12
THE GODLIKE MAN LEARNS HOW TO WIN -- IN A COONSKIN CAP

Daniel Webster was fifty-four years old in 1836, and had begun to take on the appearance of a venerable statesman. The Webster paunch now was as noticeable as the famous dome and fierce brows. His step was heavier, his manner even more deliberate, and in his customary dress, the black, long- tailed coat with gold buttons and buff-colored vest and pantaloons, he moved through the streets of Washington and Boston like a revolutionary frigate under full sail.

Unlike Clay, whose feelings were always close to the surface and who was addicted to profane tantrums in times of stress and disappointment, Webster was sanguine, almost glacial, in his ability to accept temporary defeat. Even before Van Buren's inauguration, he had begun to plan for 1840. In a remarkably candid letter to Hiram Ketchum, one of his strongest supporters in New York, he outlined his strategy for the next four years. He would leave the Senate for two years. During this period he would travel, keep himself before the public, and at the same time get his personal finances in order so that upon his return to formal political life he would not have to divide his efforts between the Senate and the courts. Meanwhile, Van Buren would have revealed enough of the vulnerability of administrative policies to be effectively attacked. Whig strength, Webster believed, would have to be based "in the great central states & in the North." New York and Pennsylvania would be key states. Harrison would be early in the field again, and those who sought a stronger candidate should act promptly. Webster closed the letter by suggesting that Ketchum get in touch with Whig leaders in

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