the law at Washington
in the midst of the Civil War
, he had no inspirations for the period, and sadly confessed, ‘I am but a tradition.’1
He ended as a man of such weak moral fibre is always likely to end.
From December, 1846, until 1851, when he entered the Senate, Sumner
was in frequent and confidential communication with Joshua R. Giddings
Among the leaders of the antislavery cause in the House of Representatives, Giddings
is entitled to hold in history the foremost place.
He combined vigilance, prudence, readiness, self-possession, and a courage, moral and physical, which never failed.
In a period of servility and compromise, in a period when political and social ostracism and even personal violence were the doom of antislavery men in Congress, deserted by allies on whose fidelity he had counted, and sometimes obliged to stand alone, he kept his loyalty without swerving under any pressure of influence or circumstances.
His period of service lasted for twenty years; but from 1843 to 1847, after Gates
of New York and Slade
had retired, and Adams
had become enfeebled by age, the brunt of the conflict fell upon him; and it was not till December, 1849, that he had any considerable reinforcement.
But whether supported by few or many, unwearied and undaunted, he met the aggressive slave-power with a challenge wherever it appeared,— whether in the suppression of debate, the demand for compensation for slaves (insurgent, fugitive, captured, or wrecked), or in the maintenance of the internal slave-trade, or in plots for the extension of slavery.
All the while his positions, radical as they were, were nevertheless reasonable and constitutional, and he lived to see them in substance adopted by a victorious party.
To suggestions of party policy which were in conflict with the supreme duty of resisting the slave-power he was at all times deaf; to all menaces he was defiant.
Once he was censured for his manly conduct by the House
, acting at the dictation of the slaveholding interest; and he appealed to his constituents, who at once returned him. He gave the solitary negative to a resolution of thanks to General Taylor
for services in the Mexican War
. He and Adams
were Whigs; but they were disowned by the party at Washington
, and were not