Daniel Webster Quotes

Daniel Webster, 1782 – 1852

Born: 18 January 1782, Salisbury, New Hampshire
Died: 24 October 1852, Marshfield, Massachusetts

Born the ninth of ten children to a politically-active tavern keeper and farmer, “little Black Dan” was frail and was excused from heavy farm chores. He became something of a pet to both his parents and older siblings and he was taught to read early. He entered Phillips Exeter Academy at fourteen, the next year he went to Dartmouth College. After graduation he studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1805, he also became a noted speaker. He spent a great deal of time in Congress: He served two terms starting in 1813, another two terms starting in 1823, he spent fourteen years in the senate, leaving to become Secretary of State under William Henry Harrison and John Tyler, returned to the senate in 1845, again leaving before his term was up to become Secretary of State under Millard Fillmore. His speeches are regarded to this day as some of the greatest made in Congress, but they weren’t always convincing. He ran for president three times, and twice he was offered to run as vice president by men who were elected president and died in office (Harrison and Tyler). Early in his career he opposed tariffs and favored free trade, he reversed that position in later years; some argue that he was beholden to wealthy New England manufacturers who had been shopkeepers in his earlier terms, and thus responding to their changing interest. Although opposed to slavery, he was much more dedicated to maintaining the union and lost support in the north by compromising his early positions on abolition, probably keeping him from being elected president in his final campaign. He left the office of Secretary of State when he fell from his horse on his farm, suffering a blow to the head, complicated by cirrhosis of the liver, which resulted in a fatal cerebral hemorrhage.

Daniel Webster quotes:

A country cannot subsist well without liberty, nor liberty without virtue.
    Daniel Webster

A fair return for their labor so as to have good homes, good clothing, good food.
    Daniel Webster

A man who is not ashamed of himself need not be ashamed of his early condition.
    Daniel Webster

A strong conviction that something must be done is the parent of many bad measures.
    Daniel Webster

Employment gives health, sobriety, and morals. Constant employment and well-paid labor produce, in a country like ours, general prosperity, content, and cheerfulness. Thus happy have we seen the country.
    Daniel Webster

Every man’s life, liberty, and property are in danger when the Legislature is in session.
    Daniel Webster

Every unpunished murder takes away something from the security of every man’s life.
    Daniel Webster

Failure is more frequently from want of energy than want of capital.
    Daniel Webster

Falsehoods not only disagree with truths, but usually quarrel among themselves.
    Daniel Webster

God grants liberty only to those who love it, and are always ready to guard and defend it.
    Daniel Webster – Speech (3 June 1834)

Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority. It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters.
    Daniel Webster

He who tampers with the currency robs labor of its bread.
    Daniel Webster

How little do they see what really is, who frame their hasty judgment upon that which seems.
    Daniel Webster

I do not propose to be buried until I am really dead and in my coffin.
    Daniel Webster – Declining to accept nomination as vice president to Zachary Taylor (1845)

I mistrust the judgment of every man in a case in which his own wishes are concerned.
    Daniel Webster

Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of power; but they cannot justify it, even if we were sure that they existed.

Daniel Webster

speech at Niblo’s Saloon, New York (15 March 1837)
Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of power; but they cannot justify it, even if we were sure that they existed. It is hardly too strong to say, that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intention, real or pretended. When bad intentions are boldly avowed, the people will promptly take care of themselves. On the other hand, they will always be asked why they should resist or question that exercise of power which is so fair in its object, so plausible and patriotic in appearance, and which has the public good alone confessedly in view? Human beings, we may be assured, will generally exercise power when they can get it; and they will exercise it most undoubtedly, in popular governments, under pretences of public safety or high public interest. It may be very possible that good intentions do really sometimes exist when constitutional restraints are disregarded. There are men, in all ages, who mean to exercise power usefully; but who mean to exercise it. They mean to govern well; but they mean to govern. They promise to be kind masters; but they mean to be masters.

Daniel Webster

speech at Niblo’s Saloon, New York (15 March 1837), cited in The Great Speeches and Orations of Daniel Webster (1923), via Project Gutenberg
He smote the rock of the national resources, and abundant streams of revenue gushed forth. He touched the dead corpse of Public Credit, and it sprung upon its feet.

Daniel Webster

on Alexander Hamilton (10 March 1831)
He who tampers with the currency robs labor of its bread.

Daniel Webster

speech at Niblo’s Saloon, New York (15 March 1837), cited in The Great Speeches and Orations of Daniel Webster (1923), via Project Gutenberg
I do not propose to be buried until I am really dead and in my coffin.

Daniel Webster

declining to accept nomination as vice president to Zachary Taylor (1845)
I have read their platform, and though I think there are some unsound places in it, I can stand upon it pretty well. But I see nothing in it both new and valuable. “What is valuable is not new, and what is new is not valuable.”

Daniel Webster

speech at Marshfield, Massachusetts, internal quote is from Henry Brougham (1 September 1848), cited in The Works of Daniel Webster, Edward Everett, ed. (1851), page 433
I shall enter on no encomium upon Massachusetts; she needs none. There she is. Behold her, and judge for yourselves. There is her history; the world knows it by heart. The past, at least, is secure. There is Boston, and Concord, and Lexington, and Bunker Hill; and there they will remain forever.

Daniel Webster

“Second Reply to Hayne” on the floor of the Senate (26-27 January 1830)
I was born an American; I live an American; I shall die an American.

Daniel Webster

speech (17 July 1850), cited in The Works of Daniel Webster, Edward Everett, ed. (1851), page 437
If there be any thing in my style or thought to be commended, the credit is due to my kind parents in instilling into my mind an early love of the Scriptures.

Daniel Webster

Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers, Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, compiler (1895)
If they can obtain fair compensation for their labor they will have good houses, good clothing, good food, and the means of educating their families. Labor will be cheerful and the people happy. The great intent of this great country is labor, labor, labor!

Daniel Webster

speech (1837), quoted in The Blacksmiths Journal, Vol. 22, No. 1, p. 7 (1920)
If we work upon marble, it will perish; if we work upon brass, time will efface it; if we rear temples, they will crumble to dust; but if we work on men’s immortal minds, if we impress on them with high principles, the just fear of God and love for their fellow-men, we engrave on those tablets something which no time can efface, and which will brighten and brighten to all eternity.

Daniel Webster

speech at Faneuil Hall (22 May 1852) recorded in “City Document No. 31”, City of Boston (1852)
In a day of peace, let us advance the arts of peace and the works of peace.

Daniel Webster

address on Laying the Cornerstone of the Bunker Hill Monument (17 June 1825)
Inconsistencies of opinion, arising from changes of circumstances, are often justifiable.

Daniel Webster

speech (25 and 27 July 1846), cited in The Works of Daniel Webster, Edward Everett, ed. (1851), Vol. V, page 187
Is it practicable, on the soil and in the climate of Massachusetts, to pursue a succession of crops? I cannot question it; and I have entire confidence in the improvements to our husbandry, and the other great advantages, which would accrue from judicious rotation of products.

Daniel Webster

“On the Agriculture of England” (13 January 1840)
It is hardly too strong to say, that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intention, real or pretended. When bad intentions are boldly avowed, the people will promptly take care of themselves.

Daniel Webster

speech at Niblo’s Saloon, New York (15 March 1837), cited in The Great Speeches and Orations of Daniel Webster (1923), via Project Gutenberg

It is my living sentiment, and by the blessing of God it shall be my dying sentiment,— Independence now and Independence forever.

Daniel Webster

“Discourse in Commemoration of Adams and Jefferson” speech at Faneuil Hall, Boston (2 August 1826)
It is the glorious prerogative of the empire of knowledge, that what it gains it never loses. On the contrary, it increases by the multiple of its own power: all its ends become means; all its attainments help to new conquests.

Daniel Webster

address on Laying the Cornerstone of the Bunker Hill Monument (17 June 1825), cited in The Great Speeches and Orations of Daniel Webster (1923), via Project Gutenberg
Justice, sir, is the great interest of man on earth. It is the ligament which holds civilized beings and civilized nations together.

Daniel Webster

on Mr. Justice Story (12 September 1845), cited in The Works of Daniel Webster, Edward Everett, ed. (1851), page 300
Justice, sir, is the great interest of man on Earth. It is the ligament which holds civilized beings and civilized nations together. Wherever her temple stands, and so long as it is duly honored, there is a foundation for social security, general happiness and the improvement and progress of our race.

Daniel Webster

on Mr. Justice Story (12 September 1845), cited in The Works of Daniel Webster, Edward Everett, ed. (1851), page 300
Keep cool; anger is not an argument.

Daniel Webster
Knowledge, in truth, is the great sun in the firmament. Life and power are scattered with all its beams.

Daniel Webster

address on laying of the cornerstone of the Bunker Hill Monument (17 June 1825)
Knowledge is the only fountain, both of the love and the principles of human liberty.

Daniel Webster

“On the Completion of the Bunker Hill Monument” address (17 June 1843)
Labor in this country is independent and proud. It has not to ask the patronage of capital, but capital solicits the aid of labor.

Daniel Webster

speech (2 April 1824)
Labor is one of the great elements of society, the great substantial interest on which we all stand.

Daniel Webster

cited in Treasury of Thought: Forming an Encyclopædia of Quotations from Ancient and Modern Authors, Maturin Murray Ballou, compiler (1884)
Let it be borne on the flag under which we rally in every exigency, that we have ONE COUNTRY, ONE CONSTITUTION, ONE DESTINY.

Daniel Webster

speech at Niblo’s Saloon, New York (15 March 1837), cited in The Great Speeches and Orations of Daniel Webster (1923), via Project Gutenberg
Let our object be, our country, our whole country, and nothing but our country. And, by the blessing of God, may that country itself become a vast and splendid monument, not of oppression and terror, but of Wisdom, of Peace, and of Liberty, upon which the world may gaze with admiration for ever!

Daniel Webster

address on Laying the Cornerstone of the Bunker Hill Monument (17 June 1825)
Let us develop the resources of our land, call forth its powers, build up its institutions, promote all its great interests, and see whether we also, in our day and generation, may not perform something worthy to be remembered.

Daniel Webster

address on laying of the cornerstone of the Bunker Hill Monument (17 June 1825)
Let us not be pygmies in a case that calls for men.

Daniel Webster

floor debate in the Senate (7 March 1850), cited in The Great Speeches and Orations of Daniel Webster (1923), via Project Gutenberg
Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable!

Daniel Webster

“Second Reply to Hayne” on the floor of the Senate (26-27 January 1830)
Liberty exists in proportion to wholesome restraint.

Daniel Webster

speech at the Charleston Bar Dinner (10 May 1847), cited in The Works of Daniel Webster, Edward Everett, ed. (1851), Vol. II, page 393

Man is a special being, and if left to himself, in an isolated condition, would be one of the weakest creatures; but associated with his kind, he works wonders.

Daniel Webster
Mind is the great lever of all things; human thought is the process by which human ends are ultimately answered; and the diffusion of knowledge, so astonishing in the last half-century, has rendered innumerable minds, variously gifted by nature, competent to be competitors or fellow-workers on the theatre of intellectual operation.

Daniel Webster

address on Laying the Cornerstone of the Bunker Hill Monument (17 June 1825)
No government is respectable which is not just. … Without unspotted purity of public faith, without sacred public principle, fidelity, and honor, no mere forms of government, no machinery of laws, can give dignity to political society.

Daniel Webster

On the Completion of the Bunker Hill Monument address (17 June 1843), cited in The Great Speeches and Orations of Daniel Webster (1923), via Project Gutenberg
No man not inspired can make a good speech without preparation.

Daniel Webster

ca. 1846-1847, quoted by his friend Peter Harvey, cited in many works late in the century
Nothing is more deceptive or more dangerous than the pretence of a desire to simplify government. The simplest governments are despotisms; the next simplest, limited monarchies; but all republics, all governments of law, must impose numerous limitations and qualifications of authority, and give many positive and many qualified rights.

Daniel Webster

speech in the Senate (7 May 1834), cited in The Great Speeches and Orations of Daniel Webster (1923), via Project Gutenberg
Nothing will ruin the country if the people themselves will undertake its safety; and nothing can save it if they leave that safety in any hands but their own.

Daniel Webster

introducing “A Bill to Continue the Bank of the United States for Six Years” in the Senate (18 March 1834)
On the diffusion of education among the people rest the preservation and perpetuation of our free institutions.

Daniel Webster

quoted in “Loyalty and Public Schools” in Annual Report, St. Louis Public Schools (23 August 1859)
On this question of principle, while actual suffering was yet afar off, they [the Colonies] raised their flag against a power to which, for purposes of foreign conquest and subjugation, Rome in the height of her glory is not to be compared — a power which has dotted over the surface of the whole globe with her possessions and military posts, whose morning drumbeat, following the sun, and keeping company with the hours, circles the earth with one continuous and unbroken strain of the martial airs of England.

Daniel Webster

speech (7 May 1834), cited in The Works of Daniel Webster, Edward Everett, ed. (1851), page 110
One country, one constitution, one destiny.

Daniel Webster

speech (15 March 1837), cited in The Works of Daniel Webster, Edward Everett, ed. (1851), page 349
One may live as a conqueror, a king or a magistrate; but he must die as a man.

Daniel Webster

eulogy for Mr. Justice Story, Circuit Court Room, Boston, Massachusetts (12 September 1845)
One may live as a conqueror, a king or a magistrate; but he must die as a man. The bed of death brings every human being to his pure individuality; to the intense contemplation of that deepest and most solemn of all relations, the relation between the creature and his Creator. Here it is that fame and renown cannot assist us; that all external things must fail to aid us; that even friends, affection and human love and devotedness cannot succor us.

Daniel Webster

eulogy for Mr. Justice Story, Circuit Court Room, Boston, Massachusetts (12 September 1845)
Our proper business is improvement. Let our age be the age of improvement. In a day of peace, let us advance the arts of peace and the works of peace. Let us develop the resources of our land, call forth its powers, build up its institutions, promote all its great interests, and see whether we also, in our day and generation, may not perform something worthy to be remembered.

Daniel Webster

address on Laying the Cornerstone of the Bunker Hill Monument (17 June 1825)
Sink or swim, live or die, survive or perish, I give my hand and my heart to this vote.

Daniel Webster

“Discourse in Commemoration of Adams and Jefferson” speech at Faneuil Hall, Boston (2 August 1826)
Spain stooped on South America, like a vulture on its prey. Every thing was force. Territories were acquired by fire and sword. Cities were destroyed by fire and sword. Hundreds of thousands of human beings fell by fire and sword. Even conversion to Christianity was attempted by fire and sword.

Daniel Webster

On the Completion of the Bunker Hill Monument address (17 June 1843)
Standing armies are the oppressive instruments for governing the people, in the hands of hereditary and arbitrary monarchs.

Daniel Webster

On the Completion of the Bunker Hill Monument address (17 June 1843)

The administration asserts the right to fill the ranks of the regular army by compulsion. … Is this, sir, consistent with the character of a free government? Is this civil liberty? Is this the real character of our Constitution? No, sir, indeed it is not.

Daniel Webster

speech in House of Representatives (9 December 1814)
The attainment of knowledge does not comprise all which is contained in the large term of education. The feelings are to be disciplined, the passions are to be restrained; true and worthy motives are to be inspired; a profound religious feeling is to be instilled, and pure morality inculcated under all circumstances. All this is comprised in education.

Daniel Webster

address to The Ladies of Richmond, Virginia (5 October 1840)
The civilized world seems at last to be proceeding to the conviction of that fundamental and manifest truth, that the powers of government are but a trust, and that they cannot be lawfully exercised but for the good of the community. As knowledge is more and more extended, this conviction becomes more and more general. Knowledge, in truth, is the great sun in the firmament. Life and power are scattered with all its beams.

Daniel Webster

address on Laying the Cornerstone of the Bunker Hill Monument (17 June 1825)
The contest, for all ages, has been to rescue Liberty from the grasp of executive power.

Daniel Webster

speech in the Senate (7 May 1834)
The dignity of history consists in reciting events with truth and accuracy, and in presenting human agents and their actions in an interesting and instructive form. The first element in history, therefore, is truthfulness; and this truthfulness must be displayed in a concrete form.

Daniel Webster

“The Dignity and Importance of History” speech to the Historical Society of New York (23 February 1852)
The law: It has honored us; may we honor it.

Daniel Webster

speech at the Charleston Bar Dinner (10 May 1847), cited in The Works of Daniel Webster, Edward Everett, ed. (1851), Vol. II, page 394
The people’s government, made for the people, made by the people, and answerable to the people.

Daniel Webster

“Second Reply to Hayne” on the floor of the Senate (26-27 January 1830)
The world is governed more by appearance than realities so that it is fully as necessary to seem to know something as to know it.

Daniel Webster
There are men, in all ages, who mean to exercise power usefully; but who mean to exercise it. They mean to govern well; but they mean to govern. They promise to be kind masters; but they mean to be masters.

Daniel Webster

speech Niblo’s Saloon, New York (15 March 1837), cited in The Works of Daniel Webster, Edward Everett, ed. (1851), page 358
There are persons who constantly clamor. They complain of oppression, speculation, and pernicious influence of wealth. They cry out loudly against all banks and corporations, and a means by which small capitalists become united in order to produce important and beneficial results. They carry on mad hostility against all established institutions. They would choke the fountain of industry and dry all streams.

Daniel Webster

on the floor of the Senate (12 March 1838)
There is always room at the top.

Daniel Webster
There is no refuge from confession but suicide; and suicide is confession.

Daniel Webster

“Argument on the murder of Captain White” (6 April 1830), cited in The Works of Daniel Webster, Edward Everett, ed. (1851), Vol. VI
There is nothing so powerful as truth, and often nothing so strange.

Daniel Webster

“Argument on the murder of Captain White” (6 April 1830), cited in The Works of Daniel Webster, Edward Everett, ed. (1851), Vol. VI
There is something on earth greater than arbitrary or despotic power. The lightning has its power, and the whirlwind has its power, and the earthquake has its power; but there is something among men more capable of shaking despotic thrones than lightning, whirlwind, or earthquake, and that is, the excited and aroused indignation of the whole civilized world.

Daniel Webster

speech to the “Sons of New Hampshire” (7 November 1849)
We have been taught to regard a representative of the people as a sentinel on the watch-tower of liberty.

Daniel Webster

speech in the Senate (7 May 1834), cited in The Great Speeches and Orations of Daniel Webster (1923), via Project Gutenberg

We wish that this column, rising towards heaven among the pointed spires of so many temples dedicated to God, may contribute also to produce, in all minds, a pious feeling of dependence and gratitude.

Daniel Webster

address on Laying the Cornerstone of the Bunker Hill Monument (17 June 1825)
What a man does for others, not what they do for him, gives him immortality.

Daniel Webster
Whatever makes men good Christians, makes them good citizens.

Daniel Webster

speech at Plymouth, MA (22 December 1820)
When the mariner has been tossed for many days in thick weather, and on an unknown sea, he naturally avails himself of the first pause in the storm, the earliest glance of the sun, to take his latitude, and ascertain how far the elements have driven him from his true course.

Daniel Webster

“Second Reply to Hayne” on the floor of the Senate (26-27 January 1830)
When tillage begins, other arts follow. The farmers, therefore, are the founders of human civilization.

Daniel Webster

“On the Agriculture of England” (13 January 1840)
Where is it written in the Constitution that you may take children from their parents, and parents from their children, and compel them to fight the battles of any war in which the folly or wickedness of government may engage it?

Daniel Webster

speech in House of Representatives (9 December 1814)

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