Daniel Webster eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 332 pages of information about Daniel Webster.
espoused the Southern side, for the compromise was in the Southern interest, and smote the anti-slavery movement with all his strength.  He reasoned correctly that peace could come only by administering a severe check to one of the two contending parties.  He erred in attempting to arrest the one which all modern history showed was irresistible.  It is no doubt true, as appears by his cabinet opinion recently printed, that he stood ready to meet the first overt act on the part of the South with force.  Mr. Webster would not have hesitated to have struck hard at any body of men or any State which ventured to assail the Union.  But he also believed that the true way to prevent any overt act on the part of the South was by concession, and that was precisely the object which the Southern leaders sought to obtain.  We may grant all the patriotism and all the sincere devotion to the cause of the Constitution which is claimed for him, but nothing can acquit Mr. Webster of error in the methods which he chose to adopt for the maintenance of peace and the preservation of the Union.  If the 7th of March speech was right, then all that had gone before was false and wrong.  In that speech he broke from his past, from his own principles and from the principles of New England, and closed his splendid public career with a terrible mistake.



The story of the remainder of Mr. Webster’s public life, outside of and apart from the slavery question, can be quickly told.  General Taylor died suddenly on July 9, 1850, and this event led to an immediate and complete reorganization of the cabinet.  Mr. Fillmore at once offered the post of Secretary of State to Mr. Webster, who accepted it, resigned his seat in the Senate, and, on July 23, assumed his new position.  No great negotiation like that with Lord Ashburton marked this second term of office in the Department of State, but there were a number of important and some very complicated affairs, which Mr. Webster managed with the wisdom, tact, and dignity which made him so admirably fit for this high position.

The best-known incident of this period was that which gave rise to the famous “Huelsemann letter.”  President Taylor had sent an agent to Hungary to report upon the condition of the revolutionary government, with the intention of recognizing it if there were sufficient grounds for doing so.  When the agent arrived, the revolution was crushed, and he reported to the President against recognition.  These papers were transmitted to the Senate in March, 1850.  Mr. Huelsemann, the Austrian charge, thereupon complained of the action of our administration, and Mr. Clayton, then Secretary of State, replied that the mission of the agent had been simply to gather information.  On receiving further instructions from his government, Mr. Huelsemann rejoined to Mr. Clayton, and it fell to Mr. Webster to reply, which

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Daniel Webster from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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