the war system and ‘the duel between nations;’1
he proposed in the Senate arbitration as a substitute for war;2
later in life he sent his congratulations to Henry Richard3
on the success of the latter's motion in Parliament for international arbitration; and showed to the very last his interest in the question by the provision in his will for its perpetual discussion by the students of Harvard College.4
The school committee of the city of Boston
, acting under its general power over the public or common schools of the city, established separate schools for the children of colored people.
This distinction involved an inconvenience to those who were obliged to attend the seperate schools, often more distant from their homes than those provided for white children, and also affixed the stigma of caste upon colored children.
An effort was made to discontinue the separate schools; but the committee, although its members were divided in opinion, adhered t; them.
the question was taken to the Supreme Court of the State
, where Sumner
, being engaged as counsel, argued at length, Dec. 4, 1849, that the committee had no legal power to exclude colored children from any of the schools 5
. His main contention was that the exclusion was contrary to the principle of ‘equality before the law,’ which is the basis of our republican polity, and upheld a system of caste, which is alien to the spirit of republican institutions and condemned by Christianity.
He traced the principle of equality of rights as affirmed in France
and the United States
, and especially in the Constitution
, and maintained that before that principle no distinctions of birth, race, or color could stand.
The argument was a protest against civil discriminations founded on physical conditions, or on any conditions which are independent of character or attainment, and was eloquent in its appeal to the higher sentiments.
It introduced into the discussions of the period the term ‘equality before the law,’ taken from the French
, and then unfamiliar to the English
It marks the beginning of Sumners
warfare on caste, and of his persistent advocacy of equal civil and political rights for all, irrespective of condition and race, which continued through his life.
Its general thought