the petition in the House
, where unanimous consent was required; and objection being made, Mr. Dexter
forthwith took it to the Senate.
received him civilly, but betrayed a want of interest and heartiness in the matter.
He, however, at once presented the petition, stating briefly the number and character of the signers, and expressing the hope that it would receive the attention due to the great weight of opinion displayed in it; and on his motion it was laid on the table.
Nothing further would have been heard of it if Douglas
had not called it up a few minutes later, and asked to have the memorial read.
It was his action only that saved it from the fate of an ordinary petition, and made it an important factor in the popular agitation.
He at once assailed ‘the political preachers,’ as he called them, in a bitter and offensive speech, denouncing their remonstrance as ‘an atrocious falsehood, and an atrocious calumny against this Senate, desecrating the pulpit, and prostituting the sacred desk to the miserable and corrupting influence of party politics;’ and as a response to the circular of ‘the Abolition confederates’ in the Senate.
upbraided the remonstrants for usurping spiritual functions for the purposes of agitation.
Manly words were spoken in their behalf by Houston
had now an opportunity which one of his career and position ought to have welcomed; for having himself been a clergyman, he knew well that they represented the best of New England
's intelligence and worth.
His speech, however, was an apology, not a vindication.
Its tone was deprecatory where it should have been that of chivalrous defiance.
's assertion that the memorial was personally offensive to himself as well as disrespectful to the Senate, his answer was that he had had no opportunity to read it, although a moment would have sufficed to run his eye over the prayer, and its purport was already well known to the readers of Massachusetts
journals before it was brought to Washington
He bore testimony to the high character of the remonstrants as a body; disclaimed for them any desire to kindle angry passions or to engage in political controversy; regretted that the memorial, which under the circumstances he had felt it his duty to present, should have awakened any feeling on the part of any member of the Senate, and instanced the precedents for presenting such papers; but he refrained from repelling in the manner the occasion required the accusations and epithets which had been heaped on