Webster began representing Massachusetts in the U.S. Senate in 1813, and by the 1830s had attained a national reputation–in part as a result of his Senate debates with nullification proponent Senator Robert Hayne of South Carolina. Webster spent the final decade of his life attempting to avert the growing sectional divide, never wavering in his defense of the Union. In this speech he restated his longstanding conviction that “Peaceable secession is an utter impossibility.” He died two years later, in 1852, with the nation divided.

March 7, 1850

Mr. President:

I wish to speak today, not as a Massachusetts man, nor as a Northern man, but as an American, and a member of the Senate of the United States. Read more