John Quincy Adams
in Congress, and expresses his delight in Longfellow
's Anti-slavery poems, show that his convictions and sympathies on this great question were already fully developed.
It will be noted with what emphasis and iteration he insisted at this period on the purely local and exceptional character of Slavery, as entitled to no quarter where it does not have the sanction of positive law,—a doctrine which, ten years later, gave the key-note to his first Anti-slavery speech in the Senate, entitled ‘Freedom National, Slavery Sectional.’
As yet, however, he dealt with public affairs as thinker and writer, rather than as organizer and agitator.
Mrs. Maria Weston Chapman
urged him, in the autumn of 1842, to enter on a more distinct cooperation with the Abolitionists; but his time for such public activities had not yet come.
He had been for several years a subscriber for their organ,—the ‘Liberator,’—attended their annual Anti-slavery Fairs in Boston
, and maintained friendly relations with their leaders,—manifestations of sympathy and goodfellowship which disturbed some of his conservative friends.1
A brief reference to Sumner
's view of the relations of our Government to Slavery may well be given in this connection, although a complete statement would be premature.
The term ‘Abolitionist,’ so far as its etymology is concerned, designated all who were in favor of direct moral and political action against Slavery; but, in the party nomenclature of this period, it was applied in a narrower sense to those who, like Mr. Garrison
, regarded the National Constitution
as a pro-slavery instrument,— ‘a covenant with death, and an agreement with hell.’2
They therefore refused to vote under it, and insisted on the dissolution of the Union
, while sympathizing with their moral purpose, disapproved their methods.
The Constitution, as he read it, and as he thought the Fathers meant it, was a charter of human rights; and the Union
, as he saw it, was intended to be, and could be made, the very bulwark of Freedom for all within its borders.
The idea that it was wrong to vote under our Constitution, he thought fanciful,—maintaining that, if carried out logically, it involved a withdrawal from the country; and that the duty of a citizen under our written Constitution did not differ from that of a