previous next
[346] the two senators whom their associates were then careful to avoid were within a few weeks to become the political leaders of a new North.

This session proved to be the most remarkable in our history. It promised, as it began, to be like the last,—prosaic and uneventful. Nothing presaged the great struggle at hand, with its immediate upheaval of parties and its remoter consequences. The Whigs and Democrats, rivals for power and antagonists in domestic policy, had pledged themselves in synonymous terms to maintain the Compromise of 1850; and masses as well as leaders cordially accepted, or weakly acquiesced in, the policy of silence and submission. The President in his first message assured the country that the prevailing repose should suffer no shock during his official term if he had the power to avert it. The only political force against slavery, the Free Soilers, were helpless as an opposition, receiving no recruits and diminishing in numbers. The Administration, in Cushing's letter, threatened proscription to all who allowed any political fellowship with them. Hale, without hope of being called again into public life, had opened a law office in the city of New York.1 Chase was to be succeeded at the close of this Congress by a Democratic supporter of the Compromise. Three years and a half of Sumner's term remained; but the Whigs, rampant in their restoration to power in Massachusetts, were clamoring for his resignation as a senator without a constituency; and it appeared inevitable that his successor would be a supporter of the Compromise of Everett's type. Seward, whatever might be the impulses of his better nature, had descended to the level of his party. He openly declined to discuss further the Fugitive Slave law in popular assemblies, and withheld his vote when its repeal was moved in the Senate.2 Chance or exceptionally favorable conditions might now and then put an antislavery member into the House of Representatives;3 but his individual remonstrance against overwhelming numbers pledged to the suppression of agitation would be of little avail. To human foresight the struggle with American slavery was to be one of generations, with only

1 He was again elected senator from New Hampshire in 1855, and served till 1865.

2 Seward's Works, vol. III. p. 432. His letter of Jan. 28, 1854, contains a singular explanation of his silence, referring his abstinence from discussions concerning slavery to his desire not to injure a just cause by discussions which might seem to betray undue solicitude, if not a spirit of faction!

3 As in the election of Gerrit Smith.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)
hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
William H. Seward (2)
Charles Sumner (1)
Gerrit Smith (1)
John P. Hale (1)
Edward Everett (1)
Caleb Cushing (1)
Salmon P. Chase (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
1865 AD (1)
1855 AD (1)
January 28th, 1854 AD (1)
1850 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: