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Daniel Webster’s Notes for a Speech to the Senate, March 7, 1850

“In reply to Calhoun and speaking only from notes, Webster delivered one of the most famous addresses in the history of the Senate. Beginning with the immortal phrase, ‘Mr. President, I wish to speak today, not as a Massachusetts man, nor as a Northern man, but as an American, and a member of the Senate of the United States. . . . I speak for the preservation of the Union. Hear me for my cause,’ he argued that Southern secession would bring war. His statesmanly support of Clay’s compromise, however, alienated the large antislavery constituency in his home state.”

Manuscript Division, Library of Congress

Daniel Webster’s Notes for a Speech to the Senate Daniel Webster’s Notes for a Speech to the Senate

Preserving the Union - 2

The Missouri Compromise of 1820, which admitted Missouri as a slave state and Maine as a free state, temporarily solved the divisive issue of slavery’s spread to the western territories. The issue continued, however, to flare up in Congress until the Civil War. In 1850, Senator Henry Clay sought another compromise to preserve the Union and avoid war. The most famous debate in the history of the Senate ensued between Senators John C. Calhoun and Daniel Webster over Clay’s proposals. It was the last debate among these three giants of the Senate.