Prof. Joel Richard Paul on Daniel Webster, U.S. Senate, & “Liberty and Union”

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The Learning Curve Joel Richard Paul

[00:00:00] Albert Cheng: Hello again, everybody. This is Dr. Albert Cheng coming to you from Fayetteville, Arkansas, with another episode of the Learning Curve podcast. I’m here today with Justice Barry Anderson. Justice Anderson, nice to see you again.

[00:00:32] Barry Anderson: Delighted to be here. We’ve been working through some flood warnings and other kinds of weather-related issues. We’ve had more rain than we need, but the sun has come out, and it’s a great day, and we’re looking forward to a conversation here about Daniel Webster.

[00:00:45] Albert Cheng: Oh yeah, oh yeah. I’m looking forward to that. But before we get to that, let’s, besides just another weather update, talk about some of the other things we’ve seen in the news.

[00:00:53] So, Justice Anderson, I want to highlight a story that was published in The Hill a few days ago on micro schools. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of that term, but these are small schools that have really popped up all over the country. They’re just basically another educational alternative that a lot of families are jumping into.

[00:01:15] A lot of these have become increasingly popular. Post the COVID-19 pandemic, I don’t know, you might’ve heard of the term learning pods and other words, you know, in terms to name some of these things, but really, you know, I think one of the things that this, this article mentions is just how difficult to define they are.

[00:01:34] The National Microschooling Center says that, you know, these are small private institutions that serve a median of 16 children and offer full time, part time or hybrid instruction. So, covers a lot of different ways to do school, and certainly the passage of a lot of new school choice programs and educational savings accounts has made some of the growth of microschools more possible in a lot of areas.

[00:01:57] So, anyway, for readers that are interested in learning more about microschools, I just want to highlight that article. Justice Anderson, I know you just retired, but I want to rope you back into some legal thinking here. I’d like to hear if you have any thoughts on defining microschools from a legal perspective and how we need to be thinking about that.

[00:02:17] Barry Anderson: So it raises really, really interesting questions and actually it ties into the article that I’m going to be talking about, and I’ll get to that in a minute, but when you talk about defining microschools, this is really a state by state adventure because Education, even though federal aid in a variety of ways influences and supports education, it really is a state by state kind of institution, and how you define them, whether you even permit so called micro schools, are a matter for state legislatures, and it’s going to vary from place to place.

[00:02:52] If you think about micro schools in a historical context, the reality is What is old is new again, because if you think back, for example, to an author that’s very well known in this part of the country, Laura Ingalls Wilder, in her books about the prairie experience in Minnesota, Iowa, South Dakota, you get a discussion about schooling that these were micro schools.

[00:03:15] There were a handful of students who gathered in a classroom. Taught by a teacher, hired by local parents, sometimes not even a local school district. So, the question of what the definition should be is not going to yield any kind of precision at this point. It’s going to be worked out on a school-by-school basis, on a state by state basis, and I suspect deep in the heart of school regulators everywhere, there’s horror at the thought of lots of individual parents gathering and educating children, but the reality is that model is hundreds of years old.

[00:03:47] And it’s a lot older than our industrial sized public school system that we’re so used to today. Yeah, that’s right. Good perspective. And it’s also a complete duck on answering your question, but, you know, it’s the best we could do at the moment.

[00:04:03] Albert Cheng: Well, I appreciated it.

[00:04:05] Barry Anderson: So, I’d like to talk a little bit about my article, which is a really well done piece on career and technical education.

[00:04:13] Education being what it is, we now have initials for this. It’s CTE. This particular article is written by Bruno Mano and appeared in Education Next entitled Clearing New Pathways to Opportunity. And he summarizes some of the history of this. Again, I would say that some of this is a return to previous eras, where we’re discussing a technical route to a career as opposed to an academic route to a career.

[00:04:41] One of the points he makes in his piece is that these two things are not necessarily opposed to each other. You could have a career in technical education as a student who also goes on to college. He asserts that’s going to be fairly typical. I’m a little skeptical about that. I do think one of the problems you run into with running career and technical education through a public education model is you do have the silo issue.

[00:05:04] And the silo issue here is you have leadership of the school districts It tends to be academic, they have ed degrees or maybe some other kind of doctorate or other professional degree. And if they’re anything like me, I have one of those fancy advanced degrees. I’ve got a JD, you have a doctorate. But the reality is you wouldn’t want to let me anywhere near a sharp tool.

[00:05:26] And I suspect that’s true in a lot of districts. I know that when Minnesota merged its community education and vocational schools, the vocational schools felt they got the raw. I shouldn’t overstate the case, but there were a lot of teachers in vocational schools who thought they got a raw deal here in the sense that they were being directed by people who didn’t really understand career and technical education.

[00:05:47] Mr. Manuel here would suggest there are ways around that problem. But I do think it’s a challenge, and the article’s great, I recommend it to you. Turns out we’ve been doing career and technical education with federal support for over a hundred years. So, this, too, is something that appears new, but is really quite old.

[00:06:01] Albert Cheng: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, there’s nothing new under the sun, as they say, I guess. But, yeah, excited for what possibilities this might create. So, I guess we’ll all keep at it and keep paying attention here. Alright, well, that’s the news for this week. Stick around, though, because coming up after the break, we’re going to talk about Daniel Webster with Joel Richard Paul. Joel Richard Paul is Sullivan Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of California Law School in San Francisco. He has also taught on the law faculties at UC Berkeley, Yale, Leiden, University of Connecticut, and American University, and lectured or published in Europe, Asia, and Latin America. Professor Paul is the author of Unlikely Allies, How a Merchant, a Playwright, and a Spy Saved the American Revolution. Without precedent, Chief Justice John Marshall and his times, and most recently indivisible Daniel Webster and the birth of American nationalism. He attended Amherst College and obtained a BA in history, economics, and political science, the London School of Economics and Political Science, Harvard Law School, and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

[00:07:17] Professor Paul, welcome to the show. It’s a pleasure to have you on the Learning Curve podcast.

[00:07:22] Joel Richard Paul: Thank you for having me.

[00:07:23] Albert Cheng: Let’s start at a high level. We’re here to talk about Daniel Webster. He was called the conscience of New England, right, the 19th century American statesman, and became probably one of the greatest orators in U.S. history. And so, as listeners know, you have this excellent narrative, Indivisible, Daniel Webster and the birth of American nationalism. For those who haven’t read the book, could you just paint the larger picture of who Webster was and why he’s such a timelessly important figure?

[00:07:53] Joel Richard Paul: Sure, from 1812 to 1852, Daniel Webster was really at the center of American political discourse. He was a congressman initially from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, later from Boston. He was a senator from Massachusetts. He ran for president three times. He was Secretary of State twice in that capacity. He helped to avoid war with Great Britain and really defined our northern border with Canada. But most significantly, Webster was regarded, and is today still regarded, as the greatest orator in the history of the English language.

[00:08:34] He was a leading figure in opposition to slavery in New England. He opposed the War of 1812 and the Mexican War, and he really, as you said, became known as the conscience of New England. But his speeches were Widely read and disseminated, not just in the United States, but throughout the world. He was really a rock star in his day.

[00:09:00] When he visited England on vacation on one occasion, he was literally mobbed by all of the great intellectual figures, the great writers, the political figures in Britain at the time. And they all commented on the fact that he was a man who was, uh, really extraordinary. Emerson said he was the completest man, and he stood as a such an enormous figure. He really shaped the thinking of people like Abraham Lincoln and the folks who started the Republican Party under Lincoln. So he was, he was a great figure in his day.

[00:09:39] Albert Cheng: You know, speaking of being a great figure, a great orator, you know, he, I guess apparently, had a remarkable talent for memorization. Now, all of this is despite really the picture of his childhood and family background that you’ve described. You know, flinty, fourth generation, New Englander, father was a poor farmer, lacking formal education. Could you say more about Webster’s family background, his early life, and what were his formative educational experiences that made him into the man he became?

[00:10:07] Joel Richard Paul: Well, his family, as you said, was a very modest farming family in New Hampshire. He had 10 brothers and sisters. He was the youngest of 10 rather. And he really had no formal education until around age 15, at which point his father recognized that Webster had just an extraordinary amount of talent and so He sent him at great expense to the family to school at Phillips Exeter, and one of the things that students had to do there was they would have to stand up and recite in front of their classmates, and when he was called on to recite, he froze up, and he couldn’t say a word, and he was so humiliated by the experience.

[00:10:53] that he was sent home. He was, he was let go. It was, it was a humiliating experience. His father then hired a private tutor for Webster, and two years later, he tried again. He was admitted to Dartmouth College. Basically, at that point, he was pretty much self-educated in Latin and Greek and geometry. And at Dartmouth College, he was, he was kind of an average student, except that he excelled in public speaking, that he was so determined to overcome this initial disaster in his early education that he, he wanted to make his father and his family proud, and he was just determined to be a great speaker. He became a class speaker on graduation day. And earned a well-deserved reputation for his extraordinary rhetoric.

[00:11:40] Albert Cheng: Well, let’s talk about some of his other legacies, enduring legacies, if you will. I mean, use the phrase, birth of American nationalism in the title of your book. And I mean, you write in it, quote, when the U.S. was founded in 1776, its citizens didn’t think of themselves as Americans. They were New Yorkers, or Virginians, or Pennsylvanians, end quote. And certainly, the statesmen in antebellum America, including John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun, and Andrew Jackson, they all had competing national visions. So, talk about some of these competing national visions and how they contrast with what you term Daniel Webster’s constitutional nationalism.

[00:12:21] Joel Richard Paul: Well, it’s important to recognize, as you said, that people did not have an identity as Americans. The concept of the United States was really a kind of abstract notion to most people.

[00:12:32] They thought of themselves as Virginians and New Yorkers, not as Americans. John C. Calhoun had this notion of regional identity that, you know, you were a southerner, you were a northerner, you were a westerner. Henry Clay had the idea that if the federal government spent money building roads and bridges and canals, we could sort of link the country together through commercial interests, that sort of a material sense of what it meant to be an American.

[00:13:00] Other people, a lot of the great writers of the period, like James Fenimore Cooper, Walt Whitman, Hawthorne, Melville, they were part of a movement known as the Young America, that wanted to develop a unique kind of American culture. John Quincy Adams had this notion that the territory itself defined us as Americans.

[00:13:23] In other words, that literally the land that we were occupying made us Americans. And then you have Jackson. Andrew Jackson had this notion of populist, racist, Nationalism. He had this notion that this was a white Christian nation, and that it was a nation just for white men and Christians, and other people, Mexicans, Africans, Native Americans, they didn’t belong here.

[00:13:51] They were sort of a subset that was not really a fully-fledged American citizen. And against all of that, Webster pushed the notion that That it was the Constitution that made us Americans, and it made all of us Americans, regardless of where we came from, regardless of our race, or our religion, we are all one nation.

[00:14:13] And it was that idea of Webster’s that ultimately displaced all of the other ideas of American nationalism. And it was transformative because all of the textbooks of the day, the McGuffey readers, the Pierpont readers, which every school child read and had to memorize included speeches of Webster in which he extolled the virtues of American nationalism under one constitution. And that was really the fundamental idea of American nationalism up to the present.

[00:14:46] Albert Cheng: That’s quite a legacy to boast there. Let’s talk about another really life stage or contribution that he made, which is between 1819 and 1824, he was a leading attorney before Chief Justice John Marshall’s U. S. Supreme Court. And he won several cases, Dartmouth College versus Woodward, McCullough versus Maryland, Gibbons versus Ogden, some high-profile cases. Could you talk about Webster as an attorney? And then, really, how, you know, his legal arguments really propelled these landmark Supreme Court decisions and ultimately shaped U.S. constitutional law.

[00:15:25] Joel Richard Paul: Well, Webster was largely a self-educated attorney. He apprenticed as an attorney. He never went to law school, and he became a lawyer. known as the leading advocate for the Constitution before the Supreme Court. He argued more cases before the Supreme Court than any other person in history, and he won the vast majority of those cases.

[00:15:45] He and Chief Justice John Marshall, about whom I’ve written another book called Without Precedent, had a very interesting relationship. One man sort of helped define the other, and it’s hard to say what exactly was Marshall’s original thought and what he was simply lifting from the briefs and the argument made by Webster before the court in the Dartmouth College case, for example, it was Webster’s argument that Dartmouth College could exist as an independent corporation, that it had a life of its own free from the state of New Hampshire.

[00:16:22] that changed the way that we think about corporations. Up to that point in time, there were no such things as private corporations in America. Corporations were seen as auxiliaries of the state. But Webster saw that the charter was given to Dartmouth College, that Dartmouth College had an independent existence.

[00:16:41] And because of his argument in the Dartmouth College case, There was this flourishing of private corporations. Within a decade, there were tens of thousands of private corporations created in America, and it was those corporations that transformed the country through the Industrial Revolution. In McCulloch vs. Maryland, Webster made the very powerful argument that Congress had powers that were not necessarily in the text of the Constitution itself, not explicitly in the text of the Constitution, but that were implied in the notion of powers that were necessary and proper to carrying out the other powers that were explicitly identified in Article 1 of the Constitution.

[00:17:25] And in Gibbons v. Ogden, Webster really broke the monopolies that the states had created, regulated navigation on the rivers. Each state would issue a license to one company to run all of the navigation particular route. And those monopolies were driving up the cost of transportation and made it very difficult to knit the country together.

[00:17:49] Commercially Webster broke those monopolies by arguing that the federal government had the power to do that. That reached inside the states to control all of the means of navigation, and implicitly, therefore, that necessarily expanded dramatically the power of Congress under the Commerce Clause. Today, all of Congress’s authority to regulate crimes, to regulate commercial activities, farming, production, manufacturing, labor, all of that comes from the Court’s decision in Gibbons v. Ogden. And it was Webster’s argument that did that.

[00:18:26] Albert Cheng: Yeah, wow, so I mean, we have, his fingerprints are over quite a lot of what we kind of take for granted in our lives today, it seems. So, you know, moving on, I want to specifically talk about a speech that he gave in Plymouth, Massachusetts, that marked the 200th anniversary of the arrival of the Pilgrims, which is to change gears for a bit.

[00:18:48] And it’s actually worth, you know, for the listeners who are unfamiliar with his rhetoric and just the richness of it, let me, I’ll read a bit of it. You know, in that speech, he said, in the sight of our law, the African slave trader is a pirate and a felon. And in the sight of heaven, An Offender Beyond the Ordinary Depth of Human Guilt.

[00:19:08] Yeah, could you talk a bit more about this speech, you know, and how did it launch, importantly, his early career as a rhetorically gifted anti-slavery statesman?

[00:19:17] Joel Richard Paul: Yes, this was an extraordinary moment. This enormous crowd is gathered at Plymouth to hear the speech. And it’s not just that he condemns The Slave Holder and the Slave Trader.

[00:19:30] He says in that speech, I hear the sound of the hammer, I see the smoke of the furnaces, where manacles and fetters are still forged for human limbs. I see the visages of those who by stealth and at midnight labor at this work of hell. Foul and dark as may become the artificers of such instruments of misery and torture.

[00:19:50] In other words, what he’s saying there is his own constituents. The people in New England who are creating the ships that carry the slaves, who are making the manacles, that hold the slaves, they are no less. Innocent. They’re no less guilty of the crimes of the slaveholders. That’s an incredibly powerful notion.

[00:20:10] And his speech was so powerful that a Harvard professor who was in the audience, George Tickner, said afterward, I was never so excited by public speaking before in my life. Three or four times, I thought my temp would burst with the gush of blood. And when I came out, I was afraid to come near him. I thought he was on fire.

[00:20:32] I mean, that was the kind of rhetoric that he was capable of. And of course, it sealed his reputation, not just as a great orator, but as the leading anti-slavery figure in New England.

[00:20:46] Barry Anderson: So, Professor Daniel Webster was one of At least three great statesmen who dominated American politics for much of the first half of the 19th century.

[00:20:56] The other two, of course, are Henry Clay of Kentucky and John C. Calhoun of South Carolina. And, you know, you can probably figure out where to fit Lincoln in here as well, although he doesn’t come along until a little bit later in that first half of the century. In any event, could you talk a little bit about this golden age of American statesmanship?

[00:21:14] And oratory in the United States Senate. We often talk about the Senate as being the home of great orators. I’m not sure it is still true today, but it certainly was true then. And Webster’s key role in it could also use a little explanation from you.

[00:21:28] Joel Richard Paul: Sure. Well, at the time, in the middle of the 19th century, without the aid of television or films and not that much live theater, people saw oratory as a kind of performance art.

[00:21:43] And people would come, and they’d bring picnic lunches, and they’d sit outside, and they’d listen to the great orators speak, of whom Lincoln was not one of them. And people would speak for hours on end. Daniel Webster could give a speech without notes and go on for four, six hours. Some of his speeches, most famous speech, went on for two days.

[00:22:06] And people would sit there, mesmerized, listening to him. And this was a kind of performance piece that people expected the orator to become, not just to speak well, but to perform, to be a live, kind of lively, funny, interesting artist on the stage. I think the most significant thing about the Great Triumvirate is that these three men, Calhoun representing the South and the interests of the slavocracy, Clay representing the West in the interests of trying to expand the country’s commerce westward and Webster as the leading voice in New England.

[00:22:44] These three men were political rivals. They agreed about nothing. They were no less polarized than our politics are today, but the difference between those men and the political figures we have today is they respected each other as men. They behaved with a degree of civility in their public discourse, and They were willing to listen, they were willing to hear each other, and to find compromises, to seek the common good. That is an art that unfortunately, uh, seems to be absent in our present leadership.

[00:23:23] Barry Anderson: When we talk about You know, the great orators of the time, it’s important to talk about some of the specific speeches, and I’d like to do that right now, and I’m pointing to Webster’s second reply to Hain. In that speech in January of 1830, he’s discussing protective tariffs, slavery, the nature of the Union, he talks about liberty and union now and forever, one and inseparable. Could you talk about why that speech has historically been considered one of the greatest speeches ever delivered by a United States Senator?

[00:23:55] Joel Richard Paul: Well, it is the greatest speech ever delivered by a United States senator, or perhaps the greatest speech ever delivered in the English language. He spoke for two days.

[00:24:05] Simply, the rumor that Webster was going to speak on the floor of the Senate was enough for mobs to swarm in. of people in Washington, D. C. to line up. There was no space for people to hear him, so the Senators gave up their seats to the ladies and people sat on, sat on steps, and they sat on the floor, and they sat on piles of documents, and the doors of the Senate were opened up so people could stand outside and hear whatever they could hear for hours.

[00:24:32] He spoke for six hours. His speech was remarkable. The quality of the rhetoric is Shakespearean. It’s like something you can’t imagine. A human mind could write something that poetic, let alone the fact he was speaking extemporaneously with no notes. Afterward, Carl Emerson wrote to Carlyle and said it was the speech which Americans have never done praising.

[00:24:57] The senator against whom he was debating, Senator Haine, admitted it was the greatest speech. Ever delivered. The King of France, this was why the King of France decided that he would have this enormous painting of Webster, 16 feet by 30 feet, which he commissioned with artist George Healy, just simply portraying Webster.

[00:25:17] Now, obviously, the King of France didn’t hear the speech, but the speech was eerie. Instantly distributed throughout the country. People copied the speech down. It was reprinted in all of the newspapers throughout the country. A hundred thousand copies of the speech were reprinted by various publishers and distributed around the nation.

[00:25:37] Schoolchildren were required, for generations afterward, to memorize the most famous poems. It’s a prayer for holding the union together as the vehicle for ending slavery. When he says liberty and union now and forever one and inseparable, the significance of that phrase is he’s saying that we need the union. If we are ever to end slavery and liberty, personal liberty is the engine which will drive our nation forward.

[00:26:19] Barry Anderson: There’s no question that that speech is a remarkable event and a remarkable document in American history, and it is understudied today, I’m very much afraid. So let me move on to another chapter of American history in which we have some significance here.

[00:26:35] And I want to talk about the chapter in your book entitled, A War of Conquest, 1845 1846, which discusses the Mexican American War, which was a very controversial topic in American history. Under a key treaty which officially ended the war, the U. S. acquired half a million square miles, including what is now California, Nevada, and Utah, most of New Mexico and Arizona, Parts of Wyoming and Colorado. I wonder if you could spend a little bit of time here talking about the significance of the Mexican war and the larger impact it had on Webster and the Daniel Webster era. Sure.

[00:27:13] Joel Richard Paul: Well, I want to try to avoid getting into all the wrinkles of the war because it’s a very complicated story, but fundamentally the Mexican American war was primarily.

[00:27:25] And they were driven by Southerners who wanted to have acquired additional territory for two reasons that were closely linked. One was to have more slave states in the Union so that they would have a majority in the United States Senate. Up to that point in time, there was an equal number of slave states and free states, and the free states had a majority in the House of Representatives because they have a larger population.

[00:27:51] So the free states sort of had the upper hand in Congress. Slave states wanted to gain an advantage in the Senate by expanding the number of slave states, but also they were concerned because the population of slaves was so large, was growing so quickly in the South, they thought that they would be safer if they could sort of spread the population out more evenly over a larger territory, because white Southerners were terrified of the risk of a slave revolt, as had happened in Haiti. People like Webster and Lincoln. They vehemently opposed the Mexican American War. They saw the Mexican American War as an expansion of the slavocracy, and indeed, the acquisition of that territory is really the sort of the spark that leads to the American Civil War, because the question then becomes, well, what do we do with this territory?

[00:28:45] How should it be governed? Should it be slave, or should it be free? And that question is the question which is ultimately addressed in the Compromise of 1850.

[00:28:54] Barry Anderson: Let’s move to the Compromise of 1850, which, of course, arrived at through the work of Henry Clay and Stephen Douglas and others. That temporarily de-escalated tensions between slave and free states in the decade before the American Civil War. And maybe you could talk a little bit about Webster’s role in helping to preserve the Union as well as how, as Secretary of State, a role that he also filled, his implementation of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act ended his political career. Right.

[00:29:25] Joel Richard Paul: You know, this is an example of the kind of political courage that no longer is obvious in American life. Clay, who’s a very sickly old man, goes to Webster and says, you know, we have this problem on our hands because California wants to enter the Union. California, there’s this discovery of gold in California. We don’t want the gold to fall in the hands of the British or the Spanish or someone else. We want California to be in the Union, but California wants to enter the Union as a free state.

[00:29:57] That would upset the balance in the Senate. The sub slave states don’t want that, so we have to come up with a compromise. Clay proposes this compromise, which is very complicated, but the essence of the compromise is we’ll admit California as a free state. But the Northern states have to agree to the Fugitive Slave Act, which basically meant that they would have to return fugitive slaves to the South.

[00:30:22] Southern whites felt that slaves who had escaped to the North were sort of like, the North was stealing their property. That’s how they viewed this, and they wanted their property back. So, they felt the Fugitive Slave Law was their right, was their entitlement. Clay knew that he could not get this through the Senate without the endorsement of Webster because Webster is the leading voice opposing slavery and as a leading Northern figure, that he could bring along with him enough congressmen, enough votes in the Senate, that they could get the thing done.

[00:30:56] But Webster had aspired to the presidency. He knew by endorsing this law, he would completely destroy his reputation as a leading opponent of slavery. Yet, he knew that if he didn’t do it, the South was going to succeed. The Southern states had made it very clear that if you admit California, Without the compromise, we will secede.

[00:31:21] And so here is Webster caught on the horns of the dilemma between his love of the union, his defense of the union on the one hand, and on the other hand his opposition to slavery. And he ultimately decides that the only way to end slavery ultimately will be through the union. So therefore, we must sacrifice one for the other.

[00:31:39] And so he endorses the Fugitive Slave Act, and it is the end of his political career and he knows it. He, uh, he’s, he leaves the Senate in disgrace after delivering one of the most famous speeches on the floor of the Senate, his March 7th speech, which accuses his fellow Northerners of hypocrisy on the question of slavery.

[00:31:58] And he gets appointed Secretary of State because he’s the only guy who’s willing to enforce the Patriot Slave Act. So, President Fillmore appoints him Secretary of State, and it’s Webster’s unfortunate duty to enforce the Future Slave Act. At the time, the Secretary of State was really what we would consider today the Attorney General.

[00:32:19] He was the guy who enforced the laws of the federal government, and so it was his duty to enforce the Future Slave Act, and indeed he does that, and his reputation was destroyed as a result. John Greenleaf Whittier writes this poem, The Fall of Icarus, where he says that, you know, the man is dead. He’s a disgrace.

[00:32:37] Emerson, who was his great supporter, enormous fan of Webster’s, Emerson says that the word liberty in the mouth of Daniel Webster is like the word love in the mouth of a courtesan. How’s that for a put down? So, Webster’s reputation is destroyed, he dies a lonely alcoholic, completely broken, but he saves the Union.

[00:33:01] Barry Anderson: So, in your book, you conclude by saying that quote, Daniel Webster has been at the center of the nation’s political and legal debates over wars, expansion, trade, foreign relations, federalism, and slavery. The arc of his life closely traced the nation’s history. I wonder if you could say a few words about his wider legacy in using what I think we all agree is brilliant oratory to elevate the Constitution and the nation. Talk a little bit about that significance, if you would, please.

[00:33:32] Joel Richard Paul: Sure. Well, Daniel Webster’s It saves the Union in the Compromise of 1850. It gives the North 10 years in which to build up its military and economic strength so that the North is able to defeat the South in the Civil War. But more importantly, during that 10-year period, his words, which are memorized and recited by every schoolchild in America, creates a generation of men who are willing to go to fight and die to defend the Union in the American Civil War.

[00:34:04] Among the men who read his speeches is a 21-year-old Abraham Lincoln in a log cabin on a farm. And Lincoln says this is the greatest speech ever written in the English language. And Lincoln models his whole career around Daniel Webster’s speeches. All of his great speeches. Things that think of as being Lincoln’s rhetoric are actually listed from Daniel Webster’s speeches.

[00:34:29] For example, when Lincoln says at Gettysburg, a government of the people, by the people, for the people, he doesn’t say, oh, by the way, I’m quoting Daniel Webster, because he knows that every person in the audience has already memorized that speech, and they know who said that first. They know that was Webster’s words.

[00:34:48] Lincoln is really kind of, he is the product of Webster’s rhetoric. And the Republican Party follows from Webster’s rhetoric. Lincoln leads the Republican Party to victory in 1860 because they have followed the path that is tread by Webster. And that generation of young men who have been so indoctrinated in Webster’s rhetoric go on to fight and win the American Civil War and transform the nation.

[00:35:20] Barry Anderson: Lincoln becomes in effect, even though he and Webster had very little contact, personal contact. Lincoln becomes effectively a protégé of Webster’s.

[00:35:30] Joel Richard Paul: Very much so. I mean, well, he was sort of a protégé when he was a congressman, when he was a junior congressman, Lincoln only had one term as congress. Webster recognized in Lincoln that he was an extraordinary young man, and he invited Lincoln to his, he would have these Sunday brunches, and Lincoln would come, and Lincoln would tell stories, and so they had something of a relationship that way.

[00:35:51] But mostly, Lincoln was an admirer from afar for a long, long time before he ever met Webster, and he continued throughout his career to attribute to Webster his strength as a writer. He did not have Webster’s powerful voice. He didn’t have Webster’s powerful presence on the stump. He had a squeaky high voice that he couldn’t carry very far, but he learned to write speeches that were powerful because of the rhetoric of Webster.

[00:36:20] Barry Anderson: The book contains such wonderful, almost lyrical recitation of Webster’s Importance to the Republic. I wonder if you could share a paragraph from some part of that book with our audience today.

[00:36:33] Joel Richard Paul: Sure. I, you know, I feel like I have an obligation to read part of his most famous speech, his second reply to Hain.

[00:36:41] So let me just read his most famous from that speech. He’s talking there about the importance of saving the Union and his opposition to secession. He says, when my eyes shall be turned to behold, for the last time, the sun in heaven, may I not see him shining on the broken and dishonored fragments of a once glorious Union, on states to severed, discordant, belligerent, on a land rent with civil feuds, or drenched it may be in fraternal blood.

[00:37:13] He prayed that the last feeble and lingering glance rather behold the gorgeous ensign of the Republic, now known and honored throughout the earth, still full high advanced, its arms and trophies streaming in their original luster, not a stripe erased or polluted, not a single star obscured. Bearing all over in characters of living light, blazing on all its ample folds as they float over the sea and over the land and in every wind under the whole heavens.

[00:37:46] That sentiment, dear to every true American heart, liberty and union to all. Now and forever, one and inseparable. I think you get there from his rhetoric, the power of his words, and remembering that this was delivered extemporaneously before an audience that had sat there for five hours at that point.

[00:38:07] Here’s his final closing words. That legacy of liberty and union, now and forever, one and inseparable, that becomes Really, his motto and something which really is at the heart of the creation of the Republican Party under Lincoln.

[00:38:24] Barry Anderson: Thank you, Professor Paul, for the book and your time today.

[00:38:27] Joel Richard Paul: Thank you.

[00:38:39] Albert Cheng: All right. Well, that was an intriguing interview. I felt like I learned quite a bit about Daniel Webster. I don’t know about you, Justice Anderson.

[00:38:46] Barry Anderson: One of the three great, you know, the triumvirate, as we talked about, and one of the three great leaders in the pre-Civil War era, and even today, you know, the words of Daniel Webster are important to understanding American history.

[00:38:59] It was a terrific interview. Professor Paul really did a great job, I think, discussing his significance, and we should all benefit from having heard Professor Paul talk about Webster and his significance.

[00:39:12] Albert Cheng: All right, well, that takes us to the end of our show, but before we close out, the Tweet of the Week.

[00:39:17] This week comes from Education Week. It’s a tweet that reads, in case you missed it, when a school begins to move its practices closer to the science of reading, it must manage a number of significant changes. Discover how three districts helped their principals learn, practice, and sustain the model’s implementation.

[00:39:38] I don’t know about you, Justice Anderson, but I really enjoyed reading this article. I know there’s a big push in lots of states, including here in Arkansas, to implement the science of reading and take a new, well, kind of like we said, it’s nothing’s really new under the sun. It’s an old approach, but it hasn’t been implemented, but lean into the science of reading and use that to guide reading in the future.

[00:39:57] Instruction. And so, this article really highlights one of the concerns I’ve had. I mean, I’m, uh, you know, convinced by the science of reading, but, you know, it’s tough to change institutions that have been practicing pedagogy in a particular way for a long time. And so, this article really showcases how three districts are tackling the big implementation challenge. So, I really want to recommend folks to check it out and learn from the experience of these districts.

[00:40:21] Barry Anderson: One of the really interesting things about this whole discussion, and we’ll save it for next week, but one of the interesting things about this whole discussion is that there is actually some bipartisan, unipartisan, broad support for this, and we’re maybe getting out of the mode of, you know, having partisan arguments about everything in education, and we may actually be seeing some bipartisan arguments about education.

[00:40:43] Real efforts to use a broad-based approach teaching reading, because unfortunately the scores that we’re seeing for students across the country, particularly in urban school districts for reading proficiency, are extremely disturbing and it can’t come too soon.

[00:41:00] Albert Cheng: Justice Anderson, I also want to thank you for being on the show and co-hosting with me. It’s always a pleasure to have you here as well. Join us again next week. We’re going to have Harlow Giles Unger, who is a New York Times bestselling author of more than 30 books, including the one we’re going to talk about, Lion of Liberty, Patrick Henry, and The Call to a New Nation. So, hope to see you all then. Until then, have a great day and be well.

This week on The Learning Curve co-hosts U-Arkansas Prof. Albert Cheng and Ret. MN Justice Barry Anderson interview U-CA Law-SF’s Prof. Joel Richard Paul. He discusses the statesman Daniel Webster, highlighting his reputation as the “conscience of New England” and one of America’s greatest orators. Prof. Paul shares that Webster, despite a modest upbringing, became a leading attorney whose arguments in landmark U.S. Supreme Court cases shaped constitutional law. He highlights that Webster is known for his “constitutional nationalism,” as he advocated for a unified vison of the country. Prof. Paul also notes Webster’s powerful 1820 anti-slavery speech and his pivotal role in the Compromise of 1850, emphasizing his efforts to preserve the Union. In closing, he reads a passage from his book, Indivisible: Daniel Webster and the Birth of American Nationalism.

Stories of the Week: Albert discussed an article from The Hill sharing what microschools are and their rapid growth in school choice; Barry reviewed an article from Education Next on the new opportunities career and technical education gives to students.


Joel Richard Paul is Sullivan Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of California Law School, San Francisco. He has also taught on the law faculties at U.C. Berkeley, Yale, Leiden, University of Connecticut, and American University, and lectured or published in Europe, Asia, and Latin America. Professor Paul is the author of Unlikely Allies: How a Merchant, a Playwright, and a Spy Saved the American RevolutionWithout Precedent: Chief Justice John Marshall and His Times; and most recently Indivisible: Daniel Webster and the Birth of American Nationalism. He attended Amherst College, B.A. History, Economics and Political Science; the London School of Economics and Political Science; and Harvard Law School, J.D.; Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, MALD in international law and economic development.


Tweet of the Week: