, as fellow-visitors to Washington
; and these were such only as a public man bestows on distinguished constituents without expectation of personal service or loyalty.
He did, indeed, find in the vote a misplaced political caution and a want of moral fearlessness; but as to motives and impulses, he went no further.
He had neither directly nor by suggestion impeached Winthrop
's honor or veracity, but had taken pains in successive papers to disclaim the purpose to impugn his motives, and even paid tributes to his character and services.
What he said was this and no more: he put in strong language —the strongest he could command—the moral effect of a vote for the war bill, declaring it, no matter upon what pretence given, to be in itself and necessarily a sanction of the war, and involving him who gave it in responsibility for its wickedness and bloodshed.
This is a style of argument familiar in all times with theologians, moralists, and reformers.
The form— too rhetorical, perhaps, for good taste—in which Sumner
put his thought doubtless made it sting; but what he wrote still remained in substance the discussion of a public act, not an attack on personal character.
His sincerity was beyond question.
His opinions on war and slavery led him to the irresistible conclusion that a vote for the war bill violated the fundamental laws of moral duty.
He was prompted by no personal rivalry or antagonism, by no pique or ambition; and until the vote in question Winthrop
had no more loyal constituent than the author of the protest against it. He came slowly and reluctantly to the controversy, urged to it by his convictions and the pressure of others who felt as he did. Public men may wince under honest criticism; but having at heart the interests of justice and humanity in whose behalf it is made, or being only broad-minded in a worldly sense, they should hesitate to ‘boycott’ a critic with social discipline and exclusion.1
So far as the use of strong language is concerned, neither Sumner
was at fault.
Nominally of the same party, they were already further apart in their view of a great issue than Whigs and Democrats were on the measures dividing the two parties.
That issue, as seen ahead, was no common one; it was like those contests in history where race, religion, and liberty bring fierce elements into conflict.
On the war itself,