There are many men who shaped our nation in the early years who we have forgotten. They fought on the battlefield, and they fought in the political arena. We might recall their name for a test in school, but then we push their names into a dumpster and move on with our lives. They have no relevance in day to day survival. Yet their actions shape our world today. One such man was Daniel Webster who helped to create our political system today.
Daniel Webster was born in 1782 after the United States was created from a British colony. While he wasn’t one to help create the young nation, he was early enough in it’s birth to help develop it. He was educated at Dartmouth College and found a future in politics in Congress after establishing a successful career in Boston as a lawyer with powerful oratory skills. People began to take notice of him. It was in Congress that he found himself drawn to the Whig party and the common ground of anti-Jackson sentiment. It was there he found his voice and shaped the nation.
Stand Against Jackson
During the Nullification Crisis, Webster pledged his support to Andrew Jackson. (1) Many politicians took the stance only to find themselves pulling away. While they could agree with him on some things, they feared his growing power. It would be later in regard to the economic crisis that Webster, along with Clay and Calhoun, would take a stand against Jackson and find themselves as Whigs, anti-Jacksonians. (2) There was no political basis to being a Whig. Members of the party just had to stand hared against Jackson.
It could be said that it was thanks to these three men that the Whig party was able to become as prominent as it did as the “collective impact they created in Congress was far greater than any President of the era”. (3) They showed how combining forces could carry tremendous power. In the spirit of the American Revolution, they stood against a common enemy.
Webster began as a simple lawyer and got involved in politics as a Federalist. His election as a representative came about due to “his opposition to the War of 1812, which had crippled New England’s shipping trade.” (4) He continued as a lawyer after his stint in Congress. He then became a Senator after finding himself making a name due to his appearances in the Supreme Court and his oratory skills. (5) This path led him to the perfect position to be in the national spotlight and have such influence.
The Whig Move
His move to the Whig party would not be seen as a light move. Eyes were directed on him and his friends. He had power and an influential voice. Moving to join the Whigs was a direct contradiction to previous stances he had made in his political life. His actions were loud and gained a lot of attention. The move also brought him even further into the political spotlight. His involvement was so big that he ran for the office of the president as a Whig in 1836. (6)
The development of the Whig party was a major move in American history. Things began to change and pave the way for our modern political system.
Development of Two-Party System
He was a major player whose moves were watched carefully and whose actions impacted many decisions made in Washington and around the nation. While he never achieved the status to be named as one of the most famous American leaders, he made enough waves to impact our political world today.
He helped shape the two-party system simply by standing against Andrew Jackson. Major political players gravitated to two sides and maintained their sides through many elections. While other parties rose in popularity, the nation has continued to focus on the two-party system in guiding our nation.
Why Remember Him?
Too many people have been forgotten through the years who played pivotal roles in our history. They gave inspiration. They inspired. Through them, we have today the world we live in. Going back and remembering those who helped shape it helps us to appreciate it and understand it better.
(1) Charles Sellers, The Market Revolution: Jacksonian America, 1815–1846, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), 328.
(2) Ibid, 337.
(3) “Three Senatorial Giants: Clay, Calhoun and Webster,” U.S. History: Pre-Columbian to the New Millennium, accessed December 15, 2012, http://www.ushistory.org/us/30c.asp.
(4) Sydney Nathans, “Daniel Webster,” Marshfield, 1995, accessed December 16, 2012, http://www.marshfield.net/History/webster.htm.