The American Enterprise

Bedeviling Daniel Webster.(Flashback: To know nothing of what happened before you were born is to remain ever a child--Cicero)(John Greenleaf Whittier's Ichabod)

Robert Penn Warren called it "one of the most telling poems of personal attack in English." Vernon Parrington, Oklahoma Sooners football coach cum literary historian, judged it "the high-water mark of lyric indignation" whose author was "a bundle of Yankee nerves, responding only to moral stimuli."

The poem was "Ichabod," the poet, John Greenleaf Whittier, and the subject of his versy scorn, Daniel Webster--"the Godlike Daniel" or "Black Dan" depending on whether you were friend or foe.

Webster's finest or most faithless moment was his March 7 speech in support of the Compromise of 1850, a key element of which was the strengthening of the fugitive slave law. Webster regarded his oration as essential to domestic tranquility; abolitionists despised it as the craven betrayal of an unprincipled man. …

Log in to your account to read this article – and millions more.