and the resolution was laid aside without a vote late in February.
From that time the slavery question was not involved in any measure pending in the Senate; and any senator attempting to treat it broadly and at length would have been stopped as out of order.
He could proceed by unanimous consent, but such consent was most likely to be refused as a courtesy to an antislavery senator; and to gain the opportunity by right would require no common vigilance and expertness.
It was Sumner
's purpose when he went to Washington
to speak at length on the slavery question, or some branch of it, before the close of the session, which was to last till far into August; but with a view to the best results, as well as from reasons of prudence, he intended to defer his speech till the beginning of July.
The Compromise and pro-slavery press of the country, taking its key-note from assiduous misrepresentations of the Whig
journals of Boston
, had spread a general impression of his unfitness for public life, which it was very desirable to remove or modify.
To use his own words, he had, as he wrote to Dr. Howe
, been ‘held up as a man incapable of public business, of one idea, and a fanatic, though of acknowledged powers in a certain direction;’ and the correction of that erroneous impression he considered the first condition of usefulness.
The obvious way to remove it was by taking an interest in the general business of the Senate, and by showing himself the peer of other senators in dealing with a variety of public questions.
This might take a few months; but in the long session there was ample time at his command.
Any new legislation in the interest of slavery would have interrupted his silence, but none such was proposed; and, as already suggested, the debate on Foote
's resolution not only ended at an early day, but while it lasted was attended with such personal and factional incidents as to repel senators from the free States who were averse to a discussion which had no serious purpose.
wrote to Dana
, Dec. 8, 1851: ‘The Southerners are in high quarrel,— Foote
at red-hot words.
The scene was threatening.
While they talk there is no opportunity for us; nor can I yet see my way to intervene in this debate.
I do not feel that it is the occasion for me to utter the mature and determined word which, God willing, I will.’
It was desirable, also, that in his first demonstration on the question, which was sure to attract universal attention, he should do his best, and therefore a full