When Daniel Webster was forty years old, the people of Boston elected him to represent them in Congress. They were so well pleased with all that he did while there, that they re-elected him twice.
In June, 1827, the legislature of Massachusetts chose him to be United States senator for a term of six years. He was at that time the most famous man in Massachusetts, and his name was known and honored in every state of the Union.
After that he was re-elected to the same place again and again; and for more than twenty years he continued to be the distinguished senator from Massachusetts.
I cannot now tell you of all his public services during the long period that he sat in Congress. Indeed, there are some things that you would find hard to understand until you have learned more about the history of our country. But you will by-and-by read of them in the larger books which you will study at school; and, no doubt, you will also read some of his great addresses and orations.
It was in 1830 that he delivered the most famous of all his speeches in the senate chamber of the United States. This speech is commonly called, "The Reply to Hayne."
I shall not here try to explain the purport of Mr. Hayne's speeches—for there were two of them. I shall not try to describe the circumstances which led Mr. Webster to make his famous reply to them.
But I will quote Mr. Webster's closing sentences. Forty years ago the school-boys all over the country were accustomed to memorize and declaim these patriotic utterances.
"When my eyes shall be turned to behold, for the last time, the sun in heaven, may I not see him shining on the broken and dishonored fragments of a once glorious Union; on states dissevered, discordant, belligerent, on a land rent with civil feuds, or drenched, it may be, in fraternal blood!
"Let their last feeble and lingering glance rather behold the gorgeous ensign of the republic, now known and honored throughout the earth, still high advanced, its arms and trophies streaming in their original lustre, not a stripe erased or polluted, not a single star obscured, bearing for its motto no such miserable interrogatory, 'What is all this worth?' nor those other words of delusion and folly, 'Liberty first and Union afterwards;' but everywhere, spread all over in characters of living light, blazing on all its folds, as they float over the land, and in every wind under the whole heavens, that other sentiment, dear to every American heart—Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable!"
In 1841, Daniel Webster resigned his seat in the senate. He did this in order to become secretary of state in the cabinet of the newly elected president, William Henry Harrison.
But President Harrison died on the 5th of April, after having held his office just one month; and his place was taken by the vice-president, John Tyler. Mr. Webster now felt that his position in the cabinet would not be a pleasant one; but he continued to hold it for nearly two years.
His most important act as secretary of state was to conclude a treaty with England which fixed the northeastern boundary of the United States. This treaty is known in history as the Ashburton Treaty.
In 1843, Mr. Webster resigned his place in President Tyler's cabinet. But he was not allowed to remain long in private life. Two years later he was again elected to the United States senate.
About this time, Texas was annexed to the United States. But Mr. Webster did not favor this, for he believed that such an act was contrary to the Constitution of our country.
He did all that he could to keep our government from making war upon Mexico. But after this war had been begun, he was a firm friend of the soldiers who took part in it, and he did much to provide for their safety and comfort.
Among these soldiers was Edward, the second son of Daniel Webster. He became a major in the main division of the army, and died in the City of Mexico.