Rakestraw (Winthrop Univ.) foregoes yet another comprehensive biography of this 19th-century American political giant, and instead provides a lean life study focusing on Webster’s diplomatic statecraft. Rakestraw's centerpiece (discussed in chapter 3) is Webster’s resolution, in his role as secretary of state in John Tyler’s cabinet, of a dispute with Great Britain over Maine’s Canadian boundary—a diplomatic maneuver that set Great Britain and the US “on a path to an epic partnership.” In 1842, through extensive negotiations with Alexander Barring (Lord Ashburton), Webster crafted a compromise that served the interests of both parties. It was his signal achievement as a diplomat. As secretary of state again from 1850 to 1852, Webster pursued commercial relations with China and Japan, discouraged filibustering in Central America, and promoted patriotism during a time of stress in the US over slavery-related issues, notably through his blustery defense of Hungarian freedom fighter Louis Kossuth. Webster’s diplomatic record included substantive achievements (keeping Hawaii in the American orbit) and unforced errors (making claims about the Lobos Islands in a controversy with Peru that did not stand scrutiny). Overall, Rakestraw argues, Webster demonstrated a pragmatic temper in the office and made his mark. This well-documented book makes for good reading and fills a niche in Webster studies.Summing Up: Recommended. Graduate students, researchers, faculty.— Choice Reviews
"This persuasive diplomatic biography contends for Daniel Webster's place in the pantheon of great American statesmen--despite his infamously checkered role on slavery. By focusing on Webster's foreign policy record over decades of service in Congress and the State Department, Rakestraw compels us to reconsider the cumulative impact of Webster's profound contributions to peace and national security in fraught times, as well as his creative initiatives to grow US commerce and influence throughout the globe in an age of competing imperialisms. This is a deft reframing of Webster's story."— Robert E. May, Purdue University
"Daniel Webster: Defender of Peace is a welcome addition to the “Biographies in American Foreign Policy” series. In six chapters and an epilogue, Donald Rakestraw succinctly and authoritatively demonstrates that Webster’s role as a diplomatist deserves at least as much adulation as that of defender of the constitution. The author covers all of the essential facets of Webster’s public life while focusing on his role as one of the foremost diplomats of the early national period. Rakestraw’s combination of thorough research and crisp writing results in a fresh account of Webster that is not only a delight to read but is also impressive in its scholarly tone. This work is ideal for the university classroom, and I highly recommend it for historians as well as the general public."— Timothy D. Johnson, Lipscomb University; author of "Winfield Scott: The Quest for Military Glory" and "For Duty and Honor: Tennessee’s Mexican War Experience"
"Daniel Webster is a towering figure in the history of American politics, law, and diplomacy. Donald Rakestraw’s finely crafted account of Webster as an architect of United States foreign relations tells Webster's story with skill and energy."— Kenneth Stevens, Texas Christian University
"A finely crafted, well-researched, and carefully reasoned study of Daniel Webster as diplomatist as well as politician and lawyer. Nowhere else can both academics and general readers find a more succinct yet thorough account of this multifaceted figure who, with Henry Clay and John C. Calhoun, made up the “Great Triumvirate” that dominated the political stage of mid-nineteenth-century America."— Howard Jones, University of Alabama
“Donald Rakestraw’s new analysis of the life and politics of Daniel Webster is an important addition to our understanding of the iconic New Englander’s career. More often than not, scholars place Webster’s domestic achievements at heart of their work and in doing so overlook his role in the development of US foreign policy. Daniel Webster: Defender of Peace is a valuable corrective to this tendency. By weaving together biography and political history Rakestraw lucidly portrays Webster as a vital figure in the development of antebellum foreign policy. Furthermore, Daniel Webster explores the interplay between foreign and domestic policy in Webster’s political career and highlights the extent to which his attempts to hold the American Union together cannot be fully understood without reference to international affairs.”— Peter O'Connor, University of South Australia, Australia
“In this brisk and illuminating study, Donald Rakestraw convincingly argues that Daniel Webster should be considered one of the most important statesmen in American history. More than just a great orator, Webster was an architect of Anglo-American peace, a proponent of commercial expansion into the Pacific, and an underappreciated legal theorist who developed a doctrine of pre-emption that would reverberate into the twenty-first century. This is an important work that is required reading for all students of U.S. foreign relations.” — Jay Sexton, University of Missouri
“For years, Daniel Webster’s role as a diplomat has been somewhat obscured by the imposing shadow of contemporary John Quincy Adams. No longer. Donald Rakestraw, one of the leading historians of antebellum diplomacy, is singularly well equipped to bring light to Webster’s achievements. The result is a relatively brief, highly readable book that provides excellent coverage of the major diplomatic issues of Webster’s career and in the process brings Webster personage into sharper relief. Historians of the early republic and US diplomacy will find this a very useful work.”— J. Chris Arndt, James Madison University