WEBSTER, DANIEL, an American statesman and orator; born in Salisbury, N. H., Jan. 18, 1782. He was a child of the wilderness, and but for our system of school education, which, even then, pushed the means of instruction into re mote solitudes, he would never have been enabled to bring his great faculties to bear in public life. Daniel was the sec ond son of Ebenezer Webster, a small farmer and justice of the county court. He entered Dartmouth College in 1797, and taught school in winter to pay his expenses. He was graduated in 1801, and commenced to study law, but was in duced, by an offer of a salary of $350 a year, to become preceptor of an acad emy at Fryeburg, Me., paying his board by copying deeds. In 1804 he went to Boston, and entered the law office of Mr. Gore. In 1805 he was admitted to the Boston bar, passed one year in the prac tice of his profession at Boscawen, and, on the death of his father, established himself at Portsmouth, N. H., and mar ried in 1808.
Having engaged in politics as a mem ber of the Federalist party, he was elected to Congress, where he immedi ately took rank with the foremost men of the country. He took his seat in the special session of May, 1813, and on June 10 delivered his maiden speech on the re peal of the Berlin and Milan decrees. This, and his mastery of the question of currency and finance, secured him a high position. At the close of the session, however, he removed to Boston, where, during a period of seven years, he de voted himself exclusively to the practice of his profession, and occupied a posi tion as a counsellor and an advocate, above which no one has ever risen in this country. In 1822 he was a member of the Massachusetts Constitutional Con vention, and on Dec. 22, 1822, he pro nounced at Plymouth, on the anniversary of the landing of the Pilgrims, the first of that remarkable series of discourses, or orations, which put him in the first rank among American orators. In 1829 he delivered an oration at the laying of the corner stone of the Bunker Hill Mon ument; in 1843 one on its completion.
In 1826 he pronounced the eulogy of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, two fathers and Presidents of the American Republic, who died on the same semi-cen tenary anniversary of the Declaration of Independence; and in 1851, a patriotic discourse on the laying of the corner stone for the extension of the Capitol at Washington.
In 1822 he was elected to Congress from Boston, and distinguished himself by his speeches on the Holy Alliance, and the Greek revolution, and his labors in the revision of the criminal laws of the United States. In 1826, he was chosen a United States Senator; and in 1830, rose to the height of his forensic renown, in a speech of two days, in the debate with Senator Hayne, of South Carolina, on the right of "nullification." Webster and Clay were the leaders of the opposition during the administration of Jackson and Van Buren. In 1841 he became Secre tary of State under President Harrison; remained in the administration of Presi dent Taylor till 1843; and was a third time Secretary of State in 1850, in the cabinet of Mr. Fillmore. On various oc casions Webster had been an unsuccess ful candidate for the presidency. He aspired again to that position in 1852, but his advocacy of compromises on the slavery question had given offense to the Abolitionists, and the choice of the convention assembled at Baltimore fell on Gen. Winfield Scott. The great ora tor died a few months after, Oct. 24, 1852. Webster's figure was command ing; his countenance was remarkable even in repose, but when animated by the excitement of debate it "spake no less audibly than his words." His gestures were vehement, without being undigni fied; and his voice was unrivaled in power, in clearness, and in modulated variety of tone. The most complete edi tion of his works is that published in 1851, in six volumes 8vo.