DANIEL WEBSTER AND THE RISE OF NATIONAL CONSERVATISM by Richard N. Current

DANIEL WEBSTER AND THE RISE OF NATIONAL CONSERVATISM

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The public life (and that was the bulk of it) of Daniel Webster is reduced to bare essentials in this fine study. The analysis focuses on his magic oratory, his sometimes unscrupulous use of this power, his economic concepts -- as well as bare-faced reversal of concepts- on Federal banking, the principles of free-trade as opposed to protectionism, and the inviolability of the corporate structure; his contributions to constitutional law, his political apostasies, his over-riding ambitions. In tearing away the traditional veils of glamour and heroism surrounding Webster, the author succeeds in exposing a figure of greater complexity and significance. Psychologically, Webster abounded in moral convictions and noble ideas of patriotism, yet he fleeced his creditors mercilessly, and cunningly traded on the sentiments of anti-Masonic elements for political support. He placed the welfare of the common-man before all else, yet sought to obviate the growing power of the people, and died asking whether any of his final words had been unworthy of his name. From the viewpoint of American history, Webster emerges as the great carrier-forward and establisher of the more fundamental traditions of conservatism. The enigmas and ambiguities pointed out by Mr. Current, all the Congressional Contests with Clay and Calhoun and Benton, even much of the personal greed and calculations, begin to reconcile themselves as one sees Webster maturing into the almost classic ideal of the conservative. His life becomes a constant quest for this stature. Rewarding and engaging fare for the history-minded, by a professor of history at the University of Illinois.

Pub Date: June 25th, 1955
Publisher: Little, Brown