The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
VOLUME XVI. Early National Literature, Part II; Later National Literature, Part I.

XV. Publicists and Orators, 1800–1850

§ 2. Themes

The first few decades of the century, if they produced no notable pieces of abstract political theory, gave alluring opportunity for oratory and offered also an unusual field for the jurist. The orator had big themes—democracy, slavery, free labour, expansion, states’ rights, nationalism, as well as the well-worn subjects of banks and tariffs and lands and commerce. The jurist was called to the novel task of construing constitutions, of passing on the fundamental law of a federal republic, and more—the task of developing and adjusting a system of private law suited to the needs of a new people and a new country. In both of these fields of action and of thought the Americans did much; in oratory appeared Webster, Clay, Calhoun, Randolph, Choate, Benton, and John Quincy Adams, and others only less worthy of note; in jurisprudence, Marshall and Kent and Story and Wheaton, by judicial opinion or by written text, laid the foundations of American public and private law and ably performed a creative task such as rarely, if ever, before fell to the lot of the jurist.