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Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations. 1989.

NUMBER: 1986
AUTHOR: Daniel Webster (1782–1852)
QUOTATION: What do we want with this vast, worthless area? This region of savages and wild beasts, of deserts of shifting sands and whirlwinds of dust, of cactus and prairie dogs? To what use could we ever hope to put these great deserts, or those endless mountain ranges, impenetrable and covered to their very base with eternal snow? What can we ever hope to do with the western coast, a coast of three thousand miles, rock-bound, cheerless, uninviting, and not a harbor on it? What use have we for this country?
ATTRIBUTION: Attributed to DANIEL WEBSTER, supposedly from a speech in the Senate.—Benjamin Perley Poore, Perley’s Reminiscences, vol. 1, chapter 15, pp. 213–14 (1886).

The same quotation, with slight word variation, appears in Edmund J. Carpenter, The American Advance, p. 216 (1903), with the additional sentence, “Mr. President, I will never vote one cent from the public treasury to place the Pacific coast one inch nearer to Boston than it is now.”

These remarks have never been verified in the speeches or writings of Webster, and are probably spurious. T. C. Elliott, The Outlook, August 15, 1908, p. 869, said, “It is safe to say he never uttered it.”

Webster served in Congress as a representative from New Hampshire 1813–1817, and from Massachusetts, 1823–1827, and as a senator from Massachusetts, 1827–1841 and 1845–1850.
SUBJECTS: Westward movement