Section Fourth: orations and political speeches.
- Enters on public life, 1844. Commences war upon American Slavery -- speech on the true grandeur of nations -- indications of political principles -- Sumner's trials of character -- he joins the Anti-Slavery Society -- Constitutional hostility to Slavery -- admission of Texas opposed -- opposition to admission of Missouri -- Slavery made our own original sin -- ‘let us try’ -- Massachusetts foremost -- Anti-Slavery duties of Whigs -- conservatism of Everett and Webster -- Whigs should be for Freedom -- duty of the Whig party -- Webster in 1820 -- Franklin's Abolition Society -- John Quincy Adams -- appeal to Webster -- war with Mexico -- Mr. Sumner to represent himself -- Sumner's rebuke of Winthrop -- opposition to the Mexican war -- Winthrop's Subterfuges -- Winthrop's Subserviency to Slave power -- final appeal to Winthrop -- advocacy of Dr. Howe's election -- instantly cease wrong-doing -- friends of America in Parliament -- Liberty defended in Parliament -- Fox--Barre--Burke -- Lord Chatham--Duke of Richmond -- Wilkes--Fox--Sheridan -- the Free-soil party coming -- Charles Francis Adams' noble course -- Sumner's great speech at Worcester -- audacity of the Slave power -- the spirit of the Fathers -- Freedom power vs. Slave power -- continuance of the American Revolution -- Liberty--Equality--Fraternity -- Presidential nominations at Buffalo -- Sumner's ratification speech -- protection to man the American system -- the candidates--Van Buren and Adams -- Washington--Lafayette--Otis--Henry -- some practical plan for action -- speech at the Worcester Convention -- a permanent National party -- old party issues obsolete -- the Founders of the Republic -- Jefferson an Abolitionist -- Franklin's Abolition petition -- the country becomes Pro-Slavery -- catalogue of Slavery aggressions -- usurpations of Slavery -- degrading influence of Slavery -- the Remedy--Slavery Prohibition -- the Wilmot Proviso -- Government must favor Freedom -- Taylor's administration condemned -- its Pro-Slavery character -- a National party necessary -- Free-Soilism not sectionalism -- same principles in State elections -- Rights of Colored people to education -- his Democratic Christian soul -- ostracism of the Colored race -- Trial before the Supreme Court -- all men equal before the law -- the Encyclopedie--D'alembert--Diderot -- origin of Equality among men -- Condorcet's Declaration -- declarations of Rights in France -- Rights of all to Schools -- Courts of Massachusetts -- exclusion of the Colored from Schools -- color--race--Caste -- Barbarism and cruelty of Caste -- change in the Times -- the grand Revelation of Christianity -- Benefits of acquaintance -- Equality before the law -- the Christian spirit invoked -- Webster's only successor -- Webster's statesmanship -- California admitted as a Free State -- Slavery not prohibited elsewhere -- Balance of power Overturned -- denial of Trial by Jury -- a worse tyranny than the Stamp Act -- Hs feelings towards the law -- duties of Massachusetts men -- Sumner's election to the Senate -- vote of the Legislature -- the Press on his election -- the Boston journals -- the Post-Commonwealth-Transcript -- serenity under vituperation -- the Free-Soilers of the Senate
I.Mr. Sumner's political life was now to begin, and he chose for its opening the occasion of the National Anniversary of 1844, which was to be observed in Boston with unusual interest. A brief glance at the state of public affairs at the time, will faintly show what significance there was in the choice of the orator, and what important results were to follow his startling utterances. American slavery was then in the zenith of its fearful  and unthreatened reign. It held the whole nation bound hand and foot. It dictated every law passed by Congress, and inspired every measure adopted in the Cabinet. It controlled the Press of a free, and exulted in the sanction of the Pulpit of a Christian, nation. It was extending its dark shadow over soil then free, and claiming its inhuman jurisdiction over every Northern hearth-stone. It unblushingly boasted that it would one day call the slave-roll on Bunker Hill—And why should the menace seem so unmeaning? Had not Boston seen William Lloyd Garrison, the chief apostle of freedom, dragged through her streets with a halter about his neck, within sight of that column of Liberty, with scarce a protest from her opulent and polite citizens? Had not the Governor and Legislature of Georgia set a price upon the head of that prophet of the coming dispensation of freedom; and should not the Northern Athens obey the behest of her cotton king? African Slavery had become as sacred in the precincts of Faneuil Hall, as it was in the slave-den of Washington, where the sound of the auctioneer's hammer knocking down men, women, and children to the highest bidder, could be heard from the steps of the Capitol itself. More slave property was owned in Boston than in Charleston—abolitionist was as odious a name in Beacon Street as it was in the St. Charles Hotel in New Orleans—slavery had become the law of the great republic. How then could Boston regard any word of irreverence towards that all-powerful Institution, as less than a declaration of war à l'outrance against the slaveholding States? And to inflame the indignity, these insulting words had been uttered by one of the most brilliant and  admired of her own long-descended aristocrats! What could not be tolerated, even in so plebeian a fanatic as Garrison, no longer than a rope could be thrown to a howling mob, rose when coming from the lips of the eloquent and travelled young patrician, the most atrocious blasphemy against God and the Constitution! And yet his great theme was ‘The True Grandeur of Nations,’ and the burden of his oration was Peace,—an oration which Cobden, the most eloquent advocate of peace in Europe, pronounced ‘the noblest contribution ever made by any modern writer to the cause of peace.’ But it gave offence to the magnates of the Whig Party in Massachusetts, since it was known that they were fast drifting, body and soul, into the embraces of the slave-power, which was demanding fresh aggressions upon the territory of Mexico, with a view to wrest from her some of her fairest possessions, to be devoted to the demon of human servitude. Mr. Sumner early foresaw that this would end in a collision with our sister republic, and which, under the dictation of the slave oligarchy, would be attended with outrages and injustice. The Whigs had been greatly weakened by the death of Harrison, and the wavering policy, and final defection of John Tyler; and the Democrats, preparing to regain their lost power, were also ready to bid for the pro-slavery vote. Thus both parties would hold up their hands for any measure that would give them votes, no matter how great the demolition of principle.
Ii.In this oration, Mr. Sumner uttered the memorable declaration which went through the world:—‘In our  age, there can be no peace that is not honorable; there can be no war that is not dishonorable.’ We shall give no space here to any part of that oration, since other speeches on the same subject were elicited by subsequent occasions, when his prophecies were fast becoming history, by the anticipations of war with Mexico being turned into the most active hostilities. But a careful reading of that oration, which marked Mr. Sumner's first appearance before the country as a public man, will satisfy any student of his Speeches, that on this Fourth of July, 1844, he gave clear indications of the policy he was to pursue in future life. Nor could a prophet have marked out with greater clearness, than the historian could afterwards, the course Mr. Sumner would take in whatever crisis might arise, involving the fortunes of freedom, or of peace, in the coming struggles of parties. Another point should here be observed, for it gave an index to his character which distinguished him ever afterwards from nearly all the prominent men who were to flourish during the approaching times of excitement and trouble. We speak of his inflexibility of purpose; his steady persistence in opposing at any and at all hazards, whatever he believed to be morally, socially, or politically wrong,—his absolute insensibility to opposition or criticism, come from what quarter they might; and the admirable and absolutely unparalleled steadiness with which he pursued the great objects of his life. He then began to experience, what he had so many occasions to encounter—the criticisms of his friends, as well as the assaults of his enemies; the one scarcely exceeding in bitterness the cold reproofs, or only halfconcealed  satire of the others. Without a single exception, no man in our history has had to pass through such ordeals as Charles Sumner. Whenever a new crisis rose in the country, he was found marching way ahead of the friends who had so reluctantly just come up to the last position he had taken; and thus they were continually falling off from him, one by one, all the time; and sometimes whole battalions of them together. But with the single exception of the Supplemental Civil Rights Bill, which caused him almost the only lingering regret he had in dying so soon, he lived to see every public measure he had proposed involving a great principle of liberty, either fully incorporated into the Amended Constitution, or fairly expressed in some statute that was never afterwards to be repealed. And yet he seldom rose on the floor of the Senate to announce for the first time a new step in advance, without finding himself nearly alone; generally without supporters; sometimes without one:—and all through this protracted struggle for principle, he was not only subject to the violent persecution of the public press, and the desertion of personal friends, but the object of official insults, and even attempts at Senatorial degradation. Thus in tracing his career, we shall mark these points as we pass by them, only indicating them now in brief, that the reader may bear in mind these strong attributes of Mr. Sumner's character, to enable him more fully to comprehend how arduous was his warfare, how immovable was his integrity, how sublime was his faith; how he, more than any other man in our history, illustrated what was so well applied to Burke, that ‘he never gave up to party what was meant for mankind.’