previous next
[40] 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 of Massachusetts, 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 language. 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

1 Works, vol. XIV. pp. 614-85.

2 May 31, 1872. Works, vol. XV. p. 80; also Resolution, Dec. 1, 1873.

3 Works, vol. XV. p. 273.

4 4 Ante, vol. II. p. 382.

5 Works, vol. II. p. 327-376.

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.
United States (United States) (1)
Massachusetts (Massachusetts, United States) (1)
France (France) (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.
Sumners (1)
George Sumner (1)
Henry Richard (1)
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.
December 1st, 1873 AD (1)
May 31st, 1872 AD (1)
December 4th, 1849 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: