Daniel Webster eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 281 pages of information about Daniel Webster.
of Texas, decided, although he was dissatisfied with the silence of the Whigs on this subject, to sustain their candidate.  This was undoubtedly the wisest course; and, having once enlisted, he gave Mr. Clay a hearty and vigorous support, making a series of powerful speeches, chiefly on the tariff, and second in variety and ability only to those which he had delivered in the Harrison campaign.  Mr. Clay was defeated largely by the action of the Liberty party, and the silence of the Whigs about Texas and slavery cost them the election.  At the beginning of the year Mr. Webster had declined a reelection to the Senate, but it was impossible for him to remain out of politics, and the pressure to return soon became too strong to be resisted.  When Mr. Choate resigned in the winter of 1844-45, Mr. Webster was reelected senator, from Massachusetts.  On the first of March the intrigue, to perfect which Mr. Calhoun had accepted the State Department, culminated, and the resolutions for the annexation of Texas passed both branches of Congress.  Four days later Mr. Polk’s administration, pledged to the support and continuance of the annexation policy, was in power, and Mr. Webster had taken his seat in the Senate for his last term.

CHAPTER IX.

RETURN TO THE SENATE.—­THE SEVENTH OF MARCH SPEECH.

The principal events of Mr. Polk’s administration belong to or grow out of the slavery agitation, then beginning to assume most terrible proportions.  So far as Mr. Webster is concerned, they form part of the history of his course on the slavery question, which culminated in the famous speech of March 7, 1850.  Before approaching that subject, however, it will be necessary to touch very briefly on one or two points of importance in Mr. Webster’s career, which have no immediate bearing on the question of slavery, and no relation to the final and decisive stand which Mr. Webster took in regard to it.

The Ashburton treaty was open to one just criticism.  It did not go far enough.  It did not settle the northwestern as it did the northeastern boundary.  Mr. Webster, as has been said, made an effort to deal with the former as well as the latter, but he met with no encouragement, and as he was then preparing to retire from office, the matter dropped.  In regard to the northwestern boundary Mr. Webster agreed with the opinion of Mr. Monroe’s cabinet, that the forty-ninth parallel was a fair and proper line; but the British undertook to claim the line of the Columbia River, and this excited corresponding claims on our side.  The Democracy for political purposes became especially warlike and patriotic.  They declared in their platform that we must have the whole of Oregon and reoccupy it at once.  Mr. Polk embodied this view in his message, together with the assertion that our rights extended to the line of 54 deg. 40’ north, and a shout of “fifty-four-forty or fight” went through the land from the enthusiastic Democracy. 

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