As Charles Sumner was closing his masterly portrayal of the crime against Kansas on the floor of the United States Senate, during the afternoon of the 20th of May, 1856, the armed hosts of slavery were concentrating before devoted Lawrence; and as the hundreds of thousands were reading the next morning his graphic description, those hosts stood on Mount Oread with cannon pointed upon the hated town, ready to plunder, burn, and kill.At the time Sumner was to speak, a profound feeling pervaded the free States. Fresh violence in Kansas had carried to an intense heat the indignation aroused by the Nebraska bill. The Administration was defiant, threatening the penalties of treason against Free State men in Kansas, and against citizens of free States who gave them aid and comfort. Its defenders in Congress—Southern men and Northern Democrats—were insolent in manner as well as in speech, pouring vituperation and fish-wife rhetoric on their Republican opponents. The Free State cause had, indeed, not been weakly defended. Collamer had maintained it with ability, and Wilson with a resolute spirit; but there was a pervasive sense, which appears in the public journals and private correspondence of the period, that Northern men had spoken with a too bated tone, and that bullying and arrogance had not been rebuked as they deserved to be.2 Douglas and the slaveholding party had all along singled out Sumner as the mark of their insolence and bitterness. Candid Southerners admitted that the persistent abuse to which he was exposed was due to a consciousness of his superiority in character and in debate.3 In his defence of the Emigrant Aid Company, he was supplied with facts and points by letters from Rev. Edward E. Hale and Dr. Le Baron Russell, who were active managers of the enterprise;4 by R. H. Dana, Jr., with whom they counselled;
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1 Rise and Fall of the Slave Power, vol. II. p. 496.
2 Works, vol. IV. pp. 128-129.
4 Sumner had already been in communication with them as to the memorial of the company to Congress in reply to aspersions of Douglas, and had urged that it should reject altogether the tone of apology, and assert plainly its right to assist Northern emigrants.
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