last resort Sumner
determined to avail himself by moving an amendment repealing the Fugitive Slave Act
. He communicated his purpose to those who had his confidence, but as far as possible kept it from the public.
Fearing that if it were known, the appropriation bill would be held back till the last day of the session, he kept his determination secret, removed his books and papers from his desk, and appeared to be busy with the regular business of the session.
He was liable to be stopped by his proposition being ruled out of order as not germane; or if not arrested by this objection, the proper clause of the bill might be reached in debate at so late an hour in the session that his speech would prevent final action upon the bill, and necessitate an extra session, thus exposing him to the serious charge of obstructing the public business; but he was not to be deterred by this consideration, and he intended to insist at all hazards on his right to be heard.
Meanwhile the Compromise journals in Massachusetts
were charging that his attempt in July was only a feint, and that he expected and desired the refusal which was made;1
on the other hand, his friends were alarmed lest he should lose the chance of being heard.
Two long letters, dated August 3 and 4, came from Henry Wilson
and Theodore Parker
, who had noted his failure to get the floor,—telling him how disastrous to the cause and to himself would be his failure to speak; and while expressing their own absolute confidence in his fidelity, they plainly described the prevailing distrust and alarm among the antislavery people.
wrote to Howe
, August 11, concerning Theodore Parker
's urgency about his speaking:—
Parker is too impatient.
If by chance or ignorance of the currents here I have got into the rapids, my friends should not abandon me. In any event, my course is a difficult one.
A Hunker politician told me that he thought I assumed a greater responsibility than any other person here.
I know this; but I know also my singleness of purpose, and I know that I am in earnest.
The ‘Atlas’ is false when it says I could have made the speech,—utterly false.2
To E. L. Pierce
, August 6:—
I value your friendship, and am glad of your frankness.
From other sources I learn the prevailing distrust with regard to me. Thus far, in the