Daniel Webster Daniel Webster

Daniel Webster, shown here in this daguerreotype, was widely considered America's foremost statesman. But the Compromise of 1850 was to be the last act of his political career. Webster argued passionately in the Senate for the preservation of the Union, asking both northerners and southerners to make compromises toward that great end. But his support of the Compromise included a strong endorsement of the Fugitive Slave Act—widely hated in the North—and his soon brought on a flood of criticisms. The philosopher and essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, "was there nothing better for the foremost American to tell his countrymen than that ... they must beat down their consciences and become kidnappers for [slavery]?"

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