September 1, 2007

AFTER ALL, SLAVERY WAS THE LAW:

Daniel Webster Offers Guidance for Primaries (David Shribman, 9/01/07, Real Clear Politics)

Webster, whose support of the Compromise of 1850 in his famous Seventh of March Speech placed him in the position of favoring the Union over abolition, was in eclipse, but also in denial. "Mr. Webster had served his turn," Henry Cabot Lodge wrote in an 1883 biography, "and the men whose cause he had advocated and whose interests he had protected cast him aside."

Even so, Webster delivered a speech, plainly designed to advance his own prospects, that set out what he considered the traits of an ideal president, based on the example of George Washington, whose policies, he said, "alike liberal and just, narrowed down to no sectional interests, bound to no personal objects, held to no locality, but broad and generous and open, as expansive as the air which is wafted by the winds of heaven from one part of the country to another."

This was an era far different from our own, when sectional conflict threatened the unity of the nation and when Webster's support for the Compromise, with its fugitive slave law, made him one of the most controversial figures in the nation. But in his time as in ours, Webster's prescription for the presidency, set out in his description of the first president, had great relevance:

"Washington was cautious and prudent; no self-seeker; giving information to Congress, as directed by the Constitution, on all questions, when necessary, with fairness and frankness, claiming nothing for himself, exercising his own rights, and preserving the dignity of his station, but taking especial care to execute the laws as a paramount duty, and in such manner as to give satisfaction to all just and reasonable men."

That's not a bad job description for what we need now. And the characteristics that follow are a good summation of the way a president and his or her administration ought to approach the American people, in these or any times: "Gentlemen, a patriot president is the guardian, the protector, the friend, of every citizen of the United States. He should be, and he is, no man's persecutor, and no man's enemy, but the supporter and the protector of all and every citizen, so far as such support and protection depend on his faithful execution of the laws."


Have we had a persecutor president since FDR?

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 1, 2007 8:54 AM
Comments

No. Carter didn't begin persecuting in earnest until after he left office.

Posted by: QY at September 1, 2007 10:43 AM

Nixon had his enemies list. LBJ certainly threw his weight around (up until the 1966 elections).

Posted by: ratbert at September 2, 2007 12:46 AM
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