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[459] cut with a sharp edge when theirs was hardly felt. Their dull blades were of no avail before his keen one; and they knew it. He said finely what his antagonists could only say coarsely, and they retired from the encounter discomfited and sullen. They might laugh at his classical diversions and studied rhetoric; but they knew that when he denounced the slave-extending conspiracy in the name of history and reason, his impeachment would live as the judgment of posterity. Towards individuals and all unwillingly interested in slavery no one was more considerate than he; but he believed that the time had come to blast with all the power of human speech the bold and wicked conspiracy for its extension, calling it fraud, crime, harlotry, vileness, and to associate with it all that is foul and revolting, in order to array against it the moral instincts of mankind. This thought he gave in a letter to a friend, in which he justified his severity on another occasion: ‘There is a time for everything; and when crime and criminals are thrust before us, they are to be met by all the energies that God has given us,—by argument, sarcasm, scorn, and denunciation. The whole arsenal of God is ours; and I will not renounce one of the weapons,—not one! That is my opinion, formed in experience and tried by tranquil meditation’

Against the cabal before him, which by its insolence and intimidation had silenced so many public men and toned down the spirit of others, he stood determined and defiant, neither fearing nor respecting them, and treating with a contempt they could not endure their lordly pretensions to superiority. With ‘retorted scorn’ he returned their

hostile scorn, which he sustained
Superior, nor of violence feared aught.

They felt now as they had felt before, though now more keenly than ever, the moral power of his character, and as arraigned by him they saw themselves forever pilloried in history.1 His colleague Wilson, writing many years later, said:—

A speech so bold and unsparing in its utterances, so thorough and fundamental in its logic, in which things were called by their right names, and which applied the tests of Republican and Christian principles so severely to

1 Von Holst (vol. v. p. 317) says: ‘The Sewards and Hales, Fessendens and Trumbulls, Wilsons and Wades did not handle the majority with silk gloves when they spoke of slavery; but it never before had the feeling that it was subjected to morally running the gauntlet before the eyes of the whole world.’

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