Daniel Webster eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 332 pages of information about Daniel Webster.
among the best of his life.  Through great difficulties and by the self-sacrifice of his family, he had made his way to the threshold of the career for which he was so richly endowed.  He had passed an unblemished youth; he had led a clean, honest, hard-working life; he was simple, manly, affectionate.  Poverty had been a misfortune, not because it had warped or soured him, for he smiled at it with cheerful philosophy, nor because it had made him avaricious, for he never either then or at any time cared for money for its own sake, and nothing could chill the natural lavishness of his disposition.  But poverty accustomed him to borrowing and to debt, and this was a misfortune to a man of Mr. Webster’s temperament.  In those early days he was anxious to pay his debts; but they did not lie heavy upon him or carry a proper sense of responsibility, as they did to Ezekiel and to his father.  He was deeply in debt; his books, even, were bought with borrowed money, all which was natural and inevitable; but the trouble was that it never seems to have weighed upon him or been felt by him as of much importance.  He was thus early brought into the habit of debt, and was led unconsciously to regard debts and borrowing as he did the sacrifices of others, as the normal modes of existence.  Such a condition was to be deplored, because it fostered an unfortunate tendency in his moral nature.  With this exception, Mr. Webster’s early years present a bright picture, and one which any man had a right to regard with pride and affection.



The occasion of Mr. Webster’s first appearance in court has been the subject of varying tradition.  It is certain, however, that in the counties where he practised during his residence at Boscawen, he made an unusual and very profound impression.  The effect then produced is described in homely phrase by one who knew him well.  The reference is to a murder trial, in which Mr. Webster gained his first celebrity.

“There was a man tried for his life, and the judges chose Webster to plead for him; and, from what I can learn, he never has spoken better than he did there where he first began.  He was a black, raven-haired fellow, with an eye as black as death’s, and as heavy as a lion’s,—­that same heavy look, not sleepy, but as if he didn’t care about anything that was going on about him or anything anywhere else.  He didn’t look as if he was thinking about anything, but as if he would think like a hurricane if he once got waked up to it.  They say the lion looks so when he is quiet....  Webster would sometimes be engaged to argue a case just as it was coming to trial.  That would set him to thinking.  It wouldn’t wrinkle his forehead, but made him restless.  He would shift his feet about, and run his hand up over his forehead, through his Indian-black hair, and lift his upper lip and show his teeth, which were as white as a hound’s.”

Of course the speech so admired then was infinitely below what was done afterwards.  The very next was probably better, for Mr. Webster grew steadily.  This observer, however, tells us not what Mr. Webster said, but how he looked.  It was the personal presence which dwelt with every one at this time.

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Daniel Webster from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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