitions themselves, and, by a vote of thirty-four to six, their
prayer was rejected, Mr. Webster voting with the minority because he
disapproved this method of disposing of the matter. Soon after, Mr. Webster
presented three similar petitions, two from Massachusetts and one from
Michigan, and moved their reference to a committee of inquiry. He stated
that, while the government had no power whatever over slavery in the
States, it had complete control over slavery in the District, which was a
totally distinct affair. He urged a respectful treatment of the petitions,
and defended the right of petition and the motives and characters of the
petitioners. He spoke briefly, and, except when he was charged with placing
himself at the head of the petitioners, coldly, and did not touch on the
merits of the question, either as to the abolition of slavery in the
District or as to slavery itself.

The Southerners, especially the extremists and the nullifiers, were always
more ready than any one else to strain the powers of the central government
to the last point, and use them most tyrannically and illegally in their
own interest and in that of their pet institution. The session of 1836
furnished a striking example of this characteristic quality. Mr. Calhoun
at that time introduced his monstrous bill to control the United States
mails in the interests of slavery, by authorizing postmasters to seize and
suppress all anti-slavery documents. Against this measure Mr. Webster spoke
and voted, resting his opposition on general grounds, and sustaining it by
a strong and effective argument. In the following year, on his way to the
North, after the inauguration of Mr. Van Buren, a great public reception
was given to him in New York, and on that occasion he made the speech in
Niblo's Garden, where he defined the Whig principles, arraigned so
powerfully the policy of Jackson, and laid the foundation for the triumphs
of the Harrison campaign. In the course of that speech he referred to
Texas, and strongly expressed his belief that it should remain independent
and should not be annexed. This led him to touch upon slavery. He said:--

"I frankly avow my entire unwillingness to do anything that shall
extend the slavery of the African race on this continent, or add
other slave-holding States to the Union. When I say that I regard
slavery in itself as a great moral, social, and political evil, I
only use the language which has been adopted by distinguished men,
themselves citizens of slave-holding States. I shall do nothing,
therefore, to favor or encourage its further extension. We have
slavery already amongst us. The Constitution found it in the Union,
it recognized it, and gave it solemn guaranties. To the full
extent of the guaranties we are all bound in honor, in justice, and
by the Constitution.... But when we come to speak of admitting new
States, the subject assumes an entirely different aspect.... In my
opinion, the people of the United States will not consent to bring
into the Union a new, vastly extensive, and slave-holding country,
large enough for half a dozen or a dozen States. In my opinion,
they ought not to consent to it.... On the general question of
slavery a great portion of the community is already strongly
excited. The subject has not only attracted attention as a question
of politics, but it has struck a far deeper-toned chord. It has
arrested the religious feeling of the country; it has taken strong
hold on the consciences of men. He is a rash man, indeed, and
little conversant with human nature, and especially has he a very
erroneous estimate of the character of the people of this country,
who supposes that a feeling of this kind is to be trifled with or
despised. It will assuredly cause itself to be respected. It may be
reasoned with, it may be made willing--I believe it is entirely
willing--to fulfil all existing engagements and all existing
duties, to uphold and defend the Constitution as it is established,
with whatever regrets about some provisions which it does actually
contain. But to coerce it into silence, to endeavor to restrain its
free expression, to seek to compress and confine it, warm as it is
and more heated as such endeavors would inevitably render
it,--should this be attempted, I know nothing, even in the
Constitution or in the Union itself, which would not be endangered
by the explosion which might follow."

Thus Mr. Webster spoke on slavery and upon the agitation against it, in
1837. The tone was the same as in 1820, and there was the same ring of
dignified courage and unyielding opposition to the extension and
perpetuation of a crying evil.

In the session of Congress preceding the speech at Niblo's Garden, numerous
petitions for the abolition of slavery in the District had been offered.
Mr. Webster reiterated his views as to the proper disposition to be made of
them; but announced that he had no intention of expressing an opinion as to
the merits of the question. Objections were made to the reception of the
petitions, the question was stated on the reception, and the whole matter
was laid on the table. The Senate, under the lead of Calhoun, was trying to
shut the door against the petitioners, and stifle the right of petition;
and there was no John Quincy Adams among them to do desperate battle
against this infamous scheme.

In the following year came more petitions, and Mr. Calhoun now attempted to
stop the agitation in another fashion. He introduced a resolution to the
effect that these petitions were a direct and dangerous attack on the
"institution" of the slave-holding States. This Mr. Clay improved in a
substitute, which stated that any act or measure of Congress looking to the
abolition of slavery in the District would be a violation of the faith
implied in the cession by Virginia and Maryland,--a just cause of alarm to
the South, and having a direct tendency to disturb and endanger the Union.
Mr. Webster wrote to a friend that this was an attempt to make a new
Constitution, and that the proceedings of the Senate, when they passed the
resolutions, drew a line which could never be obliterated. Mr. Webster also
spoke briefly against the resolutions, confining himself strictly to
demonstrating the absurdity of Mr. Clay's doctrine of "plighted faith." He
disclaimed carefully, and even anxiously, any intention of expressing an
opinion on the merits of the question; although he mentioned one or two
reasonable arguments against abolition. The resolutions were adopted by a
large majority, Mr. Webster voting against them on the grounds set forth in
his speech. Whether the approaching presidential election had any
connection with his careful avoidance of everything except the
constitutional point, which contrasted so strongly with his recent
utterances at Niblo's Garden, it is, of course, impossible to determine.
John Quincy Adams, who had no love for Mr. Webster, and who was then in the
midst of his desperate struggle for the right of petition, says, in his
diary, in March, 1838, speaking of the delegation from Massachusetts:--

"Their policy is dalliance with the South; and they care no more
for the right of petition than is absolutely necessary to satisfy
the feeling of their constituents. They are jealous of Cushing,
who, they think, is playing a double game. They are envious of my
position as the supporter of the right of petition; and they
truckle to the South to court their favor for Webster. He is now
himself tampering with the South on the slavery and the Texas

This harsh judgment may or may not be correct, but it shows very plainly
that Mr. Webster's caution in dealing with these topics was noticed and
criticised at this period. The annexation of Texas, moreover, which he had
so warmly opposed, seemed to him, at this juncture, and not without reason,
to be less threatening, owing to the course of events in the young
republic. Mr. Adams did not, however, stand alone in thinking that Mr.
Webster, at this time, was lukewarm on the subject. In 1839 Mr. Giddings
says "that it was impossible for any man, who submitted so quietly to the
dictation of slavery as Mr. Webster, to command that influence which was
necessary to constitute a successful politician." How much Mr. Webster's
attitude had weakened, just at this period, is shown better by his own
action than by anything Mr. Giddings could say. The ship Enterprise,
engaged in the domestic slave-trade from Virginia to New Orleans, had been
driven into Port Hamilton, and the slaves had escaped. Great Britain
refused compensation. Thereupon, early in 1840, Mr. Calhoun introduced
resolutions declaratory of international law on this point, and setting
forth that England had no right to interfere with, or to permit, the
escape of slaves from vessels driven into her ports. The resolutions were
idle, because they could effect nothing, and mischievous because they
represented that the sentiment of the Senate was in favor of protecting the
slave-trade. Upon these resolutions, absurd in character and barbarous in
principle, Mr. Webster did not even vote. There is a strange contrast here
between the splendid denunciation of the Plymouth oration and this utter
lack of opinion, upon resolutions designed to create a sentiment favorable
to the protection of slave-ships engaged in the domestic traffic. Soon
afterwards, when Mr. Webster was Secretary of State, he advanced much the
same doctrine in the discussion of the Creole case, and his letter was
approved by Calhoun. There may be merit in the legal argument, but the
character of the cargo, which it was sought to protect, put it beyond the
reach of law. We have no need to go farther than the Plymouth oration to
find the true character of the trade in human beings as carried on upon the
high seas.

After leaving the cabinet, and resuming his law practice, Mr. Webster, of
course, continued to watch with attention the progress of events. The
formation of the Liberty party, in the summer of 1843, appeared to him a
very grave circumstance. He had always understood the force of the
anti-slavery movement at the North, and it was with much anxiety that he
now saw it take definite shape, and assume extreme grounds of opposition.
This feeling of anxiety was heightened when he discovered, in the following
winter, while in attendance upon the Supreme Court at Washington, the
intention of the administration to bring about the annexation of Texas, and
spring the scheme suddenly upon the country. This policy, with its
consequence of an enormous extension of slave territory, Mr. Webster had
always vigorously and consistently opposed, and he was now thoroughly
alarmed. He saw what an effect the annexation would produce upon the
anti-slavery movement, and he dreaded the results. He therefore procured
the introduction of a resolution in Congress against annexation; wrote some
articles in the newspapers against it himself; stirred up his friends in
Washington and New York to do the same, and endeavored to start public
meetings in Massachusetts. His friends in Boston and elsewhere, and the
Whigs generally, were disposed to think his alarm ill-founded. They were
absorbed in the coming presidential election, and were too ready to do Mr.
Webster the injustice of supposing that his views upon the probability of
annexation sprang from jealousy of Mr. Clay. The suspicion was unfounded
and unfair. Mr. Webster was wholly right and perfectly sincere. He did a
good deal in an attempt to rouse the North. The only criticism to be made
is that he did not do more. One public meeting would have been enough, if
he had spoken frankly, declared that he knew, no matter how, that
annexation was contemplated, and had then denounced it as he did at Niblo's
Garden. "One blast upon his bugle-horn were worth a thousand men." Such a
speech would have been listened to throughout the length and breadth of the
land; but perhaps it was too much to expect this of him in view of his
delicate relations with Mr. Clay. At a later period, in the course of the
campaign, he denounced annexation and the increase of slave territory, but
unfortunately it was then too late. The Whigs had preserved silence on the
subject at their convention, and it was difficult to deal with it without
reflecting on their candidate. Mr. Webster vindicated his own position and
his own wisdom, but the mischief could not then be averted. The annexation
of Texas after the rejection of the treaty in 1844 was carried through,
nearly a year later, by a mixture of trickery and audacity in the last
hours of the Tyler administration.

Four days after the consummation of this project Mr. Webster took his seat
in the Senate, and on March 11 wrote to his son that, "while we feel as we
ought about the annexation of Texas, we ought to keep in view the true
grounds of objection to that measure. Those grounds are,--want of
constitutional power,--danger of too great an extent of territory, and
opposition to the increase of slavery and slave representation. It was
properly considered, also, as a measure tending to produce war." He then
goes on to argue that Mexico had no good cause for war; but it is evident
that he already dreaded just that result. When Congress assembled again, in
the following December, the first matter to engage their attention was the
admission of Texas as a State of the Union. It was impossible to prevent
the passage of the resolution, but Mr. Webster stated his objections to the
measure. His speech was brief and very mild in tone, if compared with the
language which he had frequently used in regard to the annexation. He
expressed his opposition to this method of obtaining new territory by
resolution instead of treaty, and to acquisition of territory as foreign to
the true spirit of the Republic, and as endangering the Constitution and
the Union by increasing the already existing inequality of representation,
and extending the area of slavery. He dwelt on the inviolability of slavery
in the States, and did not touch upon the evils of the system itself.

By the following spring the policy of Mr. Polk had culminated, intrigue had
done its perfect work, hostilities had been brought on with Mexico, and in
May Congress was invited to declare a war which the administration had
taken care should already exist. Mr. Webster was absent at this time, and
did not vote on the declaration of war; and when he returned he confined
himself to discussing the war measures, and to urging the cessation of
hostilities, and the renewal of efforts to obtain peace.

The next session--that of the winter of 1846-47--was occupied, of course,
almost entirely with the affairs of the war. In these measures Mr. Webster
took scarcely any part; but toward the close of the session, when the terms
on which the war should be concluded were brought up, he again came
forward. February 1, 1847, Mr. Wilmot of Pennsylvania introduced the famous
proviso, which bears his name, as an amendment to the bill appropriating
three millions of dollars for extraordinary expenses. By this proviso
slavery was to be excluded from all territory thereafter acquired or
annexed by the United States. A fortnight later Mr. Webster, who was
opposed to the acquisition of more territory on any terms, introduced two
resolutions in the Senate, declaring that the war ought not to be
prosecuted for the acquisition of territory, and that Mexico should be
informed that we did not aim at seizing her domain. A similar resolution
was offered by Mr. Berrien of Georgia, and defeated by a party vote. On
this occasion Mr. Webster spoke with great force and in a tone of solemn
warning against the whole policy of territorial aggrandizement. He
denounced all that had been done in this direction, and attacked with
telling force the Northern democracy, which, while it opposed slavery and
favored the Wilmot Proviso, was yet ready to admit new territory, even
without the proviso. His attitude at this time, in opposition to any
further acquisition of territory on any terms, was strong and determined,
but his policy was a terrible confession of weakness. It amounted to saying
that we must not acquire territory because we had not sufficient courage to
keep slavery out of it. The Whigs were in a minority, however, and Mr.
Webster could effect nothing. When the Wilmot Proviso came before the
Senate Mr. Webster voted for it, but it was defeated, and the way was clear
for Mr. Polk and the South to bring in as much territory as they could get,
free of all conditions which could interfere with the extension of slavery.
In September, 1847, after speaking and voting as has just been described in
the previous session of Congress, Mr. Webster addressed the Whig convention
at Springfield on the subject of the Wilmot Proviso. What he then said is
of great importance in any comparison which may be made between his earlier
views and those which he afterwards put forward, in March, 1850, on the
same subject. The passage is as follows:--

"We hear much just now of a panacea for the dangers and evils of
slavery and slave annexation, which they call the 'Wilmot Proviso.'
That certainly is a just sentiment, but it is not a sentiment to
found any new party upon. It is not a sentiment on which
Massachusetts Whigs differ. There is not a man in this hall who
holds to it more firmly than I do, nor one who adheres to it more
than another.

"I feel some little interest in this matter, sir. Did I not commit
myself in 1837 to the whole doctrine, fully, entirely? And I must
be permitted to say that I cannot quite consent that more recent
discoverers should claim the merit, and take out a patent.

"I deny the priority of their invention. Allow me to say, sir, it
is not their thunder.

"There is no one who can complain of the North for resisting the
increase of slave representation, because it gives power to the
minority in a manner inconsistent with the principles of our
government. What is past must stand; what is established must
stand; and with the same firmness with which I shall resist every
plan to augment the slave representation, or to bring the
Constitution into hazard by attempting to extend our dominions,
shall I contend to allow existing rights to remain.

"Sir, I can only say that, in my judgment, we are to use the first,
the last, and every occasion which occurs, in maintaining our
sentiments against the extension of the slave-power."

In the following winter Mr. Webster continued his policy of opposition to
all acquisitions of territory. Although the cloud of domestic sorrow was
already upon him, he spoke against the legislative powers involved in the
"Ten Regiment" Bill, and on the 23d of March, after the ratification of the
treaty of peace, which carried with it large cessions of territory, he
delivered a long and elaborate speech on the "Objects of the Mexican War."
The weight of his speech was directed against the acquisition of
territory, on account of its effect on the Constitution, and the increased
inequality of representation which it involved. He referred to the plan of
cutting up Texas so as to obtain ten senators, as "borough mongering" on a
grand scale, a course which he proposed to resist to the last; and he
concluded by denouncing the whole project as one calculated to turn the
Constitution into a curse rather than a blessing. "I resist it to-day and
always," he said. "Whoever falters or whoever flies, I continue the

In June General Taylor was nominated, and soon after Mr. Webster left
Washington, although Congress was still in session. He returned in August,
in time to take part in the settlement of the Oregon question. The South,
with customary shrewdness, was endeavoring to use the territorial
organization of Oregon as a lever to help them in their struggle to gain
control of the new conquests. A bill came up from the House with no
provision in regard to slavery, and Mr. Douglas carried an amendment to it,
declaring the Missouri Compromise to be in full force in Oregon. The House
disagreed, and, on the question of receding, Mr. Webster took occasion to
speak on the subject of slavery in the territories. He was disgusted with
the nomination of Taylor and with the cowardly silence of the Whigs on the
question of the extension of slavery. In this frame of mind he made one of
the strongest and best speeches he ever delivered on this topic. He denied
that slavery was an "institution;" he denied that the local right to hold
slaves implied the right of the owner to carry them with him and keep them
in slavery on free soil; he stated in the strongest possible manner the
right of Congress to control slavery or to prohibit it in the territories;
and he concluded with a sweeping declaration of his opposition to any
extension of slavery or any increase of slave representation. The Oregon
bill finally passed under the pressure of the "Free-Soil" nominations, with
a clause inserted in the House, embodying substantially the principles of
the Wilmot Proviso.

When Congress adjourned, Mr. Webster returned to Marshfield, where he made
the speech on the nomination of General Taylor. It was a crisis in his
life. At that moment he could have parted with the Whigs and put himself at
the head of the constitutional anti-slavery party. The Free-Soilers had
taken the very ground against the extension of slavery which he had so long
occupied. He could have gone consistently, he could have separated from the
Whigs on a great question of principle, and such a course would have been
no stronger evidence of personal disappointment than was afforded by the
declaration that the nomination of Taylor was one not fit to be made. Mr.
Webster said that he fully concurred in the main object of the Buffalo
Convention, that he was as good a Free-Soiler as any of them, but that the
Free-Soil party presented nothing new or valuable, and he did not believe
in Mr. Van Buren. He then said it was not true that General Taylor was
nominated by the South, as charged by the Free-Soilers; but he did not
confess, what was equally true, that Taylor was nominated through fear of
the South, as was shown by his election by Southern votes. Mr. Webster's
conclusion was, that it was safer to trust a slave-holder, a man without
known political opinions, and a party which had not the courage of its
convictions, than to run the risk of the election of another Democrat. Mr.
Webster's place at that moment was at the head of a new party based on the
principles which he had himself formulated against the extension of
slavery. Such a change might have destroyed his chances for the presidency,
if he had any, but it would have given him one of the greatest places in
American history and made him the leader in the new period. He lost his
opportunity. He did not change his party, but he soon after accepted the
other alternative and changed his opinions.

His course once taken, he made the best of it, and delivered a speech in
Faneuil Hall, in which it is painful to see the effort to push aside
slavery and bring forward the tariff and the sub-treasury. He scoffed at
this absorption in "one idea," and strove to thrust it away. It was the
cry of "peace, peace," when there was no peace, and when Daniel Webster
knew there could be none until the momentous question had been met and
settled. Like the great composer who heard in the first notes of his
symphony "the hand of Fate knocking at the door," the great New England
statesman heard the same warning in the hoarse murmur against slavery, but
he shut his ears to the dread sound and passed on.

When Mr. Webster returned to Washington, after the election of General
Taylor, the strife had already begun over our Mexican conquests. The South
had got the territory, and the next point was to fasten slavery upon it.
The North was resolved to prevent the further spread of slavery, but was by
no means so determined or so clear in its views as its opponent. President
Polk urged in his message that Congress should not legislate on the
question of slavery in the territories, but that if they did, the right of
slave-holders to carry their slaves with them to the new lands should be
recognized, and that the best arrangement was to extend the line of the
Missouri Compromise to the Pacific. For the originator and promoter of the
Mexican war this was a very natural solution, and was a fit conclusion to
one of the worst presidential careers this country has ever seen. The plan
had only one defect. It would not work. One scheme after another was
brought before the Senate, only to fail. Finally, Mr. Webster introduced
his own, which was merely to authorize military government and the
maintenance of existing laws in the Mexican cessions, and a consequent
postponement of the question. The proposition was reasonable and sensible,
but it fared little better than the others. The Southerners found, as they
always did sooner or later, that facts were against them. The people of New
Mexico petitioned for a territorial government and for the exclusion of
slavery. Mr. Calhoun pronounced this action "insolent." Slavery was not
only to be permitted, but the United States government was to be made to
force it upon the people of the territories. Finally, a resolution was
offered "to extend the Constitution" to the territories,--one of those
utterly vague propositions in which the South delighted to hide
well-defined schemes for extending, not the Constitution, but
slave-holding, to fresh fields and virgin soil. This gave rise to a sharp
debate between Mr. Webster and Mr. Calhoun as to whether the Constitution
extended to the territories or not. Mr. Webster upheld the latter view, and
the discussion is chiefly interesting from the fact that Mr. Webster got
the better of Mr. Calhoun in the argument, and as an example of the
latter's excessive ingenuity in sustaining and defending a more than
doubtful proposition. The result of the whole business was, that nothing
was done, except to extend the revenue laws of the United States to New
Mexico and California.

Before Congress again assembled, one of the subjects of their debates had
taken its fortunes into its own hands. California, rapidly peopled by the
discoveries of gold, had held a convention and adopted a frame of
government with a clause prohibiting slavery. When Congress met, the
Senators and Representatives of California were in Washington with their
free Constitution in their hands, demanding the admission of their State
into the Union.

New Mexico was involved in a dispute with Texas as to boundaries, and if
the claim of Texas was sanctioned, two thirds of the disputed territory
would come within the scope of the annexation resolutions, and be
slave-holding States. Then there was the further question whether the
Wilmot Proviso should be applied to New Mexico on her organization as a

The President, acting under the influence of Mr. Seward, advised that
California should be admitted, and the question of slavery in the other
territories be decided when they should apply for admission. Feeling was
running very high in Washington, and there was a bitter and protracted
struggle of three weeks, before the House succeeded in choosing a Speaker.
The State Legislatures on both sides took up the burning question, and
debated and resolved one way or the other with great excitement. The
Southern members held meetings, and talked about secession and about
withdrawing from Congress. The air was full of murmurs of dissolution and
intestine strife. The situation was grave and even threatening.

In this state of affairs Mr. Clay, now an old man, and with but a short
term of life before him, resolved to try once more to solve the problem and
tide over the dangers by a grand compromise. The main features of his plan
were: the admission of California with her free Constitution; the
organization of territorial governments in the Mexican conquests without
any reference to slavery; the adjustment of the Texan boundary; a guaranty
of the existence of slavery in the District of Columbia until Maryland
should consent to its abolition; the prohibition of the slave-trade in the
District; provision for the more effectual enforcement of the Fugitive
Slave Law, and a declaration that Congress had no power over the
slave-trade between the slave-holding States. As the admission of
California was certain, the proposition to bring about the prohibition of
the slave-trade in the District was the only concession to the North.
Everything else was in the interest of the South; but then that was always
the manner in which compromises with slavery were made. They could be
effected in no other way.

This outline Mr. Clay submitted to Mr. Webster January 21, 1850, and Mr.
Webster gave it his full approval, subject, of course, to further and more
careful consideration. February 5 Mr. Clay introduced his plan in the
Senate, and supported it in an eloquent speech. On the 13th the President
submitted the Constitution of California, and Mr. Foote moved to refer it,
together with all matters relating to slavery, to a select committee. It
now became noised about that Mr. Webster intended to address the Senate on
the pending measures, and on the 7th of March he delivered the memorable
speech which has always been known by its date.

It may be premised that in a literary and rhetorical point of view the
speech of the 7th of March was a fine one. The greater part of it is taken
up with argument and statement, and is very quiet in tone. But the famous
passage beginning "peaceable secession," which came straight from the
heart, and the peroration also, have the glowing eloquence which shone with
so much splendor all through the reply to Hayne. The speech can be readily
analyzed. With extreme calmness of language Mr. Webster discussed the whole
history of slavery in ancient and modern times, and under the Constitution
of the United States. His attitude is so judicial and historical, that if
it is clear he disapproved of the system, it is not equally evident that he
condemned it. He reviewed the history of the annexation of Texas, defended
his own consistency, belittled the Wilmot Proviso, admitted substantially
the boundary claims of Texas, and declared that the character of every
part of the country, so far as slavery or freedom was concerned, was now
settled, either by law or nature, and that he should resist the insertion
of the Wilmot Proviso in regard to New Mexico, because it would be merely a
wanton taunt and reproach to the South. He then spoke of the change of
feeling and opinion both at the North and the South in regard to slavery,
and passed next to the question of mutual grievances. He depicted at length
the grievances of the South, including the tone of the Northern press, the
anti-slavery resolutions of the Legislature, the utterances of the
abolitionists, and the resistance to the Fugitive Slave Law. The last,
which he thought the only substantial and legally remediable complaint, he
dwelt on at great length, and severely condemned the refusal of certain
States to comply with this provision of the Constitution. Then came the
grievances of the North against the South, which were dealt with very
briefly. In fact, the Northern grievances, according to Mr. Webster,
consisted of the tone of the Southern press and of Southern speeches which,
it must be confessed, were at times a little violent and somewhat
offensive. The short paragraph reciting the unconstitutional and
high-handed action of the South in regard to free negroes employed as
seamen on Northern vessels, and the outrageous treatment of Mr. Hoar at
Charleston in connection with this matter, was not delivered, Mr. Giddings
says, but was inserted afterwards and before publication, at the suggestion
of a friend. After this came the fine burst about secession, and a
declaration of faith that the Southern convention called at Nashville would
prove patriotic and conciliatory. The speech concluded with a strong appeal
in behalf of nationality and union.

Mr. Curtis correctly says that a great majority of Mr. Webster's
constituents, if not of the whole North, disapproved this speech. He might
have added that that majority has steadily increased. The popular verdict
has been given against the 7th of March speech, and that verdict has passed
into history. Nothing can now be said or written which will alter the fact
that the people of this country who maintained and saved the Union have
passed judgment upon Mr. Webster and condemned what he said on the 7th of
March, 1850, as wrong in principle and mistaken in policy. This opinion is
not universal,--no opinion is,--but it is held by the great body of mankind
who know or care anything about the subject, and it cannot be changed or
substantially modified, because subsequent events have fixed its place and
worth irrevocably. It is only necessary, therefore, to examine very briefly
the grounds of this adverse judgment, and the pleas put in against it by
Mr. Webster and by his most devoted partisans.

From the sketch which has been given of Mr. Webster's course on the slavery
question, we see that in 1819 and 1820 he denounced in the strongest terms
slavery and every form of slave-trade; that while he fully admitted that
Congress had no power to touch slavery in the States, he asserted that it
was their right and their paramount duty absolutely to stop any further
extension of slave territory. In 1820 he was opposed to any compromise on
this question. Ten years later he stood out to the last, unaffected by
defeat, against the principle of compromise which sacrificed the rights and
the dignity of the general government to the resistance and threatened
secession of a State.

After the reply to Hayne in 1830, Mr. Webster became a standing candidate
for the presidency, or for the Whig nomination to that office. From that
time forth, the sharp denunciation of slavery and traffic in slaves
disappears, although there is no indication that he ever altered his
original opinion on these points; but he never ceased, sometimes mildly,
sometimes in the most vigorous and sweeping manner, to attack and oppose
the extension of slavery to new regions, and the increase of slave
territory. If, then, in the 7th of March speech, he was inconsistent with
his past, such inconsistency must appear, if at all, in his general tone in
regard to slavery, in his views as to the policy of compromise, and in his
attitude toward the extension of slavery, the really crucial question of
the time.

As to the first point, there can be no doubt that there is a vast
difference between the tone of the Plymouth oration and the Boston memorial
toward slavery and the slave-trade, and that of the 7th of March speech in
regard to the same subjects. For many years Mr. Webster had had but little
to say against slavery as a system, but in the 7th of March speech, in
reviewing the history of slavery, he treats the matter in such a very calm
manner, that he not only makes the best case possible for the South, but
his tone is almost apologetic when speaking in their behalf. To the
grievances of the South he devotes more than five pages of his speech, to
those of the North less than two. As to the infamy of making the national
capital a great slave-mart, he has nothing to say--although it was a matter
which figured as one of the elements in Mr. Clay's scheme.

But what most shocked the North in this connection were his utterances in
regard to the Fugitive Slave Law. There can be no doubt that under the
Constitution the South had a perfect right to claim the extradition of
fugitive slaves. The legal argument in support of that right was excellent,
but the Northern people could not feel that it was necessary for Daniel
Webster to make it. The Fugitive Slave Law was in absolute conflict with
the awakened conscience and moral sentiment of the North. To strengthen
that law, and urge its enforcement, was a sure way to make the resistance
to it still more violent and intolerant. Constitutions and laws will
prevail over much, and allegiance to them is a high duty, but when they
come into conflict with a deep-rooted moral sentiment, and with the
principles of liberty and humanity, they must be modified, or else they
will be broken to pieces. That this should have been the case in 1850 was
no doubt to be regretted, but it was none the less a fact. To insist upon
the constitutional duty of returning fugitive slaves, to upbraid the North
with their opposition, and to urge upon them and upon the country the
strict enforcement of the extradition law, was certain to embitter and
intensify the opposition to it. The statesmanlike course was to recognize
the ground of Northern resistance, to show the South that a too violent
insistence upon their constitutional rights would be fatal, and to endeavor
to obtain such concessions as would allay excited feelings. Mr. Webster's
strong argument in favor of the Fugitive Slave Law pleased the South, of
course; but it irritated and angered the North. It promoted the very
struggle which it proposed to allay, for it admitted the existence of only
one side to the question. The consciences of men cannot be coerced; and
when Mr. Webster undertook to do it he dashed himself against the rocks.
People did not stop to distinguish between a legal argument and a defence
of the merits of catching runaway slaves. To refer to the original law of
1793 was idle. Public opinion had changed in half a century; and what had
seemed reasonable at the close of the eighteenth century was monstrous in
the middle of the nineteenth.

All this Mr. Webster declined to recognize. He upheld without diminution or
modification the constitutional duty of sending escaping slaves back to
bondage; and from the legal soundness of this position there is no escape.
The trouble was that he had no word to say against the cruelty and
barbarity of the system. To insist upon the necessity of submitting to the
hard and repulsive duty imposed by the Constitution was one thing. To urge
submission without a word of sorrow or regret was another. The North felt,
and felt rightly, that while Mr. Webster could not avoid admitting the
force of the constitutional provisions about fugitive slaves, and was
obliged to bow to their behest, yet to defend them without reservation, to
attack those who opposed them, and to urge the rigid enforcement of a
Fugitive Slave Law, was not in consonance with his past, his conscience,
and his duty to his constituents. The constitutionality of a Fugitive Slave
Law may be urged and admitted over and over again, but this could not make
the North believe that advocacy of slave-catching was a task suited to
Daniel Webster. The simple fact was that he did not treat the general
question of slavery as he always had treated it. Instead of denouncing and
deploring it, and striking at it whenever the Constitution permitted, he
apologized for its existence, and urged the enforcement of its most
obnoxious laws. This was not his attitude in 1820; this was not what the
people of the North expected of him in 1850.

In regard to the policy of compromise there is a much stronger contrast
between Mr. Webster's attitude in 1850 and his earlier course than in the
case of his views on the general subject of slavery. In 1819, although not
in public life, Mr. Webster, as is clear from the tone of the Boston
memorial, was opposed to any compromise involving an extension of slavery.
In 1832-33 he was the most conspicuous and unyielding enemy of the
principle of compromise in the country. He then took the ground that the
time had come to test the strength of the Constitution and the Union, and
that any concession would have a fatally weakening effect. In 1850 he
supported a compromise which was so one-sided that it hardly deserves the
name. The defence offered by his friends on this subject--and it is the
strongest point they have been able to make--is that these sacrifices, or
compromises, were necessary to save the Union, and that--although they did
not prevent ultimate secession--they caused a delay of ten years, which
enabled the North to gather sufficient strength to carry the civil war to a
successful conclusion. It is not difficult to show historically that the
policy of compromise between the national principle and unlawful opposition
to that principle was an entire mistake from the very outset, and that if
illegal and partisan State resistance had always been put down with a firm
hand, civil war might have been avoided. Nothing strengthened the general
government more than the well-judged and well-timed display of force by
which Washington and Hamilton crushed the Whiskey Rebellion, or than the
happy accident of peace in 1814, which brought the separatist movement in
New England to a sudden end. After that period Mr. Clay's policy of
compromise prevailed, and the result was that the separatist movement was
identified with the maintenance of slavery, and steadily gathered strength.
In 1819 the South threatened and blustered in order to prevent the complete
prohibition of slavery in the Louisiana purchase. In 1832 South Carolina
passed the nullification ordinance because she suffered by the operation of
a protective tariff. In 1850 a great advance had been made in their
pretensions. Secession was threatened because the South feared that the
Mexican conquests would not be devoted to the service of slavery. Nothing
had been done, nothing was proposed even, prejudicial to Southern
interests; but the inherent weakness of slavery, and the mild conciliatory
attitude of Northern statesmen, incited the South to make imperious demands
for favors, and seek for positive gains. They succeeded in 1850, and in
1860 they had reached the point at which they were ready to plunge the
country into the horrors of civil war solely because they lost an
election. They believed, first, that the North would yield everything for
the sake of union, and secondly, that if there was a limit to their
capacity for surrender in this direction, yet a people capable of so much
submission in the past would never fight to maintain the Union. The South
made a terrible mistake, and was severely punished for it; but the
compromises of 1820, 1833, and 1850 furnished some excuse for the wild idea
that the North would not and could not fight. Whether a strict adherence to
the strong, fearless policy of Hamilton, which was adopted by Jackson and
advocated by Webster in 1832-33, would have prevented civil war, must, of
course, remain matter of conjecture. It is at least certain that in that
way alone could war have been avoided, and that the Clay policy of
compromise made war inevitable by encouraging slave-holders to believe that
they could always obtain anything they wanted by a sufficient show of

It is urged, however, that the policy of compromise having been adopted, a
change in 1850 would have simply precipitated the sectional conflict. In
judging Mr. Webster, the practical question, of course, is as to the best
method of dealing with matters as they actually were and not as they might
have been had a different course been pursued in 1820 and 1832. The
partisans of Mr. Webster have always taken the ground that in 1850 the
choice was between compromise and secession; that the events of 1861 showed
that the South, in 1850, was not talking for mere effect; that the
maintenance of the Union was the paramount consideration of a patriotic
statesman; and that the only practicable and proper course was to
compromise. Admitting fully that Mr. Webster's first and highest duty was
to preserve the Union, it is perfectly clear now, when all these events
have passed into history, that he took the surest way to make civil war
inevitable, and that the position of 1832 should not have been abandoned.
In the first place, the choice was not confined to compromise or secession.
The President, the official head of the Whig party, had recommended the
admission of California, as the only matter actually requiring immediate
settlement, and that the other questions growing out of the new territories
should be dealt with as they arose. Mr. Curtis, Mr. Webster's biographer,
says this was an impracticable plan, because peace could not be kept
between New Mexico and Texas, and because there was great excitement about
the slavery question throughout the country. These seem very insufficient
reasons, and only the first has any practical bearing on the matter.
General Taylor said: Admit California, for that is an immediate and
pressing duty, and I will see to it that peace is preserved on the Texan
boundary. Zachary Taylor may not have been a great statesman, but he was a
brave and skilful soldier, and an honest man, resolved to maintain the
Union, even if he had to shoot a few Texans to do it. His policy was bold
and manly, and the fact that it was said to have been inspired by Mr.
Seward, a leader in the only Northern party which had any real principle to
fight for, does not seem such a monstrous idea as it did in 1850 or does
still to those who sustain Mr. Webster's action. That General Taylor's
policy was not so wild and impracticable as Mr. Webster's friends would
have us think, is shown by the fact that Mr. Benton, Democrat and
Southerner as he was, but imbued with the vigor of the Jackson school,
believed that each question should be taken up by itself and settled on its
own merits. A policy which seemed wise to three such different men as
Taylor, Seward, and Benton, could hardly have been so utterly impracticable
and visionary as Mr. Webster's partisans would like the world to believe.
It was in fact one of the cases which that extremely practical statesman
Nicolo Machiavelli had in mind when he wrote that, "Dangers that are seen
afar off are easily prevented; but protracting till they are near at hand,
the remedies grow unseasonable and the malady incurable."

It may be readily admitted that there was a great and perilous political
crisis in 1850, as Mr. Webster said. In certain quarters, in the excitement
of party strife, there was a tendency to deride Mr. Webster as a
"Union-saver," and to take the ground that there had been no real danger of
secession. This, as we can see now very plainly, was an unfounded idea.
When Congress met, the danger of secession was very real, although perhaps
not very near. The South, although they intended to secede as a last
resort, had no idea that they should be brought to that point. Menaces of
disunion, ominous meetings and conventions, they probably calculated, would
effect their purpose and obtain for them what they wanted, and subsequent
events proved that they were perfectly right in this opinion. On February
14 Mr. Webster wrote to Mr. Harvey:--

"I do not partake in any degree in those apprehensions which you
say some of our friends entertain of the dissolution of the Union
or the breaking up of the government. I am mortified, it is true,
at the violent tone assumed here by many persons, because such
violence in debate only leads to irritation, and is, moreover,
discreditable to the government and the country. But there is no
serious danger, be assured, and so assure our friends."

The next day he wrote to Mr. Furness, a leader of the anti-slavery party,
expressing his abhorrence of slavery as an institution, his unwillingness
to break up the existing political system to secure its abolition, and his
belief that the whole matter must be left with Divine Providence. It is
clear from this letter that he had dismissed any thought of assuming an
aggressive attitude toward slavery, but there is nothing to indicate that
he thought the Union could be saved from wreck only by substantial
concessions to the South. Between the date of the letter to Harvey and
March 7, Mr. Curtis says that the aspect of affairs had materially changed,
and that the Union was in serious peril. There is nothing to show that Mr.
Webster thought so, or that he had altered the opinion which he had
expressed on February 14. In fact, Mr. Curtis's view is the exact reverse
of the true state of affairs. If there was any real and immediate danger to
the Union, it existed on February 14, and ceased immediately afterwards, on
February 16, as Dr. Von Holst correctly says, when the House of
Representatives laid on the table the resolution of Mr. Root of Ohio,
prohibiting the extension of slavery to the territories. By that vote, the
victory was won by the slave-power, and the peril of speedy disunion
vanished. Nothing remained but to determine how much the South would get
from their victory, and how hard a bargain they could drive. The admission
of California was no more of a concession than a resolution not to
introduce slavery in Massachusetts would have been. All the rest of the
compromise plan, with the single exception of the prohibition of the
slave-trade in the District of Columbia, was made up of concessions to the
Southern and slave-holding interest. That Henry Clay should have
originated and advocated this scheme was perfectly natural. However wrong
or mistaken, this had been his steady and unbroken policy from the outset,
as the best method of preserving the Union and advancing the cause of
nationality. Mr. Clay was consistent and sincere, and, however much he may
have erred in his general theory, he never swerved from it. But with Mr.
Webster the case was totally different. He had opposed the principle of
compromise from the beginning, and in 1833, when concession was more
reasonable than in 1850, he had offered the most strenuous and unbending
resistance. Now he advocated a compromise which was in reality little less
than a complete surrender on the part of the North. On the general question
of compromise he was, of course, grossly inconsistent, and the history of
the time, as it appears in the cold light of the present day, shows plainly
that, while he was brave and true and wise in 1833, in 1850 he was not only
inconsistent, but that he erred deeply in policy and statesmanship. It has
also been urged in behalf of Mr. Webster that he went no farther than the
Republicans in 1860 in the way of concession, and that as in 1860 so in
1850, anything was permissible which served to gain time. In the first
place, the _tu quoque_ argument proves nothing and has no weight. In the
second place, the situations in 1850 and in 1860 were very different.

There were at the former period, in reference to slavery, four parties in
the country--the Democrats, the Free-Soilers, the Abolitionists, and the
Whigs. The three first had fixed and widely-varying opinions; the last was
trying to live without opinions, and soon died. The pro-slavery Democrats
were logical and practical; the Abolitionists were equally logical but
thoroughly impracticable and unconstitutional, avowed nullifiers and
secessionists; the Free-Soilers were illogical, constitutional, and
perfectly practical. As Republicans, the Free-Soilers proved the
correctness and good sense of their position by bringing the great majority
of the Northern people to their support. But at the same time their
position was a difficult one, for while they were an anti-slavery party and
had set on foot constitutional opposition to the extension of slavery,
their fidelity to the Constitution compelled them to admit the legality of
the Fugitive Slave Law and of slavery in the States. They aimed, of course,
first to check the extension of slavery and then to efface it by gradual
restriction and full compensation to slave-holders. When they had carried
the country in 1860, they found themselves face to face with a breaking
Union and an impending war. That many of them were seriously frightened,
and, to avoid war and dissolution, would have made great concessions,
cannot be questioned; but their controlling motive was to hold things
together by any means, no matter how desperate, until they could get
possession of the government. This was the only possible and the only wise
policy, but that it involved them in some contradictions in that winter of
excitement and confusion is beyond doubt. History will judge the men and
events of 1860 according to the circumstances of the time, but nothing that
happened then has any bearing on Mr. Webster's conduct. He must be judged
according to the circumstances of 1850, and the first and most obvious fact
is, that he was not fighting merely to gain time and obtain control of the
general government. The crisis was grave and serious in the extreme, but
neither war nor secession were imminent or immediate, nor did Mr. Webster
ever assert that they were. He thought war and secession might come, and it
was against this possibility and probability that he sought to provide. He
wished to solve the great problem, to remove the source of danger, to set
the menacing agitation at rest. He aimed at an enduring and definite
settlement, and that was the purpose of the 7th of March speech. His
reasons--and of course they were clear and weighty in his own
mind--proceeded from the belief that this wretched compromise measure
offered a wise, judicious, and permanent settlement of questions which, in
their constant recurrence, threatened more and more the stability of the
Union. History has shown how wofully mistaken he was in this opinion.

The last point to be considered in connection with the 7th of March speech
is the ground then taken by Mr. Webster with reference to the extension of
slavery. To this question the speech was chiefly directed, and it is the
portion which has aroused the most heated discussion. What Mr. Webster's
views had always been on the subject of slavery extension every one knew
then and knows now. He had been the steady and uncompromising opponent of
the Southern policy, and in season and out of season, sometimes vehemently
sometimes gently, but always with firmness and clearness, he had declared
against it. The only question is, whether he departed from these
often-expressed opinions on the 7th of March. In the speech itself he
declared that he had not abated one jot in his views in this respect, and
he argued at great length to prove his consistency, which, if it were to be
easily seen of men, certainly needed neither defence nor explanation. The
crucial point was, whether, in organizing the new territories, the
principle of the Wilmot Proviso should be adopted as part of the measure.
This famous proviso Mr. Webster had declared in 1847 to represent exactly
his own views. He had then denied that the idea was the invention of any
one man, and scouted the notion that on this doctrine there could be any
difference of opinion among Whigs. On March 7 he announced that he would
not have the proviso attached to the territorial bills, and should oppose
any effort in that direction. The reasons he gave for this apparent change
were, that nature had forbidden slavery in the newly-conquered regions, and
that the proviso, under such circumstances, would be a useless taunt and
wanton insult to the South. The famous sentence in which he said that he
"would not take pains uselessly to reaffirm an ordinance of nature, nor to
reenact the will of God," was nothing but specious and brilliant rhetoric.
It was perfectly easy to employ slaves in California, if the people had not
prohibited it, and in New Mexico as well, even if there were no cotton nor
sugar nor rice plantations in either, and but little arable land in the
latter. There was a classic form of slave-labor possible in those
countries. Any school-boy could have reminded Mr. Webster of

"Seius whose eight hundred slaves
Sicken in Ilva's mines."

Mining was one of the oldest uses to which slave-labor had been applied,
and it still flourished in Siberia as the occupation of serfs and
criminals. Mr. Webster, of course, was not ignorant of this very obvious
fact; and that nature, therefore, instead of forbidding slave-labor in the
Mexican conquests, opened to it a new and almost unlimited field in a
region which is to-day one of the greatest mining countries in the world.
Still less could he have failed to know that this form of employment for
slaves was eagerly desired by the South; that the slave-holders fully
recognized their opportunity, announced their intention of taking
advantage of it, and were particularly indignant at the action of
California because it had closed to them this inviting field. Mr. Clingman
of North Carolina, on January 22, when engaged in threatening war in order
to bring the North to terms, had said, in the House of Representatives:
"But for the anti-slavery agitation our Southern slave-holders would have
carried their negroes into the mines of California in such numbers that I
have no doubt but that the majority there would have made it a
slave-holding State."[1] At a later period Mr. Mason of Virginia declared,
in the Senate, that he knew of no law of nature which excluded slavery from
California. "On the contrary," he said, "if California had been organized
with a territorial form of government only, the people of the Southern
States would have gone there freely, and have taken their slaves there in
great numbers. They would have done so because the value of the labor of
that class would have been augmented to them many hundred fold."[2] These
were the views of practical men and experienced slave-owners who
represented the opinions of their constituents, and who believed that
domestic slavery could be employed to advantage anywhere. Moreover, the
Southern leaders openly avowed their opposition to securing any region to
free labor exclusively, no matter what the ordinances of nature might be.
In 1848, it must be remembered in this connection, Mr. Webster not only
urged the limitation of slave area, and sustained the power of Congress to
regulate this matter in the territories, but he did not resist the final
embodiment of the principle of the Wilmot Proviso in the bill for the
organization of Oregon, where the introduction of slavery was infinitely
more unlikely than in New Mexico. Cotton, sugar, and rice were excluded,
perhaps, by nature from the Mexican conquests, but slavery was not. It was
worse than idle to allege that a law of nature forbade slaves in a country
where mines gaped to receive them. The facts are all as plain as possible,
and there is no escape from the conclusion that in opposing the Wilmot
Proviso, in 1850, Mr. Webster abandoned his principles as to the extension
of slavery. He practically stood forth as the champion of the Southern
policy of letting the new territories alone, which could only result in
placing them in the grasp of slavery. The consistency which he labored so
hard to prove in his speech was hopelessly shattered, and no ingenuity,
either then or since, can restore it.

[Footnote 1: _Congressional Globe_, 31st Congress, 1st Session, p. 203.]

[Footnote 2: Ibid., Appendix, p. 510.]

A dispassionate examination of Mr. Webster's previous course on slavery,
and a careful comparison of it with the ground taken in the 7th of March
speech, shows that he softened his utterances in regard to slavery as a
system, and that he changed radically on the policy of compromise and on
the question of extending the area of slavery. There is a confused story
that in the winter of 1847-48 he had given the anti-slavery leaders to
understand that he proposed to come out on their ground in regard to
Mexico, and to sustain Corwin in his attack on the Democratic policy, but
that he failed to do so. The evidence on this point is entirely
insufficient to make it of importance, but there can be no doubt that in
the winter of 1850 Mr. Webster talked with Mr. Giddings, and led him, and
the other Free-Soil leaders, to believe that he was meditating a strong
anti-slavery speech. This fact was clearly shown in the recent newspaper
controversy which grew out of the celebration of the centennial anniversary
of Webster's birth. It is a little difficult to understand why this
incident should have roused such bitter resentment among Mr. Webster's
surviving partisans. To suppose that Mr. Webster made the 7th of March
speech after long deliberation, without having a moment's hesitation in the
matter, is to credit him with a shameless disregard of principle and
consistency, of which it is impossible to believe him guilty. He
undoubtedly hesitated, and considered deeply whether he should assume the
attitude of 1833, and stand out unrelentingly against the encroachments of
slavery. He talked with Mr. Clay on one side. He talked with Mr. Giddings,
and other Free-Soilers, on the other. With the latter the wish was no
doubt father to the thought, and they may well have imagined that Mr.
Webster had determined to go with them, when he was still in doubt and
merely trying the various positions. There is no need, however, to linger
over matters of this sort. The change made by Mr. Webster can be learned
best by careful study of his own utterances, and of his whole career. Yet,
at the same time, the greatest trouble lies not in the shifting and
inconsistency revealed by an examination of the specific points which have
just been discussed, but in the speech as a whole. In that speech Mr.
Webster failed quite as much by omissions as by the opinions which he
actually announced. He was silent when he should have spoken, and he spoke
when he should have held his peace. The speech, if exactly defined, is, in
reality, a powerful effort, not for compromise or for the Fugitive Slave
Law, or any other one thing, but to arrest the whole anti-slavery movement,
and in that way put an end to the dangers which threatened the Union and
restore lasting harmony between the jarring sections. It was a mad project.
Mr. Webster might as well have attempted to stay the incoming tide at
Marshfield with a rampart of sand as to seek to check the anti-slavery
movement by a speech. Nevertheless, he produced a great effect. His mind
once made up, he spared nothing to win the cast. He gathered all his
forces; his great intellect, his splendid eloquence, his fame which had
become one of the treasured possessions of his country,--all were given to
the work. The blow fell with terrible force, and here, at last, we come to
the real mischief which was wrought. The 7th of March speech demoralized
New England and the whole North. The abolitionists showed by bitter anger
the pain, disappointment, and dismay which this speech brought. The
Free-Soil party quivered and sank for the moment beneath the shock. The
whole anti-slavery movement recoiled. The conservative reaction which Mr.
Webster endeavored to produce came and triumphed. Chiefly by his exertions
the compromise policy was accepted and sustained by the country. The
conservative elements everywhere rallied to his support, and by his ability
and eloquence it seemed as if he had prevailed and brought the people over
to his opinions. It was a wonderful tribute to his power and influence, but
the triumph was hollow and short-lived. He had attempted to compass an
impossibility. Nothing could kill the principles of human liberty, not even
a speech by Daniel Webster, backed by all his intellect and knowledge, his
eloquence and his renown. The anti-slavery movement was checked for the
time, and pro-slavery democracy, the only other positive political force,
reigned supreme. But amid the falling ruins of the Whig party, and the
evanescent success of the Native Americans, the party of human rights
revived; and when it rose again, taught by the trials and misfortunes of
1850, it rose with a strength which Mr. Webster had never dreamed of, and,
in 1856, polled nearly a million and a half of votes for Fremont. The rise
and final triumph of the Republican party was the condemnation of the 7th
of March speech and of the policy which put the government of the country
in the hands of Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan. When the war came,
inspiration was not found in the 7th of March speech. In that dark hour,
men remembered the Daniel Webster who replied to Hayne, and turned away
from the man who had sought for peace by advocating the great compromise of
Henry Clay.

The disapprobation and disappointment which were manifested in the North
after the 7th of March speech could not be overlooked. Men thought and said
that Mr. Webster had spoken in behalf of the South and of slavery. Whatever
his intentions may have been, this was what the speech seemed to mean and
this was its effect, and the North saw it more and more clearly as time
went on. Mr. Webster never indulged in personal attacks, but at the same
time he was too haughty a man ever to engage in an exchange of compliments
in debate. He never was in the habit of saying pleasant things to his
opponents in the Senate merely as a matter of agreeable courtesy. In this
direction, as in its opposite, he usually maintained a cold silence. But
on the 7th of March he elaborately complimented Calhoun, and went out of
his way to flatter Virginia and Mr. Mason personally. This struck close
observers with surprise, but it was the real purpose of the speech which
went home to the people of the North. He had advocated measures which with
slight exceptions were altogether what the South wanted, and the South so
understood it. On the 30th of March Mr. Morehead wrote to Mr. Crittenden
that Mr. Webster's appointment as Secretary of State would now be very
acceptable to the South. No more bitter commentary could have been made.
The people were blinded and dazzled at first, but they gradually awoke and
perceived the error that had been committed.

Mr. Webster, however, needed nothing from outside to inform him as to his
conduct and its results. At the bottom of his heart and in the depths of
his conscience he knew that he had made a dreadful mistake. He did not
flinch. He went on in his new path without apparent faltering. His speech
on the compromise measures went farther than that of the 7th of March. But
if we study his speeches and letters between 1850 and the day of his death,
we can detect changes in them, which show plainly enough that the writer
was not at ease, that he was not master of that real conscience of which he

His friends, after the first shock of surprise, rallied to his support,
and he spoke frequently at union meetings, and undertook, by making immense
efforts, to convince the country that the compromise measures were right
and necessary, and that the doctrines of the 7th of March speech ought to
be sustained. In pursuance of this object, during the winter of 1850 and
the summer of the following year, he wrote several public letters on the
compromise measures, and he addressed great meetings on various occasions,
in New England, New York, and as far south as Virginia. We are at once
struck by a marked change in the character and tone of these speeches,
which produced a great effect in establishing the compromise policy. It had
never been Mr. Webster's habit to misrepresent or abuse his opponents. Now
he confounded the extreme separatism of the abolitionists and the
constitutional opposition of the Free-Soil party, and involved all
opponents of slavery in a common condemnation. It was wilful
misrepresentation to talk of the Free-Soilers as if they were identical
with the abolitionists, and no one knew better than Mr. Webster the
distinction between the two, one being ready to secede to get rid of
slavery, the other offering only a constitutional resistance to its
extension. His tone toward his opponents was correspondingly bitter. When
he first arrived in Boston, after his speech, and spoke to the great crowd
in front of the Revere House, he said, "I shall support no agitations
having their foundations in unreal, ghostly abstractions." Slavery had now
become "an unreal, ghostly abstraction," although it must still have
appeared to the negroes something very like a hard fact. There were men in
that crowd, too, who had not forgotten the noble words with which Mr.
Webster in 1837 had defended the character of the opponents of slavery, and
the sound of this new gospel from his lips fell strangely on their ears. So
he goes on from one union meeting to another, and in speech after speech
there is the same bitter tone which had been so foreign to him in all his
previous utterances. The supporters of the anti-slavery movement he
denounces as insane. He reiterates his opposition to slave extension, and
in the same breath argues that the Union must be preserved by giving way to
the South. The feeling is upon him that the old parties are breaking down
under the pressure of this "ghostly abstraction," this agitation which he
tries to prove to the young men of the country and to his fellow-citizens
everywhere is "wholly factitious." The Fugitive Slave Law is not in the
form which he wants, but still he defends it and supports it. The first
fruits of his policy of peace are seen in riots in Boston, and he
personally advises with a Boston lawyer who has undertaken the cases
against the fugitive slaves. It was undoubtedly his duty, as Mr. Curtis
says, to enforce and support the law as the President's adviser, but his
personal attention and interest were not required in slave cases, nor would
they have been given a year before. The Wilmot Proviso, that doctrine which
he claimed as his own in 1847, when it was a sentiment on which Whigs could
not differ, he now calls "a mere abstraction." He struggles to put slavery
aside for the tariff, but it will not down at his bidding, and he himself
cannot leave it alone. Finally he concludes this compromise campaign with a
great speech on laying the foundation of the capitol extension, and makes a
pathetic appeal to the South to maintain the Union. They are not pleasant
to read, these speeches in the Senate and before the people in behalf of
the compromise policy. They are harsh and bitter; they do not ring true.
Daniel Webster knew when he was delivering them that that was not the way
to save the Union, or that, at all events, it was not the right way for him
to do it.

The same peculiarity can be discerned in his letters. The fun and humor
which had hitherto run through his correspondence seems now to fade away as
if blighted. On September 10, 1850, he writes to Mr. Harvey that since
March 7 there has not been an hour in which he has not felt a "crushing
sense of anxiety and responsibility." He couples this with the declaration
that his own part is acted and he is satisfied; but if his anxiety was
solely of a public nature, why did it date from March 7, when, prior to
that time, there was much greater cause for alarm than afterwards. In
everything he said or wrote he continually recurs to the slavery question
and always in a defensive tone, usually with a sneer or a fling at the
abolitionists and anti-slavery party. The spirit of unrest had seized him.
He was disturbed and ill at ease. He never admitted it, even to himself,
but his mind was not at peace, and he could not conceal the fact. Posterity
can see the evidences of it plainly enough, and a man of his intellect and
fame knew that with posterity the final reckoning must be made. No man can
say that Mr. Webster anticipated the unfavorable judgment which his
countrymen have passed upon his conduct, but that in his heart he feared
such a judgment cannot be doubted.

It is impossible to determine with perfect accuracy any man's motives in
what he says or does. They are so complex, they are so often undefined,
even in the mind of the man himself, that no one can pretend to make an
absolutely correct analysis. There have been many theories as to the
motives which led Mr. Webster to make the 7th of March speech. In the heat
of contemporary strife his enemies set it down as a mere bid to secure
Southern support for the presidency, but this is a harsh and narrow view.
The longing for the presidency weakened Mr. Webster as a public man from
the time when it first took possession of him after the reply to Hayne. It
undoubtedly had a weakening effect upon him in the winter of 1850, and had
some influence upon the speech of the 7th of March. But it is unjust to say
that it did more. It certainly was far removed from being a controlling
motive. His friends, on the other hand, declare that he was governed solely
by the highest and most disinterested patriotism, by the truest wisdom.
This explanation, like that of his foes, fails by going too far and being
too simple. His motives were mixed. His chief desire was to preserve and
maintain the Union. He wished to stand forth as the great saviour and
pacificator. On the one side was the South, compact, aggressive, bound
together by slavery, the greatest political force in the country. On the
other was a weak Free-Soil party, and a widely diffused and earnest moral
sentiment without organization or tangible political power. Mr. Webster
concluded that the way to save the Union and the Constitution, and to
achieve the success which he desired, was to go with the heaviest
battalions. He therefore espoused the Southern side, for the compromise was
in the Southern interest, and smote the anti-slavery movement with all his
strength. He reasoned correctly that peace could come only by administering
a severe check to one of the two contending parties. He erred in attempting
to arrest the one which all modern history showed was irresistible. It is
no doubt true, as appears by his cabinet opinion recently printed, that he
stood ready to meet the first overt act on the part of the South with
force. Mr. Webster would not have hesitated to have struck hard at any body
of men or any State which ventured to assail the Union. But he also
believed that the true way to prevent any overt act on the part of the
South was by concession, and that was precisely the object which the
Southern leaders sought to obtain. We may grant all the patriotism and all
the sincere devotion to the cause of the Constitution which is claimed for
him, but nothing can acquit Mr. Webster of error in the methods which he
chose to adopt for the maintenance of peace and the preservation of the
Union. If the 7th of March speech was right, then all that had gone before
was false and wrong. In that speech he broke from his past, from his own
principles and from the principles of New England, and closed his splendid
public career with a terrible mistake.



The story of the remainder of Mr. Webster's public life, outside of and
apart from the slavery question, can be quickly told. General Taylor died
suddenly on July 9, 1850, and this event led to an immediate and complete
reorganization of the cabinet. Mr. Fillmore at once offered the post of
Secretary of State to Mr. Webster, who accepted it, resigned his seat in
the Senate, and, on July 23, assumed his new position. No great negotiation
like that with Lord Ashburton marked this second term of office in the
Department of State, but there were a number of important and some very
complicated affairs, which Mr. Webster managed with the wisdom, tact, and
dignity which made him so admirably fit for this high position.

The best-known incident of this period was that which gave rise to the
famous "Huelsemann letter." President Taylor had sent an agent to Hungary to
report upon the condition of the revolutionary government, with the
intention of recognizing it if there were sufficient grounds for doing so.
When the agent arrived, the revolution was crushed, and he reported to the
President against recognition. These papers were transmitted to the Senate
in March, 1850. Mr. Huelsemann, the Austrian _charge_, thereupon complained
of the action of our administration, and Mr. Clayton, then Secretary of
State, replied that the mission of the agent had been simply to gather
information. On receiving further instructions from his government, Mr.
Huelsemann rejoined to Mr. Clayton, and it fell to Mr. Webster to reply,
which he did on December 21, 1850. The note of the Austrian _charge_ was in
a hectoring and highly offensive tone, and Mr. Webster felt the necessity
of administering a sharp rebuke. "The Huelsemann letter," as it was called,
was accordingly dispatched. It set forth strongly the right of the United
States and their intention to recognize any _de facto_ revolutionary
government, and to seek information in all proper ways in order to guide
their action. The argument on this point was admirably and forcibly stated,
and it was accompanied by a bold vindication of the American policy, and by
some severe and wholesome reproof. Mr. Webster had two objects. One was to
awaken the people of Europe to a sense of the greatness of this country,
the other to touch the national pride at home. He did both. The foreign
representatives learned a lesson which they never forgot, and which opened
their eyes to the fact that we were no longer colonies, and the national
pride was also aroused. Mr. Webster admitted that the letter was, in some
respects, boastful and rough. This was a fair criticism, and it may be
justly said that such a tone was hardly worthy of the author. But, on the
other hand, Huelsemann's impertinence fully justified such a reply, and a
little rough domineering was, perhaps, the very thing needed. It is certain
that the letter fully answered Mr. Webster's purpose, and excited a great
deal of popular enthusiasm. The affair did not, however, end here. Mr.
Huelsemann became very mild, but he soon lost his temper again. Kossuth and
the refugees in Turkey were brought to this country in a United States
frigate. The Hungarian hero was received with a burst of enthusiasm that
induced him to hope for substantial aid, which was, of course, wholly
visionary. The popular excitement made it difficult for Mr. Webster to
steer a proper course, but he succeeded, by great tact, in showing his own
sympathy, and, so far as possible, that of the government, for the cause of
Hungarian independence and for its leader, without going too far or
committing any indiscretion which could justify a breach of international
relations with Austria. Mr. Webster's course, including a speech at a
dinner in Boston, in which he made an eloquent allusion to Hungary and
Kossuth, although carefully guarded, aroused the ire of Mr. Huelsemann, who
left the country, after writing a letter of indignant farewell to the
Secretary of State. Mr. Webster replied, through Mr. Hunter, with extreme
coolness, confining himself to an approval of the gentleman selected by Mr.
Huelsemann to represent Austria after the latter's departure.

The other affairs which occupied Mr. Webster's official attention at this
time made less noise than that with Austria, but they were more complicated
and some of them far more perilous to the peace of the country. The most
important was that growing out of the Clayton-Bulwer treaty in regard to
the neutrality of the contemplated canal in Nicaragua. This led to a
prolonged correspondence about the protectorate of Great Britain in
Nicaragua, and to a withdrawal of her claim to exact port-charges. It is
interesting to observe the influence which Mr. Webster at once obtained
with Sir Henry Bulwer and the respect in which he was held by that
experienced diplomatist. Besides this discussion with England, there was a
sharp dispute with Mexico about the right of way over the Isthmus of
Tehuantepec, and the troubles on the Texan boundary before Congress had
acted upon the subject. Then came the Lopez invasion of Cuba, supported by
bodies of volunteers enlisted in the United States, which, by its failure
and its results, involved our government in a number of difficult
questions. The most serious was the riot at New Orleans, where the Spanish
consulate was sacked by a mob. To render due reparation for this outrage
without wounding the national pride by apparent humiliation was no easy
task. Mr. Webster settled everything, however, with a judgment, tact, and
dignity which prevented war with Spain and yet excited no resentment at
home. At a later period, when the Kossuth affair was drawing to an end, the
perennial difficulty about the fisheries revived and was added to our
Central American troubles with Great Britain, and this, together with the
affair of the Lobos Islands, occupied Mr. Webster's attention, and drew
forth some able and important dispatches during the summer of 1852, in the
last months of his life.

While the struggle was in progress to convince the country of the value and
justice of the compromise measures and to compel their acceptance, another
presidential election drew on. It was the signal for the last desperate
attempt to obtain the Whig nomination for Mr. Webster, and it seemed at
first sight as if the party must finally take up the New England leader.
Mr. Clay was wholly out of the race, and his last hour was near. There was
absolutely no one who, in fame, ability, public services, and experience
could be compared for one moment with Mr. Webster. The opportunity was
obvious enough; it awakened all Mr. Webster's hopes, and excited the ardor
of his friends. A formal and organized movement, such as had never before
been made, was set on foot to promote his candidacy, and a vigorous and
earnest address to the people was issued by his friends in Massachusetts.
The result demonstrated, if demonstration were needed, that Mr. Webster had
not, even under the most favorable circumstances, the remotest chance for
the presidency. His friends saw this plainly enough before the convention
met, but he himself regarded the great prize as at last surely within his
grasp. Mr. Choate, who was to lead the Webster delegates, went to
Washington the day before the convention assembled. He called on Mr.
Webster and found him so filled with the belief that he should be nominated
that it seemed cruel to undeceive him. Mr. Choate, at all events, had not
the heart for the task, and went back to Baltimore to lead the forlorn hope
with gallant fidelity and with an eloquence as brilliant if not so grand as
that of Mr. Webster himself. A majority[1] of the convention divided their
votes very unequally between Mr. Fillmore and Mr. Webster, the former
receiving 133, the latter 29, on the first ballot, while General Scott had
131. Forty-five ballots were taken, without any substantial change, and
then General Scott began to increase his strength, and was nominated on the
fifty-third ballot, receiving 159 votes. Most of General Scott's supporters
were opposed to resolutions sustaining the compromise measures, while
those who voted for Mr. Fillmore and Mr. Webster favored that policy.
General Scott owed his nomination to a compromise, which consisted in
inserting in the platform a clause strongly approving Mr. Clay's measures.
Mr. Webster expected the Fillmore delegates to come to him, an unlikely
event when they were so much more numerous than his friends, and, moreover,
they never showed the slightest inclination to do so. They were chiefly
from the South, and as they chose to consider Mr. Fillmore and not his
secretary the representative of compromise, they reasonably enough expected
the latter to give way. The desperate stubbornness of Mr. Webster's
adherents resulted in the nomination of Scott. It seemed hard that the
Southern Whigs should have done so little for Mr. Webster after he had done
and sacrificed so much to advance and defend their interests. But the South
was practical. In the 7th of March speech they had got from Mr. Webster all
they could expect or desire. It was quite possible, in fact it was highly
probable, that, once in the presidency, he could not be controlled or
guided by the slave-power or by any other sectional influence. Mr.
Fillmore, inferior in every way to Mr. Webster in intellect, in force, in
reputation, would give them a mild, safe administration and be easily
influenced by the South. Mr. Webster had served his turn, and the men
whose cause he had advocated and whose interests he had protected cast him

[Footnote 1: Mr. Curtis says a "great majority continued to divide their
votes between Mr. Fillmore and Mr. Webster." The highest number reached by
the combined Webster and Fillmore votes, on any one ballot, was 162, three
more than was received on the last ballot by General Scott, who, Mr. Curtis
correctly says, obtained only a "few votes more than the necessary

The loss of the nomination was a bitter disappointment to Mr. Webster. It
was the fashion in certain quarters to declare that it killed him, but this
was manifestly absurd. The most that can be said in this respect was, that
the excitement and depression caused by his defeat preyed upon his mind and
thereby facilitated the inroads of disease, while it added to the clouds
which darkened round him in those last days. But his course of action after
the convention cannot be passed over without comment. He refused to give
his adhesion to General Scott's nomination, and he advised his friends to
vote for Mr. Pierce, because the Whigs were divided, while the Democrats
were unanimously determined to resist all attempts to renew the slavery
agitation. This course was absolutely indefensible. If the Whig party was
so divided on the slavery question that Mr. Webster could not support their
nominee, then he had no business to seek a nomination at their hands, for
they were as much divided before the convention as afterwards. He chose to
come before that convention, knowing perfectly well the divisions of the
party, and that the nomination might fall to General Scott. He saw fit to
play the game, and was in honor bound to abide by the rules. He had no
right to say "it is heads I win, and tails you lose." If he had been
nominated he would have indignantly and justly denounced a refusal on the
part of General Scott and his friends to support him. It is the merest
sophistry to say that Mr. Webster was too great a man to be bound by party
usages, and that he owed it to himself to rise above them, and refuse his
support to a poor nomination and to a wrangling party. If Mr. Webster could
no longer act with the Whigs, then his name had no business in that
convention at Baltimore, for the conditions were the same before its
meeting as afterward. Great man as he was, he was not too great to behave
honorably; and his refusal to support Scott, after having been his rival
for a nomination at the hands of their common party, was neither honorable
nor just. If Mr. Webster had decided to leave the Whigs and act
independently, he was in honor bound to do so before the Baltimore
convention assembled, or to have warned the delegates that such was his
intention in the event of General Scott's nomination. He had no right to
stand the hazard of the die, and then refuse to abide by the result. The
Whig party, in its best estate, was not calculated to excite a very warm
enthusiasm in the breast of a dispassionate posterity, and it is perfectly
true that it was on the eve of ruin in 1852. But it appeared better then,
in the point of self-respect, than four years before. In 1848 the Whigs
nominated a successful soldier conspicuous only for his availability and
without knowing to what party he belonged. They maintained absolute
silence on the great question of the extension of slavery, and carried on
their campaign on the personal popularity of their candidate. Mr. Webster
was righteously disgusted at their candidate and their negative attitude.
He could justly and properly have left them on a question of principle; but
he swallowed the nomination, "not fit to be made," and gave to his party a
decided and public support. In 1852 the Whigs nominated another successful
soldier, who was known to be a Whig, and who had been a candidate for their
nomination before. In their platform they formally adopted the essential
principle demanded by Mr. Webster, and declared their adhesion to the
compromise measures. If there was disaffection in regard to this
declaration of 1852, there was disaffection also about the silence of 1848.
In the former case, Mr. Webster adhered to the nomination; in the latter,
he rejected it. In 1848 he might still hope to be President through a Whig
nomination. In 1852 he knew that, even if he lived, there would never be
another chance. He gave vent to his disappointment, put no constraint upon
himself, prophesied the downfall of his party, and advised his friends to
vote for Franklin Pierce. It was perfectly logical, after advocating the
compromise measures, to advise giving the government into the hands of a
party controlled by the South. Mr. Webster would have been entirely
reasonable in taking such a course before the Baltimore convention. He had
no right to do so after he had sought a nomination from the Whigs, and it
was a breach of faith to act as he did, to advise his friends to desert a
falling party and vote for the Democratic candidate.

After the acceptance of the Department of State, Mr. Webster's health
became seriously impaired. His exertions in advocating the compromise
measures, his official labors, and the increased severity of his annual
hay-fever,--all contributed to debilitate him. His iron constitution
weakened in various ways, and especially by frequent periods of intense
mental exertion, to which were superadded the excitement and nervous strain
inseparable from his career, was beginning to give way. Slowly but surely
he lost ground. His spirits began to lose their elasticity, and he rarely
spoke without a tinge of deep sadness being apparent in all he said. In
May, 1852, while driving near Marshfield, he was thrown from his carriage
with much violence, injuring his wrists, and receiving other severe
contusions. The shock was very great, and undoubtedly accelerated the
progress of the fatal organic disease which was sapping his life. This
physical injury was followed by the keen disappointment of his defeat at
Baltimore, which preyed upon his heart and mind. During the summer of 1852
his health gave way more rapidly. He longed to resign, but Mr. Fillmore
insisted on his retaining his office. In July he came to Boston, where he
was welcomed by a great public meeting, and hailed with enthusiastic
acclamations, which did much to soothe his wounded feelings. He still
continued to transact the business of his department, and in August went to
Washington, where he remained until the 8th of September, when he returned
to Marshfield. On the 20th he went to Boston, for the last time, to consult
his physician. He appeared at a friend's house, one evening, for a few
moments, and all who then saw him were shocked at the look of illness and
suffering in his face. It was his last visit. He went back to Marshfield
the next day, never to return. He now failed rapidly. His nights were
sleepless, and there were scarcely any intervals of ease or improvement.
The decline was steady and sure, and as October wore away the end drew
near. Mr. Webster faced it with courage, cheerfulness, and dignity, in a
religious and trusting spirit, with a touch of the personal pride which was
part of his nature. He remained perfectly conscious and clear in his mind
almost to the very last moment, bearing his sufferings with perfect
fortitude, and exhibiting the tenderest affection toward the wife and son
and friends who watched over him. On the evening of October 23 it became
apparent that he was sinking, but his one wish seemed to be that he might
be conscious when he was actually dying. After midnight he roused from an
uneasy sleep, struggled for consciousness, and ejaculated, "I still live."
These were his last words. Shortly after three o'clock the labored
breathing ceased, and all was over.

A hush fell upon the country as the news of his death sped over the land. A
great gap seemed to have been made in the existence of every one. Men
remembered the grandeur of his form and the splendor of his intellect, and
felt as if one of the pillars of the state had fallen. The profound grief
and deep sense of loss produced by his death were the highest tributes and
the most convincing proofs of his greatness.

In accordance with his wishes, all public forms and ceremonies were
dispensed with. The funeral took place at his home on Friday, October 29.
Thousands flocked to Marshfield to do honor to his memory, and to look for
the last time at that noble form. It was one of those beautiful days of the
New England autumn, when the sun is slightly veiled, and a delicate haze
hangs over the sea, shining with a tender silvery light. There is a sense
of infinite rest and peace on such a day which seems to shut out the noise
of the busy world and breathe the spirit of unbroken calm. As the crowds
poured in through the gates of the farm, they saw before them on the lawn,
resting upon a low mound of flowers, the majestic form, as impressive in
the repose of death as it had been in the fullness of life and strength.
There was a wonderful fitness in it all. The vault of heaven and the
spacious earth seemed in their large simplicity the true place for such a
man to lie in state. There was a brief and simple service at the house, and
then the body was borne on the shoulders of Marshfield farmers, and laid in
the little graveyard which already held the wife and children who had gone
before, and where could be heard the eternal murmur of the sea.

* * * * *

In May, 1852, Mr. Webster said to Professor Silliman: "I have given my life
to law and politics. Law is uncertain and politics are utterly vain." It is
a sad commentary for such a man to have made on such a career, but it fitly
represents Mr. Webster's feelings as the end of life approached. His last
years were not his most fortunate, and still less his best years. Domestic
sorrows had been the prelude to a change of policy, which had aroused a
bitter opposition, and to the pangs of disappointed ambition. A sense of
mistake and failure hung heavily upon his spirits, and the cry of "vanity,
vanity, all is vanity," came readily to his lips. There is an infinite
pathos in those melancholy words which have just been quoted. The sun of
life, which had shone so splendidly at its meridian, was setting amid
clouds. The darkness which overspread him came from the action of the 7th
of March, and the conflict which it had caused. If there were failure and
mistake they were there. The presidency could add nothing, its loss could
take away nothing from the fame of Daniel Webster. He longed for it
eagerly; he had sacrificed much to his desire for it; his disappointment
was keen and bitter at not receiving what seemed to him the fit crown of
his great public career. But this grief was purely personal, and will not
be shared by posterity, who feel only the errors of those last years coming
after so much glory, and who care very little for the defeat of the
ambition which went with them.

Those last two years awakened such fierce disputes, and had such an
absorbing interest, that they have tended to overshadow the half century of
distinction and achievement which preceded them. Failure and disappointment
on the part of such a man as Webster seem so great, that they too easily
dwarf everything else, and hide from us a just and well proportioned view
of the whole career. Mr. Webster's success had, in truth, been brilliant,
hardly equalled in measure or duration by that of any other eminent man in
our history. For thirty years he had stood at the head of the bar and of
the Senate, the first lawyer and the first statesman of the United States.
This is a long tenure of power for one man in two distinct departments. It
would be remarkable anywhere. It is especially so in a democracy. This
great success Mr. Webster owed solely to his intellectual power
supplemented by great physical gifts. No man ever was born into the world
better formed by nature for the career of an orator and statesman. He had
everything to compel the admiration and submission of his fellow-men:--

"The front of Jove himself;
An eye like Mars to threaten and command;
A station like the herald Mercury
New-lighted on a heaven-kissing hill;
A combination and a form indeed,
Where every god did seem to set his seal,
To give the world assurance of a man."

Hamlet's words are a perfect picture of Mr. Webster's outer man, and we
have but to add to the description a voice of singular beauty and power
with the tone and compass of an organ. The look of his face and the sound
of his voice were in themselves as eloquent as anything Mr. Webster ever

But the imposing presence was only the outward sign of the man. Within was
a massive and powerful intellect, not creative or ingenious, but with a
wonderful vigor of grasp, capacious, penetrating, far-reaching. Mr.
Webster's strongest and most characteristic mental qualities were weight
and force. He was peculiarly fitted to deal with large subjects in a large
way. He was by temperament extremely conservative. There was nothing of the
reformer or the zealot about him. He could maintain or construct where
other men had built; he could not lay new foundations or invent. We see
this curiously exemplified in his feeling toward Hamilton and Madison. He
admired them both, and to the former he paid a compliment which has become
a familiar quotation. But Hamilton's bold, aggressive genius, his audacity,
fertility, and resource, did not appeal to Mr. Webster as did the prudence,
the constructive wisdom, and the safe conservatism of the gentle Madison,
whom he never wearied of praising. The same description may be given of his
imagination, which was warm, vigorous, and keen, but not poetic. He used it
well, it never led him astray, and was the secret of his most conspicuous
oratorical triumphs.

He had great natural pride and a strong sense of personal dignity, which
made him always impressive, but apparently cold, and sometimes solemn in
public. In his later years this solemnity degenerated occasionally into
pomposity, to which it is always perilously near. At no time in his life
was he quick or excitable. He was indolent and dreamy, working always under
pressure, and then at a high rate of speed. This indolence increased as he
grew older; he would then postpone longer and labor more intensely to make
up the lost time than in his earlier days. When he was quiescent, he seemed
stern, cold, and latterly rather heavy, and some outer incentive was needed
to rouse his intellect or touch his heart. Once stirred, he blazed forth,
and, when fairly engaged, with his intellect in full play, he was as grand
and effective in his eloquence as it is given to human nature to be. In the
less exciting occupations of public life, as, for instance, in foreign
negotiations, he showed the same grip upon his subject, the same capacity
and judgment as in his speeches, and a mingling of tact and dignity which
proved the greatest fitness for the conduct of the gravest public affairs.
As a statesman Mr. Webster was not an "opportunist," as it is the fashion
to call those who live politically from day to day, dealing with each
question as it arises, and exhibiting often the greatest skill and talent.
Still less was he a statesman of the type of Charles Fox, who preached to
the deaf ears of one generation great principles which became accepted
truisms in the next. Mr. Webster stands between the two classes. He viewed
the present with a strong perception of the future, and shaped his policy
not merely for the daily exigency, but with a keen eye to subsequent
effects. At the same time he never put forward and defended single-handed a
great principle or idea which, neglected then, was gradually to win its way
and reign supreme among a succeeding generation.

His speeches have a heat and glow which we can still feel, and a depth and
reality of thought which have secured them a place in literature. He had
not a fiery nature, although there is often so much warmth in what he said.
He was neither high tempered nor quick to anger, but he could be fierce,
and, when adulation had warped him in those later years, he was capable of
striking ugly blows which sometimes wounded friends as well as enemies.

There remains one marked quality to be noticed in Mr. Webster, which was of
immense negative service to him. This was his sense of humor. Mr. Nichol,
in his recent history of American literature, speaks of Mr. Webster as
deficient in this respect. Either the critic himself is deficient in humor
or he has studied only Webster's collected works, which give no indication
of the real humor in the man. That Mr. Webster was not a humorist is
unquestionably true, and although he used a sarcasm which made his
opponents seem absurd and even ridiculous at times, and in his more
unstudied efforts would provoke mirth by some happy and playful allusion,
some felicitous quotation or ingenious antithesis, he was too stately in
every essential respect ever to seek to make mere fun or to excite the
laughter of his hearers by deliberate exertions and with malice
aforethought. He had, nevertheless, a real and genuine sense of humor. We
can see it in his letters, and it comes out in a thousand ways in the
details and incidents of his private life. When he had thrown aside the
cares of professional or public business, he revelled in hearty, boisterous
fun, and he had that sanest of qualities, an honest, boyish love of pure
nonsense. He delighted in a good story and dearly loved a joke, although
no jester himself. This sense of humor and appreciation of the ridiculous,
although they give no color to his published works, where, indeed, they
would have been out of place, improved his judgment, smoothed his path
through the world, and saved him from those blunders in taste and those
follies in action which are ever the pitfalls for men with the fervid,
oratorical temperament.

This sense of humor gave, also, a great charm to his conversation and to
all social intercourse with him. He was a good, but never, so far as can be
judged from tradition, an overbearing talker. He never appears to have
crushed opposition in conversation, nor to have indulged in monologue,
which is so apt to be the foible of famous and successful men who have a
solemn sense of their own dignity and importance. What Lord Melbourne said
of the great Whig historian, "that he wished he was as sure of anything as
Tom Macaulay was of everything," could not be applied to Mr. Webster. He
owed his freedom from such a weakness partly, no doubt, to his natural
indolence, but still more to the fact that he was not only no pedant, but
not even a very learned man. He knew no Greek, but was familiar with Latin.
His quotations and allusions were chiefly drawn from Shakespeare, Milton,
Homer, and the Bible, where he found what most appealed to him--simplicity
and grandeur of thought and diction. At the same time, he was a great
reader, and possessed wide information on a vast variety of subjects, which
a clear and retentive memory put always at his command. The result of all
this was that he was a most charming and entertaining companion.

These attractions were heightened by his large nature and strong animal
spirits. He loved outdoor life. He was a keen sportsman and skilful
fisherman. In all these ways he was healthy and manly, without any tinge of
the mere student or public official. He loved everything that was large.
His soul expanded in the free air and beneath the blue sky. All natural
scenery appealed to him,--Niagara, the mountains, the rolling prairie, the
great rivers,--but he found most contentment beside the limitless sea, amid
brown marshes and sand-dunes, where the sense of infinite space is
strongest. It was the same in regard to animals. He cared but little for
horses or dogs, but he rejoiced in great herds of cattle, and especially in
fine oxen, the embodiment of slow and massive strength. In England the
things which chiefly appealed to him were the Tower of London, Westminster
Abbey, Smithfield cattle market, and English agriculture. So it was always
and everywhere. He loved mountains and great trees, wide horizons, the
ocean, the western plains, and the giant monuments of literature and art.
He rejoiced in his strength and the overflowing animal vigor that was in
him. He was so big and so strong, so large in every way, that people sank
into repose in his presence, and felt rest and confidence in the mere fact
of his existence. He came to be regarded as an institution, and when he
died men paused with a sense of helplessness, and wondered how the country
would get on without him. To have filled so large a space in a country so
vast, and in a great, hurrying, and pushing democracy, implies a
personality of a most uncommon kind.

He was, too, something more than a charming companion in private life. He
was generous, liberal, hospitable, and deeply affectionate. He was adored
in his home, and deeply loved his children, who were torn from him, one
after another. His sorrow, like his joy, was intense and full of force. He
had many devoted friends, and a still greater body of unhesitating
followers. To the former he showed, through nearly all his life, the warm
affection which was natural to him. It was not until adulation and flattery
had deeply injured him, and the frustrated ambition for the presidency had
poisoned both heart and mind, that he became dictatorial and overbearing.
Not till then did he quarrel with those who had served and followed him, as
when he slighted Mr. Lawrence for expressing independent opinions, and
refused to do justice to the memory of Story because it might impair his
own glories. They do not present a pleasant picture, these quarrels with
friends, but they were part of the deterioration of the last years, and
they furnish in a certain way the key to his failure to attain the
presidency. The country was proud of Mr. Webster; proud of his intellect,
his eloquence, his fame. He was the idol of the capitalists, the merchants,
the lawyers, the clergy, the educated men of all classes in the East. The
politicians dreaded and feared him because he was so great, and so little
in sympathy with them, but his real weakness was with the masses of the
people. He was not popular in the true sense of the word. For years the
Whig party and Henry Clay were almost synonymous terms, but this could
never be said of Mr. Webster. His following was strong in quality, but weak
numerically. Clay touched the popular heart. Webster never did. The people
were proud of him, wondered at him, were awed by him, but they did not love
him, and that was the reason he was never President, for he was too great
to succeed to the high office, as many men have, by happy or unhappy
accident. There was also another feeling which is suggested by the
differences with some of his closest friends. There was a lurking distrust
of Mr. Webster's sincerity. We can see it plainly in the correspondence of
the Western Whigs, who were not, perhaps, wholly impartial. But it existed,
nevertheless. There was a vague, ill-defined feeling of doubt in the
public mind; a suspicion that the spirit of the advocate was the ruling
spirit in Mr. Webster, and that he did not believe with absolute and
fervent faith in one side of any question. There was just enough
correctness, just a sufficient grain of truth in this idea, when united
with the coldness and dignity of his manner and with his greatness itself,
to render impossible that popularity which, to be real and lasting in a
democracy, must come from the heart and not from the head of the people,
which must be instinctive and emotional, and not the offspring of reason.

There is no occasion to discuss, or hold up to reprobation, Mr. Webster's
failings. He was a splendid animal as well as a great man, and he had
strong passions and appetites, which he indulged at times to the detriment
of his health and reputation. These errors may be mostly fitly consigned to
silence. But there was one failing which cannot be passed over in this way.
This was in regard to money. His indifference to debt was perceptible in
his youth, and for many years showed no sign of growth. But in his later
years it increased with terrible rapidity. He earned twenty thousand a year
when he first came to Boston,--a very great income for those days. His
public career interfered, of course, with his law practice, but there never
was a period when he could not, with reasonable economy, have laid up
something at the end of every year, and gradually amassed a fortune. But
he not only never saved, he lived habitually beyond his means. He did not
become poor by his devotion to the public service, but by his own
extravagance. He loved to spend money and to live well. He had a fine
library and handsome plate; he bought fancy cattle; he kept open house, and
indulged in that most expensive of all luxuries, "gentleman-farming." He
never stinted himself in any way, and he gave away money with reckless
generosity and heedless profusion, often not stopping to inquire who the
recipient of his bounty might be. The result was debt; then subscriptions
among his friends to pay his debts; then a fresh start and more debts, and
more subscriptions and funds for his benefit, and gifts of money for his
table, and checks or notes for several thousand dollars in token of
admiration of the 7th of March speech.[1] This was, of course, utterly
wrong and demoralizing, but Mr. Webster came, after a time, to look upon
such transactions as natural and proper. In the Ingersoll debate, Mr.
Yancey accused him of being in the pay of the New England manufacturers,
and his biographer has replied to the charge at length. That Mr. Webster
was in the pay of the manufacturers in the sense that they hired him, and
bade him do certain things, is absurd. That he was maintained and supported
in a large degree by New England manufacturers and capitalists cannot be
questioned; but his attitude toward them was not that of servant and
dependent. He seems to have regarded the merchants and bankers of State
Street very much as a feudal baron regarded his peasantry. It was their
privilege and duty to support him, and he repaid them with an occasional
magnificent compliment. The result was that he lived in debt and died
insolvent, and this was not the position which such a man as Daniel Webster
should have occupied.

[Footnote 1: The story of the gift of ten thousand dollars in token of
admiration of the 7th of March speech, referred to by Dr. Von Holst
(_Const. Hist. of the United States_) may be found in a volume entitled,
_In Memoriam, B. Ogle Tayloe_, p. 109, and is as follows: "My opulent and
munificent friend and neighbor Mr. William W. Corcoran," says Mr. Tayloe,
"after the perusal of Webster's celebrated March speech in defence of the
Constitution and of Southern rights, inclosed to Mrs. Webster her husband's
note for ten thousand dollars given him for a loan to that amount. Mr.
Webster met Mr. Corcoran the same evening, at the President's, and thanked
him for the 'princely favor.' Next day he addressed to Mr. Corcoran a
letter of thanks which I read at Mr. Corcoran's request." This version is
substantially correct. The morning of March 8 Mr. Corcoran inclosed with a
letter of congratulation some notes of Mr. Webster's amounting to some six
thousand dollars. Reflecting that this was not a very solid tribute, he
opened his letter and put in a check for a thousand dollars, and sent the
notes and the check to Mr. Webster, who wrote him a letter expressing his
gratitude, which Mr. Tayloe doubtless saw, and which is still in existence.
I give the facts in this way because Mr. George T. Curtis, in a newspaper
interview, referring to an article of mine in the _Atlantic Monthly_, said,
"With regard to the story of the ten thousand dollar check, which story Mr.
Lodge gives us to understand he found in the pages of that very credulous
writer Dr. Von Holst, although I have not looked into his volumes to see
whether he makes the charge, I have only to say that I never heard of such
an occurrence before, and that it would require the oath of a very credible
witness to the fact to make me believe it." I may add that I have taken the
trouble not only to look into Dr. Von Holst's volumes but to examine the
whole matter thoroughly. The proof is absolute and indeed it is not
necessary to go beyond Mr. Webster's own letter of acknowledgment in search
of evidence, were there the slightest reason to doubt the substantial
correctness of Mr. Tayloe's statement. The point is a small one, but a
statement of fact, if questioned, ought always to be sustained or

He showed the same indifference to the source of supplies of money in other
ways. He took a fee from Wheelock, and then deserted him. He came down to
Salem to prosecute a murderer, and the opposing counsel objected that he
was brought there to hurry the jury beyond the law and the evidence, and it
was even murmured audibly in the court-room that he had a fee from the
relatives of the murdered man in his pocket. A fee of that sort he
certainly received either then or afterwards. Every ugly public attack that
was made upon him related to money, and it is painful that the biographer
of such a man as Webster should be compelled to give many pages to show
that his hero was not in the pay of manufacturers, and did not receive a
bribe in carrying out the provisions of the treaty of Guadaloupe-Hidalgo.
The refutation may be perfectly successful, but there ought to have been no
need of it. The reputation of a man like Mr. Webster in money matters
should have been so far above suspicion that no one would have dreamed of
attacking it. Debts and subscriptions bred the idea that there might be
worse behind, and although there is no reason to believe that such was the
case, these things are of themselves deplorable enough.

When Mr. Webster failed it was a moral failure. His moral character was not
equal to his intellectual force. All the errors he ever committed, whether
in public or in private life, in political action or in regard to money
obligations, came from moral weakness. He was deficient in that intensity
of conviction which carries men beyond and above all triumphs of
statesmanship, and makes them the embodiment of the great moral forces
which move the world. If Mr. Webster's moral power had equalled his
intellectual greatness, he would have had no rival in our history. But this
combination and balance are so rare that they are hardly to be found in
perfection among the sons of men. The very fact of his greatness made his
failings all the more dangerous and unfortunate. To be blinded by the
splendor of his fame and the lustre of his achievements and prate about the
sin of belittling a great man is the falsest philosophy and the meanest
cant. The only thing worth having, in history as in life, is truth; and we
do wrong to our past, to ourselves, and to our posterity if we do not
strive to render simple justice always. We can forgive the errors and
sorrow for the faults of our great ones gone; we cannot afford to hide or
forget their shortcomings.

But after all has been said, the question of most interest is, what Mr.
Webster represented, what he effected, and what he means in our history.
The answer is simple. He stands to-day as the preeminent champion and
exponent of nationality. He said once, "there are no Alleghanies in my
politics," and he spoke the exact truth. Mr. Webster was thoroughly
national. There is no taint of sectionalism or narrow local prejudice about
him. He towers up as an American, a citizen of the United States in the
fullest sense of the word. He did not invent the Union, or discover the
doctrine of nationality. But he found the great fact and the great
principle ready to his hand, and he lifted them up, and preached the gospel
of nationality throughout the length and breadth of the land. In his
fidelity to this cause he never wavered nor faltered. From the first burst
of boyish oratory to the sleepless nights at Marshfield, when, waiting for
death, he looked through the window at the light which showed him the
national flag fluttering from its staff, his first thought was of a united
country. To his large nature the Union appealed powerfully by the mere
sense of magnitude which it conveyed. The vision of future empire, the
dream of the destiny of an unbroken union touched and kindled his
imagination. He could hardly speak in public without an allusion to the
grandeur of American nationality, and a fervent appeal to keep it sacred
and intact. For fifty years, with reiteration ever more frequent,
sometimes with rich elaboration, sometimes with brief and simple allusion,
he poured this message into the ears of a listening people. His words
passed into text-books, and became the first declamations of school-boys.
They were in every one's mouth. They sank into the hearts of the people,
and became unconsciously a part of their life and daily thoughts. When the
hour came, it was love for the Union and the sentiment of nationality which
nerved the arm of the North, and sustained her courage. That love had been
fostered, and that sentiment had been strengthened and vivified by the life
and words of Webster. No one had done so much, or had so large a share in
this momentous task. Here lies the debt which the American people owe to
Webster, and here is his meaning and importance in his own time and to us
to-day. His career, his intellect, and his achievements are inseparably
connected with the maintenance of a great empire, and the fortunes of a
great people. So long as English oratory is read or studied, so long will
his speeches stand high in literature. So long as the Union of these States
endures, or holds a place in history, will the name of Daniel Webster be
honored and remembered, and his stately eloquence find an echo in the
hearts of his countrymen.


Aberdeen, Lord, succeeds Lord Palmerston as Secretary for Foreign Affairs,
offers forty-ninth parallel, in accordance with Mr. Webster's suggestion,

Adams, John, in Massachusetts Convention, 111;
letter to Webster on Plymouth oration, 123;
eulogy on, 125;
supposed speech of, 126.

Adams, John Quincy, most conspicuous man in New England, 129;
opposed to Greek mission, 135;
opinion of Webster's speech against tariff of 1824, 136;
elected President, 137, 149;
anxious for success of Panama mission, 140;
message on Georgia and Creek Indians, 142;
Webster's opposition to, 145;
bitter tone toward Webster in Edwards's affair, 147;
interview with Webster, 148, 149;
conciliates Webster, 149;
real hostility to Webster, 150;
defeated for presidency, 151;
comment on eulogy on Adams and Jefferson, 153;
compared with Webster as an orator, 201;
opinion of reply to Hayne, 206;
opinion of Mr. Webster's attitude toward the South in 1838, 285.

Ames, Fisher, compared with Webster as an orator, 201.

Appleton, Julia Webster, daughter of Mr. Webster, death of, 271.

Ashburton, Lord, appointed special commissioner, 251;
arrives in Washington, 253;
negotiation with Mr. Webster, 255 ff.;
attacked by Lord Palmerston, 259.

Ashmun, George, defends Mr. Webster, 269.

Atkinson, Edward, summary of Mr. Webster's tariff speech of 1824,

Bacourt, M. de, French Minister, description of Harrison's reception of
diplomatic corps, 245.

Baltimore, Whig Convention at, 338.

Bank of the United States, debate on establishment, and defeat of, in
1814-15, 62;
established, 66;
beginning of attack on, 208.

Bartlett, Ichabod, counsel for State against College, 79;
attack on Mr. Webster, 80.

Bell, Samuel, remarks to Webster before reply to Hayne, 178.

Bellamy, Dr., early opponent of Eleazer Wheelock, 75.

Benton, Thomas H., account of Mr. Webster in 1833, 219, 220;
error in view of Webster, 221;
fails in first attempt to carry expunging resolution, 232;
carries second expunging resolution, 234;
attacks Ashburton treaty, 257;
supports Taylor's policy in 1850, 312.

Bocanegra, M. de, Webster's correspondence with, 260.

"Boston Memorial," 275.

Bosworth, Mr., junior counsel in Rhode Island case, 105.

Brown, Rev. Francis, elected president of Dartmouth College, 78;
refuses to obey new board of trustees, 79;
writes to Webster as to state of public opinion, 94.

Buchanan, James, taunts Mr. Clay, 251;
attacks Ashburton treaty, 257.

Bulwer, Sir Henry, respect for Mr. Webster, 336.

Burke, Edmund, Webster compared with as an orator, 199, 202, 203.

Calhoun, John C., speech in favor of repealing embargo, 53;
sustains double duties, 55, 157;
asks Webster's assistance to establish a bank, 63;
introduces bill to compel revenue to be collected in specie, 66;
internal improvement bill of, 68;
visit to Webster, who regards him as his choice for President, 130-145;
misleads Webster as to Greek mission, 135;
author of exposition and protest, 171;
presides over debate on Foote's resolution, 172;
compared with Webster as an orator, 201;
resigns vice-presidency and returns as Senator to support
nullification, 212;
alarmed at Jackson's attitude and at Force Bill, 214;
consults Clay, 215;
nullification speech on Force Bill, 215;
merits of speech, 216;
supports compromise, 219;
alliance with Clay, 222;
and Webster, 226;
attitude in regard to France, 230;
change on bank question, 236;
accepts secretaryship of state to bring about annexation of Texas, 263;
moves that anti-slavery petitions be not received, 1836, 281;
bill to control United States mails, 282;
tries to stifle petitions, 284;
resolutions on Enterprise affair, 286;
approves Webster's treatment of Creole case, 287;
pronounces anti-slavery petition of New Mexico "insolent," 298;
argument as to Constitution in territories, 298;
Webster's compliments to on 7th of March, 326.

California, desires admission as a state, 299;
slavery possible in, 319.

Carlyle, Thomas, description of Webster, 194.

Caroline, affair of steamboat, 247.

Cass, Lewis, attack upon Ashburton treaty, 259;
Democratic candidate for presidency and defeated, 274.

Chamberlain, Mellen, comparison of Webster with other orators, 203, note.

Chatham, Earl of, compared with Webster as an orator, 201.

Choate, Rufus, compared with Webster as an orator, 202;
resigns senatorship, 262;
leads Webster delegates at Baltimore, 338.

Clay, Henry, makes Mr. Webster chairman of Judiciary Committee, 131;
active support of Greek resolutions, 134;
author of American system and tariff of 1824, 136, 163;
desires Panama mission, 140;
Webster's opposition to, 145;
candidate for presidency in 1832, 207;
bill for reduction of tariff, 1831-32, 211;
consults with Calhoun, 215;
introduces Compromise bill, 215;
carries Compromise bill, 218, 219;
alliance with Calhoun, 222;
opinion of Webster's course in 1833, 222, 223;
alliance with Webster, 226;
introduces resolutions of censure on Jackson, 228;
attitude in regard to France, 230;
declines to enter Harrison's cabinet, 240;
attacks President Tyler, 250, 251;
movement in favor of, in Massachusetts, 258;
nominated for presidency and defeated, 262;
movement to nominate in 1848, 273;
resolutions as to slavery in the District, 284;
plan for compromise in 1850, 300;
introduces Compromise bill in Senate, 301;
policy of compromise, 309, 310;
consistent supporter of compromise policy, 315;
not a candidate for presidency in 1852, 337;
popularity of, 355.

Clingman, Thomas L., advocates slavery in California, 320.

Congregational Church, power and politics of, in New Hampshire, 76.

Congress, leaders in thirteenth, 49;
leaders in fourteenth, 64.

Cooper, James Fenimore, Webster's speech, at memorial meeting, 195.

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