Never insensible to any word of kindness, I have not read your letter without emotion. For a long time your sentiments towards me had been apparent, both in private and in public. While feeling that you did me wrong, I was silent; nor did I anticipate any change on your part. Our relations seemed to be fixed; but time, the reconciler, has brought about what I never foresaw, and the injury of the past is forgotten in the reparation of the present. You allude with sensibility to my course on your nomination as associatejustice of the Supreme Court; for this I deserve nothing, as I expected nothing. In the discharge of a public trust, after mature reflection, I felt constrained under all the circumstances of the case to support your nomination. This was my duty; “nor more, nor less.”Judge McLean, who read the correspondence, wrote Sumner a note warmly commending his course as an illustration of elevated patriotism in ignoring a personal injury. Though Sumner made no reply to his assailants, the interruptions which he made when he thought his positions were misstated showed that he felt himself master of the situation, and not at all disconcerted. Indeed, he had every reason to be satisfied with the impression he had made. The speech was free from personalities, from the criticism of living pubic men, and from any description of the incidents of slavery which could offend reasonable men who were supporting it from self-interest or political connection. Viewed from an antislavery standpoint, it was moderate in tone and statements. It was of a style to which the Senate was unused, with a classic finish such as belonged only to Everett among contemporary orators. Sumner's rich sonorous voice and fine presence were added to charm of style. He impressed senators and spectators with his profound sincerity. His sentiments were lofty, appealing to generous minds; and for the moment, some who listened, hard politicians though they were, must have had their better natures stirred, while they looked beyond the forced and unnatural compact of parties against the agitation of slavery, and recognized in his fearlessness and undaunted purpose the prophecy of a new North, and of the destined fall of slavery itself.1 Such, however, were the political adjustments of the time that only three other senators sustained in the vote his proposition of repeal,—Chase and Hale, his Free Soil associates, and Wade, nominally a Whig, with strong antislavery sentiments
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