No Fourth of July oration ever attracted so much attention as the one to which this chapter is devoted.
For a considerable time it was the frequent topic of society, as well as of the public journals.
No American tract or address has probably ever had so wide a circulation in Great Britain
Its questionable propositions so startled the public, that they commanded the more attention for its unmistakable truths.
It touched the hearts of Christian people, whether accepting or holding back from its logical statements.
Its style, less academic than Everett
's, less weighty than Webster
's, glowed as theirs never glowed with moral enthusiasm.
It was a new order of eloquence, at least for civic occasions.
Something of its effect doubtless came from the condition of the times.
The spirit of Slavery dominated in politics, backed by conservatism in society; and a war with Mexico
, to be waged for its extension, was at hand.
Men who heard the new orator saw in the intrepidity he showed on that occasion that there was no advanced post in any field of moral heroism which he was not brave enough to assume.
His character was revealed to men of different types.
Reformers were made glad as they saw him—a fresh and well-armored knight—enter the arena where they were contending against numbers and power.
But from that day his hold was weakened on the class then controlling society and opinion in Boston
,—the class always faithful to Webster
, and Winthrop
His personal qualities still insured him a kindly reception as a guest, but his fidelity to the interests then uppermost was henceforth distrusted.
The oration on ‘The True Grandeur of Nations’ was the most important epoch in Sumner
All he had written before was in the style of the essay,—ornate and vigorous in expression, but wanting the declamatory force and glow of passion by which the masses of men are swayed.
Until then he was himself unconscious of the orator's power latent within him, and its existence had not been detected by those who knew him best.
More than once he had confessed to intimate friends that he lacked the faculty for public speaking.
Though loved by companions, a familiar presence at Harvard College, recognized in his profession as learned in its books and as a writer for law magazines, he had no fame outside of these limited circles.
Of those who filled Tremont Temple, a large proportion, probably the greater number, had never heard his name till it was announced in connection