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‘ [233] anything can be done with that iron and marble body, you may do it. You know how hopeless I think the task, and every time I come here my notions become more rigid.’ The next month, in a published letter, he mentioned Sumner as ‘one of the ablest and most honest and inflexible advocates of the cause.’ 1

In a reply, December 15, to the letter of Adams, with whom he was in closer confidential relations than with any other political associate, Sumner opened his mind thus:—

I am particularly moved to this [to write] by your allusion to me in connection with a certain post. I appreciate your generosity, and am proud of your confidence. I am not entirely insensible to the honor that post would confer, though I do not feel this strongly, for I have never been accustomed to think highly of political distinction. I feel that it would, to a certain extent, be a vindication of me against the attacks to which, in common with you and others of our friends, I have been exposed. And I am especially touched by the idea of the sphere of usefulness in which it would place me. But notwithstanding these things, I must say that I have not been able at anytime in my inmost heart to bring myself to desire the post, or even to be willing to take it. My dreams and visions are all in other directions. In the course of my life I have had many; but none have been in the United States Senate. In taking that post, I must renounce quiet and repose forever; my life henceforward would be in public affairs. I cannot contemplate this without repugnance. It would call upon me to forego those literary plans and aspirations which I have more at heart than any merely political success. Besides, even if I could incline to this new career, there are men in our ranks, my seniors and betters, to whom I defer sincerely and completely. Mr. Phillips, by various titles, should be our candidate. If he should be unwilling to take the place, then we must look to you. In seeing you there I should have the truest satisfaction. You are the man to split open the solid rock of the United States Senate. I shrink unfeignedly from the work. For this I have never “filed my mind.” I shall see you soon. I trust, when we may talk of these things.

Sumner had kept absolutely free from any direct or indirect effort to obtain the office; he had avowed his disinclination to enter on public life, and his decided preference that some other person should be selected as a candidate. These declarations were repeated in confidential letters to intimate friends, and bear the marks of entire sincerity.2 If after an interval of nearly half a century some critics, more familiar with modern struggles for place than with the earlier contests for principle, have fancied that these disclaimers covered a latent ambition, their suggestions are only imaginings which are without evidence, and against the judgment of his contemporaries who knew him

1 Boston Commonwealth, Jan. 9, 1851.

2 Commonwealth, Jan. 18, 1851.

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