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[139] Abolitionists have at last got their lever upon a fulcrum where it can operate. It will detach large sections from each of the other parties. Both parties are now controlled in their conduct, even on the Mexican War, by a reference to the next Presidential election. The Whigs shrink from opposing it from fear of unpopularity at the South and West; and the leaders of both parties act mainly with a view to maintain the force of their party. The question of slavery advances upon the country with giant strides. Come home and give us the advantage of your counsels.

Again, Jan. 30, 1847:—

. . . The Mexican War still goes on. It is disgraceful in its origin, and in every step by which it is maintained. The Whigs, as a party, are afraid to oppose it, lest they should draw upon themselves the odiun that covered those who opposed the last war with England; and they proffer as their excuse the wretched dogma that the country must be sustained in the war now that it is commenced. In this they lose sight of the clear distinction between measures of defence and offence. The country may be sustained in the former, but never in the latter.

To Lord Morpeth, January 31:—

I am grateful for your warnings on the subject of slavery;1 but I think they proceed from some misconception of my true position. The party, soidisant Abolitionists, reject me for my shortcomings. Prescott shakes his head because I have anything to do with the thing. His insensibility to it is a perfect bathos. This is wrong; I wish you would jar him a little on his side. My position is, that the Federal Government should make all legal and constitutional efforts for the removal of this monster evil. This question has at last got into our politics. It will enter the next Presidential election in 1848. There is a breaking up of both parties. The Northern wing of the Democracy is breaking off from its slaveholding allies, and so is the Northern wing of the Whigs. The question of the tariff cannot be the great issue before the country. Webster has not been able to resurrect it. Old John Quincy Adams said to me a few weeks ago, as he lay in his bed after his attack of the paralysis, from which he has now partially recovered, “The tariff is an obsolete idea.”

Sumner, in January, 1847, made an argument before the Supreme Court of the State against the validity of the enlistments in the Massachusetts regiment of volunteers for the Mexican War. He did not succeed in his contention that the proceedings in general were invalid; but the persons who had applied for a discharge, being minors, were set at liberty by the court.2

1 Morpeth had advised Sumner that some mutual friends of the conservative type from the United States (probably the Bancrofts) thought him ‘far-going’ on the slavery question, and ‘verging on quixotism;’ and he added the caution, ‘Do not, however, in your righteous ardor on the right side forget that there is always a danger of being one-sided, and that we ought to be fair to all adversaries.’

2 Works, vol. i. pp. 352-373.

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