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[69] its meetings. If you know anything of the course of this Society, you must be aware that its condition at this period was humble. I doubt if it could be considered an attractive sphere to a person bent on self-aggrandizement. Several years passed, during which I had constantly declined opportunities, more or less conspicuous, of addressing the public, when in 1845 I was invited to deliver the municipal oration on the 4th of July. This invitation I peremptorily declined, and was then addressed a second time by the committee of arrangements, with strong personal appeals, suggesting among other things that I had kept aloof from public affairs in an unbecoming manner. I yielded at last to the pressure, saying that I should decline the invitation as an honor, but would accept it as a duty, undertaking to discharge it in such manner as should seem to me most fit. I dwell upon these particulars because this oration was my first public connection with the peace question. The position taken by me on this occasion has drawn upon me not a little criticism,—perhaps I might use a stronger expression. Convinced of its intrinsic propriety and importance, I have been drawn, on subsequent occasions, by an inevitable necessity, to sustain and fortify it. 1 hope that I shall always be willing to maintain it. Thus much for my connection with the peace question.

One word on the slavery question. Shortly after my admission to the bar, say in 1835, I became interested in this. the earliest newspaper that I remember to have subscribed for was the “Liberator.” This was at a time when my schoolmate and fellow-student in college and the law school, Wendell Phillips, was still indifferent to the cause which has since occupied so much of his time. my views on this subject were known to all my friends. I have ever entertained a strong attachment to the Constitution and the Union. I am a Constitutionalist and a Unionist, but have felt it to be our duty at the North, according to the words of Franklin, to step to the “very verge of the Constitution in discouraging every species of traffic in our fellow-man.” I think you will join me in this opinion. In the autumn of 1845, when the question arose of the annexation of Texas with a slaveholding constitution, I spoke at a meeting called in Faneuil Hall to oppose it. This was the first political meeting in which I had ever taken any part; nor had I ever before sought to express in public my opposition to slavery. In short, there had never before been any occasion in which I was disposed to participate. I had no relish for the strife of politics, nor did I coincide in views with those who conducted the antislavery movement. This is my connection with this question. The opposition which I then made to the annexation of Texas has been directed since against the war, which was one of its hateful consequences.

I will not trouble you with any details touching my connection with the prison question. It will be sufficient if I say that it was most unexpectedly, and I light almost say accidentally, that I found myself in the position which I have occupied there.

I may well ask, after this review, whether there is anything in my course to justify the suggestion that I have “taken my position on reform questions in order to get. a notoriety and prominence greater than I could get otherwise so soon, and get earlier into power than I could by other tracks, which are occupied by older men?” There might, possibly, be some small ground for this imputation if I had sought occasion for display, and also if I were in any respect

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