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I am reminded of a conversation we once had at the Law School. Several of us were debating as to the course of life we had best pursue,—what, profession or occupation or line of conduct would best enable us to achieve greatness, which we understood as being wealth, power, place, fame. You proclaimed your object to be that of doing the greatest amount of good to mankind. We —or at least I may say I—were astonished or incredulous; and the remark on that account impressed itself upon my memory. As I grow older, however, I can more easily give you credit for sincerity, because I can better appreciate, not only the merit of such a determination, but its soundness and wisdom; for in the chanceful journey of life, I know of no other policy more likely to lead to eminence,—certainly there is none which leads to an eminence so free from compunctious visitings. Allow me to say that in your career I have seen nothing to raise a doubt that you have acted upon that profession.


The speech, however, did not meet the unanimous approval of Sumner's friends. The popular enthusiasm for Kossuth seemed likely to affect national politics, and even to become an important element in the Presidential election. The Free Soilers were watching eagerly for any chance to make their diminished numbers potential in that contest, and they hoped that this was to come from the sympathy of the masses, particularly in the West, with the European struggle for liberty, now awakened by Kossuth's eloquence. Henry Wilson entered warmly into his mission. He was untaught in public law, and beyond the slavery question was wanting in fixed ideas; and the defects of his very limited education had not yet been supplied by the long practical training in affairs which was to follow. While calling the speech ‘glorious,’ and taking pride in having helped to give its author the opportunity to make it, he disapproved with much energy of expression its assertion of the doctrine of non-intervention, which in his view involved, when first proclaimed by our government, a breach of faith with France; he treated the law of nations as a ‘humbug,’ and avowed his readiness to follow an unheeded protest of our government against Russian intervention in Hungary with armed resistance. He further declared his purpose to join with any party in support of Cass, or any candidate for President, who was committed in favor of such action. Burlingame entered warmly into Wilson's views, and indeed many of the Free Soil leaders leaned more or less to them.2

1 See another letter from the same correspondent, written in 1862, repeating the same reminiscence. Works, vol. VII. p. 8.

2 For instance, F. W. Bird and J. B. Alley; also the editor of the ‘Commonwealth,’ December 11.

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