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To Francis G. Shaw.

Wayland, January 22, 1854.
Did you ever see, among a series of frescoes by Correggio, somewhere in Italy, Diana with a crescent on her brow, guiding her chariot through the clouds? The engraving of it by Toschi is, to me, the most graceful, beautiful, altogether perfect thing I ever did see. It is a glorious woman, and yet, in expression, the real full moon, guiding her bright chariot through the heavens. If I lived where it was I should make a little golden altar, and burn incense before it. You see there is no washing my Greek heathenism out of me. What is the reason that a region so totally unlike my homely environment in the outward world has always seemed to me so like a remembered home? . . .

Things are going on at a terrible rate on the slavery question. They are trying in Congress to vote payment to the piratical claimants of the Amistad, and to abolish the obligation of Southerners in the Missouri compromise. Think of that! Gerrit Smith is in Congress now, and has made a noble speech. He was interrupted by a member from Maryland, who tried to put him down at the outset by saying, “It appears that the gentleman from New York intends to give us an anti-slavery speech.” With dignified courtesy, Mr. Smith replied, “I do intend to make an anti-slavery speech; and if the gentleman from Maryland wishes to make a pro-slavery speech, [71] I shall listen to him with all courtesy.” He is the first one that has stood up like a man, and boldly professed to be an abolitionist. The Southerners respected him, in spite of themselves; for honesty and boldness will be respected. It is reported that one said to another, “We have not only got an honest man among us, but the best debater of us all.” The honest man was a rarity!

Dear Sarah's beautiful articles found a ready sale at the anti-slavery fair. Was it not a touching incident that a poor German peasant, who had read “Uncle Tom,” should have taken down two engravings from the walls of his cabin and sent them to the fair in Boston? I would have expended my last dollar for them, but unfortunately they were lost by shipwreck. Such things make us forget a thousand disappointments in human nature ....

Sarah writes that you were disappointed in the Sphinx. The description of travellers has not led me to suppose there was anything attractive in the Sphinx itself. But Gliddon's t “Panorama of the Nile,” where the Sphinx appears just as evening closes her curtains and “pins them with a star,” made a deep impression on my imagination. The huge, dark, almost shapeless mass, strange, silent relic of such a remote past, so dim and solemn in the desert stillness, seemed to me invested with awful grandeur. I don't wonder your brother was afraid to stay alone with those colossal statues of Egypt. A mysterious, disturbing influence comes over the soul when the Past looks us in the face, so like the eternal eye of God.

With regard to the present, here in our own country, my dear friend, it is gloomy enough. ... Of all our servile Senates, none have been so completely [72] servile to the slave interest as the present one. They have passed the Nebraska Bill in open defiance of the people. . . . These measures have been followed up by the most outrageous insults and aggressions upon the North. Only three days ago another poor slave was hunted in Boston, and though a pretty general indignation was excited, he was given up by the Boston magistrates and triumphantly carried back to bondage, guarded by a strong escort of United States troops.1 The court-house was nearly filled with troops and hired ruffians, armed with cutlasses and bowie-knives. No citizen was allowed to enter without a pass, as is the custom with slaves; and these passes were obtained with great difficulty, none being given to any one suspected of being friendly to the slave. The Rev. Samuel May had his pass taken from him, and he was thrust out rudely by the soldiers. Men were even arrested and imprisoned for merely making observations to each other which the ruling powers considered dangerous. My dear friend, my very soul is sick in view of these things. They tell me “The Lord will surely arise for the sighing of the poor and the needy,” as he has promised. I think to myself, “Oh yes, that promise was made some three thousand years ago, and the fulfilment seems as far off as ever.” But I suppress the impatient blasphemy, and only say, as poor Aunt Chloe does in “Uncle Tom,” “Yes, missis, but the Lord lets dreadful things happen.”

Whether there is any limit to the servile submission of the North, I know not. The South seems resolved to try to the utmost how much kicking and cuffing she will bear. The Richmond Enquirer compares the connection between North and South [73] to the relation between Greece and her Roman masters. “The dignity and energy of the Roman character, conspicuous in war and politics, were not easily tamed and adjusted to the arts of industry and literature. The degenerate and pliant Greeks, on the contrary, obsequious, dexterous, and ready, monopolized the business of teaching and manufacturing in the Roman Empire, allowing their masters ample leisure for the service of the state, in the Senate or the field. We learn from Juvenal that they were the most useful and capable servants, whether as pimps or professors of rhetoric.” Now do you know that my inmost soul rejoices in all these manifestations of contempt? The North richly deserves them, and I have a faint hope that they may be heaped on till some of the old spirit is roused. There was a large meeting at Faneuil Hall when the slave was arrested. Mr. Russell presided, and the speeches and resolutions were uncommonly spirited and eloquent. But they talked boldly of a rescue the next morning, and so did more harm than good by forewarning the Southerners, and giving them time to summon a great array of United States troops. If they had only struck when the iron was hot, and used very slight precautions, I think the poor slave might have been rescued without shedding blood. But it was not done, and “order reigns in Warsaw,” as the Russian officials declared after the knout had driven all the Polish heroes into Siberia. My soul is just now in a stormy state, and it curses “law and order,” seeing them all arrayed on the wrong side. This fierce mood will soon give place to a milder one. But oh, my friend, these continually baffled efforts for human freedom, they are agonizing to the sympathizing soul.

1 The rendition of Anthony Burns.

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