previous next
[12] 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.1

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

1 Judge William Kent died Jan. 4, 1861. He was extremely conservative, and instinctively averse to popular agitations of any kind. He was a candidate on the Bell-Everett electoral ticket, in 1860. He was very refined and scholarly, and thoroughly sincere and high-minded. Notwithstanding their differences of opinion, he and Sumner were in most cordial personal sympathy.

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.
New England (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.
Charles Sumner (5)
William Kent (3)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
July 4th (2)
January 4th, 1861 AD (1)
1860 AD (1)
September 30th, 1845 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: