- Paperback: 816 pages
- Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (February 12, 1997)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0393318494
- ISBN-13: 978-0393318494
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 2 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #757,095 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Daniel Webster: The Man and His Time Paperback – February 12, 1997
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From Library Journal
The life of Daniel Webster, eminent politician and statesman of the four decades preceding the Civil War, is here chronicled by a veteran biographer of the Jacksonian era (Andrew Jackson and the Course of American Democracy, 1833-1845, LJ 5/1/84). Called one of our five greatest senators and arguably America's finest orator by Remini, Webster also served three presidents as secretary of state and contributed to U.S. constitutional thought. His personal life was less successful: he was grieved by the early deaths of his children, and his inability to manage money led him into dubious financial stratagems. And he ended his career as a poignant antique crying for compromise to save the Union in an age that demanded slavery's final resolution. Remini's scholarship and style are flawless, and he introduces substantial new information?notably a new medical interpretation of Webster's death. It may be difficult to rouse public interest in a fat book about Webster, but this biography is strongly recommended for academic collections and larger public libraries.?Fritz Buckallew, Univ. of Central Oklahoma Lib., Edmond
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Kirkus Reviews
This massive biography leaves no stone unturned in portraying a familiar but little-studied antebellum figure, considered the young country's best orator. Veteran historian Remini (Henry Clay, 1991; The Life of Andrew Jackson, 1988; etc.) maintains a delicate balance between Webster's (17821852) two personas: ``the Godlike Daniel,'' so called for his brilliant public addresses and eulogies of heroes of the American Revolution, and ``Black Dan,'' a tag referring not only to his dark appearance but to his ruthless politicking and ferocious temper. Much of the study of Webster's public life is organized around the famous speeches that defined and shaped his career, including his dual eulogy of presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, and his congressional address appealing for early recognition of Greek independence from the Ottoman Empire, which positioned the congressman and senator for later appointments as secretary of state. Black Dan is more evident in Remini's depiction of the statesman's private life. Besides being alcoholic, Webster had the terrible misfortune of outliving four of his five children, launching three abortive and embarrassing attempts to gain the presidency, and suffering endless financial problems. Remini quite deftly shows why he was known as ``the Great Expounder and Defender of the Constitution,'' depicting Webster as one of the earliest strict constructionists, a man who felt that the Constitution was the defining American document and that the preservation of the Union took precedence over all other policy considerations. Unfortunately, it is here that Webster's political clout was eventually devalued, as he refused to combat the Fugitive Slave Act and chose to accept House Speaker Henry Clay's Missouri Compromise, which perpetuated slavery and did nothing but guarantee the outbreak of war. Remini never properly indicts Webster for this moral lapse, nor does he explain why constitutional amendments to reverse the injustice were not considered. Though Remini's obvious admiration for Webster may sometimes cloud his view, a more complete and engrossing biography could not be produced. (photos, not seen) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
It is almost impossible for Americans in the 21st century to imagine the effect of a truly great orator. With everything filtered through television and the social media, being entranced by a three hour speech seems unbelievable. But that was the effect Webster had on an audience. It was a time when bodily movements, tone and inflection of voice, facial expressions and vocal volume control could mesmerize an audience, even Congress. Remini gives many extracts from Webster’s speeches and Webster himself was quick to publish his orations. Some of them still strike me as powerful but many of them seem to come from such a different time that on paper they read as exaggerated or artificial. Remini forces the reader to picture him or herself at a time when great orators like Webster and Henry Clay dominated politics. They were received with huge adulation by the masses of people. Maybe the closest thing today would be the effect of a movie or TV star coming to a small town.
As Remini notes many times and other reviewers have noted, Webster had two sides – the patriot and magnificent speaker who expressed for all Americans at the time the unity and destiny of the nation and the man who had no control over his impulses – money (especially money), political ambition and much of the time his appetites. Remini gives the reader many examples of Webster’s incredibly positive power as a speaker and debater as well as his often complete lack of empathy or concern over the results of some of his actions. Webster’s all-encompassing goal was preserving the Constitution and the Union with a strong central government. This produced both his very best and worst actions, from his brilliance in the Webster-Hayne debate and the Dartmouth College case before the Supreme Court to his support for the Compromise of 1850 including the Fugitive Slave Law.
Remini puts the reader into a time in American history that is often overlooked today. It’s the world of generals like Andrew Jackson, William Henry Harrison and Zachary Taylor, the world of orators like Webster, Clay, and Calhoun (the “Triumvirate”), and the world where slavery began more and more to dominate the American consciousness. I highly recommend the book.
Calhoun, Clay, and Webster, as the author well puts it, are the three last great men, after the miraculous coexistence of the founding generation. The three men together took on the job of sending off the USA to work, just as young people leave school or college and meet the real world with all the responsibilities attached to their own actions.
Little or nothing did I know about the man. I deeply appreciate this effort to bring to life this great figure, with all his weaknesses as a man, and not as a myth, and letting us readers really see those times (from the Revolution to almost the Civil War) as clearly as through a clean glass, with no fog of ages in between.
The writer of this biography, again, is truly the right person to take on a life of such a great American figure as Daniel Webster. Alas, America, how much your soul has been soiled, how much like Europe you are again. Full circle.
Remini gives us a very fair and well balanced portait of a man who was a contemporary of Henry Clay, Andrew Jackson, and John Calhoun (all of whom Remini has written authorative biographies on).
Make no mistake, Daniel Webster was a very complex man. One who was capable of pure genious but could also be unbelievably ignorant. His feud with Henry Clay probably cost both men the oppurtunity to be president. His ability to amass ungodly debts and then refuse to pay them is equally bizaar. However, this is the same man who argued many of the ground breaking case before the Supreme Court. He helped to stall the Civil War for 20 years by showing unflinching support to Andrew Jackson (Who was in the opposite political party) handling of the nullification crisis.
Remini shows us all of these sides with the rare ability to help us get into the mind of Webster. Remini understands the age and the politics of this era like no other... therefore, if you are interested in learning about the great Daniel Webster.... look no further!
However, as much as I enjoyed learning about Webster I admit you have to be motivated to read the entire book. While the politics of Webster's time were undoubtley the biggest of the time - it is hard for to finish all 800 pages when living in 2004. Make no mistake this is a great book... but even great books can be a bit dull.