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Former Editions of the Works of Mr. Webster, and Plan of this Edition. — Parentage and Birth. — First Settlements in the Interior of New Hampshire. — Establishment of his Father at Salisbury. — Scanty Opportunities of Early Education. — First Teachers, and recent Letter to Master Tappan. —Placed at Exeter Academy — Anecdotes while there. — Dartmouth College. — Study of the Law at Salisbury. — Residence at Fryeburg in Maine, and Occupations there. — Continuance of the Study of the Law at Boston, in the Office of Hon. Christopher Gore.— Admission to the Bar of Suffolk, Massachusetts. — Commencement of Practice at Boscawen, New Hampshire.—Removal to Portsmouth. — Contemporaries in the Profession.—Increasing Practice.
The first collection of Mr. Webster's speeches in the Congress of the United States and on various public occasions was published in Boston, in one volume octavo, in 1830. This volume was more than once reprinted, and in 1835 a second volume was published, containing the speeches made up to that time, and not included in the first collection. Several impressions of these two volumes were called for by the public. In 1843 a third volume was prepared, containing a selection from the speeches of Mr. Webster from the year 1835 till his entrance into the cabinet of General Harrison. In the year 1848 appeared a fourth volume of diplomatic papers, containing a portion of Mr. Webster's official correspondence as Secretary of State.
The great favor with which these volumes have been received throughout the country, and the importance of the subjects discussed in the Senate of the United States after Mr. Webster's return to that body in 1845, have led his friends to think that a valuable service would be rendered to the commu
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nity by bringing together his speeches of a later date than those contained in the third volume of the former collection, and on political subjects arising since that time. Few periods of our history will be entitled to be remembered by events of greater moment, such as the admission of Texas to the Union, the settlement of the Oregon controversy, the Mexican war, the acquisition of California and other Mexican provinces, and the exciting questions which have grown out of the sudden extension of the territory of the United States. Rarely have public discussions been carried on with greater earnestness, with more important consequences visibly at stake, or with greater ability. The speeches made by Mr. Webster in the Senate, and on public occasions of various kinds, during the progress of these controversies, are more than sufficient to fill two new volumes. The opportunity of their collection has been taken by the enterprising publishers, in compliance with opinions often expressed by the most respectable individuals, and with a manifest public demand, to bring out a new edition of Mr. Webster's speeches in uniform style. Such is the object of the present publication. The first two volumes contain the speeches delivered by him on a great variety of public occasions, commencing with his discourse at Plymouth in December, 1820. Three succeeding volumes embrace the greater part of the speeches delivered in the Massachusetts Convention and in the two houses of Congress, beginning with the speech on the Bank of the United States in 1816. The sixth and last volume contains the legal arguments and addresses to the jury, the diplomatic papers, and letters addressed to various persons on important political questions.
The collection does not embrace the entire series of Mr. Webster's writings. Such a series would have required a larger number of volumes than was deemed advisable with reference to the general circulation of the work. A few juvenile performances have accordingly been omitted, as not of sufficient importance or maturity to be included in the collection. Of the earlier speeches in Congress, some were either not reported at all, or in a manner too imperfect to be preserved without doing injustice to the author. No attempt has been made to collect from the contemporaneous newspapers or Congressional registers the short conversational speeches and remarks made by Mr. 'Webster, as by other prominent members of Congress, in the progress of debate, and sometimes exercising greater influence on the result than the set speeches. Of the addresses to public meetings it has been found impossible to embrace more than a selection, without swelling the work to an unreasonable size. It is believed, however, that the contents of these volumes furnish a fair specimen of Mr. Webster's opinions and sentiments on all the subjects treated, and of his manner of discussing them. The responsibility of deciding what should be omitted and what included has been left by Mr. Webster to the friends having the charge of the publication, and his own opinion on details of this kind has rarely been taken.
In addition to such introductory notices as were deemed expedient relative to the occasions and subjects of the various speeches, it has been thought advisable that the collection should be accompanied with a Biographical Memoir, presenting a condensed view of Mr. Webster's public career, with a few observations by way of commentary on the principal speeches. Many things which might otherwise fitly be said in such an essay must, it is true, be excluded by that delicacy which qualifies the eulogy to be awarded even to the most eminent living worth. Much may be safely omitted, as too well known to need repetition in this community, though otherwise pertaining to a full survey of Mr. Webster's career. In preparing the following notice, free use has been made by the writer of the biographical sketches already before the public. Justice, however, requires that a specific acknowledgment should be made to an article in the American Quarterly Review for June, 1831, written, with equal accuracy and elegance, by Mr. George Ticknor, and containing a discriminating estimate of the speeches embraced in the first collection; and also to the highly spirited and vigorous work entitled "Reminiscences of Congress," by Mr. Charles W. March. To this work the present sketch is largely indebted for the account of the parentage and early life of Mr. Webster; as well as for a very graphic description of the debate on Foot's resolution.
The family of Daniel Webster has been established in America from a very early period. It was of Scottish origin, but passed some time in England before the final emigration. Thomas Webster, the remotest ancestor who can be traced, was settled at Hampton, on the coast of New Hampshire, as early as 1636, sixteen years after the landing at Plymouth, and six years from the arrival of Governor Winthrop in Massachusetts Bay. The descent from Thomas Webster to Daniel can be traced in the church and town records of Hampton, Kingston (now East Kingston), and Salisbury. These records and the mouldering headstones of village grave-yards are the herald's office of the fathers of New England. Noah Webster, the learned author of the American Dictionary of the English Language, was of a collateral branch of the family.
Ebenezcr Webster, the father of Daniel, is still recollected in Kingston and Salisbury. His personal appearance was striking. He was erect, of athletic stature, six feet high, broad and full in the chest. Long service in the wars had given him a military air and carriage. He belonged to that intrepid border race, which lined the whole frontier of the Anglo-American colonies, by turns farmers, huntsmen, and soldiers, and passing their lives in one long struggle \vith the hardships of an infant settlement, on the skirts of a primeval forest. Ebenezer Webster enlisted early in life as a common soldier, in one of those formidable companies of rangers, which rendered such important services under Sir Jeffrey Amherst and Wolfe in the Seven Years' War. He followed the former distinguished leader in the invasion of Canada, attracted the attention and gained the good-will of his superior officers by his brave and faithful conduct, and rose to the rank of a captain before the end of the war.
For the first half of the last century the settlements of New Hampshire had made but little progress into the interior. Every war between France and Great Britain in Europe was the signal of an irruption of the Canadian French and their Indian allies into New England. As late as 1755 they sacked villages on the Connecticut River, and John Stark, while hunting on Bakers River, three years before, was taken a prisoner and sold as a slave into Canada. One can scarcely believe that it is not yet a hundred years since occurrences like these took place. The cession of Canada to England by the treaty of 1763 entirely changed this state of things. It opened the pathways of the forest and the gates of the Western hills. The royal governor