Daniel Webster

Daniel Webster

No. This is not the man who created the dictionary! That was Noah Webster. Daniel Webster knew how to move people with the power of the spoken word. He was a famous orator. In the hot-tempered times before the Civil War, he wanted to preserve the Union—even if that meant compromise. He thundered, "Slavery is wrong!" but to keep the southern states from seceding, he supported the Compromise of 1850 allowing slavery in new territories.

He did not believe the South had the right to choose which federal laws to obey or to leave the Union. In his last speech before the Senate in 1850, he said, "I wish to speak today, not as a Massachusetts man, nor as an Northern man, but as an American ... I speak today for the preservation of the Union." He also said, "Peaceable secession is an utter impossibility!" His prediction was correct.

Daniel Webster was born in 1782 in New Hampshire to poor but devoted parents. They enrolled him with private tutors and later saw him graduate from Dartmouth College as a lawyer. He served as secretary of state under three presidents—William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, and Millard Fillmore. Known as the "Defender of the Constitution," Webster believed in a strong central government.

Just two years after his famous last Senate speech, Webster fell from his horse at his Massachusetts home and died of a brain injury. He did not live to see the South secede, or the bloody war that followed. Remember him for saying, "I was born an American; I will live an American; I shall die an American."

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