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[373]

Mason followed with an objection to the reception of the remonstrances and animadversions on the clerical signers. Sumner replied briefly, maintaining the right of clergymen to come as a class or body, according to the custom of other citizens, and their duty to do so when a wicked measure full of peril and shame to the country is impending. Douglas, in closing the debate, betrayed sensitiveness on two points,—the action of the New England ministers, whom he accused of ‘hypocritically assuming to be the followers of our Saviour, . . . converting the pulpit into the hustings, and profaning the holy Sabbath by stump speeches from the sacred desk;’ and Wade's and Chase's prediction of the withdrawal of the Northern Whigs in a body from their Southern associates, and their absorption in a new antislavery party, which would consolidate the free States,— a movement which he denounced as ‘contemplating civil war, servile insurrection, and disunion.’ Indeed, there were already tokens of the revolution in politics which Wade and Chase had foreshadowed. The Administration had lost New Hampshire, the President's State, by a union of the forces opposed to it; and the Whig Legislature of Connecticut had chosen as senator Gillette, a Free Soiler of the Chase and Sumner type, who had that morning taken his oath, and was that night to give his vote against the bill. Sumner's speech on the night of the final passage of the bill commanded unusual attention. It was briefer than most of his efforts, and found a place in many newspapers which had not before printed his speeches. As a vindication of the New England clergy by a New England senator, without reserve or apology, it was the discharge of a duty which his colleague had left unperformed; and from ministers of various denominations came testimonies of grateful admiration.1

Whittier wrote of the speech: ‘It was everywhere commended. Indeed, all things considered, I think it the best speech of the session. It was the fitting word; it entirely satisfied me; and with a glow of heart I thanked God that its author was my friend.’ Hillard wrote, June 2: ‘Your last brief speech on the Nebraska bill is capital,—I think the best speech you have ever made. The mixture of dignity and spirit is most happy.’ The Springfield Republican, June 7, called it ‘brief, eloquent, and to the point;’ and later, while expressing a preference for a man of a different type for senator,

1 Works, vol. III. p. 336.

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