Here, gathered in our beloved South Dakota, are a few members of our Williamson / Mattson Clan. Charles and Luella are to be blamed (be kind, they didn't know what they were doing). We're generally a happy bunch and somewhat intelligent (notwithstanding our tenuous grasp on reality). I'm also proud to say that most of us still have our teeth.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Daniel Webster, Congressman. Senator. Secretary of State. Our 8th Cousin Twice Removed.

Daniel Webster. Our 3rd Cousin 5 times Removed.
Daniel Webster's Great Grandfather (Benjamin Batchelder) was our 7th Great Uncle.
His Great Great Aunt was our 7th Grandmother Mercy Batchelder.

From the Fortress of Solitude

Overlooking the Pleasant Grove Valley

Dear Clan,

Tonight we learn of a famous cousin from American History, Daniel Webster. The following biography was taken from the US Senate's web site.

One of the nation's greatest orators, Daniel Webster was both a U.S. senator from Massachusetts and a U.S. representative from Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Webster was born in Salisbury, New Hampshire, and gained national prominence as an attorney while serving five terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. He successfully argued several notable cases before the Supreme Court of the United States that helped define the constitutional power of the federal government. In Trustees of Dartmouth College v. Woodward, the Court declared in favor of Webster's alma mater, finding private corporation charters to be contracts and therefore protected from interference by state legislative action. In McCulloch v. Maryland, the Court upheld the implied power of Congress to charter a federal bank and rejected the right of states to tax federal agencies. Webster also argued the controversial Gibbons v. Ogden case, in which the Court decided that federal commerce regulations take precedence over the interstate commerce laws of individual states.

A Statue of Daniel Webster in Washington DC

After his election to the U.S. Senate in 1827, Webster established his oratorical reputation in the famous 1830 debate with Robert Young Hayne of South Carolina over the issue of states' rights and nullification. Defending the concept of a strong national government, Webster delivered on January 26 and 27 his famous reply to Hayne. “We do not impose geographical limits to our patriotic feeling,” he insisted, arguing that every state had an interest in the development of the nation and that senators must rise above local and regional narrow-mindedness. The Constitution is the supreme law of the land, he warned, and any doctrine that allowed states to override the Constitution would surely lead to civil war and a land drenched with “fraternal blood.” The motto should not be “Liberty first, and Union afterwards,” Webster concluded, but “Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable!” Within weeks of the debate, Webster had become a national hero. His Senate oration was in greater demand than any other congressional speech in American history. Webster then served a distinguished term as secretary of state from 1841 to 1843, negotiating the Webster-Ashburton Treaty that settled a dispute over the boundary between the U.S. and Canada. He later returned to the Senate, where he championed American industry and opposed free trade.

Daniel Webster Speaking in the US Senate

If Webster's impassioned oratory was legendary, it was intensified by his unforgettable physical presence. Dark in complexion, with penetrating eyes–often likened to glowing coals–he had an electrifying effect on anyone who saw him. Nineteenth-century journalist Oliver Dyer wrote: “The God-like Daniel . . . had broad shoulders, a deep chest, and a large frame. . . . The head, the face, the whole presence of Webster, was kingly, majestic, godlike.” [1]

Daniel Webster as Secretary of State

Increasingly concerned with the sectional controversy threatening the Union, Webster supported Henry Clay's Compromise of 1850. On March 7, 1850, he delivered one of his most important and controversial Senate addresses. Crowds flocked to the Senate Chamber to hear Webster plead the Union's cause, asking for conciliation and understanding: “I wish to speak today not as a Massachusetts man, nor as a Northern man, but as an American. . . . I speak today for the preservation of the Union. Hear me for my cause.” Webster's endorsement of the compromise–including its fugitive slave provisions–helped win its eventual enactment, but doomed the senator's cherished presidential aspirations. Webster became secretary of state again in 1850, and he died two years later at his home in Marshfield, Massachusetts.

Daniel Webster ran for president three times, never winning. This is from one of his campaigns

The following are quotes taken from our cousin, one of America's greatest speakers

  • A country cannot subsist well without liberty, nor liberty without virtue.
  • A disordered currency is one of the greatest political evils.
  • A strong conviction that something must be done is the parent of many bad measures.
  • An unlimited power to tax involves, necessarily, the power to destroy.
  • Every unpunished murder takes away something from the security of every man's life.
  • Failure is more frequently from want of energy than want of capital.
  • Falsehoods not only disagree with truths, but usually quarrel among themselves.
  • God grants liberty only to those who love it, and are always ready to guard and defend it.
  • He who tampers with the currency robs labor of its bread.
  • How little do they see what really is, who frame their hasty judgment upon that which seems.
  • I mistrust the judgment of every man in a case in which his own wishes are concerned.
  • I was born an American; I will live an American; I shall die an American.
  • Inconsistencies of opinion, arising from changes of circumstances, are often justifiable.
  • It is my living sentiment, and by the blessing of God it shall be my dying sentiment, independence now and independence forever.
  • Justice, sir, is the great interest of man on earth. It is the ligament which holds civilized beings and civilized nations together.
  • Keep cool; anger is not an argument.
  • Let it be borne on the flag under which we rally in every exigency, that we have one country, one constitution, one destiny.
  • Let us not forget that the cultivation of the earth is the most important labor of man. When tillage begins, other arts will follow. The farmers, therefore, are the founders of civilization.
  • Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable.
  • Liberty exists in proportion to wholesome restraint.
  • Man is a special being, and if left to himself, in an isolated condition, would be one of the weakest creatures; but associated with his kind, he works wonders.
  • Mind is the great lever of all things; human thought is the process by which human ends are ultimately answered.
  • No man not inspired can make a good speech without preparation.
  • On the diffusion of education among the people rest the preservation and perpetuation of our free institutions.
  • One country, one constitution, one destiny.
  • The contest for ages has been to rescue liberty from the grasp of executive power.
  • The law: it has honored us; may we honor it.
  • The materials of wealth are in the earth, in the seas, and in their natural and unaided productions.
  • The most important thought that ever occupied my mind is that of my individual responsibility to God.
  • The people's government, made for the people, made by the people, and answerable to the people.
  • The right of an inventor to his invention is no monopoly - in any other sense than a man's house is a monopoly.
  • The world is governed more by appearance than realities so that it is fully as necessary to seem to know something as to know it.
  • There is always room at the top.
  • There is no refuge from confession but suicide; and suicide is confession.
  • There is nothing so powerful as truth, and often nothing so strange.
  • We are all agents of the same supreme power, the people.
  • We have been taught to regard a representative of the people as a sentinel on the watch-tower of liberty.
  • What a man does for others, not what they do for him, gives him immortality.
  • Whatever government is not a government of laws, is a despotism, let it be called what it may.
  • Many books have been written about our famous cousin.

And many of us have heard of this family short story, play and movie.

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