A Plea For Harmony And Peace

1123 words - 5 pages

Author’s Background
Daniel Webster is considered one of the greatest orators in the history of the American senate. In fact, his speech “Reply to Hayne” is considered to be the most eloquent speech ever delivered in Congress. Daniel was a senator for Massachusetts and a prominent figure among Northerners. Through his life he was a part of three different parties: Adams, anti-Jacksonian, and Whig. This speech was widely considered to be contrary to the ideals of the Whig party and after giving it Daniel Webster was never fully trusted again by his party(24 Annuls).
Historical Background
The speech "A Plea for Harmony and Peace" was delivered in 1850. It's content touches on problems that would eventually cause The Civil War. One of the main issues mentioned is what should be done with runaway slaves. The country was divided into three groups on this point. The North wanted to stop all expansion of slavery, the South wanted to, at least, retain it’s slavery and, at most, expand slavery into new states and territories. Finally, a third group urged that there should be compromise between the states. Daniel argues that fugitive slaves should be returned in accordance to the Supreme Court's orders. Another topic mentioned in his speech is the possibility of secession. The fact that it mentions secession tells us that this idea was in some people's minds at least as early as 1850. However, compromise, namely, The Compromise of 1850 was also on people’s minds and this very speech was in support of it.
Audience
This speech was delivered to the Senate on the seventh of March, three days after Senator John C. Calhoun gave his speech, “The Clay Compromise Measures.” In Calhoun’s speech, he urges that the cause of dissent between the North and the South is that the North has accumulated more power than the South. Calhoun then suggests that the North consider what measures it can take. This speech was undoubtedly still fresh in Daniel Webster’s mind, if not in all of the senate’s mind, when he delivered his own speech. At this time, the senate was completely composed of white males, and therefore, so was his audience. Senate was at this time composed of two main parties: the Jacksonian Democrats and the Whigs party. Besides this main division, lines were also draw between those who supported the North and those whose support fell with the South. Supporters of the South were particularly receptive to Webster’s message, while their Northern counterparts were not. The consequences of this speech on Webster’s career will be touched upon later.
Main Point
In Mr. Webster’s speech, “A Plea for Harmony and Peace,” Daniel Webster attempts to convince his fellow congressmen that a peaceable secession is impossible and attempts at compromise between the North and the South must be made. He states this purpose in the first paragraph of his oration when he says, “I speak today for the preservation of the Union.” At many points through his speech he states how he...

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