“You have made great speeches,” said the stranger. “You will make more.”
“Ah,” said Dan’l Webster.
“But the last great speech you make will turn many of your own against you,” said the stranger. “They will call you Ichabod; they will call you by other names. Even in New England some will say you have turned your coat and sold your country, and their voices will be loud against you till you die.”
“So it is an honest speech, it does not matter what men say,” said Dan’l Webster. Then he looked at the stranger and their glances locked. “One question,” he said. “I have fought for the Union all my life. Will I see that fight won against those who would tear it apart?”
“Not while you live,” said the stranger, grimly, “but it will be won. And after you are dead, there are thousands who will fight for your cause, because of words that you spoke.”
The Devil and Daniel Webster, Stephen Vincent Benet
1850 was a year of great transition for the United States. The great trilogy of statesman who had guided the fortunes of the nation since the War of 1812 were engaging in their swan songs. John C. Calhoun would be dead before the end of March of 1850. Henry Clay and Daniel Webster would be dead two years later, but 1850 would mark their disappearance as major figures in American political life. All three men were in the United States Senate. Henry Clay, taking his last bow as the Great Compromiser, had cobbled together the elements of what would become the Compromise of 1850. Calhoun devoted his dying energies to attacking the Compromise, convinced that the North and the South could no longer compromise on the issue of slavery and that the time had come for a peaceful separation by the dissolution of the Union.
Webster throwing his support behind the Compromise was critical in its passage. Webster had always cared most of all for the preservation of the Union, and he knew that if some sort of compromise was not worked out, the Union would almost certainly dissolve. His position was highly unpopular throughout New England where he was widley regarded as a traitor. Eventually Webster resigned from the Senate, serving as Secretary of State until his death. The Compromise of 1850 probably ensured Union victory in the Civil War, delaying the conflict for ten years, during which time the North became more industrialized, with ever spreading railroads and telegraphs knitting the North into a powerful nascent world power, largely nullifying Southern initial advantages in generalship and cavalry. Here is the text of his speech: Continue reading
Yes, Dan’l Webster’s dead–or, at least, they buried him. But every time there’s a thunder storm around Marshfield, they say you can hear his rolling voice in the hollows of the sky. And they say that if you go to his grave and speak loud and clear, “Dan’l Webster–Dan’l Webster!” the ground’ll begin to shiver and the trees begin to shake. And after a while you’ll hear a deep voice saying, “Neighbor, how stands the Union?” Then you better answer the Union stands as she stood, rock-bottomed and copper sheathed, one and indivisible, or he’s liable to rear right out of the ground. At least, that’s what I was told when I was a youngster.
Stephen Vincent Benet, The Devil and Daniel Webster
In his short story The Devil and Daniel Webster, Benet has Satan conjure up the damned souls of 12 villains from American history to serve as a jury in the case of Satan v. Jabez Stone. Only seven of these entities are named, and we have examined the lives of each of them including the “life” I made up for the fictional the Reverend John Smeet. We also looked at the judge who presided over the case, Justice Hathorne. Only one personage remains to examine, Daniel Webster.
Born in 1782 a few months after the American victory at Yorktown, Webster would live to be a very old man for his time, dying in 1852. Webster would serve in the House for 10 years from New Hampshire and 19 years in the Senate from Massachusetts. Three times Secretary of State, he also attempted on three occasions to win the Presidency failing three times, watching as much lesser men attained that office. Like his two great contemporaries, Henry Clay and John C. Calhoun, his name is remembered while most Americans would be hard pressed to name many of those presidents.
While holding political office he also practiced law, arguing an astounding 223 cases before the United States Supreme Court and winning about half of them.
He was acknowledged to be the finest American orator of his day, a day in which brilliant speech making was fairly common on the American political scene, and his contemporaries often referred to him blasphemously as “the god-like Daniel”. Perhaps the finest example of Webster’s oratory is his Second Reply to Senator Haynes of South Carolina during the debate on tariffs which took place in the Senate in January of 1830. In the background lurked the nullification crisis and possible secession, a crisis which would build over the next three decades and explode into the attempted dissolution of the union in 1860. The ending of this speech was once known by every schoolchild: Liberty and Union, now and for ever, one and inseparable!
The American Union was Webster’s passion throughout his life, he being above all an ardent patriot. He was also an ardent opponent of slavery. However, in 1850 when his opposition to slavery conflicted with what he perceived to be the necessity of a compromise to preserve the Union, he did not hesitate and helped hammer the compromise together. Because it included a stronger fugitive slave act, he was roundly condemned throughout New England, something noted in The Devil and Daniel Webster: Continue reading
I have long admired Stephen Vincent Benet’s The Devil and Daniel Webster in which Daniel Webster defeats Satan in a jury trial for the soul of Jabez Stone. Far lesser known is an amusing story written by Benet in which Daniel Webster encounters Leviathan from the Bible:
“Well, Mr. Webster,” said Seth, and stared at his boots, “she says you’re quite a handsome man. She says she never did see anybody quite like you,” he went on. “I hate to tell you this, Mr. Webster, and I feel kind of responsible, but I think you ought to know. And I told you that you oughtn’t to have shot at her—she’s pretty proud of that. She says she knows just how you meant it. Well, I’m no great hand at being embarrassed, Mr. Webster, but, I tell you, she embarrassed me. You see, she’s been an old maid for about a hundred and fifty years, I guess, and that’s the worst of it. And being the last of her folks in those particular waters, there’s just no way to restrain her—her father and mother was as sensible, hard-working serpents as ever gave a feller a tow through a fog, but you know how it is with those old families. Well, she says wherever you go, she’ll follow you, and she claims she wants to hear you speak before the Supreme Court——”
“Did you tell her I’m a married man?” said Dan’l. “Did you tell her that?”
“Yes, I told her,” said Seth, and you could see the perspiration on his forehead. “But she says that doesn’t signify—her being a serpent and different—and she’s fixing to move right in. She says Washington’s got a lovely climate and she’s heard all about the balls and the diplomatic receptions. I don’t know how she’s heard about them, but she has.” He swallowed. “I got her to promise she’d kind of lie low for two weeks and not come up the Potomac by daylight—she was fixing to do that because she wants to meet the President. Well, I got her to promise that much. But she says, even so, if you don’t come to see her once an evening, she’ll hoot till you do, and she told me to tell you that you haven’t heard hooting yet. And as soon as the fish market’s open, I better run down and buy a barrel of flaked cod, Mr. Webster—she’s partial to flaked cod and she usually takes it in the barrel. Well, I don’t want to worry you, Mr. Webster, but I’m afraid that we’re in a fix.” Continue reading
Hattip to Jim Treacher. CNN talking head Piers Morgan, desperately trying to hold on to any shreds of credibility after his shellacking by Ben Shapiro, emitted this email:
Where to begin?
First, it is unlikely that even the most mad US President would decide to use nukes to put down a rebellion in these United States. Too many of his own supporters would be killed and the overall reaction would likely be for the rebellion to grow as a result of his action.
Second, a wide spread rebellion in the United States would likely have the sympathy of factions within the US military, if not their active support. The order to nuke Americans might lead to an active revolt by the military.
Third, in the event of a widespread rebellion, the rebels would probably quickly have nukes of their own. In the case of Obama, most ICBMs and tactical nukes are located on bases in Red states. Continue reading
Daniel Webster is running for Congress in the 8th Congressional District of Florida. He is a veteran Republican politician, having served as the first Republican speaker of the Florida House of Representatives in 122 years. He has also served as the Republican majority leader of the Florida Senate. He is a pro-life conservative. He is not the Devil.
His opponent is Alan Grayson. Alan Grayson is the incumbent, being first elected to Congress in 2008. He is a pro-abort liberal Democrat. He is doing his best to depict Daniel Webster as the Devil.
My good friend Jay Anderson at Pro Ecclesia has a first rate post on this subject at his bog and has saved me quite a bit of work:
Back during the Bush years, I can recall debates in the Catholic blogosphere in which Catholics of a certain left-leaning ilk accused those on the right of having questioned the patriotism of anyone who had opposed the Iraq War.
The thing is that I don’t recall these instances of anyone’s patriotism being impugned (outside of David Frum’s infamous piece at National Review in which he accused conservative Catholic commentators Pat Buchanan and Robert Novak of being “unpatriotic”; but then, any conservative worth a damn doesn’t give a rat’s patoot what David Frum thinks or says).
And, in fact, the left’s protestations about having their patriotism questioned appears to have been nothing more than collective projection, imagining that their political adversaries were doing exactly what they would do if they were the ones trying to overcome opposition to a particular objective of national policy priority. This has been borne out since the election of President Obama: how many times have we seen the words “sedition” (also here, for example), “un-American” (also here, for example), “unpatriotic”, and even “siding with the terrorists” (not to mention “racist”) applied to critics of the Obama agenda?
But NEVER in my years have I EVER heard someone in politics say about someone in the opposition “He just doesn’t love America like I do.”