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[607] slavery,—making a similar apology for a speech in the House by Owen Lovejoy, brother of the abolitionist killed at Alton.1 But Sumner had his own view of the historic conflict. To him it was ‘no holiday contest,’ but ‘a solemn battle between right and wrong, between good and evil,’ in which the deepest emotions of human nature were marshalled; in which courage, pertinacity, and devotion on the one side must be confronted by like courage, pertinacity, and devotion on the other. To him the transcendent issue was between slavery and freedom; and whether settled in debate or civil war, it was not to be put aside by any considerations of fear or policy. Always, until the last slave became a freeman, he insisted that this issue should be supreme and constantly present in the public mind.

Sumner began to gather the materials for his speech soon after the holidays, and gave it the title of ‘The Barbarism of Slavery.’2 The House bill for the admission of Kansas, with a constitution prohibiting slavery, which had been framed by a territorial convention and ratified by the people, was pending in the Senate, where its defeat was assured by the determination of the Administration senators not to allow the increase of the Republican electoral vote which would result from its passage. The senators availed themselves of the debate on this bill to make political speeches which attracted attention only from the public interest in the speakers themselves. The day set apart for Sumner was Monday, June 4.3 He entered the chamber a few moments before the time assigned for the Kansas bill. He had with him his speech in print, thinking it best to rely on his notes and avoid the strain of trusting only to the memory. The audience in the galleries was not large, as the interest in the debate on slavery had been transferred from Congress to the country.4 The Vice-President, Breckinridge, during the morning

1 John Bigelow of the ‘Evening Post,’ who was more in sympathy with Sumner's views than his associates Bryant and Godwin, wrote, June 27, that while appreciating ‘the doubt whether such a speech might not inflame the hostility of the enemies of freedom more than the enthusiasm of its friends,’ he did not think a different treatment of the subject could reasonably be expected from its author.

2 Works, vol. v. pp. 1-174.

3 Green of Missouri, to whom the floor had been previously assigned, gracefully yielded it to him.

4 The account of the scene is compiled from letters to newspapers. Boston Traveller, June 9, by E. L. Pierce; Boston Journal, June 6, by B. P. Poore; BostonAtlas and Bee,’ June 11, by James Parker; New York Independent, June 14, by D. W. Bartlett; New York Tribune, June 5; New York Evening Post, June 5 and 7; Chautauqua (N. Y.) Democrat, June 13; Iowa City Republican, June 20. W. M. Dickson, of the Cincinnati bar, gave a vivid description of the scene, several years later, in a letter to the writer, and afterwards published it in the Cincinnati Commercial, Nov. 28, 1877.

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