Daniel Webster: 'The Constitution Has Enemies, Secret and Professed'
Considered one of the five greatest Senators in U.S. history, Daniel Webster’s statue stands in the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall, placed there by the State of New Hampshire.
His career spanned almost four decades, serving as Secretary of State for Presidents William Harrison, John Tyler and Millard Fillmore.
Daniel Webster was born JANUARY 18, 1782, on a farm in New Hampshire.
He attended Dartmouth College, the 9th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States.
It was founded in 1769 by the Great Awakening preacher Rev. Eleazar Wheelock to educate Native Americans in the Christian faith and train Congregationalist Christian ministers.
Daniel Webster became the highest paid attorney of his day.
He served in the:
– U.S Congress 1813-1817; 1823-1827;
– U.S. Senate 1827-1841; 1845-1850; and
– U.S. Secretary of State 1841-1843; 1850-1852.
He negotiated the Webster-Ashburton Treaty which set the nation’s Northeast boundary.
Webster worked to suppress the African slave trade, stating:
“Traffic in slaves is irreconcilable with the principles of humanity and justice.”
Webster stated December 22, 1820:
“The African slave-trader is a pirate and a felon; and in the sight of Heaven, an offender far beyond the ordinary depth of human guilt …
If there be … any participation in this traffic, let us pledge ourselves here, upon the rock of Plymouth, to extirpate and destroy it …
I invoke the ministers of our religion, that they proclaim its denunciation of these crimes, and add its solemn sanctions to the authority of human laws.
If the pulpit be silent whenever or wherever there may be a sinner bloody with this guilt within the hearing of its voice, the pulpit is false to its trust.”
Webster supported the Greeks in their War of Independence from the Ottoman Empire, 1821-1830.
Petros Mavromichalis, commander-in-chief of the Greek Maniot forces, sent a letter to Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, May 25, 1821, asking for help.
“Your virtues, Americans, are close to ours, although a broad sea separates us … We feel you closer than our neighboring countries and we consider you as friends, co-patriots and brothers, because you are fair, philanthropic and brave … Do not deny to help us.”
Though the government declined, private citizens of America, as well as citizens of England, France, and Russia, sent money or fought alongside Greeks.
A notable American supporter of Greece was Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe, founder of the Perkins Institute.
American Colonel Jonathan Peckham Miller of Vermont, a veteran of the war of 1812 and an abolitionist, joined the Greek forces.
Miller witnessed the slaughter of the Siege of Messolongiou, where, in 1824, after two years of being surrounded, attacked and starved, 7,000 men, women and children attempted an escape. Only 1,000 made it.
Jonathan Peckham Miller’s account was sent to Edward Everett, who published in in The North American Review.
President James Monroe addressed Congress, December 3, 1822:
“A strong hope is entertained that the Greeks will recover their independence and assume their equal statue among the nations of the earth.”
Unfortunately, the next year Monroe announced the “Monroe Doctrine,” that no European power should colonize in the western hemisphere and in turn, the United States would not interfere in European affairs.
Daniel Webster immediately responded by requesting funds for Greeks in their struggle for independence from the Turks.
Webster stated January 19, 1824:
“I have in mind the modern not the ancient, the alive and not the dead Greece … today’s Greece, fighting against unprecedented difficulties … a Greece fighting for its existence .”
Congressman Sam Houston of Tennessee, the future leader of Texas, supported Webster’s motion.
Congressman Henry Clay of Kentucky also backed Greek independence from the Muslim Ottoman Empire, January 20, 1824:
“Are we so mean, so base, so despicable, that we may not attempt to express our horror … at the most brutal and atrocious war that ever stained earth or shocked high Heaven?
At the ferocious deeds of a savage and infuriated soldiery, stimulated and urged on by the clergy of a fanatical and inimical religion, and rioting in all the excesses of blood and butchery, at the mere details of which the heart sickens and recoils? …”
Henry Clay continued:
“If the great body of Christendom can look on calmly and coolly while all this is perpetrated on a Christian people, in its own immediate vicinity, in its very presence, let us at least (show) … sensibility to Christian wrongs, and … sympathy for Christian sufferings;
that in this remote quarter of the world there are hearts not yet closed against compassion for human woes, that can pour out their indignant feelings at the oppression of a people endeared to us by every ancient recollection and every modern tie.”
Some did not want to interrupt the drug trade of opium and figs from the Ottoman Empire, to which Henry Clay retorted:
“Sir, attempts have been made to alarm the committee by the dangers to our commerce in the Mediterranean; and a wretched invoice of figs and opium has been spread before us to repress our sensibilities …
Ah, sir! ‘What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?’ or what shall it avail a nation to save the whole of a miserable trade and lose its liberties?”
Daniel Webster joined with Davy Crockett, Henry Clay, and Theodore Frelinghuysen in protesting the Democrat Party’s Indian Removal Act, which was signed in 1830 by the first Democrat President Andrew Jackson.
When South Carolina threatened nullification, Daniel Webster stated:
“Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable!”
The U.S. Capitol Building has displayed the quotes:
“Liberty and union, one and inseparable.” -Daniel Webster
“One country, one Constitution, one destiny.” -Daniel Webster
“When tillage begins other arts follow. The farmers, therefore, are the founders of human civilization.” —Daniel Webster
“Let us develop the resources of our land, call forth its powers, build up its institutions, promote all its great interests and see whether we also in our day and generation may not perform something worthy to be remembered.” —Daniel Webster
The Library of Congress Jefferson Building has on the ceiling of the Northeast Pavilion, West Lunette, the quotes:
LET OUR OBJECT BE OUR COUNTRY, OUR WHOLE COUNTRY, AND NOTHING BUT OUR COUNTRY -Daniel Webster, Address at Charlestown, Mass., June 17, 1825.
Cornerstone Ceremonies for Bunker Hill Monument.
THANK GOD, I ALSO AM AN AMERICAN! —Daniel Webster, Address at Charlestown, Mass., June 17, 1843, Dedication of Bunker Hill Monument.
At the age of 20, Daniel Webster served as the headmaster of Fryeburg Academy in Fryeburg, Maine, where he delivered a Fourth of July Oration in 1802:
“If an angel should be winged from Heaven, on an errand of mercy to our country, the first accents that would glow on his lips would be,
‘Beware! Be cautious! You have everything to lose; nothing to gain …’
The history of the world is before us …
The civil, the social, the Christian virtues are requisite to render us worthy the continuation of that government which is the freest on earth …”
“We live under the only government that ever existed which was framed by the unrestrained and deliberate consultations of the people.
Miracles do not cluster. That which has happened but once in six thousand years cannot be expected to happen often.
Such a government, once gone, might leave a void, to be filled, for ages, with revolution and tumult, riot and despotism.”
At the Bicentennial Celebration of the Landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock, Secretary of State Daniel Webster stated December 22, 1820:
“We are on the spot where the first scene of our history was laid; where the hearths and altars of New England were first placed; where Christianity, and civilization … made their first lodgement, in a vast extent of country …
‘If God prosper us,’ might have been the … language of our fathers, when they landed upon this Rock, ‘… we shall here begin a work which shall last for ages … We shall fill this region of the great continent … with civilization and Christianity’ …
Whatever makes men good Christians, makes them good citizens.”
Daniel Webster stated at the Bunker Hill Monument, June 17, 1843:
“I mean to stand upon the Constitution. I need no other platform. I shall know but one country.
The ends I aim at shall be MY COUNTRY’s, my God’s, and Truth’s. I was born an American; I will live an American; I shall die an American.”
At the age of 70, just eight months before his death, Daniel Webster gave an address, “The Dignity and Importance of History,” to the New York Historical Society, February 23, 1852, commemorating Washington’s Birthday:
“We may trust, that Heaven will not forsake us, nor permit us to forsake ourselves.
We must strengthen ourselves, and gird up our loins with new resolution … in the support of the Constitution, prepare to meet manfully … whatever of difficulty, or of danger … or of sacrifice, the Providence of God may call upon us to meet.
Are we of this generation so derelict, have we so little of the blood of our revolutionary fathers coursing through our veins, that we cannot preserve, what they achieved?
The world will cry out ‘shame’ upon us, if we show ourselves unworthy, to be the descendants of those great and illustrious men, who fought for their liberty, and secured it to their posterity, by the Constitution of the United States …
We have a great and wise Constitution. We have grown, flourished, and prospered under it, with a degree of rapidity, unequaled in the history of the world.
Founded on the basis of equal civil rights, its provisions secure perfect equality and freedom; those who live under it are equal, and enjoy the same privileges …”
“The Constitution has enemies, secret and professed … They have hot heads and cold hearts.
They are rash, reckless, and fierce for change, and with no affection for the existing institutions of their country …
Other enemies there are, more cool, and with more calculation. These have a deeper and more fixed and dangerous purpose …
There are those in the country, who profess, in their own words, even to hate the Constitution …
Friends of the Constitution must rally and unite … with immovable firmness, like a band of brothers … looking only to the great object set before them, the preservation of the Constitution, bequeathed to them by their ancestors.
They must gird up their loins for the work. It is a duty which they owe to these ancestors, and to the generations which are to succeed them …
I give … my heart and hand, my entire cooperation to all good men … who are willing to stand by the Constitution …”
“I hardly know … the manner of our political death … We shall die no lingering death …
An earthquake would shake the foundations of the globe, pull down the pillars of heaven, and bury us at once in endless darkness.”
Referencing the fall of Babylon spoken of in Scripture (Revelation 18:2; 14:8; Isaiah 21:9; Jeremiah 50:2; 51:8; Zachariah 5), Webster warned:
“Such may be the fate of this country and its institutions. May I never live, to see that day!
May I not survive to hear any apocalyptic angel, crying through the heavens, with such a voice as announced the fall of Babylon,
‘Ἔπεσεν, ἔπεσεν, Αμερικη ἡ μεγάλη, καὶ ἐγένετο κατοικητήριον δαιμονίων, καὶ φυλακὴ παντὸς πνεύματος ἀκαθάρτου.’”
(Greek: “Is fallen, is fallen, America the Great has become a habitation of demons and a hold for every unclean spirit.”)
Daniel Webster warned in his address to the Historical Society of New York, February 23, 1852:
“If we and our posterity shall be true to the Christian religion,
if we and they shall live always in the fear of God, and shall respect His commandments,
if we and they shall maintain just moral sentiments and such conscientious convictions of duty as shall control the heart and life,
we may have the highest hopes of the future fortunes of our country …
BUT if we and our posterity reject religious instruction and authority, violate the rules of eternal justice, trifle with the injunctions of morality, and recklessly destroy the political constitution, which holds us together,
no man can tell, how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm us, that shall bury all our glory in profound obscurity.”
When Daniel Webster was once asked what the most profound thought was that ever passed through his mind, he responded:
“My accountability to God.”
“God grants liberty only to those who love it and are always ready to guard and defend it.”