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Classic Senate Speeches

Daniel Webster by Thomas B. Lawson

In the 19th century, major speeches by well-known senators drew large crowds into the Senate Chamber. Sometimes stretching over two or three days, these speeches expressed national aspirations, framed important debates, and were often controversial. Although rhetorical styles have changed, debate on a crucial national issue in today's Senate can still stimulate an impassioned and closely reasoned speech designed to sway listeners and attract votes on legislation. This collection includes speeches of substantial historical significance marked by moments of high drama.

Robert Y. Hayne of South Carolina
Reply to Daniel Webster
January 21 and 25, 1830

Daniel Webster of Massachusetts
Second Reply to Hayne
January 26 and 27, 1830

Henry Clay of Kentucky
The American System
February 2, 3, and 6, 1832

Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri
To the National Railroad Convention
October 16, 1849

Daniel Webster of Massachusetts
The Constitution and the Union
March 7, 1850

William H. Seward
Freedom in the New Territories  (Appeal to a "Higher Law")
March 11, 1850

Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri
Against the Compromise of 1850
June 10, 1850

William P. Fessenden of Maine
The Nebraska and Kansas Bill
March 3, 1854

Charles Sumner of Massachusetts
The Crime Against Kansas
May 19, 1856

Jefferson Davis of Mississippi
Farewell to the Senate
January 21, 1861

Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois
To the Illinois Legislature
April 25, 1861

Hiram R. Revels of Mississippi
The State of Georgia
March 16, 1870

George G. Vest of Missouri
Eulogy of the Dog
September 23, 1870

Robert M. La Follette, Sr., of Wisconsin
Free Speech in Wartime
October 6, 1917

Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts
Constitution of the League of Nations
February 28, 1919

William E. Borah
The League of Nations
November 19, 1919

Rebecca Latimer Felton
Address by the First Woman Senator
November 22, 1922

Huey P. Long of Louisiana
Every Man a King
February 23, 1934

Arthur H. Vandenberg of Michigan
American Foreign Policy
January 10, 1945

Margaret Chase Smith of Maine
Declaration of Conscience
June 1, 1950

Everett McKinley Dirksen of Illinois
The Civil Rights Bill
June 10, 1964


Speeches and introductions reprinted from Robert C. Byrd, The Senate, 1789-1989: Classic Speeches, 1830-1993. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1994.