diversions and long quotations in which he was apt to indulge.
Its pointed and emphatic sentences were uttered with a voice then at its best, powerful in volume, most earnest in tones, and fitted, in combination with his action, to carry popular indignation to its highest pitch.
As he himself afterwards wrote, he had two objects in view: ‘First, to vindicate the necessity of the Republican party; and, secondly, to destroy the operation of the Fugitive Slave Act
,—showing especially that citizens are not constrained to its support.’
He stated briefly the methods by which the Nebraska
bill was carried; portrayed ‘the dismal tragedy’ of Burns
's rendition; set forth the necessity of a party combining all who were for freedom in place of the old Democratic and Whig parties.
But the strength of his speech was in the latter part, in which he denied the power of judicial tribunals to dictate to Congress an interpretation of the Constitution
, or to direct the individual conscience, while admitting the binding force of judgments upon inferior tribunals and executive officers, and their claim to be respected as precedents by legislators and citizens.
One passage was a vivid description of the proceedings in the rendition of Burns
, in which he was ‘guarded by heartless hirelings, whose chief idea of liberty was license to do wrong; escorted by intrusive soldiers of the United States
; watched by a prostituted militia,’—in all which ‘the laws, the precious sentiments, the religion, the pride and glory of Massachusetts
were trampled in the dust.’
Another passage was intended to set public opinion against the judges and commissioners whose conduct in the treatment of fugitive-slave cases had been often partial and sometimes brutal.
It set forth with Sumner
's characteristic eloquence instances of judicial tyranny drawn from ancient and modern history,—from the condemnation of Socrates
to the sanction given to ‘the unutterable atrocity of the Fugitive Slave Act
Happily an arraignment, then deserved by judges who succumbed to the pro-slavery spirit of the period, no longer applies to tribunals essential to civil society and ordinarily observant of the principles of legal and moral equity.1
The popular enthusiasm for Sumner
was now so great, and the interest in what he said so general, that journalists hitherto unfriendly or indifferent could not, with a view to the circulation of their newspapers, afford to ignore him. One of them