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Chapter 4: Constitution and conscience

Were you looking to be held together by lawyers?
Or by an agreement on a paper? Or by arms?
Nay, nor the world nor any living thing will so cohere.

Walt Whitman, Drum-Taps.

The Constitution of the United States recognized the legality of slavery, and an idolatrous regard for that document and for the Union maintained by it between the States closed the eyes of many Americans to the iniquity of the institution. Webster was the high priest of this fetish-worship, and his miserable capitulation to the slave power was in part due to this false patriotism, and in part to his presidential aspirations. But he humiliated himself in vain. Even Lincoln, who knew that “if slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong,” felt justified as late as August, 1862, in saying, “If I could save the Union without freeing any slaves I would do it; if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it; and if I could do it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that.” Garrison never allowed the Constitutional

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