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Daniel Webster


Biography of Daniel Webster

Daniel Webster (January 18, 1782 – October 24, 1852) was a leading American statesman and senator from Massachusetts during the period leading up to the Civil War. He first rose to regional prominence through his defense of New England shipping interests. Webster's increasingly nationalistic views, and his effectiveness as a speaker, made him one of the most famous orators and influential Whig leaders of the Second Party System. He was one of the nation's most prominent conservatives, leading opposition to Democrat Andrew Jackson and the Democratic Party. He was a spokesman for modernization, banking and industry, but not for the common people who composed the base of his enemies in Jacksonian Democracy. "He was a thoroughgoing elitist, and he reveled in it," says biographer Remini. During his 40 years in national politics, Webster served in the House of Representatives for 10 years (representing New Hampshire), in the Senate for 19 years (representing Massachusetts), and was appointed the Secretary of State under three presidents.

Webster took part in several key U.S. Supreme Court cases which established important constitutional precedents that bolstered the authority of the federal government. As Secretary of State, he negotiated the Webster-Ashburton Treaty, which established the definitive eastern border between the United States and Canada. Chiefly recognized for his Senate tenure, Webster was a key figure in the institution's "Golden days". Webster was considered the Northern member of a trio known as the "Great Triumvirate", with his colleagues Henry Clay from the West (Kentucky) and John C. Calhoun from the South ( South Carolina). His "Reply to Hayne" in 1830 was regarded as "the most eloquent speech ever delivered in Congress."

As with his fellow Whig Henry Clay, Webster wanted to see the Union preserved and civil war averted. They both worked for compromises to stave off the sectionalism that threatened war between the North and the South. Webster tried and failed three times to become President of the United States. In 1957, a Senate Committee selected Webster as one of the five greatest U.S. Senators with Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun, Robert La Follette, and Robert Taft.

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