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[309] of all candid men, and even of the Southerners, as shown by the reception they gave it. The speech was warmly applauded in letters from eminent divines,—Charles Lowell, John Pierpont, Convers Francis, William H. Furness, A. A. Livermore, Samuel Osgood, Rufus P. Stebbins, and James W. Thompson. A senator then far removed in opinion and party action (Cooper of Pennsylvania), whose subsequent change of position may have been due to the speech, wrote:—

While I differ with you in many of your views on this subject, I can still admire the ability and manly frankness with which you maintain them. As an intellectual effort, your speech will rank with any made in the Senate since I have been a member of it.

Many years afterwards, Wilson wrote in his history,1 ‘This speech—learned, logical, exhaustive, and eloquent, worthy of the cause it advocated—placed the new senator at once among the foremost of the forensic debaters of America.’ Von Holst bears witness to ‘its overpowering impression on friend and foe alike,’ its ‘fervency of holy, enthusiastic conviction,’ its ‘all-overcoming force of moral ideas,’ and to the feeling which ‘ran both through the North and the South, that a man with a conscience had arisen in the legislative body of the Union.’2

The work which Sumner began in 1852 with only three coadjutors, he finished, as the sequel will show, twelve years later, when he reported and carried the repeal of all laws for the rendition of fugitive slaves.3

He wrote to John Bigelow, August 30:—

The kind interest you express in my speech tempts me to the confidence of friendship. I shall be attacked, and the speech will be disparaged. But you shall know something of what was said on the floor of the Senate.4 You will see what Hale and Chase said openly in debate. Others are reported in conversation. I know that some Hunkers have felt its force. Clarke of Rhode Island said “it would be a text-book when they were dead and gone;” Shields said “it was the ablest speech ever made in the Senate on slavery;” and Bright used even stronger language. Cass has complimented me warmly.

1 Vol. II. p. 355.

2 Vol. IV. pp. 219-221. The speech was reviewed from a pro-slavery standpoint in A. S. Bledsoe's ‘Liberty and Slavery.’

3 Sumner made an attempt to bring in a bill to repeal the Fugitive Slave law, July 31, 1854, but was voted down by ten yeas to thirty-five nays. He made another effort for the repeal, Feb. 23. 1855, which was voted down,—yeas nine, nays thirty.

4 A letter of Sumner to Rev. Dr. R. P. Stebbins, from Newport, Oct. 12, 1852, printed in Nason's ‘Life’ of Sumner, p. 162, gives other comments on the speech.

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