Webster Replying to Senator Hayne
The largest painting in the art collection within Faneuil Hall, "Webster Replying to Senator Hayne" depicts Massachusetts Senator Webster debating with Senator Hayne on preserving the Union when the country was on the brink of the Civil War.
In 1830, South Carolina was represented in the United States Senate by Robert Young Hayne (1791-1839), and Massachusetts, by Daniel Webster (1782-1852). Their famous debate, commemorated in this painting, took place over several days. Hayne spoke against federal policies restricting the sale of public lands and against federal tariffs on manufactured goods---policies with an adverse impact on the South. He went on to endorse the doctrine that the Constitution is a compact between sovereign states, and each state has the right to nullify federal laws that endanger its interests. Webster, speaking against Hayne, declared that the Constitution had created a union of states, and the union’s law-making power is supreme over the states. He ended the debate with the memorable phrase, “Liberty and union, now and forever, one and inseparable.” Webster was widely respected as an orator and constitutional lawyer. His speeches against Hayne are seen as an important step in the definition of the United States as a Union with its own identity, and with consequent rights and responsibilities.
George P. A. Healy (1813-1894) represents Webster speaking on the floor of the Senate. Healy worked on the painting between 1843 and 1850. It contains 150 contemporary portraits, though not everyone pictured was actually present when Webster spoke, for Healy took the liberty of filling the gallery with all the “loveliest ladies of the time.” The painting was acquired for Boston in 1851.