The Devil and Daniel Webster

by Stephen Vincent Benét

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Set in the New Hampshire countryside, Jabez Stone is a farmer who decides to sell his soul to the devil. Stone's farm completes a turnaround, and he becomes wealthy. But as the seven-year contract with the Devil is about to expire, Jabez begins to worry about what will become of his soul. So, Jabez decides to hire the famed attorney, Daniel Webster, who used to live nearby. At the trial, things look bad for Jabez and Webster. Webster thinks he is on the right track when he claims that, as an American citizen, Jabez cannot lawfully follow a "foreign prince." But the Devil has American roots, too, so Webster asks for a jury trial, complete with an American jury. The Devil conjures up a jury of some of America's most dastardly characters, so Webster really has his case cut out for him. In the end, Webster's highly patriotic speech wins over the jury, and Jabez is freed from his contract. Webster also gets the Devil to agree to never bother another man from New Hampshire. However, the Devil reveals some information that Webster would have preferred not to know: He will never achieve his goal of becoming President, and his sons will die in a future Civil War. Webster's contributions will help save the Union, the Devil assures him, before Webster kicks the Devil from the room.

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