with his five assailants.
Without any dread of another encounter, the next day he offered another petition for the repeal of the obnoxious Act, and took pains to elaborate its purport, giving prominence to the statement of the leading petitioner in a letter forwarding the petition that he was ‘a Hunker Democrat of the olden time.’
He moved its reference to the committee on the judiciary.
Adams of Mississippi
at once moved that the petition, being disrespectful, he upon the table; but upon Sumner
's calling for the yeas and nays, Adams
withdrew his motion, in order, as he said, ‘to get rid of the subject,’ and the petition was referred without further objection.
The right of antislavery petitions to respectful consideration was at last admitted.
came out of this debate with his position in the Senate and in the country greatly strengthened.
Single-handed he had encountered a body of assailants and proved himself more than a match for all of them.
He had observed strictly parliamentary decorum, which they had not; he had met ribaldry with polished shafts of satire, which his adversaries knew not how to wield; he had shown that he had at command the lighter and keener as well as the heavier weapons of debate.
Those who had thought him too much addicted to a sentimental treatment of practical themes now recognized his real power, and confessed that he had shown nerve and muscle beyond what they supposed to be in him. Those who had distrusted his capacity for affairs or for forensic encounters saw revealed his good sense and discretion in dealing with his antagonists alike in his reserve as in his spoken words.
More than all, the public admired the fearless and defiant spirit with which he confronted the slaveholding senators.
For the first time in our history he had won for the cause of free debate in the Senate what John Quincy Adams
had won for it in the House
The change of feeling towards him was most marked Different types of men, conservative as well as radical, Compromise men of 1850 as well as Free Soilers of 1848, came into sympathy with him. Journals of various types bore witness to his courage, his power, his mastery of the weapons of controversy, and his complete discomfiture of his assailants.
His name was mentioned with honor and enthusiasm in circles where hitherto it had only provoked an oath or a sneer.
All who loved Massachusetts
were proud of him as her vindicator.