Few names in American history are more recognizable than that of Daniel Webster. No one would deny that Webster’s substantive domestic achievements assured his prominent place in American history and that his virtual embodiment of nation and union guaranteed his rank among the most significant personalities of the Jacksonian era. It can, however, be argued that his domestic resumé that garnered him the title “Defender of the Constitution” is rivaled by an impressive international one that yielded far-reaching results for a nation still struggling to find a respectable position among the Atlantic powers. In fact, his adroit handling of his signature accomplishment with Lord Ashburton earned him the additional title of “Defender of Peace.” Webster’s foreign policy achievements are too often given short shrift, falling victim to the textbook author’s inclination to hold Webster to the dominant domestic narrative that would ultimately see the nation fractured. Donald A. Rakestraw focuses on Webster’s critical diplomatic efforts--efforts that produced a legacy that ranges from the delineation of America’s northeastern boundary with Canada to the prevention of a serious rupture with Britain; from the advancement of national commercial expansion in the Pacific and East Asia to the establishment of a long-lived model for U.S. extradition policy; from his successful intervention on behalf of the so-called “Santa Fe prisoners” in Mexico to his role in promoting a crucial Anglo-American rapprochement.
Chapter 1: From the Valley to the Hill, 1782–1823
Chapter 2: Taking the National Stage, 1823–1839
Chapter 3: Taking the International Stage, 1839–1842
Chapter 4: From Webster-Ashburton to Wanghia, 1842–1843
Chapter 5: From State to the Senate and Back Again, 1843–1850
Chapter 6: Last Turn at the “Old High Table,” 1850–1852
About the Author
"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."
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”