The Devil and Daniel Webster is set in New Hampshire, in the forties. It begins with a country festival – the neighbors of Cross Corners celebrating the maraige of Jabez and Mary Stone. The Stones were always poor, but Jabez has prospered amazingly and they’re talking of running him for governor.
Everything goes well at first – Daniel Webster, the great New England hero, appears as a guest, and is given a real New Hampshire welcome. But there is another guest, too, and an unexpected one – a Boston lawyer named Scratch, who carries a black lost soul, in the form of a moth, flies out of the collecting box, panic ensues. The neightbors realize that Jabez Stone has sold his sould to the devil, denounce him, and flee.
Left alone with Mary, Jabez tells how he came to make his hideous bargain. They appeal to Daniel Webster who promises to help them. But the devil – Mr. Scratch – is an excellent lawyer too.
When Webster demands a trial for his client, Scratch summons from the Pit a jury of famous American traitors and renegades and a hanging judge who presided at the Salem witch-trials. It is a jury of damned souls, and Webster seems about to lose, not only the case but his own soul’s salvation, when by his powers of oratory, he finally turns the tables on Scratch and rescues Jabez. The neighbors rush in to drive the Devil out of New Hampshire, and the case ends with pie for breakfast, as it should.
– Stephen Vincent Benet