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[272]

To Henry Wilson, April 29:—

Seward has just come to my desk, and his first words were, 6 What a magnificent speech Wilson made to Kossuth! I have read nothing for months which took such hold of me.1 I cannot resist telling you of this, and adding the expression of my sincere delight in what you said. It was eloquent, wise, and apt. I am glad of this grand reception. Massachusetts does honor to herself in thus honoring a representative of freedom. The country is for Kossuth; the city is against him. The line is clearly run.

The next subject which engaged Sumner's attention was a grant of lands to the State of lowa, in aid of the construction of railroads within its limits. Referring to the advantages resulting from new and improved means of communication, particularly to the lands still retained by the government, he maintained in his speech for the bill as his principal point the novel argument that the States in which the public lands lie have an equitable claim to peculiar consideration from the national government, arising from the fact that while they are so held, and for some time after a sale, they are exempt from State or municipal taxation.2 Senators from the West and Southwest— Fetch of Michigan, Geyer of Missouri, and Downs of Louisiana —were grateful for co-operation from an unexpected quarter, and expressed in debate their appreciation of his timely assistance.3 Two senators who led the opposition were not at all complimentary in their replies. Hunter of Virginia referred to the senator's ‘most delightful idyl,’ and Underwood of Kentucky intimated that he was seeking to gain favor with the West for ulterior personal ends,—an imputation which, however, was afterwards gracefully withdrawn. Sumner's friends at home—among them Dana, Wilson, Burlingame, and Banks —expressed in notes their pleasure at the manner in which he had acquitted himself,4 and particularly at his disposition to show favor to the West; but Adams, as well as John Bigelow, while gratified with his success, objected to his contention that the exemption of the public lands from taxation entitled the

1 Wilson was then president of the Massachusetts Senate.

2 Jan. 27, Feb. 17, March 16, 1852. Works, vol. III. pp. 12-42.

3 The favor shown to Sumner by senators from the Southwest was noted as an evidence of the return of good feeling between the sections. T. m. Brewer in the BostonAtlas,’ Feb. 5, 1852.

4 Longfellow was pleased with the speech, as his diary (Jan. 31, 1852) shows. The subject came up in the Legislature of Massachusetts, in which resolutions approving the senator's view were passed in the Senate, but lost by a few votes in the House, in which his political supporters and opponents were nearly balanced.

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