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[200] nothing to say of the inhumanity and barbarity of the transaction, while for the master's claim to the slave's person and service he was earnest and strenuous. He spoke with a sneer of the humane sentiments of his State; of the interest, as if it were no matter of her concern, which Massachusetts took in the seizure of negroes in Pennsylvania; and insisted that the actual evil of such reclamations had been exaggerated, inasmuch as no negro had been taken under process of law from Massachusetts for a generation; but when they followed quickly on the passage of the new law, he had no word of surprise or regret, and was indignant at the protests and obstructions they encountered.1 All the while he was petting and soothing the violent and aggressive partisans of slavery.

He was most unlike his former self—for he was by nature and early habit inclined to religious thought—when, with an air of lofty contempt, he assailed the belief that human laws are to be tested, and their obligations finally determined, by the supreme moral law.2 Here, as on other points, there was a bitterness and even coarseness in his language altogether uncongenial with the repose which was his when he spoke with the consciousness of a good cause, and was moving in the line of the principles and traditions of his State.3

From 1813, when Mr. Webster entered Congress, he had not until now censured the free discussion of American slavery. The opponents, moral or political, of the institution,—‘Abolitionists,’ as he called them,—had for twenty years been endeavoring, in every form of agitation, to array public sentiment against it, all without complaint from him. He now broke the silence for the first time. If their work were the portentous wrong he described it, destructive to the peace and perpetuity of

1 Webster's Works, vol. v. pp. 433, 434; vol. VI. pp. 559. 560, 561. ‘Massachusetts grows fervid over Pennsylvania wrongs; while Pennsylvania herself is not excited by any sense of such wrongs, and complains of no injustice.’

2 Webster's Works, vol. II. p. 582; vol. VI. p. 578. He said at Capon Springs, Va., June, 1850 (Curtis's ‘Life of Webster,’ vol. II. p. 516): ‘And when nothing else will answer, they invoke religion and speak of a higher law. Gentlemen, this North Mountain is high; the Blue Ridge higher still; the Alleghany higher than either; and yet this higher law ranges farther than an eagle's flight above the highest peaks of the Alleghany [laughter]. No common vision can discern it; no conscience not transcendental and ecstatic can feel it; the hearing of common men never listens to its high behests.’

3 Webster's Works, vol. v. p. 433; vol. VI. p. 572. ‘No drum-head in the longest day's march was ever more incessantly beaten and smitten than public sentiment in the North has been, every month and day and hour, by the din and roll and rub-a-dub of Abolition writers and Abolition lecturers.’

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