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[293] expenses incurred in executing the Fugitive Slave law;1 and Sumner, to be in readiness for a point of order, had, besides preparing himself on the precedents, traced the provision to its source by consulting the auditor, Mr. Whittlesey, and ascertained from him definitely its purpose. To Hunter's amendment, immediately upon its being offered, Sumner moved the amendment, ‘provided, that no such allowance shall be authorized for any expenses incurred in executing the Act of September 18, 1850, for the surrender of fugitives from service or labor, which said Act is hereby repealed.’ No point of order was raised, and without a moment's delay he took the floor and proceeded with his speech.2 It was the first opportunity since the Compromise resolution was laid aside in February that he could insist upon being heard as a right. He began with recalling the denial of a hearing in July, when he had requested, without avail, the usual courtesy, saying,—

And now at last, among these final crowded days of our duties here, but at this earliest opportunity, I am to be heard,—not as a favor, but as a right. The graceful usages of this body may be abandoned, but the established privileges of debate cannot be abridged; parliamentary courtesy may be forgotten, but parliamentary law must prevail. The subject is broadly before the Senate; by the blessing of God it shall be discussed.

Then, after a brief reference to his position in the Senate as one of a small minority, holding for the first time a public office which had come to him unsought, and without pledges of any kind, he made a vigorous protest against the assumption common at that period, and then recently announced by the two great political parties, that the Compromise of 1850 had settled the question of slavery finally,—asserting that this was an attempt to give to a set of legislative acts a sanction higher even than any belonging to the Constitution, and affirming that ‘nothing from man's hands, nor law, nor constitution, can be final,’ and that ‘truth alone is final.’ ‘For myself,’ he said, ‘in no factious spirit, but solemnly and in loyalty to the Constitution, as a senator of the United States representing a free Commonwealth, I protest against this wrong. On slavery, as on every other subject, I claim the right to be heard. That right ’

1 Toucey of Connecticut stated in debate that this provision did not cover expense incurred in executing the Fugitive Slave law; but Hunter, who offered the amendment, knew its purpose too well to make such a statement in good faith.

2 William R. King of Alabama, president pro tem. of the Senate, was in the chair.

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