Friday, April 16, 2010

Old Senate Chamber

As a famous orator, Webster believed that to become a great orator one must study the Word of God. In fact, he regularly practiced his own oratory by reciting the Bible aloud.

There are wonderful anecdotal accounts of visitors gathering just to listen to Daniel Webster read the Bible. 46 They seemed to enjoy especially his readings from the book of Job, for Webster would read that book as if he actually were Job – or one of Job’s friends. And when Webster read chapter 38 (when God entered the debate), Webster’s voice would thunder and boom, and it seemed as if the doors would rattle off their hinges as he recited the words spoken by the Almighty! Charles Lanman, Webster’s personal Senate secretary, recalled:

We well remember his quotation of some of the verses in the thirty-eighth chapter [of Job]: “Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said, Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me. Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare, if thou hast understanding,”. Mr. Webster was a fine reader, and his recitation of particular passages which he admired was never surpassed and was capable of giving the most exquisite delight to those who could appreciate them.

The Old Senate Chamber is where Daniel Webster gave nearly two decades of public service. One of his original artifacts still at the Capitol is his old Senate desk.

That desk is no longer in the Old Senate Chamber because it is still in use today in the current Senate Chamber. (By agreement, the senior Senator from New Hampshire – the State of Webster’s birth – is al lowed to use the original desk.) However, at the time Webster served in the Senate, he used his desk in the Old Senate Chamber. In the bottom of his desk, Webster took a penknife and inscribed his name, and many of those who used his desk after him followed this precedent.

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