Amidst the Compromise of 1850, Daniel Webster Draws Inspiration from the Revolution to Keep the Union Together: “May a common glory in the past a common pride in the present and a common interest in the future keep them always united under the flag of a common country.”

He is “resolved in the face of all perils and careless of personal consequences to make every effort in my power to uphold the Constitution as it is and the Union as it is, to defend them against all assaults open or covert and to exert every faculty I possess to persuade all honest and patriotic men north and south to stand between assaults of extreme factions and the Constitution of their country…”

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The new Federal territories obtained from Mexico in 1848, and whether they were to permit slavery, brought the nation again to a crisis. The subject had immediacy because with the huge number of people (the 49ers) who were flooding into California seeking gold, that territory was already seeking statehood. But admitting California...

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Amidst the Compromise of 1850, Daniel Webster Draws Inspiration from the Revolution to Keep the Union Together: “May a common glory in the past a common pride in the present and a common interest in the future keep them always united under the flag of a common country.”

He is “resolved in the face of all perils and careless of personal consequences to make every effort in my power to uphold the Constitution as it is and the Union as it is, to defend them against all assaults open or covert and to exert every faculty I possess to persuade all honest and patriotic men north and south to stand between assaults of extreme factions and the Constitution of their country…”

The new Federal territories obtained from Mexico in 1848, and whether they were to permit slavery, brought the nation again to a crisis. The subject had immediacy because with the huge number of people (the 49ers) who were flooding into California seeking gold, that territory was already seeking statehood. But admitting California as a free state would upset the balance between free and slave states in the U.S. Senate. Feeling that slavery was inappropriate for the western territories, the President, southerner Zachary Taylor, supported organizing all the former Mexican lands into the territories of California and New Mexico and bringing them into the Union immediately as free states. Some southerners felt betrayed and threatened to secede, while men in Congress worked on a series of compromise measures, trying to find an amicable settlement. In January 1850, Henry Clay introduced the Compromise of 1850. This consisted of a number of provisions, the chief two providing for California to be admitted as a free state and another making it a crime for northerners to help fugitive slaves who were trying to escape slavery. In the North, few could stomach this stricter fugitive slave act. It would become—until prohibition—the most flagrantly disobeyed legislation ever passed by Congress.

Daniel Webster, who had served in the Senate for decades and knew southerners well, believed that a compromise was necessary to preserve the Union. This was the principle object of all his efforts. He addressed the Senate on January 26, 1850, opposing the idea of secession. He ended his speech, “Liberty and Union, now and for ever, one and inseparable!” This is probably the most famous speech ever given in the Senate. On March 7, he again spoke, urging support for the package of compromise bills. “Mr. President,” he said, “I wish to speak today, not as a Massachusetts man, nor as a Northern man, but an American and a Member of the Senate of the United States…I speak today for the preservation of the Union. Hear me for my cause…Let us enjoy the fresh air of Liberty and Union…Never did there devolve on any generation of men higher trusts than now devolve upon us, for the preservation of this Constitution and the harmony and peace of all who are destined to live under it.” In pleading the Union’s cause, Webster said the Senate’s main concern was neither to promote slavery nor to abolish it, but to preserve the United States of America. This speech met with general disfavor throughout the North and damaged both his popularity and his dream of becoming president.

Back in 1823, just before the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Bunker Hill, Edward Everett, Daniel Webster, famed physician John C. Warren, and others had co-founded the Bunker Hill Monument Association, which sought to memorialize that battle with a grand monument. They petitioned the Massachusetts House and Senate for recognition and support and a subsequent Act was passed giving both. Then began the work to draw interest, raise money, design the monument, and build it, a years-long effort that created the first major monument to the American Revolution, and the first public obelisk in the United States. In 1824 and 1825 they began notifying the public of their work, elected their officers, and then wrote a circular eliciting donations, and elected prominent men honorary members. They informed these men, and the responses the committee received back were from many great men of the era, including Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, Oliver Wolcott, Joseph Story, and the Marquis de Lafayette. At the monument dedication ceremony on June 17, 1825, 20,000 people heard Webster give a speech on the occasion. So it was only natural that Webster should be invited to attend ceremonies on the 75th anniversary of the battle on June 17, 1850.

But Webster was in the midst of the Compromise of 1850 and could not. Instead, he responded to the invitation with a message that reprised his speeches to the Senate, calling for liberty and unity.

Autograph letter signed, Daniel Webster, three pages, June 13, 1850, to G.W. Warren, author and nephew of patriot Dr. Joseph Warren, who died at Bunker Hill, with powerful and patriotic content and ending with the words he wished to give at the celebration taking place that month. “Gentlemen You cannot doubt that it would afford me the utmost pleasure to be at Charlestown on 17th instant to celebrate the seventy fifth anniversary of the battle of Bunker Hill. In addition to the great interest which the occasion itself must naturally excite, I confess I should he to have an opportunity of saying some words to so great an assembly of Massachusetts men as will meet together on that day at the foot of the monument. Those words would he few but would express what I think to be the duty of every Massachusetts man and every true American in the present crisis of the country, and they would proceed from a heart full of anxiety for the future, not the far distant future but for the immediate future, and from a spirit resolved in the face of all perils and careless of personal consequences to make every effort in my power to uphold the Constitution as it is and the Union as it is, to defend them against all assaults open or covert and to exert every faculty I possess to persuade all honest and patriotic men north and south to stand between assaults of extreme factions and the Constitution of their country and stay the plague.

“Bunker Hill and Yorktown: The opening struggle and the crowning triumph of the same great contest for American Liberty. May a common glory in the past a common pride in the present and a common interest in the future keep them always united under the flag of a common country.”

This letter has never been offered for sale publicly before.

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