Daniel Webster, 1782 - 1852
Oil on canvas by Adrian S. Lamb (1955) based on original by George Healy
Born: 18 January 1782, Salisbury, New Hampshire
Died: 24 October 1852, Marshfield, Massachusetts
Born the ninth of ten children to a politically-active tavern keeper and farmer, "little Black Dan" was frail and was excused from heavy farm chores. He became something of a pet to both his parents and older siblings and he was taught to read early. He entered Phillips Exeter Academy at fourteen, the next year he went to Dartmouth College. After graduation he studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1805, he also became a noted speaker. He spent a great deal of time in Congress: He served two terms starting in 1813, another two terms starting in 1823, he spent fourteen years in the senate, leaving to become Secretary of State under William Henry Harrison and John Tyler, returned to the senate in 1845, again leaving before his term was up to become Secretary of State under Millard Fillmore. His speeches are regarded to this day as some of the greatest made in Congress, but they weren't always convincing. He ran for president three times, and twice he was offered to run as vice president by men who were elected president and died in office (Harrison and Tyler). Early in his career he opposed tariffs and favored free trade, he reversed that position in later years; some argue that he was beholden to wealthy New England manufacturers who had been shopkeepers in his earlier terms, and thus responding to their changing interest. Although opposed to slavery, he was much more dedicated to maintaining the union and lost support in the north by compromising his early positions on abolition, probably keeping him from being elected president in his final campaign. He left the office of Secretary of State when he fell from his horse on his farm, suffering a blow to the head, complicated by cirrhosis of the liver, which resulted in a fatal cerebral hemorrhage.
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Daniel Webster quotes:
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- A country cannot subsist well without liberty, nor liberty without virtue. permalink
- A fair return for their labor so as to have good homes, good clothing, good food. permalink
- A man who is not ashamed of himself need not be ashamed of his early condition. permalink
- A strong conviction that something must be done is the parent of many bad measures. permalink
- Employment gives health, sobriety, and morals. Constant employment and well-paid labor produce, in a country like ours, general prosperity, content, and cheerfulness. Thus happy have we seen the country. permalink
- Every man's life, liberty, and property are in danger when the Legislature is in session. permalink
- Every unpunished murder takes away something from the security of every man's life. permalink
- Failure is more frequently from want of energy than want of capital. permalink
- Falsehoods not only disagree with truths, but usually quarrel among themselves. permalink
- God grants liberty only to those who love it, and are always ready to guard and defend it. permalink
Daniel Webster - Speech (3 June 1834)
- Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority. It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters. permalink
- He who tampers with the currency robs labor of its bread. permalink
- How little do they see what really is, who frame their hasty judgment upon that which seems. permalink
- I do not propose to be buried until I am really dead and in my coffin. permalink
Daniel Webster - Declining to accept nomination as vice president to Zachary Taylor (1845)
- I mistrust the judgment of every man in a case in which his own wishes are concerned. permalink
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