19
BLACK DAN AND THE LEGACY OF MARCH 7, 1850

The implications of what Webster liked to call the "settlement" of 1850 for his career and reputation are suggested by three separate events which took place on May 2, 1850, when Edward Everett heard Webster tell friends at a Boston dinner party that he would support a strong fugitive slave law. After the senator retired, "everyone at the table agreed that it would be madness for Mr. W. to support the bill referred to," but no one had the courage to tell him so. The same day a brilliant young Georgia Whig, Alexander Stephens, wrote to his brother that Webster was standing "up to the rod" in Massachusetts and would be a strong presidential possibility in 1852. Sometime also on May 2, the National Era printed Whittier's "Ichabod," which Robert Penn Warren has described as "one of the most telling poems of personal attack in English." Taking its title from the Biblical passage "And she named the child Ichabod, saying the glory is departed from Israel," Whittier's poem included these stanzas:

Of all we loved and honored, naught
Save power remains;
A fallen angel's pride of thought,
Still strong in chains
All else is gone; from those great eyes
The soul has fled:
When faith is lost, when honor dies
The man is dead!
1

-254-

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