Carolina.1 Pursuing his inconsistencies, and exposing them to judgment, I had almost forgotten his associate leader in the wanton personal assault upon me in this long debate,—I mean the veteran senator from Virginia [Mr. Mason], who is now directly in my eye. With an imperious look, and in the style of Sir Forcible Feeble, that senator undertakes to call in question my statement that the Fugitive Slave Act denies the writ of habeas corpus; and in doing this, he assumes a superiority for himself which, permit me to tell him now in this presence, nothing in him can warrant.
Sir, I claim little for myself; but I shrink in no respect from any comparison with that senator, veteran though he be. Sitting near him, as has been my fortune since I had the honor of a seat in this chamber, I have come to know something of his conversation, something of his manners, something of his attainments, something of his abilities, something of his character,—ay, sir, and something of his associations; and while I would not disparage him in any of these respects, I feel that I do not exalt myself unduly, that I do not claim too much for the position which I hold or the name which I have established, when I openly declare that, as senator of Massachusetts, and as man, I place myself at every point in unhesitating comparison with that honorable assailant.
And to his peremptory assertion that the Fugitive Slave Act does not deny the habeas corpus I oppose my assertion, peremptory as his own, that it does; and there I leave that issue.
Of other assailants, whose style in debate put them beneath notice, he said, turning at the end towards Mallory
Such, Mr. President, is my response to all that has been said in this debate, so far as I deem it in any way worthy of attention.
To the two associate chieftains in this personal assault—the veteran senator from Virginia, and the senator from South Carolina with the silver-white locks—I have replied completely.
It is true that others have joined in the cry which these associates first started; but I shall not be tempted further.
Some there are best answered by silence, best answered by withholding the words which leap impulsively to the lips.
In repelling the charge that he was false to his official oath, Sumner
affirmed that he had sworn to support the Constitution
as he understood it
, not as it was understood by others or interpreted by any authority, and cited as explicitly sustaining his position the declarations of President Jackson