DANIEL WEBSTER AND THE TRIAL OF AMERICAN NATIONALISM 1843-1852 by

DANIEL WEBSTER AND THE TRIAL OF AMERICAN NATIONALISM 1843-1852

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A calm, well-written, scholarly narrative of the years of Webster's final unsuccessful effort to win Presidential candidacy -- which intensified his stand against abolitionism. Well before 1843 Webster had espoused a broad ""nationalism"" reflecting the perspective of his commercial and industrial constituency; Dalzell shows how hard it became to sustain this trans-sectional, balance-of-forces politics as the issue of slavery expansion came to a head and the Whig Party fell into fragments. Webster's positions, maneuvers, hopes and rhetoric are described in terms of this centrifugal Whig process: his support for the Compromise of 1850, regarded by many then and since as a betrayal of the North, is explained neither in terms of mere self-interest nor self-sacrificing statesmanship, but as a pragmatic attempt to make the slavery question less disruptive to the Union and to Webster's conservative politics-as-usual way of operating. The flux of his fortunes thereafter -- his efforts to establish a new ""Union Party,"" and his loss of the Presidential nomination partly because his own supporters felt more comfortable without him and his Southern links -- are ably described. Rather surprisingly there is little comment on Webster's opposition to internal American territorial expansion or his motives for it. But overall this is a good descriptive supplement to broader studies of antebellum polarization.

Pub Date: Jan. 29th, 1972
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin