Webster

Webster

[web-ster]
Webster, Daniel, 1782-1852, American statesman, lawyer, and orator, b. Salisbury (now in Franklin), N.H.

Early Career

He graduated (1801) from Dartmouth College, studied law, and, after an interval as a schoolmaster, was admitted (1805) to the bar. Webster practiced law at Boscawen and Portsmouth, N.H., and rapidly gravitated toward politics. As a Federalist and a defender of the New England shipping interests, he sat (1813-17) in the U.S. House of Representatives, where he opposed James Madison's administration, although he did not join forces with members of the Hartford Convention.

In 1816 he transferred his residence to Boston. Before he was returned (1822) to the House, Webster won fame as a lawyer, defending (1819) his alma mater in the Dartmouth College Case and the Bank of the United States in McCulloch v. Maryland. Again in Congress (1823-27), Webster began to gain repute as one of the greatest orators of his time; his brilliant speeches in the House were matched by his eloquent public addresses—notably the Plymouth address (1820), the Bunker Hill oration (1825), and the speech (1826) on the deaths of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams.

Senator and Secretary of State

As a U.S. Senator from Massachusetts (1827-41), he became a leading political figure of the United States. The dominant interest of his constituency had changed from shipping to industry, so Webster now abandoned his earlier free-trade views and supported the tariff of 1828. In the states' rights controversy that followed he took a strong pro-Union stand, defending the supremacy of the Union in the famous debate with Robert Y. Hayne in 1830. Although Webster supported President Jackson in the nullification crisis, he vehemently opposed him on most issues, especially those concerning financial policy.

Webster became a leader of the Whig party and in 1836 was put forward as a presidential candidate by the Whig groups in New England. However, he won only the electoral votes of Massachusetts. His prominence brought him into consideration in later presidential elections, but he never attained his ambition. After William Henry Harrison was elected (1840) President on the Whig ticket, Webster was appointed (1841) U.S. Secretary of State. Although every other cabinet officer resigned (1841) after John Tyler had succeeded to the presidency and had broken with the Whig leaders, Webster remained at his post until he had completed the settlement of the Webster-Ashburton Treaty (1843).

Again (1845-50) in the Senate, Webster opposed the annexation of Texas and war with Mexico and faced the rising tide of sectionalism with his customary stand: slavery was an evil, but disunion was a greater one. He steadily lost his following and was sorely disappointed when the Whig party nominated Zachary Taylor for President in 1848. Cherishing the preservation of the Union above his own popularity, Webster, in one of his most eloquent and reasoned speeches, backed the Compromise of 1850 and was reviled by antislavery groups in the North and by members of his own party. He served again (1850-52) as Secretary of State under President Millard Fillmore.

Bibliography

His writings were edited by J. W. McIntyre (18 vol., 1903). See biographies by G. T. Curtis (1869), C. M. Fuess (1930, repr. 1968), J. B. McMaster (1939), and R. N. Current (1955); N. D. Brown, Daniel Webster and the Politics of Availability (1969); R. F. Dalzell, Daniel Webster and the Trial of American Nationalism, 1843-1852 (1972); S. Nathans, Daniel Webster and Jacksonian Democracy (1973). The diary kept by his second wife, C. L. R. Webster, was published as Mr. W. & I (1942).

Webster, John, 1580?-1634, English dramatist, b. London. Although little is known of his life, there is evidence that he worked for Philip Henslowe, collaborating with such playwrights as Dekker and Ford. Webster's literary reputation rests almost entirely on his two great tragedies, The White Devil (c.1608) and The Duchess of Malfi (c.1614). Violent and sensational, both plays treat the theme of revenge and generate a brooding, somber mood. Webster's highly poetic language and profound understanding of human suffering create a true tragic pathos and force.

See his works (ed. by F. L. Lucas, 4 vol., 1927); studies by C. Leech (1951, repr. 1970), R. Berry (1972), R. F. Whitman (1973), L. Bliss (1983), and C. Forker (1986).

Webster, Margaret, 1905-72, American actress, producer, and director, b. New York City; daughter of Ben Webster and Dame May Whitty. Webster made her formal acting debut in 1924. After working with several English companies, including the Old Vic (1929-30), she returned to the United States and began (1935) an outstanding career as director and producer. In 1946, together with Eva Le Gallienne, she founded and managed the American Repertory Theatre, and from 1948 to 1951 she directed the Margaret Webster Shakespeare Company. Webster directed several operas and notable presentations of Shakespeare in England. She wrote Shakespeare without Tears (1942), Shakespeare Today (1957), and two autobiographical works, The Same Only Different (1969) and Don't Put Your Daughter on the Stage (1972).
Webster, Noah, 1758-1843, American lexicographer and philologist, b. West Hartford, Conn., grad. Yale, 1778. After serving in the American Revolution, Webster practiced law in Hartford. His Grammatical Institute of the English Language, in three parts, speller, grammar, and reader (1783-85), was the first of a list of publications which made him for many years the chief American authority on English. The first part, often revised, was his famous Elementary Spelling Book, or "Blue-backed Speller," with which he helped to standardize American spelling. Pioneer families on the frontiers taught their children to read from it; in the schools it was a basic textbook, and in settlements and villages its lists were read out for lively spelling matches. By 1850, when the total population of the United States was less than 23,200,000, the annual sales of Webster's spelling book were about 1,000,000 copies, and the figures increased yearly. The difficulty of copyrighting his works in 13 states led Webster to agitate for many years for a national copyright law; it was passed in 1790. An active Federalist, he became a pamphleteer for centralized government and wrote his Sketches of American Policy (1785), proposing the adoption of a constitution. In 1793 he left Hartford to support Washington's administration by editing the newspaper American Minerva (later the Commercial Advertiser) in New York; he was also editor, at various times, of several magazines. Webster wrote scholarly studies on a great diversity of subjects, including epidemic diseases, mythology, meteors, and the relationship of European and Asian languages. During most of his later life he lived in New Haven, Conn., and Amherst, Mass., and was a member of the first board of trustees of Amherst College. Deriving his income from his schoolbooks, he devoted most of the rest of his life to compiling dictionaries. After his Compendious Dictionary was published in 1806, he worked on another, The American Dictionary of the English Language (1828), which included definitions of 70,000 words, of which 12,000 had not appeared in such a work before. Its definitions were excellent, and the dictionary's sales reached 300,000 annually. This work, Webster's foremost achievement, helped to standardize American pronunciation. Webster completed the revision of 1840, and the dictionary, revised many times, has retained its popularity. See also dictionary.

See his letters, ed. by H. R. Warfel (1953); biography by H. E. Scudder (6th ed. 1971); E. Skeel, A Bibliography of the Writings of Noah Webster (ed. by E. H. Carpenter, Jr., 1958); E. J. Monaghan, A Common Heritage: Noah Webster's Blue-Back Speller (1982).

Webster, Pelatiah, 1726-95, American writer, b. Lebanon, Conn., grad. Yale, 1746. A Philadelphia businessman, he is remembered for his advocacy in his Dissertation of the Political Union and Constitution of the Thirteen United States of North America (1783) of a revision of the Articles of Confederation by creating a new constitution. He was a Federalist in the fight for ratification of the Constitution, and his able arguments, based on historical and economic principles, were of great weight. He also wrote many books on economics.
Webster, Richard Everard: see Alverstone, Richard Everard Webster, 1st Viscount.
Webster, town (1990 pop. 16,196), Worcester co., S Mass., near the Conn. line; settled c.1713, set off from Dudley and Oxford and inc. 1832. The chief manufactures are clothing, lenses, fabrics, and textiles. The town was named for Daniel Webster and became a textile center in the early 19th cent. through the efforts of Samuel Slater, a pioneer in the U.S. textile industry.

(1842) Treaty between the U.S. and Britain establishing the northeastern boundary of the U.S. Negotiated by U.S. secretary of state Daniel Webster and Britain's ambassador Lord Ashburton, it also provided for Anglo-U.S. cooperation in the suppression of the slave trade. It fixed the present boundary between Maine and New Brunswick, granted the U.S. navigation rights on the St. John River, provided for extradition in nonpolitical criminal cases, and established a joint naval system for suppressing the slave trade off the African coast.

Learn more about Webster-Ashburton Treaty with a free trial on Britannica.com.

(born Oct. 16, 1758, West Hartford, Conn., U.S.—died May 28, 1843, New Haven, Conn.) U.S. lexicographer and writer. He attended Yale University and then studied law. While working as a teacher in New York, he began his lifelong efforts to promote a distinctively American education. His first step was publishing A Grammatical Institute of the English Language, including The American Spelling Book (1783), the famed “Blue-Backed Speller” that went on to sell some 100 million copies. An ardent Federalist, he founded two pro-Federalist newspapers (1793) and wrote articles on politics and many other subjects. He produced his first dictionary in 1806; in 1807 he began work on his landmark American Dictionary of the English Language (1828; 2nd ed. 1840). Reflecting his principle that spelling, grammar, and usage should be based on the living, spoken language, it was instrumental in establishing the dignity and vitality of American English. In 1821 Webster cofounded Amherst College. The rights to the dictionary were purchased from his estate by George and Charles Merriam, whose firm developed the Merriam-Webster dictionary series.

Learn more about Webster, Noah with a free trial on Britannica.com.

(born circa 1580, London, Eng.—died circa 1632) British playwright. Little is known of his life, but he may have been an actor who began writing plays later in his career. He collaborated with several leading dramatists, including Thomas Dekker. Webster is best remembered for the revenge tragedies The White Devil (1612) and The Duchess of Malfi (published 1623), both of which concern the murders and bloody deeds that arise out of family quarrels among the Italian nobility. They are often considered the greatest 17th-century English tragedies apart from those of William Shakespeare.

Learn more about Webster, John with a free trial on Britannica.com.

(born Jan. 18, 1782, Salisbury, N.H., U.S.—died Oct. 24, 1852, Marshfield, Mass.) U.S. lawyer and politician. He served in the U.S. House of Representatives (1813–17). After moving to Boston (1816), he built a prosperous law practice and represented Massachusetts in the House (1823–27). He argued several precedent-setting cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, including the Dartmouth College case, McCulloch v. Maryland, and Gibbons v. Ogden. Elected to the U.S. Senate (1827–41, 1845–50), he became famous as an orator for his speeches supporting the Union and opposing the nullification movement and its advocates, John C. Calhoun and Robert Y. Hayne. As U.S. secretary of state (1841–43, 1850–52) he negotiated the Webster-Ashburton Treaty to settle the Canada-Maine border dispute.

Learn more about Webster, Daniel with a free trial on Britannica.com.

(born Oct. 16, 1758, West Hartford, Conn., U.S.—died May 28, 1843, New Haven, Conn.) U.S. lexicographer and writer. He attended Yale University and then studied law. While working as a teacher in New York, he began his lifelong efforts to promote a distinctively American education. His first step was publishing A Grammatical Institute of the English Language, including The American Spelling Book (1783), the famed “Blue-Backed Speller” that went on to sell some 100 million copies. An ardent Federalist, he founded two pro-Federalist newspapers (1793) and wrote articles on politics and many other subjects. He produced his first dictionary in 1806; in 1807 he began work on his landmark American Dictionary of the English Language (1828; 2nd ed. 1840). Reflecting his principle that spelling, grammar, and usage should be based on the living, spoken language, it was instrumental in establishing the dignity and vitality of American English. In 1821 Webster cofounded Amherst College. The rights to the dictionary were purchased from his estate by George and Charles Merriam, whose firm developed the Merriam-Webster dictionary series.

Learn more about Webster, Noah with a free trial on Britannica.com.

(born circa 1580, London, Eng.—died circa 1632) British playwright. Little is known of his life, but he may have been an actor who began writing plays later in his career. He collaborated with several leading dramatists, including Thomas Dekker. Webster is best remembered for the revenge tragedies The White Devil (1612) and The Duchess of Malfi (published 1623), both of which concern the murders and bloody deeds that arise out of family quarrels among the Italian nobility. They are often considered the greatest 17th-century English tragedies apart from those of William Shakespeare.

Learn more about Webster, John with a free trial on Britannica.com.

(born Jan. 18, 1782, Salisbury, N.H., U.S.—died Oct. 24, 1852, Marshfield, Mass.) U.S. lawyer and politician. He served in the U.S. House of Representatives (1813–17). After moving to Boston (1816), he built a prosperous law practice and represented Massachusetts in the House (1823–27). He argued several precedent-setting cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, including the Dartmouth College case, McCulloch v. Maryland, and Gibbons v. Ogden. Elected to the U.S. Senate (1827–41, 1845–50), he became famous as an orator for his speeches supporting the Union and opposing the nullification movement and its advocates, John C. Calhoun and Robert Y. Hayne. As U.S. secretary of state (1841–43, 1850–52) he negotiated the Webster-Ashburton Treaty to settle the Canada-Maine border dispute.

Learn more about Webster, Daniel with a free trial on Britannica.com.

Webster may refer to:

People

Surname

Given name

Places

United States

Other

See also

Search another word or see websteron Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2014 Dictionary.com, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature
FAVORITES
RECENT

;