County Named, 1860

Historical Marker #783 in Dixon—Webster County's county seat—remembers the nineteenth century political giant, Daniel Webster, the county's namesake.

Daniel Webster made up one-third of the so-called "Great Triumvirate," which also included Kentucky's Henry Clay and South Carolina's John C. Calhoun. Webster, from Massachusetts, defined the epitome of political statesmanship in the U.S. Senate during the first half of the nineteenth century.

Daniel Webster was born in Salisbury, New Hampshire, on January 18, 1782. Webster received a high quality education for his day, attending Exeter Academy and Dartmouth College. He began his professional life by teaching and then studying law. Webster was admitted to the New Hampshire bar in 1805. Elected as a representative from his native state to the U.S. House in 1812, Webster served two terms and made a name when he butted heads with Speaker of the House, Henry Clay.

After his terms in the U.S. House ended in 1816, Webster moved his law practice to Boston, worked on developing his career in that field, and argued several cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. He reentered politics when he was again elected to the U.S. House (now representing Massachusetts) in 1822. He served until 1827 in the House and was then elected to the Senate, where he served until he resigned in 1841. Webster attempted to run as the Whig nominee for president in 1836, but was defeated by Democrat Martin Van Buren. Six years before, in 1831, Senator Webster cemented his name in political oratorical history with his debate against South Carolinian Robert Y. Hayne during the Nullification Crisis. Webster claimed that the Constitution provided a government that guaranteed "liberty and union, now and forever, one and inseparable."

When William Henry Harrison was elected president in 1840, he made Webster Secretary of State. Webster continued in that role when John Tyler assumed the presidency at Harrison's death. Webster returned the U.S. Senate in 1845 and served until 1850, when he was made Secretary of State by Millard Fillmore. Webster died on October 24, 1852. Clay had preceded him in death by four months, and Calhoun had died in 1850. With their deaths, the nation lost much of its statesmanship and willingness to compromise for the greater good on difficult issues which would eventually lead to the Civil War.

When Webster County was created in 1860, it is likely that those who chose Daniel Webster as the county's namesake were also seeking to emphasize men who, like Webster and Clay, had previously led the country though the difficult times that were then developing.