previous next
[362] ness at last consummated in the Senate. Upon Chase and myself the whole brunt of the contest has fallen. He has shown throughout prodigious power and perfect constancy. I had intended to speak again for about an hour on the last night, but was dissuaded by friends from speaking under the circumstances

The movement of the public mind, particularly in Massachusetts, should be noted in this connection. At first, as already suggested, it seemed as if the Free Soilers, with a small number of antislavery Whigs and Democrats hanging loosely on the old parties, would have to fight the contest for freedom alone. No one saw more clearly the calamities involved in the measure than Horace Greeley; and though sincerely a Whig, no one cared less for his party when higher interests were at stake; but he had seen the slave-power so uniformly triumphant that he had lost faith in the popular instinct for freedom.1 Charles Francis Adams, though doing his best to awaken and organize public sentiment, almost despaired of any effective resistance being made to the measure.2 As they felt, so felt thousands of true men everywhere. Thoughtful men at their firesides and in family correspondence confessed sadly that the public mind had been debauched by Webster and the Compromise of 1850, so that it would now yield to any demands of the slaveholding interest; and they saw in prospect the repeal of the Missouri prohibition and the advance of slavery to the Pacific Ocean. But the American people proved to be of better stuff than Douglas on the one side or Greeley on the other had thought. Public opinion was aroused, slowly indeed, but surely; and it grew in volume every day. The momentous character of the issue came to be realized. The seizures of fugitive slaves were indeed pitiful sights, painful to the natural feelings; but they did not widen the area or prolong the period of slavery. A new conspiracy now sought to establish the institution in a vast territory set apart to freedom a generation before; and at last citizens who had hitherto been submissive and quiescent, recognized an appalling calamity big with fearful results to posterity.

1 Wilson's ‘Rise and Fall of the Slave Power.’ vol. II. p. 407.

2 Letter to Sumner, March 17. ‘I am very fearful that nothing will come of all this. The opposition is tame and disorganized. The battle is all left to our friends. Where are the Whigs and the “Soft” Democrats?—committing themselves to how much that they cannot disavow at a moment's warning. Confidence is a plant of slow growth in an aged bosom, said Chatham. I feel in the experience of this contest as if I was a thousand years old.’

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)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Wilson, N. C. (North Carolina, United States) (1)
Pacific Ocean (1)
Massachusetts (Massachusetts, United States) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

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.
Horace Greeley (2)
Fletcher Webster (1)
Charles Sumner (1)
Douglas (1)
Chatham (1)
Salmon P. Chase (1)
Charles Francis Adams (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.
1850 AD (1)
March 17th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: