I must confess, I continue to be intrigued by the notion of whether Webster's final speech to the jury may be construed as being a symbol of something altogether larger. For it is important to remember that Webster's main goal at this juncture is to keep the Devil from taking Jabez's soul - and his own. His line of reasoning seems to be that to keep "the country from going to the devil" they can start out by releasing Jabez from his obligation.
How were audiences in 1941, before Pearl Harbor, supposed to feel about this? Were they really expected to draw a parallel with the world situation? It is certainly possible. Since it is nearly impossible to find the opinions that audiences may have had at the time it was released, the next best thing is to gather those of the reviewers who first wrote about the film.
Here's what Bosley Crowther of the NYT had to say (opening paragraph only):
By BOSLEY CROWTHER
Published: October 17, 1941
Out of that charming folk story, "The Devil and Daniel Webster," by Stephen Vincent Benet, William Dieterle and a corps of associates have drawn their inspiration for a pleasantly provocative and slyly humorous film entitled "All That Money Can Buy," which went on view at the Music Hall yesterday. By all the signs and portents, it should be one of the best pictures of the year, for it has virtually everything in the way of cast and story that RKO could afford; it transcends the ordinary confines of the realistic film and climbs into the realm of free-thought fantasy, which should be most congenial to the screen. And it treats upon a theme of human destiny, which all of us are thinking about these days.
So based on this, it's certainly plausible to argue that some of the folks who watched the movie in 1941 may have been thinking about the larger theme of "human destiny", and possibly of the greater threat that the Axis nations posed to democracy everywhere. Maybe it wasn't only Hitler that Americans were concerned about, since obviously they had from time to time worried about possible attacks in the Pacific.
I personally wouldn't draw too close a parallel and say that Jebez is like the Americans and the Devil is like Hitler, because obviously the Americans had not "sold their soul" to fascism or Nazi Germany, nor were they likely to do so under any imaginable circumstances, before or after the war.
A more interesting piece about *The Devil and Daniel Webster* can be found in Time.com:
All That Money Can Buy (RKO Radio) is what the Devil (Walter Huston) offers Jabez Stone (James Craig) for his soul. Beset by an unaccountable run of hard luck, the young New Hampshire farmer makes the hard bargain. For seven years (the term of his contract) he prospers. When his time is up, he begs Daniel Webster, the great Yankee lawyer (Edward Arnold), to save him. Daniel does?and how!
This synthetic U.S. folk tale, a triumphant Yankee version of Faust, was invented by Poet Stephen Vincent Benet (in a short story, The Demi and Daniel Webster). A ticklish job for adaptation to the screen, it has been handled with skill and good humor by Producer-Director William Dieterle (The Story of Louis Pasteur). All That Money Can Buy is definitely superior cinema.
Never in the annals of U.S. jurisprudence has there been such a trial as the Devil v. Jabez Stone. Presiding judge is the renowned Justice Hathorne, who hanged the Salem witches. On the jury sit twelve famed American dastards?among them Traitor Benedict Arnold; Simon Girty, who helped the Indians burn white settlers. The court, straight from Hell, is packed in favor of the plaintiff.
But Daniel Webster had to trick the Devil into having any trial at all. Webster: "I never heard of you claiming American citizenship." Devil: ". . . Am I not spoken of, still, in every church in New England? . . ." Webster: "Then I stand on the Constitution! I demand a trial for my client!"
Before this prejudiced judge and jury, Webster begins to talk. He reminds the jurors that each made the same deal Jabez made. He tells them that an American can't enjoy a souless America. He appeals to their patriotism: "Clean American air was in your lungs, and you breathed it deeply for it was free. ... He concludes: "You are Americans all, you can't be on his side. . . . Gentlemen of the jury, don't let this country go to the Devil! . . ." The jury is won over.
Dieterle wisely lets Actor Arnold play Daniel Webster without trying to look like the great man. His Webster is not the violent Massachusetts statesman but a homely, gusty humanitarian. Jabez, his wife (Anne Shirley) and his mother (Jane Darwell) are first-rate as the kind of people who made New England "out of hard luck and codfish."
Walter Huston plays the Devil with demoniacal glee. Disguised as Mr. Scratch, a quizzical Yankee trader with a duck hunter's cap, bristly sideburns and stubble beard, he is a puckish tempter. Whether he is getting Daniel plastered, playing the bass drum in the village band, or spryly nibbling a carrot, he seems to be hugely enjoying his part. He is the kind of Devil most people would like to know.
Although Daniel bests him at the trial, it is Scratch who has the picture's last word. Perched on a rail fence, full of the peach pie which Ma Stone baked especially for the victorious orator, he thumbs jauntily through his address book for a fresh victim. And the person he picks makes any audience gasp.
I find the *Time* review to be overall more appreciative of the movie, although in this particular case the writer obviously didn't see any strong parallels between the climactic trial and the state of world politics in 1941 (or at least didn't think they would be worth mentioning).