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Edward L. Pierce, Memoir and letters of Charles Sumner: volume 2, Chapter 28: the city Oration,—the true grandeur of nations.—an argument against war.—July 4, 1845.—Age 34. (search)
s of a century, Sumner's was the first which attacked a custom and opinions approved by popular judgment and sanctioned by venerable traditions. The others, even when speaking well for the country or summoning to some important duty, never jarred on popular thought and sentiment, but were, as John Adams described them, conformable to the prevailing opinions of the moment. The committee of the city government, charged in 1845 with the duty of selecting the orator,—of which the Mayor, Thomas A. Davis, was chairman,—formally notified Sumner of his appointment on April 24. By whose nomination he was chosen is not now known; but it appears from his correspondence that he undertook the service reluctantly, and only after considerable pressure. While his name had very rarely been mentioned in the newspapers, and he had made no mark as a public speaker, he was well known among leading citizens for his learning and accomplishments. The theme he chose grew out of convictions held for som