Soule has expressed himself in the strongest terms.
Weller, after using strong terms of praise, said “it would do more mischief than any speech ever made in the country.”
Polk,1 who was sober, and who listened for two hours, said “the argument was unanswerable,” though he could not say this aloud.
I write these for your private and friendly eye. I throw the speech down as a gage.
I believe it presents the true limits of opposition to slavery within the Constitution.
I challenge an answer.
The attempts in the Senate were puerile and ill-tempered.
I cannot leave here before the end of the week.
Many matters will detain me after the close of the session.
I see that I am announced for Faneuil Hall next Tuesday.
This I regret.
I am weary, and long for vacation.
I have been in my seat every day this session.
I shall hope to see you on my way through New York, to converse on many things.
I regret very much that John Van Buren has gone into this campaign.
If he could not oppose Baltimore he should have been silent.
Even Weller, with whom has been speaking in New Hampshire, says he ought to have gone to Europe.
My admiration and attachment for him have been sincere, and in the most friendly spirit I regret his course.
Pardon this freedom.
We are now in the hurly-burly of a last day; the pressure is immense.
To Dr. I. Ray
, Providence, R. I.
, September 21:—
You are right in supposing that I foresaw the difficulties of State action under that clause of the Constitution.
But my special aim in the Senate was to beat down the existing Act and assumption of power, knowing full well that when this is done there will be no further question.
The South have, by a false move on their part, given us the opportunity of battle on this field, where their ultimate defeat is inevitable.
They cannot stand against the argument.
In an edition of the speech now publishing in Boston I have introduced two or three sentences on the interpretation of the clause, wherein, without assuming any new position, I open some of the difficulties,—impossibilities, let me say. It is clear to me that under that clause, when strictly interpreted, no slave can be delivered up. Of this I have no doubt; but in saying this I might have weakened in some minds the force of the attack on the Act.
The Boston journals, which had taunted Sumner
and his Free Soil supporters for his silence on the slavery question, and which had devoted long articles to his land speech, abstained from all editorial mention of this speech against the Fugitive Slave Act
which was attracting universal attention, not even giving it so much as a paragraph in the news column.2
The reason for this reserve was obvious.
Finding nothing in the speech which could