THE economic ideas and doctrines of great American statesmen, as Hamilton, Gallatin, Clay, Webster, and others, have contributed much to the currents of economic thought in the United States and to the formulation of American economic policy. The true significance, character, and extent of these contributions can only be known by undertaking a thorough analysis and evaluation from the economic point of view of the writings of each. It is the purpose of this work to present such an analysis of Daniel Webster's writings. A study of a distinguished statesman in the rôle of political economist may be of some value for two other reasons: first, because of its emphasis upon a point of view which heretofore has not been accorded as profound a treatment as it merits, and, second, because it may enlighten our understanding of the ideological setting out of which many of our national economic policies were developed. Such a study may challenge the interest of both social scientist and historian. It is hoped that this treatise, which aims to make as complete a presentation and as fair an appraisal of the economic ideas of Webster as possible, offers something of interest and value in the directions just indicated.
A twentieth-century reader cannot help being impressed by two significant characteristics of Webster's economic writings: the comprehensive sweep of his vision and the strength of his intellectual grasp, and the simple unquestioning optimism with which he viewed the assumed beneficent operation of a complex economic system--a circumstance which must be interpreted in the light of the economic philosophy of his own age.