Photo: Daniel Webster statue
Courtesy of WGBH Gavel-to-Gavel

Sculptor: Hiram Powers

Installed: 1859

For nearly forty years Daniel Webster was one of the leading figures in the US capitol. As legislator and statesman, he is most remembered for his efforts to protect the union of American states.

Webster was first elected to Congress in his native New Hampshire in 1813. He moved to Boston to pursue a legal career, appearing before the Supreme Court in 1816 and gaining a name as a defender of conservatism in Dartmouth College v. Woodward and McCulloch v. Maryland.

Massachusetts returned him to Congress in 1823, where he chaired the House Judiciary Committee. He was elected to the US Senate 1827-41. His arguments in the Webster-Hayne debates are considered among the most momentous debates undertaken by the Senate.

Webster joined the Tyler administration as Secretary of State, where he distinguished himself as the only cabinet official not to take part in a politically motivated mass resignation.

In Boston he negotiated the Webster-Ashburton treaty, setting the Canadian-Maine border and ending America's slave trade with Africa. In fact, Webster's negotiating partner, Alexander Baring, Lord Ashburton, is the person for whom Ashburton Place in Boston is named.

He was reelected to the Senate (1845-1850). In perhaps his most famous address, the March 7th speech, Webster advocated compromise between pro and antislavery states. This made him anathema to the abolitionist majority in Massachusetts, but delayed the Civil War, and avoided the secession of states. This act would later be recognized as one of John F. Kennedy's original profiles in courage.