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Item:  BSL - Daniel Webster 1850

1850 - Daniel Webster - Signed Speech Following Passage of Missouri Compromise - His View on Religious Tolerance, Manifest Destiny & the Union



Secretary of State Daniel Webster's Signed Speech

"A Man's Religious Belief is a Matter above Human Law ...It is our duty to carry...American Principles over the whole continent ...We have our Private Opinions...but overall...we are all Americans"

  Speech Delivered December 23, 1850 at the New York New England Society


Daniel Webster (1782 -1852)

America's Pre-eminent Orator, Daniel Webster, was the foremost Advocate of his day for American Nationalism, the Constitution and the Union. A brilliant attorney, he argued many of the formative Constitutional Cases; an extraordinary speaker, he held the Union together for forty years through his Congressional Gifts of Persuasion; and a superb Statesman, he negotiated the Webster-Ashburton Treaty, settling the Border with Canada, which remains the world's longest undefended border, and making a final peace with England that has lasted for over for over 160 years. Here is a signed copy of one of Webster's Last Speeches in Defense of America and its Values, Riding the Political Circuit one last time to Hold his Beloved Union Together.

Historical Note

In almost every respect Daniel Webster was larger than life, an intellectual colossus, a statesman of the first rank, and a man of towering, and finally unfulfilled, ambition. Few have left such a lasting mark on all three branches of America government. Webster's cases before the Supreme Court are cited daily as the foundations of American Law and the supremacy of the Constitution over the states. Three times a Secretary of State, his Webster-Ashburton Treaty averted a third war with Great Britain and ushered in a new era of peace. It remains today a founding document in the International Law of Nations. Finally, and perhaps most significantly, Webster was the unquestioned Dean of Congress. His portrait appears no fewer than six times in the U.S. Capitol, a tribute to the man who three times averted civil war and epitomizes what is now called "the Golden Age of Senate Oratory." Webster was a major player in American politics in the era between the War of 1812 and the beginning of the Civil War, involved with every significant issue confronting the new nation. Webster had no equal as an orator, then or since. Whether in the Senate, in the Courts of European Powers, before the Supreme Court, or on the political stump, he was a golden-tongued spellbinder, often holding audiences in thrall for hours. In his lifelong defense of the Constitution, and the preservation of the Union, Webster won love and respect. In 1812 Webster was elected to the House of Representatives. He then left Congress in 1816 and moved to Boston. Over the next six years, he won major constitutional cases before the Supreme Court (most notably, Dartmouth v. Woodward, Gibbons v. Ogden, and McCulloch v. Maryland), establishing himself as the nation's leading lawyer and an outstanding orator. In 1823, Webster was returned to Congress from Boston, and in 1827 he was elected Senator from Massachusetts. Webster is perhaps most famous for his two Bookend Speeches of 1830 and 1850 which framed the national dialogue and almost single-handedly maintained the Union. In 1828 a tariff law was passed favoring the rapidly industrializing northern states which were switching from shipping to a mercantile based economy. This was strongly opposed by southern states with their commodity based economies. A movement was set afoot to declare that an individual state could nullify such a Federal Law when it was against their own interests. The issue was joined between Senator Robert Hayne of South Carolina and Daniel Webster of Massachusetts. Replying to South Carolina's Robert Hayne in a Senate debate in 1830, Webster triumphantly defended the Union. His words "Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable!" won wide acclaim.

10 page Printed Speech Delivered December 23, 1850 Signed
Click here to read the entire speech:

But as the nation grew and territories became states, the schism between the North and the South continued to widen. By 1850 southern secession was a distinct possibility. The admission of Texas, California and New Mexico Territories brought again to boil the question of free and slave states. A Congressional observer in1850 noted that sectional strife generated by slavery had become so acute, the Senate had become a sort of armed camp. Members of Congress typically went to the Capitol armed. One Senator recalled that when a Congressman accidentally discharged his pistol while going through his papers, his colleagues were quick on the draw: "In an instant there were forty pistols in the air. The scene looked more like a Texas barroom then the Congress of the United States". Tensions continued to rise and all eyes turned to Daniel Webster, as the solemn duty of averting Civil War passed to him. "Do it Mr. Webster, as you can do it" wrote one Democrat, "like a bold and gifted statesman and Patriot. Reconcile North and South and preserve the Union." In his famous March 7th 1850 speech Webster once again did just that, he put his personal career on the line and brokered the Compromise of 1850 with Henry Clay. He had bought the Union a few more years of precious peace. "Hold on, my friends, to the Constitution and to the Republic for which it stands. Miracles do not cluster, and what has happened once in 6000 years, may not happen again. Hold on to the Constitution, for if the American Constitution should fail, there will be anarchy throughout the world." In many ways Webster sacrificed the end of his career and certainly his last run for the Presidency by supporting the Compromise of 1850. While it allowed California to enter the Union as a Free State and left New Mexico to a referendum, the compromise was for the Northern States to not only agree to, but also rigorously enforce, the Fugitive Slave Law. While Webster did not like slavery, even more he did not like the idea of a Union dissolved. His support for this compromise cost him the support and backing of his home state of Massachusetts as well as much of the abolitionist North. But what Webster did accomplish was holding his beloved Union together under the Constitution for fourteen more years. In hindsight it is perhaps easy to judge Webster's failing regarding the issue of slavery, but it is even easier to judge his ardent love for, belief in and unrequited devotion to the Constitution and America. Lincoln later cited Webster's words as an important source of inspiration in guiding the nation through the Civil War; in fact borrowed some for the Gettysburg Address. And if, as his critics contend Webster sold his soul by compromising on slavery, he did so only to purchase a few more years of peace for a troubled nation and to preserve the Constitution and the Union he had given his life to defend. A nice signed speech full of his elegant and artful oratory.

Document Specifications:
Good Document on Wove paper, signed by "Daniel Webster" during his term as Secretary of State, not dated. Signed Printed Pamphlet (as shown) measures approximately 6w x 9h inches (150mm x 230mm). Consists of the printed signed cover page as well as an additional 11 printed pages of the speech. Cover has been archivally backed and a repair made to the lower right, none affecting the signature. Inscribed: "For the Rev'd Joseph W. Curtis of Hadley, with the regard of Daniel Webster."  Document has foxing, staining and general deterioration on all edges, but the printed speech is unaffected. Two horizontal folds most likely due to mailing. While in somewhat rough condition, this signed Speech reflects the state of health of its orator and the nation - both struggling to maintain dignity and hope.

 Offered by Berryhill & Sturgeon, Ltd.

End of Item - BSL - Daniel Webster

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