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[276] It has arrested the religious feeling of the country; it has taken strong hold on the consciences of men. He is a rash man, indeed, and little conversant with human nature, and especially has he a very erroneous estimate of the character of the people of this country, who supposes that a feeling of this kind is to be trifled with or despised. It will assuredly cause itself to be respected. It may be reasoned with, it may be made willing—I believe it is entirely willing—to fulfil all existing engagements and all existing duties, to uphold and defend the Constitution as it is established, with whatever regrets about some provisions which it does actually contain. But to coerce it into silence, to endeavor to restrain its free expression, to seek to compress and confine it, warm as it is, and more heated as such endeavors would inevitably render it—should this be attempted, I know nothing, even in the Constitution or in the Union itself, which would not be endangered by the explosion which might follow.

But how consistently he had dodged every opportunity1 in Congress to make himself the spokesman of that muchdesired ‘North,’ or the protector of that respectable religious feeling when it was regularly ‘coerced into silence’ in both Houses! What word or act of his in support of John Quincy Adams since 1830 could be cited— what to vindicate the right of petition? How did he resent the expulsion of Massachusetts from the Federal2 courts in South Carolina in the person of Samuel Hoar?3

As the real stake of the ‘Compromise’ game was the Fugitive Slave Law,4 and Webster's main purpose was

1 Ante, 2.247.

2 Ante, p. 130.

3 See, for a partial answer, his fulsome flattery of Charleston for its ‘hospitality,’ and—risum teneatis?—as ‘the home of the oppressed,’ during his visit to that city in May, 1847 (Webster's Works, 2: 371-388).

4 ‘One of those affiliated measures denied the admission of New Mexico because she had determined to come as a free State, and remanded her to come back in the habiliments of slavery. Another distinctly intimated to the Mormons that they should, if they could, plant a slave State in the very recesses of the continent. A third abolished a public slave mart in the city of Washington, without abating either the extent or the duration of slavery in the District of Columbia. A fourth obtained a peace on humiliating terms from one of the youngest and feeblest members of the Confederacy [Texas] in an attitude of sedition; while a fifth only reluctantly admitted California as a free State when she had refused to contaminate herself with slavery. Which one of these measures has superfluous merit to be received in extenuation of the Fugitive Slave Law?’ (William H. Seward, letter of April 5, 1851, to the Massachusetts Convention in Boston, Lib. 21: 77.)

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