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 and the United Fraternity
In Webster's day, Dartmouth's campus was home to two debating societies: The Social Friends and the United Fraternity (Feuss 52). On November 7, 1797, as a freshman, Webster was elected into the ranks of the United Fraternity, an organization he would have a close association with throughout his Dartmouth career.

Webster delivered oratories before the society and was elected Vice-President on May 27, 1800 (33). His next election came on August 19, 1800, wherein he was elected as orator. This election followed his Oration at Hanover, NH, delivered to celebrate the Fourth of July, and it is certain that, by this time, Webster had gained great fame as an orator on campus. It is notable, also, that in the listing of offices elected, Webster's position as Orator preceeds that of the Fraternity President (this was not entirely without precedent, though). A partial transcription of the minutes of that meeting follows.

Convened as usual. This meeting being the day pointed out by our constitution for the choice of officers, we accordingly proceeded to choose the following:

Junior Webster - Orator
Dr. Hotchkiss - President
Soph. Hammond - V. President
Dr. Cook pr. - Secretary
Freshm. Porter pr. - Treasurer
Dr. Moody - Librarian
Junior Webster - 1st Critic
Dr. Gilbert - 2nd Critic
Dr. Fuller - 3rd Critic

It being apprehended by some that some of the internal regulations of this Fraternity have been divulged by some member, we next proceeded to choose a committee to enquire about this matter [of] faithfulness. We then admitted as members of this society Doctors Bartlett & Spalding, together with soph. Potter. The declmations then closed.

ADJ. James H. Bingham Clerk

An item of interest in the above manuscript is that another Junior's name was originally inscribed in the position of First Critic, but that name was crossed out and replaced by Webster's. This could, of course, have been a mistake on the part of the Clerk. However, James H. Bingham was a close friend of Webster's and therefore was unlikely to have made a mistake on this count. Perhaps another student was initially elected, and then declined. Or perhaps Webster was not originally declared as the winner of the election, and demanded a recount which revealed him to actually be the winner. However, since he had just been elected to the position of Orator, this might not have been the case. And yet, it should be kept in mind that a former roommate of Webster's, Aaron Loveland, stated that ambition was "his one fault and weakness" (ibid. 43). As such, one cannot entirely exclude the last of the possible speculations mentioned.

Regardless of this, though, Webster had no shortage of approbation or admiration from his fellow students at the United Fraternity. On November 25, 1800, in his Senior year, Webster was elected President of that organization.

Society convened this evening; the first orator being absent, it was thought proper to proceed to the choice of officers for the next term, as the numbers of the Soc. were fast withdrawing from college.
The following were chosen -

Senior Webster - President
Junior Alden - Vice President
Do. Cook - Secretary
Soph. Porter pr. - Treasurer
Do. Woodman - Librarian Do. Nelson - Inspector of books
Sen. Hotchkiss - 1st Critic
Do. Upham - 2nd Critic
Do. Bingham - 3rd Critic

After which, the usual weekly in issues was proposed, the last orator, however, was absent.
Adj. to No. q. mis
Adj. Amos J. Cook

As is much related in Webster biographies, when the time for the 1800 Commencement was approaching, a feud erupted between the United Fraternity and the Social Friends. In addition to the Latin Valedictory address normally given at Commencement, there was also an English Oration given by a student chosen by the student body. Each debating society strongly advocated one of their own, and Webster was the candidate of the United Fraternity. It was assumed by many that a Webster oration would be the end result of this conflict. The facutly, however, in an effort to take a non-partisan stance, chose neither. Webster was offered either an English oration or a poetic reading, but he was so disappointed by the fact that he would not be delivering the primary English oration that he instead asked to be excused from appearing on the platform during Commencement.

However, Webster was still to deliver an Oration that August. On August 25, 1801, four days before Commencement, Webster spoke before the United Fraternity on "the influence of Opinion," as reported in the Dartmouth Gazette. This speech is one of a few Orations given by Webster as a Dartmouth student which still survives.

Return to Daniel Webster Index