previous next
[608] hour called Fitzpatrick of Alabama to the chair. Sumner, as soon as the Kansas bill was called up, took the floor and proceeded with his speech, reading from the printed slips with his usual fulness of voice, strong and resonant, but without any attempt at oratorical effect. His mind was not on senators and visitors present, but on the millions who were to be reached by the printed speech. At the beginning, in a passage listened to with impressive silence, he spoke of his long absence from the Senate in search of health, of his gratitude to the Supreme Being for his restoration, and of the tombs1 which had opened in the interval of four years since his last speech in the Senate on the same theme. He avowed his purpose to expose with all plainness the character of slavery, putting his argument not merely on the political grounds to which some had seen fit by express disclaimer to limit their contention, but as well on all others,—social, economical, and moral,—justifying himself in this respect by the habitual assumption of the defenders of slavery, who now more than ever, even in the Senate, maintained its conformity with reason, religion, and patriotism. ‘There is,’ said he, ‘austere work to be done, and freedom cannot consent to fling away any of her weapons. . Idolatry has been exposed in the presence of idolaters, and hypocrisy chastised in the presence of Scribes and Pharisees.’

He then proceeded with his argument, which in form was more like a tract than a forensic effort. He showed the barbarism of slavery in five essential elements,—its conversion of a human being into a chattel or piece of property, to be the subject of ownership and alienation; its abrogation of marriage, and of the parental relation; its exclusion of slaves from knowledge, under severe and inhuman penalties; and, finally, its appropriation of their labor,—these all being, not abuses as often claimed, but elements of the system necessary for the one main purpose of compelling the labor of fellow-men without wages. He showed how the American system rejected the alleviations of other systems of slavery. Then followed a review of the practical results of slavery, as shown in the tardy growth of the slave States, their inferiority in production, in education, in invention, in internal improvements, in institutions of learning and charity, in the manifold appliances of civilization,—all attested by figures. The character of slavery was exhibited in

1 An allusion to the death of Brooks and Butler.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Alabama (Alabama, United States) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
George Sumner (1)
Fitzpatrick (1)
B. F. Butler (1)
Preston S. Brooks (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: