‘The Past, the Present, and the Future.’
He induced the author to modify some of his propositions on slavery,1
though unable to convert him from the notion that the institution should be left to the working of natural causes, and not be interfered with by agitation or prohibitory legislation.2
They were, however, in accord as to the folly of war and its inconsistency with civilization.3
, while unable to comprehend Sumner
's departure from conservative teachings and associations, showed a tender and unfailing interest in his welfare.
His letters are instructive as revealing how Sumner
was regarded by one who was repelled by what seemed to Kent
his delusions on politics and moral reforms, and yet who had come near enough to him to feel his worth and the charm of his personal qualities.
He wrote, Sept. 24, 1847, soon after resigning the law professorship at Cambridge
You ought to succeed me, Sumner.
The place was yours by hereditary right, and it required incessant efforts on your part to divest yourself of this right.
You have chosen a lot more brilliant perhaps, more exciting certainly.
You have troops of friends and enthusiastic applause; and you think you are doing good, and you are certainly generous in your aspirations and aims.
I regret however, deeply regret, your course.
You ought to have been a great lawyer, adding to the fields of jurisprudence, extending the domains of judicial truth, teaching us what are the maxims of justice between man and man, and nation and nation, and how conflicting claims shall be adjusted.
I wish you had been liable to censure, similar to that of Goldsmith on Burke, and that you had given to the profession what you now conceive is meant for mankind.
I think you are in error.
and I am your friend so sincerely that I risk your displeasure by plainly telling you so. Strike, but hear!
Again, July 11, 1848:—
I am sorry that you have left us Whigs. . . . But I do not mean that political distinctions shall in any degree affect my personal friendships.
Two clocks never agree. . . So too with you, my warm—Hearted but, politically considered, most erring friend.
I mean to love you on to the end. . . I sigh over you, whose early studies and generous aspirations and English connections and Judge Story's example had, I fondly hoped, confirmed in conservative bonds and good old Whig tendencies and opinions.
And again, November 24:—
I have no doubt but that you are influenced, in the main, by generous and noble motives; and if there is a tinge of earth about you, I sincerely believe