Thus the period which began at Portsmouth in 1807 closed in Boston, in 1817, with the death of the eldest born. In that decade Mr. Webster had advanced with great strides from the position of a raw and youthful lawyer in a back country town of New Hampshire. He had reached the highest professional eminence in his own State, and had removed to a wider sphere, where he at once took rank with the best lawyers. He was a leading practitioner in the highest national court. During his two terms in Congress he had become a leader of his party, and had won a solid national reputation. In those years he had rendered conspicuous service to the business interests of the nation, and had established himself as one of the ablest statesmen of the country in matters of finance. He had defined his position on the tariff as a free-trader in theory and a very moderate protectionist when protection was unavoidable, a true representative of the doctrine of the New England Federalists. He had taken up his ground as the champion of specie payments and of the liberal interpretation of the Constitution, which authorized internal improvements. While he had not shrunk from extreme opposition to the administration during the war, he had kept himself entirely clear from the separatist sentiment of New England in the year 1814. He left Congress with a realizing sense of his own growing powers, and, rejoicing in his strength, he turned to his profession and to his new duties in his new home.
THE DARTMOUTH COLLEGE CASE.—MR. WEBSTER AS A LAWYER.
There is a vague tradition that when Mr. Webster took up his residence in Boston, some of the worthies of that ancient Puritan town were disposed at first to treat him rather cavalierly and make him understand that because he was great in New Hampshire it did not follow that he was also great in Massachusetts. They found very quickly, however, that it was worse than useless to attempt anything of this sort with a man who, by his mere look and presence whenever he entered a room, drew all eyes to himself and hushed the murmur of conversation. It is certain that Mr. Webster soon found himself the friend and associate of all the agreeable and distinguished men of the town, and that he rapidly acquired that general popularity which, in those days, went with him everywhere. It is also certain that he at once and without effort assumed the highest position at the bar as the recognized equal of its most eminent leaders. With an income increased tenfold and promising still further enlargement, a practice in which one fee probably surpassed the earnings of three months in New Hampshire, with an agreeable society about him, popular abroad, happy and beloved at home, nothing could have been more auspicious than these opening years of his life in Boston.