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[305] Whether traversing new fields or gleaning where others had reaped, the argument was put in a form which invited the study of multitudes of thoughtful citizens who are ordinarily repelled by political speeches.1 It was a most potent influence in massing the best thought and sentiment of an enlightened and Christian people against the system which the statute was designed to protect. But elsewhere than in the free States it had significance and effect. From that day the partisans of slavery recognized a new power in the Senate and in the country. Sumner stood before them as the antislavery protagonist. He stood not as a politician, but as the representative of moral and spiritual forces which slavery must overcome, or perish. Other men might escape from the Senate or pass behind the Vice-President's chair to avoid an embarrassing record in an election at hand; but here was a man who for no personal or political advantage would qualify his opposition or yield a point.2 He spoke no idle words; every sentence was matured; and he marshalled law, logic, history, facts, literature, morals, and religion against American slavery in a contest which could end only in its extinction.

Sumner lacked, indeed, Chase's judicial style; but for the work he had to do, he was all the stronger for what might be thought a defect. He did not hide his meaning under euphemistic phrases,—never, like Seward, substituting ‘labor’ and ‘capital’ for ‘free’ and ‘slave’ States; but he always challenged the wrong he withstood by its real name. He never treated a grave question sportively; but when slavery was the topic, he was as serious in private talk as in the debates of the Senate.3 If the Southern men thought other Northern leaders were playing a part, and would, like Webster and Corwin, yield their position under a sufficient pressure of ambition or selfinterest,

1 Dr. I. Ray, the distinguished alienist and author of the treatise on the ‘Medical Jurisprudence of Insanity,’ in a note to Sumner mentioned this quality of the speech which had attracted himself, although he usually turned away from speeches in Congress.

2 The peculiar and distinctive character of Sumner's position at this time has been recognized by students of political history,—G. F. Hoar, in his eulogy in the House, April 27, 1874; Von Holst, vol. IV. pp. 220, 221, biographical sketches in Johnson's Universal Cyclopaedia and Appleton's Cyclopaedia of American Biography. by Wendell Phillips and George W. Curtis respectively.

3 Wade's inaccuracies of statement and looseness of speech suggested corresponding limitations in character. Hale's light way of speaking of political questions in private conversation sometimes led observers to misjudge him. See A. H. Stephens's ‘Life,’ by Johnston and Browne, p. 308; also ‘Reminiscences of Samuel K. Lothrop,’ pp. 182-183.

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April 27th, 1874 AD (1)
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