Daniel Webster (January 18, 1782 – October 24, 1852) was an American statesman who served his country in a variety of roles. He was one of the most highly regarded courtroom lawyers of the era, and is considered one of the greatest orators in American history.
Webster served as Congressional Representative for New Hampshire and Massachusetts, followed by time as a U.S. Senator and Secretary of State for three Presidents: William Henry Harrison, John Tyler and Millard Fillmore.
He also shaped several key Supreme Court cases that established important constitutional precedents and bolstered the authority of the federal government. As a senator, he was a spokesman for American nationalism and gave powerful speeches that made him a key Whig leader.
Webster’s life and words are an exemplary reminder of the importance of putting country before personal gain. The following quote is from a speech Webster gave in 1850, defending his support of “The Compromise Bill”.
Webster believed the North and South should compromise in regards to slavery, not because he was a supporter of slavery, but because he believed that saving the Union through legislative compromise was a better option than Civil War. When attacked by abolitionists who believed he abandoned the cause, he responded with these words.
“I was born an American; I live an American; I shall die an American; and I intend to perform the duties incumbent upon me in that character to the end of my career. I mean to do this with absolute disregard of personal consequences.
What are the personal consequences?
What is the individual man, with all the good or evil that may betide him, in comparison with the good or evil which may befall a great country, and in the midst of great transactions which concern that country’s fate?
Let the consequences be what they will, I am careless. No man can suffer too much, and no man can fall too soon, if he suffer, or if he fall, in the defense of the liberties and constitution of his country.”
– Daniel Webster, as quoted in Elbert Hubbard’s Scrapbook.