Daniel Webster established his law office in Portsmouth, NH, in 1807. Rising quickly within the Federalist Party, he was elected in 1812 to the U.S. House of Representatives because of his opposition to the War of 1812. After three terms, he returned to New England to practice law in Boston. Over the next six years, he won major constitutional cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, including Dartmouth College v. Woodward and McCulloch v. Maryland.
Webster returned to Congress in 1827 as a senator from Massachusetts. He joined with Henry Clay to endorse federal aid for roads in the West. Clay joined with President Andrew Jackson to suppress South Carolina's attempt to nullify the Tariff Act of 1828. He challenged Jackson, with others making up the Whig Party, on such other issues as the national bank. Webster ran for the presidency as one of three Whig candidates in 1836, but carried only his home state.
President William Henry Harrison named Webster secretary of state in 1841. At Harrison's death, John Tyler succeeded to the presidency and all Whig members of the cabinet except for Webster resigned. Webster finally succumbed to pressure and resigned in 1843. Webster opposed both the annexation of Texas in 1845 and the subsequent war with Mexico, events he believed forced the nation to face the issue of the expansion of slavery. Webster opposed the expansion of slavery, but opposed even more the threat to the Union caused by the dispute. He was named secretary of state by Millard Fillmore in 1850 to supervise the strict enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act. Webster's stand antagonized anti -slavery forces and split the Whig Party.