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Day One of Oration Week 2009

in Peter by
Of all the dorky things I do, and trust me there are many (atteding the midnight premiere of Watchmen is but the latest example, my absolute favorite nerdly function is to recite the Funeral Speech from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, which I will be performing at random spots in downtown St. Pete this Ides of March. A couple of years ago, to set the tone for the speech, I created my own holiday, spread across a week, to celebrate great moments in Oration (yes, this sounds like Festivus). Accordingly, from March 7-15, I proclaim this time to be Oration Week!

The first day of Oration Week is the Seventh of March in honor of Daniel Webster’s famous address on that day in 1850.

Ask anyone familiar with the Senate’s history to name a famous floor speech that is commonly identified by the date on which it was given and you will almost certainly receive one answer, “The Seventh of March Speech.”

On March 7, 1850, Massachusetts Senator Daniel Webster rose in the Senate chamber to stake his career, his reputation, and perhaps the nation’s future on the success of a speech that he hoped would unite moderates of all sections in support of Kentucky Senator Henry Clay’s proposed “Compromise of 1850.”

He began his “Seventh of March” address with the immortal lines, “Mr. President, I wish to speak today, not as a Massachusetts man, nor as a Northern man, but as an American, and a member of the Senate of the United States. . . . I speak for the preservation of the Union. Hear me for my cause.”

Thanks to the recently introduced telegraph, Webster’s address quickly appeared in newspapers throughout the nation. Nearly everywhere but in his native New England, Webster won high praise for moral courage. It was said that his speech slammed into New England with the force of a hurricane. Many there believed that he must have cut a deal with Southern leaders to win their promised support for the presidency. Horace Mann called it a “vile catastrophe,” that Webster, who had walked with the gods, had now descended to consort with “harlots and leeches.” Ralph Waldo Emerson cried, “‘Liberty! Liberty!’ Pho! Let Mr. Webster, for decency’s sake shut his lips for once and forever on this word. The word ‘Liberty’ in the mouth of Mr. Webster sounds like the word ‘love’ in the mouth of a courtesan.”

His political base in ruins, Webster soon resigned from the Senate and finished his public career as Secretary of State.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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