- The Road to Dartmouth
- Scholarly Pursuits
- Writings and Speeches
- Room and Board
- The United Fraternity
- Phi Beta Kappa
- The Dartmouth Gazette
- Political Activity
- 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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