The narrative includes direct references to factual events in the life of Webster and his family. The author also adapted it in 1938 into a folk opera with music by Douglas Stuart Moore, a fellow Yale University alumnus.
The story appeared in The Saturday Evening Post (October 24, 1936) and was published in book form by Farrar & Rinehart the following year. Farmer Jabez Stone, from the small town of Cross Corners, New Hampshire, is plagued with unending bad luck, causing him to finally swear "it's enough to make a man want to sell his soul to the devil! Stone bargains for an additional three years; after the additional three years pass, Mr. Wanting out of the deal, Stone convinces famous lawyer and orator Daniel Webster to accept his case. Scratch arrives and is greeted by Webster, presenting himself as Stone's attorney. Scratch tells Webster, "I shall call upon you, as a law-abiding citizen, to assist me in taking possession of my property," and so begins the argument. Stone is an American citizen, and no American citizen may be forced into the service of a foreign prince.
The narrator also expresses sympathy for King Philip when he tells us that one juror "heard the cry of his lost nation" in Webster's eloquent appeal.
These ambiguities probably reflect ambivalent perceptions of this aspect of American history in the 20th century at the time of writing, rather than at the time when the story is supposed to take place. When the devil arrives he is described as "a soft-spoken, dark-dressed stranger," who "drove up in a handsome buggy." The names Benét gives the devil—Mr.
Yet later on, Daniel Webster's appeal to the jury on "what it means to be American" specifically includes King Philip among "the Americans".
This is an anachronism, as the historical Daniel Webster was closer to the events and would have been unlikely to express such an opinion.
The jury announces its verdict: "We find for the defendant, Jabez Stone." They admit, "Perhaps 'tis not strictly in accordance with the evidence, but even the damned may salute the eloquence of Mr.
Webster." The judge and jury disappear with the break of dawn. Scratch congratulates Webster, and the contract is torn up.
Patriotism is a main theme in the story: Webster claims that the Devil cannot take the soul because he cannot claim American citizenship. " the devil replies, going on to list several wrongs done in the U. Webster, though I don't like to boast of it, my name is older in this country than yours." Webster insists on a jury trial as an American right, with Americans for the jury and an American judge.
The devil then provides the worst from Webster's perspective (and certainly, they are in Hell) examples of Americans for the judge and jury.