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[441] and by two other gentlemen, Eli Thayer and J. M. S. Williams. The last named was present during the delivery of the speech.1 Mr. Thayer in a letter, March 27, 1856, which stated his purpose to visit Washington in order to confer with Sumner as to the operations of the New England Emigrant Aid Company, wrote: ‘It is quite apparent that no one there who has attempted to defend us has any adequate idea of the philosophy of the enterprise; neither have those who have assailed us. I shall expect you to do us justice.’

Sumner began his speech Monday, May 19. Notwithstanding the heat, with the thermometer at ninety, nearly all the senators were in their seats, and galleries and lobbies and doorways were crowded with a compact mass of spectators, even the anteroom being opened to ladies after their own gallery had been filled. Every journalist's desk was occupied. The members of the House were present in large numbers,—Giddings conspicuous among the Republicans, and Stephens among the Southern leaders. Delegates from the South, on their way to the Democratic national convention soon to meet at Cincinnati, went that morning to the Capitol to witness the novelty of an abolition spectacle. Veteran politicians not in public life—as Francis P. Blair, Sr., Thurlow Weed, and Robert J. Walker—were observed in the throng.2 While the scene was well fitted to inspire the speaker, there was a pervading sense in the audience that violence and bloodshed were imminent in Kansas. Before the day closed, intelligence came that the United States marshal for the territory was summoning a posse from Missouri,— the beginning of an armed descent on Lawrence.3 the great question at issue, the profound agitation of the public mind, the bitterness of feeling in Washington, the disorders and strife in Kansas betokening civil war,—with the consciousness, too, among senators and spectators that the conflict was now to be set forth with all the power of human speech and without fear,—gave to the occasion an interest which is seldom equalled in parliamentary history.

The speech was elaborate, and in style and method accorded

1 Sumner gave the manuscript of his speech to Mr. Williams.

2 Missouri Democrat, cited in Works, vol. IV. pp. 129, 130; New York Tribune, May 20. According to one report, Douglas was heard to say: ‘There are too many people here.’ BostonAtlas,’ May 22.

3 Boston Atlas, May 22.

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