the vexed question, while at the same time it administered to some of the haughty and dogmatic leaders that severe rebuke their insolence deserved, could not fall in the excited state of the public mind to produce a profound impression. Men whose course had been subjected to this terrible arraignment were excited to madness; and summary vengeance was agreed upon as the only remedy that would meet the exigency of the hour.1Sumner stood on those days as no man had ever stood before, or could thereafter stand, for the cause of free debate, for the absolutely equal rights of Northern and Southern men. The habit had grown up of treating Southern men differently from other men,—making allowance for their proneness to violence, humoring them as spoiled children, as passionate men from whom everything was to be borne for fear of an explosion of anger, or a challenge to a duel.2 The time had come—it had long ago come—for Northern men to assert their full equality, and maintain at every hazard their right to the same courtesy, the same range of speech, the same recognition as members and as gentlemen, and not to grant a whit more, either from charity or fear. Any other mode of treatment only made Southern men the more licentious in speech and insolent in manner, and took from Northern men all manly spirit. A complete statement of the reception which was given to Sumner's speech at the North requires it to be said that it was not in all respects approved as politic.3 A certain type of men, conservative and moderate, would have preferred a philosophical and passionless argument against slavery, regarding any other as aggravating the sectional feuds, which they dreaded. The practice of submission to ‘plantation manners’ and to the passionate outbreaks of the Southern members had been of so long standing that an insurrection against the dominant arrogance startled timid minds. Seward was accustomed to take insults in silence,4 and some thought it would have been as well for Sumner to have let them in his case pass without reply. Such views, however, overlooked the stage to which the conflict between slavery and freedom had come,—when audacity on the
This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
1 Rise and Fall of the Slave Power, vol. II. p. 481.
4 See debate of April 10, 1856. Congressional Globe, p. 863.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.