8
FEDERALISM AND THE POLITICS OF FRUSTRATION

Death had become something to be reckoned with. Webster had lost a beloved son, wife, and brother within a four-and-a-half-year span, but throughout this staggering personal loss the thrust of his career remained upward. The sixty thousand dollars which he realized by representing eastern merchants before the Spanish Claims Commission made him a relatively wealthy man.1 His fame as a lawyer, orator, and politician grew. At the same time the political party which he represented was dying.

Webster could resign himself to the reality of physical death because he had no power to prevent it. Political death was another matter. The Federalist party might die, but Webster would try to keep Federalism alive in principle by showing that the country could be governed without strong parties if talented leaders from different backgrounds would cooperate for the common good. In trying to accomplish this goal, so closely bound up with his own personal ambitions, he found himself forced to operate on two separate and sometimes conflicting levels. On the level of public address he emphasized lofty national themes, while on a practical level he often found himself supporting factional interests for his own immediate good. In the end the new politics never materialized, and Webster found that he could not transcend the burdens of his own partisan past. Meanwhile Andrew Jackson emerged to dominate the American scene and build an entirely new framework for American politics.

His experience in Boston helped to shape the position Webster took in national politics. Boston elections had traditionally been held at town meet-

-99-

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