1. Introduction
  2. The Road to Dartmouth
  3. Scholarly Pursuits
  4. Writings and Speeches
  5. Room and Board
  6. Friendships
  7. The United Fraternity
  8. Phi Beta Kappa
  9. The Dartmouth Gazette
  10. Political Activity
  11. Commencement
  12. Conclusion
  13. A Note on Sources

Daniel Webster's Friendships
This is not intended to be a canonical list of the friendships Webster made while at Dartmouth College, for those friendships are many. However, this sampling is indicative of the fact that Webster had a rather close-knit groups of friends. Many of these names appear again and again, whether it be in the roster of the United Fraternity, in the minutes of the Phi Beta Kappa, on documents of the College, and in letters such as those included herein. As in all other parts of this exhibit, we are endeavouring to highlight the treasures located at Dartmouth College. With the exception of letters to Bingham, none of which are found at Dartmouth, and an excerpt used in relation to Webster's brother Ezekiel, all of the letters listed here are found in the Dartmouth College Archives.

Another goal of this section is to clarify the image of Webster in his social relations at the College. There persist some myths that Webster was aloof and not close with those around him. The letters included here paint a very different picture of Webster, giving credence to later recollections of Webster and his college friends. Mrs. Herbert relates the following anecdote of Benjamin Clark, PBK, Class of 1800: "Mr. Clarke related that some of these friends, or brothers as they called each other, had rooms adjoining; and, in order to facilitate their social enjoyments, they made an opening in the intervening partition, which was by some ingenious device carefully secured from the general observation, but admitted of free ingress and egress to the occupants of the two apartments; and it would seem that, like the early Christians, they had all things in common. The first to rise each morning, dressed himself in the best which the united apartments afforded; and so the rest successively, but woe to the latest riser, whose equipments might have been furnished at Rag Fair!" (W&S v. 17 76)

Despite the mock formality of many of the letters, there is a humor and a fraternal closeness that pervades them all. They are full of jest and humorous anecdotes, and many include sections written in verse (sometimes entire letters!) It is hoped that these primary sources will help in squelching one of the many unfounded historical myths surrounding the study of Daniel Webster.

James Hervey Bingham, 1801

James Hervey Bingham was a classmate of Webster's both at Exeter and at Dartmouth. It is no exaggeration to say that Bingham was Webster's closest friend at Dartmouth, and in 1802, Webster would refer to him as "my best friend on earth" (Wiltse C1 37). Part of this friendship may have evolved from the fact that Bingham was closer in age to Webster than most of his classmates, being only one year older than Daniel. Of the extant letters written by Webster during his time at the College, the majority were to Bingham. The two continued to communicate throughout their lives. In 1849, Webster wrote him, "We have been boys together, and men together, and now, are growing old together" (W&S v. 17 56).

Joseph Warren Brackett, 1800

Joseph Warren Brackett was one year ahead of Webster and was the Secretary of the Phi Beta Kappa at the time that Webster joined. At the time Webster joined, he was frequently absent from PBK meetings, and Webster filled in for him for a month as Secretary-pro-Tempore.

Ephraim Simonds, 1801

There is little existing record of a friendship between Daniel Webster and Ephraim Simonds. However, the fact that they were indeed friends was undeniable, given that Webster delivered a passionate oration at Simonds' funeral in August of 1801. Records indicate that Simonds was also a member of Phi Beta Kappa and the United Fraternity.

Thomas Merrill, 1801

Thomas Merrill was the valedictorian of the Class of 1801 and would eventually enter the clergy. There exists a rather humorous fragment of a letter from Webster to Merrill.

Henry W. Fuller, 1801

Fuller and Webster often corresponded in verse, as will be seen in the letters here included. The two continued to correspond after their Commencement.

Samuel Ayers Bradley, 1799

Samuel Ayers Bradley graduated two years ahead of Webster and, as was the intention of many Dartmouth graduates, immediately began studying the practice of Law. Bradley had been a member of the Phi Beta Kappa.

George Herbert, 1800

George Herbert graduated one year ahead of Webster and was a member of the Phi Beta Kappa and the United Fraternity.

Ezekiel Webster, 1804

Webster had the strongest bond with Ezekiel of all his siblings and half-siblings. Each constantly worried about the welfare of the other, and Daniel, by working immediately following his Commencement, made it possible for Ezekiel to continue the Dartmouth education he began during Daniel's senior year.

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