Daniel Webster eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 281 pages of information about Daniel Webster.
If this attitude meant anything it meant war, inasmuch as our proposal for the forty-ninth parallel, and the free navigation of the Columbia River, made in the autumn of 1845, had been rejected by England, and then withdrawn by us.  Under these circumstances Mr. Webster felt it his duty to come forward and exert all his influence to maintain peace, and to promote a clear comprehension, both in the United States and in Europe, of the points at issue.  His speech on this subject and with this aim was delivered in Faneuil Hall.  He spoke of the necessity of peace, of the fair adjustment offered by an acceptance of the forty-ninth parallel, and derided the idea of casting two great nations into war for such a question as this.  He closed with a forcible and solemn denunciation of the president or minister who should dare to take the responsibility for kindling the flames of war on such a pretext.  The speech was widely read.  It was translated into nearly all the languages of Europe, and on the continent had a great effect.  About a month later he wrote to Mr. MacGregor of Glasgow, suggesting that the British government should offer to accept the forty-ninth parallel, and his letter was shown to Lord Aberdeen, who at once acted upon the advice it contained.  While this letter, however, was on its way, certain resolutions were introduced in the Senate relating to the national defences, and to give notice of the termination of the convention for the joint occupation of Oregon, which would of course have been nearly equivalent to a declaration of war.  Mr. Webster opposed the resolutions, and insisted that, while the Executive, as he believed, had no real wish for war, this talk was kept up about “all or none,” which left nothing to negotiate about.  The notice finally passed, but before it could be delivered by our minister in London, Lord Aberdeen’s proposition of the forty-ninth parallel, as suggested by Mr. Webster, had been received at Washington, where it was accepted by the truculent administration, agreed to by the Senate, and finally embodied in a treaty.  Mr. Webster’s opposition had served its purpose in delaying action and saving bluster from being converted into actual war,—­a practical conclusion by no means desired by the dominant party, who had talked so loud that they came very near blundering into hostilities merely as a matter of self-justification.  The declarations of the Democratic convention and of the Democratic President in regard to England were really only sound and fury, although they went so far that the final retreat was noticeable and not very graceful.  The Democratic leaders had had no intention of fighting with England when all they could hope to gain would be glory and hard knocks, but they had a very definite idea of attacking without bluster and in good earnest another nation where there was territory to be obtained for slavery.

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Daniel Webster from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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