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[198] the discussion.1 Of the slave-trade in the District of Columbia, a scandal under the very shadow of the Capitol, he had nothing to say, even in a comprehensive treatment of the whole controversy. He spoke of the Abolitionists as one might speak only of the enemies of human society.2 He passed the bounds of his accustomed moderation and indulged in bitterness and wrath whenever he referred to the opponents of the Fugitive Slave law,—not only when they obstructed its execution, but even when they confined themselves to an exposure of its enormity, and of its conflict with the maxims and safeguards of civil liberty. They were ‘votaries of isms,’ ‘a race of agitators,’ victims of ‘a wandering and vagrant philanthropy;’ ‘shallow men, ignorant men, and factious men,—men whose only hope of making or of keeping themselves conspicuous is by incessant agitation, and the most reckless efforts to alarm and misguide the people;’ ‘subject to the frailty of desiring to become conspicuous, or to the influence of a false sentimentality, or borne away by the puffs of a transcendental philosophy into an atmosphere flickering between light and darkness;’ ‘carried away by abstract notions or metaphysical ideas,’ or by ‘that spirit of faction and disunion, that spirit of discord and of crimination and recrimination, that spirit that loves angry controversy, and loves it most especially when evils are imaginary and dangers unreal, which has been so actively employed in doing mischief.’ He denounced the antislavery agitation as ‘mad,’ ‘theoretic, fanatical, and fantastical,’ leading away ‘silly women and sillier men;’ and denounced also ‘the passionate appeals, the vehement and empty declamations, the wild and fanatical conduct of both men and women, which have so long and so much disgraced the Commonwealth and the country.’

If patriotism had been his only inspiration, he would have met opposition with more sorrow and less anger. The rescue of Shadrach in Boston,—chiefly the work of fellow negroes acting under impulses which, however unlawful, have always been deemed honorable,—he pronounced ‘a nefarious project’ which ought to have been ‘crushed into the dust.’3 He magnified and strained the law of treason after the manner

1 Webster's Works, vol. v. pp. 331, 332: vol. VI. p. 558, note.

2 Webster's Works, vol. II. pp. 556, 562; vol. v. p 357; vol. VI. pp. 556. 557, 560, 561, 562, 563, 577; Private Correspondence, vol. II. p. 376; Curtis's ‘Life of Webster,’ vol. II. p. 427.

3 Webster's Works, vol. VI. p. 589.

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