Daniel Webster eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 332 pages of information about Daniel Webster.
loudly proclaimed the great truths of rotation in office, and the spoils to the victors, and partly to the slavery agitation which was then beginning to make itself felt.  The rise of the irrepressible conflict between freedom and slavery made the South overbearing and truculent; it produced that class of politicians known as “Northern men with Southern principles,” or, in the slang of the day, as “doughfaces;” and it had not yet built up a strong, vigorous, and aggressive party in the North.  The lack of proper social opportunities, and this deterioration among men in public life, led to an increasing violence and roughness in debate, and to a good deal of coarse dissipation in private.  There was undoubtedly a brighter side, but it was limited, and the surroundings of the distinguished men who led our political parties in 1841 at the national capital, do not present a very cheerful or attractive picture.

When the new President appeared upon the scene he was followed by a general rush of hungry office-seekers, who had been starving for places for many years.  General Harrison was a brave, honest soldier and pioneer, simple in heart and manners, unspoiled and untaught by politics of which he had had a good share.  He was not a great man, but he was honorable and well intentioned.  He wished to have about him the best and ablest men of his party, and to trust to their guidance for a successful administration.  But although he had no desire to invent a policy, or to draft state papers, he was determined to be the author of his own inaugural speech, and he came to Washington with a carefully-prepared manuscript in his pocket.  When Mr. Webster read this document he found it full of gratitude to the people, and abounding in allusions to Roman history.  With his strong sense of humor, and of the unities and proprieties as well, he was a good deal alarmed at the proposed speech; and after much labor, and the expenditure of a good deal of tact, he succeeded in effecting some important changes and additions.  When he came home in the evening, Mrs. Seaton, at whose house he was staying, remarked that he looked worried and fatigued, and asked if anything had happened.  Mr. Webster replied, “You would think that something had happened if you knew what I have done.  I have killed seventeen Roman proconsuls.”  It was a terrible slaughter for poor Harrison, for the proconsuls were probably very dear to his heart.  His youth had been passed in the time when the pseudo classicism of the French Republic and Empire was rampant, and now that, in his old age, he had been raised to the presidency, his head was probably full of the republics of antiquity, and of Cincinnatus called from the plough, to take the helm of state.

M. de Bacourt, the French minister at this period, a rather shallow and illiberal man who disliked Mr. Webster, gives, in his recently published correspondence, the following amusing account of the presentation of the diplomatic corps to President Harrison,—­a little bit of contemporary gossip which carries us back to those days better than anything else could possibly do.  The diplomatic corps assembled at the house of Mr. Fox, the British minister, who was to read a speech in behalf of the whole body, and thence proceeded to the White House where

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Daniel Webster from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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