Dartmouth College is at Hanover, New Hampshire. It is one of the oldest colleges in America and among its students have been many of the foremost men of New England.
It was in the fall of 1797, that Daniel Webster entered this college.
He was then a tall, slender youth, with high cheek bones and a swarthy skin.
The professors soon saw that he was no common lad. They said to one another, "This young Webster will one day be a greater man than any of us."
And young Webster was well-behaved and studious at college. He was as fond of sport as any of the students, but he never gave himself up to boyish pranks.
He was punctual and regular in all his classes. He was as great a reader as ever.
He could learn anything that he tried. No other young man had a broader knowledge of things than he.
And yet he did not make his mark as a student in the prescribed branches of study. He could not confine himself to the narrow routine of the college course.
He did not, as at Exeter, push his way quickly to the head of his class. He won no prizes. "But he minded his own business," said one of the professors. "As steady as the sun, he pursued, with intense application, the great object for which he came to college."
Soon everybody began to appreciate his scholarship. Everybody admired him for his manliness and good common sense.
"He was looked upon as being so far in advance of any one else, that no other student of his class was ever spoken of as second to him."
He very soon lost that bashfulness which had troubled him so much at Exeter. It was no task now for him to stand up and declaim before the professors and students.
In a short time he became known as the best writer and speaker in the college. Indeed, he loved to speak; and the other students were always pleased to listen to him.
One of his classmates tells us how he prepared his speeches. He says: "It was Webster's custom to arrange his thoughts in his mind while he was in his room, or while he was walking alone. Then he would put them upon paper just before the exercise was to be called for.
"If he was to speak at two o'clock, he would often begin to write after dinner; and when the bell rang he would fold his paper, put it in his pocket, go in, and speak with great ease.
"In his movements he was slow and deliberate, except when his feelings were aroused. Then his whole soul would kindle into a flame."
In the year 1800, he was chosen to deliver the Fourth of July address to the students of the college and the citizens of the town. He was then eighteen years old.
The speech was a long one. It was full of the love of country. Its tone throughout was earnest and thoughtful.
But in its style it was overdone; it was full of pretentious expressions; it lacked the simplicity and good common sense that should mark all public addresses.
And yet, as the speech of so young a man, it was a very able effort. People said that it was the promise of much greater things. And they were right.
In the summer of 1801, Daniel graduated. But he took no honors. He was not even present at the Commencement.
His friends were grieved that he had not been chosen to deliver the valedictory address. Perhaps he also was disappointed. But the professors had thought best to give that honor to another student.