What Was the Significance of the Webster Hayne Debate?

The significance of the Webster-Hayne debate was that it focused on the issues that ultimately led to the Civil War: the rights of the states versus the power of the federal government to set forth certain mandates states must follow. The debate between Daniel Webster of Massachusetts and Robert Hayne of South Carolina began in the early days of 1830 on the Senate floor.

The primary issue was the plan to limit the selling of land in the West, a plan proposed by a Senator from Connecticut but opposed by politicians from the Western states. In an attempt to align the South with the West and gain land for planting, Sen. Hayne began debating in favor of states' rights to do with their territory whatever they chose. Sen. Webster accused him of having ulterior motives to strengthen the South and its economy and began arguing that the United States was not a nation of states but of people. The people as a nation, not the state governments as individual entities, must decide what to do with federal law. The original plan for limiting the sale of Western land failed, but the argument over states' rights continued and culminated in the Civil War a little more than thirty years later. The debate succeeded in raising the status of Daniel Webster as a national leader.