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[199] of the worst judges in English history,—not limiting it to revolution and the overthrow of government, but extending it to forcible resistance to the execution of a single law, accompanied with an avowed purpose of resistance in similar cases.1 he held his own State responsible for the exigency which justified the new Fugitive Slave law, particularly the refusal of trial by jury to alleged fugitives, because of the passage of her personal liberty law in 1843,2—a statute seven years old, of which he had never before spoken a word in criticism, although, leaving the office of Secretary of State two months after its passage, he was for the next two years in the active practice of his profession in a law office within three minutes walk of the State House, and in daily association with the law-makers of the period.3

With a disingenuousness least to be expected of him, he confused in one mass, under the common epithet of ‘Abolitionists,’ two separate classes,—the small number of sectaries, largely non-voters, who disowned the limitations of the Constitution, and the considerable political party which accepted its obligations; and this while speaking in presence of two senators then representing that party, Hale and Chase,—the latter second only to himself as a lawyer and statesman, and destined to the highest judicial office in the nation.4

The love of liberty traditional with the people of the State, and often lauded by himself, he now derided as ‘fanaticism,’— ‘a local prejudice’ which it was the duty of good citizens ‘to conquer.’5 Instead of treating, as one with his view of the Constitution might have done, the restoration of fugitive slaves—involving the separation of families, life-long bondage and cruelty—as a painful duty to be performed with the utmost care and tenderness, he set aside the moral and humane aspects of a question which in other days had pressed vividly on his mind, and had

1 Webster's Works, vol. II. pp. 560, 577, 578; vol. VI. p. 589.

2 Webster's Works, vol. VI. p. 557; Curtis's ‘Life of Webster,’ vol. II. pp. 426, 427.

3 The State law was in strict accord with the Constitution, as it only prohibited the use of the jails and the assistance of State officers in the rendition of fugitive slaves.

4 In the ‘Emancipator and Republican,’ June 27, 1850, Henry Wilson gave a full account of interviews with Webster from 1845 to 1848, in which he showed a favorable disposition towards the antislavery or Free Soil movement.

5 Webster's Works, vol. v. p. 432; Curtis's ‘Life of Webster,’ vol. II. p. 438. The writer was present when Webster spoke from a carriage in front of the Revere House on the afternoon of April 29, 1850. Choate was by his side, and B. R. Curtis addressed him from a temporary platform. His face was never darker and sterner than when he said interrogatively, ‘Massachusetts must conquer her prejudices.’

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