Chapter 30: addresses before colleges and lyceums.—active interest in reforms.—friendships.—personal life.—1845-1850.
In the midst of the applause and criticism which followed his Fourth of July oration, Sumner
was called to mourn the death of his beloved teacher and friend, Judge Story
He prepared, in connection with Hillard
, the resolutions which Mr. Webster
presented at the meeting of the Suffolk
bar, held in Boston
, in recognition of the event,1
and was placed on the committee appointed to consider and determine some proper tribute of respect to the deceased.2
He was present at the private funeral, which took place at the house of his friend, and joined with the kindred in following the remains to Mount Auburn
There he lingered, standing by the fresh grave, or by the graves of the Judge
's and his own friends, till the evening bell gave warning that the gate was to be closed.
Death had set its seal on a friendship in which neither had aught to regret or forgive.
The same evening, as he returned from the cemetery, Sumner
began his ‘Tribute of Friendship’ to Judge Story
, which he gave to the printer three days later.3
It is a noble commemoration of Story as judge, author, and teacher, tender in tone and fully appreciative of his character and labors.
It was perhaps well that death should sever the relation at this point of time; for Judge Story
, with his conservative temperament and associations, could not be expected to take kindly to the career now opening before his pupil, which was so unlike the promise of earlier years.
It had been Judge Story
's desire that Sumner
should take his place as professor in the Law School.
This had been his thought
even so early as when their relation was that of teacher and pupil.
Upon his death rumor connected Sumner
's name with the succession; but there were circumstances which made his selection improbable.
His Fourth of July oration had shown him to be too radical in opinions to suit the conservative sentiment which then governed the corporation of Harvard College.
The place was not offered to him; and it is probable that, if offered, it would not have been accepted.
He had already diverged from close attention to professional studies and toils, and was standing on the edge of absorbing public agitations.
It had become conscious of new powers, and was feeling new inspirations which were quite inconsistent with the calm and steady pursuit of jurisprudence.
There is some evidence that he was not indifferent to the canvass of names for the professorship, and was disturbed to find himself less regarded than formerly in the college, but none that he was inclined to detach himself from the new interests and activities into which he was passing.
He wrote to his brother George, Sept. 30, 1845:—
I doubt if the place will be offered to me. I have so many idiosyncrasies of opinion that I shall be distrusted.
I am too much of a reformer in law to be trusted in a post of such commanding influence as this has now become.
But beyond all this, I have my doubts whether I should accept it even if it were offered to me. I feel that I can only act as I could wish in a private station.
In office my opinions will be restrained, and I shall be no longer a free man.
He cordially welcomed to the place, which remained vacant for nearly a year, Judge William Kent
, ‘a sterling character,’ as Sumner
described him, son of the chancellor, and always maintained with him a most friendly intercourse and correspondence.
When Judge Kent
resigned after only a year's service, he expressed to Sumner
, in a letter, the desire that he should have the professorship, and at the same time the regret that he had not kept aloof from politics and reforms.4
The fame of Sumner
's Fourth of July oration was followed by various invitations to address literary bodies as well as Peace and Antislavery meetings.
At this period the New England
lyceum was in full vigor.
It provided a course of lectures, usually
ten, each from a different person, who during an hour was expected to instruct and entertain an audience with some theme relating to history, biography, society, or the conduct of life, and who received for the service, besides expenses for the journey, a fee of ten dollars,—sometimes, though rarely, one of fifteen or twenty or twenty-five.
Among speakers who were then in most request for such occasions were Henry Ward Beecher
, E. H. Chapin
, R. W. Emerson
, E. P. Whipple
, and Dr. O. W. Holes
Not only clergymen, and those who ranked distinctively as literary men, but also lawyers and statesmen, were easily persuaded to appear with some favorite topic before sympathetic and intelligent audiences.
Of such were David Paul Brown
, Rufus Choate
, R. H. Dana, Jr.
, and even Daniel Webster.
The patrons of the lyceums were of various religious and political beliefs, but the predominant sentiment among them was strongly opposed to slavery, and friendly to moral reforms.5
While the speaker was expected not to offend the sensibilities of any considerable part of his audience, he might in the general tone of his remarks, or in some indirect way, without any challenge of his right, help to spread ideas which lay near his heart.
Of this incidental privilege Sumner
always availed himself in his discourses on such occasions.
For five years he was one of the most welcome lecturers in the towns and cities of Massachusetts
, as well as in other places in New England
This service brought him into connection with the people of the State
, and drew public attention to him. The young of both sexes were greatly charmed with his style and presence.
In his lectures and orations at this period he got a hold on ‘earnest, progressive clergymen and warm-hearted, cultivated women,’6
such as no public man has ever had; and he kept it to the last.
It remained with him, as will be seen hereafter, an unfailing source of power when men governed by partisanship and expediency failed him.
first appeared before lyceums in the winter of 1845– 1846, taking for his topic ‘The Employment of Time.’
The lecture is a graceful production, intended to prompt the young to a faithful husbandry of the hours of life, dwelling on the prodigious
industry of certain eminent persons,—Franklin, Gibbon
, and Scott
,—with biographical details as to Cobbett
, and insisting upon liberal studies as the accompaniment of the pursuit by which a livelihood is gained, with here and there hints suggestive of the pending agitation concerning slavery.
It was first delivered late in 1845, was repeated in the following February in the Federal Street
Theatre before the Boston Lyceum
, and was not finally laid aside till the author entered on his duties as senator.7
As showing the spirit of caste which then lingered in Massachusetts
, it may be mentioned that the lyceum at New Bedford adopted a rule excluding colored persons from its privileges.
, when apprised of the exclusion, withdrew their names from the advertised list of lecturers.
A correspondence led to the rescinding of the obnoxious rule, and Sumner
gave his lecture in that city.8
wrote to Lieber
, Nov. 19, 1845:—
. . . Two days ago the long suspense was ended, and Everett intimated that he would accept the post of President of Harvard College which had been informally tendered to him. This is most agreeable to the friends of the college.
If he had refused, it would have been difficult to final a person on whom the public sympathies would unite.
By this acceptance it Seems to me that Everett renounces two things.—politics, and the opportunity of executing an elaborate work of literature.
The duties of his office will absorb the working portion of his time for the remainder of his life.
To George Sumner
, November 30:—
I have just read “Conselo.” . . . Such a work cannot fail to accomplish great good; it will awaken emotions in bosoms which could not be reached except by a pen of such commanding interest as George Sand's.
, Jan. 12, 1846:—
I cannot forget your beautiful town and the pleasant days which I passed there, enriched by your society and friendship.
Would that I could fly across the sea, and again ramble among those venerable ruins which hang over your house!
To Rev. R. C. Waterston
, May 29, on receiving a gift of Sir Samuel Romilly
Romilly has always seemed to me the model man in my profession.
He was a great lawyer, without narrowness or pedantry; he was one of the few who thoroughly understood the law, and have been willing to reform it; he was a lover of learning and humanity.
To Theodore Parker
, June 8:—
I call for the printing of the admirable discourse of yesterday,9 which I listened to with breathless interest.
You gave a fresh turn to the great kaleidoscope, revealing new shapes and forms of the unutterable atrocity of war.
To William F. Channing
, September 26:—
I am happy in your sympathy.
I often think of your father's10 confidence and kindness to me, and regret now that he has gone that I did not see him more. . . . His tracts on the Duties of the Free States passed through the press under my eye.
To Lord Morpeth, October 1:—
This note comes so soon after my last, to announce the coming of Bancroft as our minister.
You know his genius, his brilliancy, and his eccentricity.
With little or no favor in Boston among his neighbors, he has risen to one of the pinnacles of his party.
His wife you will remember, though you did not know her much.
She is refined, intelligent, good,—a pleasant example of American womanhood.
I am anxious through you to commend her in such manner as may be proper to the kindness of the Duchess of Sutherland.
I think she will be more attractive than any American lady who has ever been in England.
Her worth of character will commend her to your sister more than her station or personal graces.
contributed to the Law Reporter
in June, 1846,11
a biographical sketch of John Pickering
, in which he dwelt upon the latter's studies in philology, and his union of professional and literary labors.
The sketch is inspired by a strong personal regard, which was again shown in his eulogy on ‘The Scholar’ pronounced a few months later.
It is a beautiful tribute, and in its kind one of Sumner
's best papers.